There are many symptoms of menopause, some quite harmless and some completely bothersome.
However, some conditions caused by declining female hormones can cause other medical conditions that can have serious consequences for your health, so take note.
One of them involves your heart. As you probably know, the cardiovascular system is the system of arteries and veins that keep blood pumping throughout the body on a constant basis.
The main pump, your heart, is critical to this function and must be healthy for you to stay alive. So of course, anything that affects your cardiovascular system is pretty important, right? So how does approaching menopause relate to your heart health?
For one thing, estrogen (and its active form, estradiol) helps keep the cardiovascular system healthy in many ways. First, it helps control blood pressure by keeping the vessels properly dilated. Estradiol also helps control cholesterol by lowering bad cholesterol and increasing good cholesterol.
It also helps prevent blood from clotting and even acts as an antioxidant to keep fatty deposits from sticking to the walls of your arteries. Before the age of about 50, it is more common for men to have heart disease than women. However, once women start approaching menopause, this changes quickly.
Although heart disease in women tends to occur a bit later in life, it is just as devastating to their health. After 50 years, most women notice a decrease in hormones, especially estradiol, the active form of estrogen.
This causes a slow deterioration in the cardiovascular health of many women and, if not detected early enough, has dire consequences. Of course, there are other factors that affect heart health, such as diet and exercise, heredity, smoking, and alcohol use.
Diet alone can affect your cholesterol very adversely, so a low-fat diet is necessary to keep it under control. As women are affected by lower levels of estradiol in the bloodstream, they may begin to have higher levels of "bad" cholesterol, so it should be monitored regularly by your doctor.
If you tend to have many of the habits that already lead to a diseased heart, you should certainly try to reverse this trend as you age. It's never too late to start taking care of your heart! Unfortunately, heart disease presents differently in women than in men.
They don't usually have the severe chest pains that can signal a heart problem early on, although when they do have angina (chest pain due to heart problems) it often masquerades as something less serious.
In addition to angina, other symptoms of heart problems can be: back pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, jaw pain, sweating, and even heartburn or abdominal pain. If you are a woman and experience any of these symptoms, even if you are resting, write them down and contact your doctor.
Early diagnosis of cardiovascular problems is the key to staying healthy and avoiding a heart attack.
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