Menopause and Heart Disease
123rf.com/ Aleksandr Davydov
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States, affecting about one in every four women. Often thought of as a “man’s disease,” a woman’s risk becomes equivalent to a man’s starting at age 60. In fact, the numbers rise so greatly for women of menopausal age that the same number of women and men die each year of heart disease in the United States.
Despite increased awareness, many still do not recognize that heart disease is the number one killer of women. Roughly two-thirds (64 percent) of women who die suddenly of coronary heart disease have no previous symptoms. Heart disease presents differently in women. Many of the signs we have come to look for have been based on studies of men and do not apply to women.
Heart Disease Symptoms Specific to Women
Women are more likely to describe chest pain that is dull, heavy, burning or sharp, and have pain in the neck, jaw, throat, ribs, upper abdomen, back or shoulder. These may occur during rest, begin during physical activity, or be triggered by mental stress. Stress deeply affects women and cannot be overlooked as a leading cause of all chronic disease, including heart disease.
Early warning signs of cardiovascular disease can present as elevations in blood pressure and cholesterol. Chronic headaches, heart palpitations, and flutters are common signs that the cardiovascular system is under stress.
Conventional treatments for heart disease are focused on prescription medications designed for symptom management. While these provide a short-term solution, they do not fix the underlying cause of the problem. Often, women are led to believe that they are doing all they can to address the health issue at hand while the underlying condition still remains.
Statin Drugs and Women
In the United States, approximately 13.5 percent of women aged 45 to 64 take a statin medication to reduce their cholesterol. According to the 2013 American Heart Association Guidelines, while effective at preventing second heart attacks, they are not effective at prevention of first-time heart attacks. Statins have been linked to an increased risk of diabetes, muscle and liver damage, muscle weakness, muscle cramps, memory loss and confusion. Most of the recommendations for statins are for cholesterol levels that are only slightly elevated. The benefits do not exceed the risks for these women.
Managing Heart Disease with Dietary and Lifestyle Factors
Health conditions affect so much more than someone’s health. They affect everyone around us as well. We all have people in our lives who depend on us. Those people cherish quality time with us more than we will ever know.
If you are sick and tired of being sick and tired, it’s time to make a change. We only get one great, precious life.
Follow these steps to kick heart disease risk to the curb and prevent yourself from ever needing to see a cardiologist.
- Exercise 150 minutes per week. That’s only 30 minutes five times per week!
- Manage stress with healthy coping measures.
- Track your blood pressure and cholesterol. Know your numbers.
- Work with a mentor to help you achieve your health goals.
Dr. Andrea Purcell is a naturopathic medical doctor in Phoenix. She is also a best-selling author of Feed Your Cells Cookbook and Over 35 and Pregnant. For more information, visit DrAndreaPurcell.com.