27 Feb 2014

The Truth about Women, Hormones and Heart Disease

HeartDid you know?

  • Heart disease is the #1 killer of women in the United States?
  • That a woman suffers a heart attack every 90 seconds in this country?
  • Many of these could be prevented with simple lifestyle changes?

Women in midlife (particularly after menopause) are more at risk for developing heart disease partly because their bodies produce less estrogen. Women who go through early menopause either naturally or as a result of a hysterectomy or medication are twice as likely to develop heart disease as women of the same age who are pre-menopausal.

In the 1990’s, the prevailing thinking was that estrogen replacement was protective for a woman’s heart. But that all changed in 2002 with the Women’s Health Initiative, a huge study of thousands of women. In that trial, women who took Prempro®, a combination of estrogen and progestin, had a 29 percent increase in deaths from heart disease, along with a 22 percent increase in total cardiovascular disease compared to women who did not take HRT. These results stunned the health community and caused a great deal of confusion in the general public.

The HRT debate is far from over. A review and analysis of many of the published HRT studies in the shows disparities in the data that are beyond the scope of this article, but one factor that seems to be important is the timing of when HRT is started. Women who begin it later appear to be more likely to experience heart attacks than those who begin HRT soon after menopause. In addition, much of the increased risk seems to come in the first year HRT is started, possibly due to an increased tendency to develop blood clots in the first year of HRT use.

Want to protect yourself?

The choice to take HRT is personal. It can be incredibly helpful for women who suffer with menopause-related quality-of-life issues and the risks of heart disease appear to vary depending on the dosage form used .Regardless of whether you choose HRT, there are simple steps you can take to lower your risk of heart disease as much as possible.

Make certain that you have a yearly physical that includes a heart-health screening. Your risks of heart disease increase if you are overweight, smoke or if you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels or diabetes. To help understand your own personal risks of heart disease and what you can do to avoid it, ask your physician to discuss the following tests with you to evaluate your risk:

  • A lipid panel which usually includes cholesterol, triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein (HDL), and low-density lipoprotein (LDL).
  • Blood sugar test to determine your level of insulin sensitivity.
  • C-reactive protein levels to evaluate your inflammation levels.
  • Stress test depending upon age, condition and family history.
  • EKG

Take responsibility for your health and BE PROACTIVE:

Peri (menopause) is a great time to take stock of your health! What you do today matters for your future and when you’re in your 40’s or 50’s you can’t afford to wait another 10 years to get it in gear. N.O.W. is the time to make a plan to rock your mojo when your 70!

Having trouble getting started? Hiring a health coach may be just the thing you need to jumpstart your journey to awesome health. I offer a free 30-minute call to explore ways in which we might work together. Sign up at www.vcita.com/v/anna.garrett.

Dr. Anna Garrett


  1. […] And cardiovascular disease is the number 1 killer of post-menopausal women. […]

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