Heart disease can take many forms: heart attack, heart failure, stroke, high blood pressure and angina. Heart disease seems to be a typical disease for men. Women younger than 45 years have indeed 6 times lower risk for heart disease. As women get older their risk for heart disease increases. Actually, women older than 50 years have half as much risk for heart disease than men.
Estrogen and cholesterol
Estrogen seems to have a beneficial effect on cholesterol metabolism and when during menopause this level drops the protective action decreases. The American Heart Association does not advise women to take estrogen (hormone replacement therapy or HRT) to reduce the risk of heart disease. Taking hormone replacement therapy was believed to help protect women against heart disease, but recent findings show that taking HRT poses more risks than benefits.
Steps to take to decrease heart disease risk
- Limit your iron intake. Scientists link the level of ferritin (organic bound iron) to heart attack. At the age of 70 women and men have the same risk of heart attacks, but also the same level of ferritin. Many studies have linked a higher level of ferritin to increased risk for heart disease. In order to reduce the risk of heart disease menopausal women should limit the intake of iron. Since menopausal women no longer have periods, they do no longer loose iron and could accumulate iron in their blood. In order to be sure you can have your blood ferritin levels checked by your doctor. For women after the menopause, the ferritin level should be between 70 and 150 micrograms per liter blood.
- Limit the intake of saturated fats and trans fatty acids. Not only is the cholesterol level in food important. Foods high in saturated fats increase the cholesterol levels in the blood and increase the risk for heart disease.
- Eat more soy, vegetables and fruits. They are low in saturated fats, contain no cholesterol and are rich in phytochemicals, which act as antioxidants and help to lower bad cholesterol.
- Exercise regularly. Daily, you should do about 30 minutes of moderately intense physical activity.
- Stop smoking. Smoking tobacco is the leading cause of heart disease in women. More than half of heart attacks among menopausal women are attributable to tobacco.
- Do not become overweight, especially the fat around waist and stomach increase risk for heart disease. The more overweight you are, the higher the risk for heart disease.
- Control your blood pressure. This should be around 120/80. Blood pressure can be controlled by losing weight, eating right and doing exercises.