Women of an age when they may be going through or have reached menopause are often frustrated by symptoms like hot flashes, sleep disturbances, changes in libido or weight gain. But dropping estrogen levels can also increase the risk older women have for a heart problem such as atrial fibrillation or high blood pressure. Many of these conditions can be controlled or even reversed if women understand they may need to make lifestyle changes or take medication to control high cholesterol, prevent diabetes, manage weight gain and lower high blood pressure.
According to a recent Everyday Health report, high blood pressure is more common as women reach 50 to 54 years old age when estrogen levels start to decline making the heart muscle and blood vessels less elastic and more rigid. Hypertension puts an added strain on the heart which can lead to heart disease. Menopausal women are also more resistant to insulin, making middle-aged women more predisposed to diabetes and increasing the risk of heart attack or stroke.
Hormonal changes can also cause abnormal heart rhythms in which the heart rate slows down, causing dizziness, or beats faster. Atrial fibrillation (afib) puts people at a greater risk for stroke but it can be treated with lifestyle changes, medication or in some cases surgical or nonsurgical medical procedures.
As a woman’s body changes during menopause, it’s important to understand which symptoms warrant further investigation by a physician. And by staying active, stopping smoking and eating a healthy diet rich in fresh vegetables and fruits and low in fat, women of a certain age can help prevent heart disease during and after menopause.
When to see a doctor:
- Heart palpitations can be a sign of afib; see a doctor if your notice heart rhythm changes.
- Unusual shortness of breath can be linked with afib, heart disease or congestive heart failure.
- Pressure in the chest that persists, or goes away and returns can be a sign of heart attack in women.
- Persistent headaches should be checked, they can indicate high blood pressure.
- Dizziness can be a symptom of diabetes, heart failure or afib.
- A jaw ache can be a warning sign of heart attack among women.
- Swelling of the feet can indicate congestive heart failure.
- Trouble laying flat is also a sign of congestive heart failure when fluid pools in the lungs.
Heart disease is the leading killer of women and it is estimated that more than 1 in 3 female adults has some form of cardiovascular disease. Learn more about menopause and heart disease by following this link to the American Heart Association website.