Protect Your Postmenopausal Heart

A woman's risk of heart disease increases after menopause. Here's how to keep your ticker in tip-top shape.

By The North American Menopause Society
hands holding heart disease menopause picture
Photograph: Marcela Barsse

Exercise regularly. A sedentary lifestyle is almost as great a risk factor for heart disease as smoking because of diminished circulation and weight gain. Regular physical activity promotes heart health and has been shown to reduce the risk of heart attacks in women. For heart health, all women should aim for at least 30 to 60 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise (brisk walking, for example) most days—provided that this amount is first approved by their healthcare provider.

Improve nutrition. Choose a diet that includes:

  • A variety of fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Low- or nonfat dairy products, soy food products
  • Fish
  • Legumes
  • Sources of protein low in saturated and trans fat (such as poultry, lean meats, and plant sources like beans, seeds and nuts)

 

Avoid foods that have:

  • A high amount of cholesterol
  • A high amount of saturated and trans fat
  • A high amount of salt (limiting salt may help control high blood pressure)

Additionally, alcohol consumption should not exceed one or two drinks a day, and no more than seven per week.

Don’t use hormone therapy to prevent heart disease.Previously, hormone therapy (HT) was thought to reduce the risk of heart disease, primarily because of its beneficial effects on cholesterol. However, more recent studies have shown that some types of HT increase the risk of heart disease, blood clots, and stroke. Recently, there has been debate on whether the age at which a woman begins HT makes a difference, as some studies show heart benefits when starting HT closer to menopause. It appears in some studies that only when a woman with a risk of heart disease starts HT after menopause that problems could arise. Current government recommendations are cautious, stating that estrogen should not be used to prevent heart disease. Also, a woman with heart disease should not begin HT without careful consideration of the risks.

For more tips on how to transform the menopause experience into a positive one, visit the NAMS website.

Next: Make Yourself Immune to Menopausal Stress

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First Published August 3, 2011

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