Marking World Menopause Day on October 18, 2023, we find ourselves standing at a crossroads of understanding and action, where the journey through a woman’s midlife transition intersects with a critical topic: cardiovascular health.
This occasion, dedicated to raising awareness about menopause, offers an ideal opportunity to shed light on a connection that remains, for many, in the shadows.
Menopause, a natural and unavoidable biological transition characterised by a decline in estrogen levels, is a universal experience for women.
With the average age of menopause hovering around 50 years, approximately one-third of a woman’s life is spent in a state of estrogen deficiency.
The hormonal shifts during menopause often lead to alterations in lipid profiles, an increase in blood pressure, and a higher likelihood of obesity.
These changes collectively contribute to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), making heart disease a leading concern for menopausal women.
A woman’s risk of CVD significantly rises during menopause due to various factors, including age, the loss of estrogen, changes in body fat distribution, reduced physical activity, higher blood pressure, and worsening levels of cholesterol and blood sugar.
Post-menopausal women are two to three times more likely to develop coronary heart disease compared to those before menopause.
When it comes to safeguarding our hearts, there are several effective measures to consider. Firstly, adopting a heart-healthy diet is paramount.
This means reducing intake of saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, and sodium, while prioritising foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and Omega 3-rich fish.
Smoking cessation is another critical step to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Maintaining a healthy weight is vital to ease the burden on your heart and blood vessels.
Stress management is equally important since high stress levels can adversely affect sleep quality, ultimately increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Engaging in stress-reduction techniques like relaxation, meditation, and mindfulness can help. Keeping key indicators like cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels in check is also important.
However, there’s a silver lining — the most impactful change one can make is to increase physical activity. Regular physical activity doesn’t just lower the risk of heart disease; it also combats stroke, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, and even cancer.
It enhances bone health, aids in weight control, improves sleep, and positively impacts mental health. We should try to achieve at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week, 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise, or a combination of both.
It is never too late to start or increase our physical activity levels. The earlier we incorporate these habits into our life, the greater the health rewards. So, let’s make that choice today for a healthier, heart-conscious tomorrow.
Dr Ruthashini Selvasingam, Dr Tan Cia Vei and Prof Dr Moy Foong Ming are from the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya.
- This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Ova.