Strategies for Maintaining Cardiac Health After Menopause

by Amir Hussein
Menopausal Heart Health

As women approach menopause, their susceptibility to heart disease may increase, leading the American Heart Association to emphasize the importance of routine health assessments and the establishment of cardiovascular-friendly routines. These strategies encompass consuming a nutritious diet, engaging in consistent strength training exercises, and ensuring adequate sleep to preserve cardiac health throughout and subsequent to the menopause phase.

Health professionals underscore that the hormonal and physical changes during menopause could raise the chances of developing heart conditions afterward. The American Heart Association, dedicated to promoting optimal health for everyone, suggests measures to aid in safeguarding the cardiac well-being of women during this critical period.

Brooke Aggarwal, Ed.D., M.S., F.A.H.A., an assistant professor of medical sciences in Cardiology at Columbia University Medical Center and an advocate for the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign, states, “An increasing number of women in the U.S. are living to an older age, with many experiencing postmenopausal life for up to 40% of their lifespan.”

The risk of heart diseases evolves as women age, which is why the Go Red for Women initiative— the Association’s principal campaign for women’s health—aims to elevate awareness and rectify healthcare disparities pertaining to women’s most significant health threat, offering trusted health guidance for every life stage.

Aggarwal remarks, “The menopausal journey and the path to heart health are not uniform; therefore, it’s especially vital to pay attention to heart and brain health throughout all life phases.”

The optimal approach to mitigate the effects associated with menopausal changes involves collaborating with a healthcare provider to ensure that essential health indicators are within optimal ranges and to identify which beneficial habits could enhance cardiac health. The following advice may be beneficial:

Health through metrics: It’s advisable to have annual checks for blood pressure, blood sugar, and body mass index. If these figures are abnormal, more frequent monitoring is recommended. Cholesterol levels are also crucial, with healthy thresholds varying more on an individual basis due to other risk factors. Consult with your physician for personalized advice.
Optimal dietary patterns: There is no single superfood for health; rather, it’s the overall dietary pattern that counts. The American Heart Association has evaluated various diet plans and found that DASH and Mediterranean-style diets come out on top for heart health. These diets are rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean proteins, while being low in salt, sugar, alcohol, and processed items.
Double-benefit workouts: Strength and resistance training should be incorporated into a comprehensive exercise regimen that also includes endurance, balance, and flexibility training. These exercises also help to boost bone strength and muscle mass—key considerations for women entering menopause who may experience decreases in bone density and shifts in body composition toward reduced muscle mass. Strength training at least twice a week can aid in maintaining muscular and bone strength.
Sleep preservation: Good quality sleep is a cornerstone of the 8 critical elements of cardiac health known as Life’s Essential 8. However, menopause can disrupt sleep patterns due to frequent nocturnal awakenings, hot flashes, and insomnia. Taking proactive steps to ensure restful sleep is crucial, as it contributes to a stronger immune system, improved mood, increased energy, sharper cognition, and a reduced risk of chronic illnesses. Modifying certain habits can enhance sleep quality, such as setting a reminder to start winding down and turning off electronic devices at the same time each night. For persistent sleep issues, a consultation with a physician might be necessary.

Source: “Menopause Transition and Cardiovascular Disease Risk: Implications for Timing of Early Prevention: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association” by Samar R. El Khoudary et al., published on 30 November 2020 in Circulation.
DOI: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000912

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Menopausal Heart Health

How does menopause affect women’s heart health?

The hormonal and body composition changes during menopause may increase the risk of developing heart disease in women post-menopause. It is important for women to monitor their health metrics and adopt heart-healthy habits during and after this transition.

What are the American Heart Association’s tips for heart health post-menopause?

The American Heart Association recommends monitoring blood pressure, blood sugar, body mass index, and cholesterol levels regularly. They also suggest adopting a heart-healthy diet, engaging in strength and resistance training, and prioritizing sleep to maintain heart health.

Why is a balanced diet important for post-menopausal heart health?

A balanced diet, particularly one that follows DASH or Mediterranean-style eating patterns, is high in nutrients beneficial for heart health and low in substances like salt, sugar, and processed foods that can increase heart disease risk.

What type of exercise is recommended for post-menopausal women?

Strength and resistance training are recommended at least twice a week for post-menopausal women to help maintain bone density and muscle mass, which can be adversely affected during menopause.

How can post-menopausal women improve their sleep for better heart health?

Post-menopausal women can improve their sleep by establishing a relaxing bedtime routine, reducing nighttime disturbances, and seeking medical advice for persistent sleep issues, as good sleep is crucial for overall heart health.

More about Menopausal Heart Health

  • American Heart Association
  • Go Red for Women
  • DASH Diet Eating Plan
  • Mediterranean Diet
  • Life’s Essential 8
  • Menopause and Heart Disease Risk

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Dave C November 5, 2023 - 2:55 pm

Is it just me or does this stuff about the ‘Life’s Essential 8’ sound like just another trendy health fad…i mean cmon, sleep is now a health metric?

Sarah_k November 5, 2023 - 10:15 pm

they mention the mediterranean diet a lot but what if you’re allergic to fish? are there alternatives that are still heart-healthy?

Jenny87 November 6, 2023 - 1:47 am

my doctor never told me about the changes in cholesterol management post-menopause. This article is a wake-up call, better book an appointment.

Mike Johnson November 6, 2023 - 4:09 am

really interesting read, makes you think about how much menopause can affect a womans heart health. gotta share this with my mom!

EmmaP November 6, 2023 - 5:17 am

I’ve been doing some of these strength trainings at my gym, glad to see it’s good for more than just looking fit, it’s great for our hearts too!


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