While you may have heard about menopausal symptoms such as night sweats, hot flushes, vaginal dryness and low mood or anxiety, what is less well known is that the menopause also affects the heart and in particular puts women at increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
During menopause oestrogen levels drop. Watch this video to see the impact of reduced oestrogen on the heart and blood vessels.
Read our frequently asked questions below for more information on the impact of the menopause on your heart health and what you can do to protect it.
Menopause is the stage in the life of a woman or person designated female at birth when your periods stop permanently. The term menopause comes from the Greek word menos (month) and pausis (stop).
A natural menopause occurs when no period has occurred for 12 months or more. This usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55 years. 51 is the average age.
However, most people usually describe menopause as the years leading up to their final menstruation. During this time, called the perimenopause, periods can become lighter, heavier or more irregular. You usually experience most menopausal symptoms during the perimenopause.
Early menopause is when someone experiences menopause between the ages of 40 and 45. Premature ovarian insufficiency is menopause that occurs before the age of 40. Late menopause is when menopause occurs after the age of 55.
Menopause can also be caused by surgical removal of the ovaries, or by medical intervention, for example, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or medications to support gender transition.
Postmenopause is the stage of life after the menopause. Most women will live about a third of their lives post menopause. Learn about the impact of menopause on your heart health in the video above.
Visit the HSE website for more information on the menopause.
During the menopause, your body undergoes many transitions because of hormone changes.
Some women do not experience any symptoms, but menopausal symptoms interfere with normal daily activities for 78 per cent of women and 25 per cent of women experience severe symptoms that significantly interfere with their quality of life.
The range and duration of symptoms varies but they usually start during the perimenopause and can continue anywhere from a few months to several years after your periods stop.
The symptoms of menopause include:
– Vasomotor symptoms like hot flushes and night sweats
– Mood and cognitive symptoms like anxiety, poor memory, difficulty focusing, depression, sleep difficulties and irritability
– Genito-urinary symptoms like low sex drive and vaginal dryness
– Other physical symptoms like muscle and joint pain, heart palpitations, hair loss, dizziness, dry skin, reduced bone health and fatigue
But did you know that some of the most important long-term effects of menopause often go unnoticed? A loss of the sex hormone oestrogen means less protection for heart and bone health.
Your risk of heart disease and stroke increases during and after menopause.
Female sex hormones like oestrogen protect your heart and brain by keeping your blood vessels relaxed and open and helping to maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
During menopause, declining oestrogen levels may cause:
These changes can occur silently – often without you noticing them – so it’s important to get your heart health checked with your local healthcare provider.
See our Self-Care and Wellbeing Journal for more information.
Yes, the earlier you lose the protective effect of oestrogen, the higher your risk for heart disease and stroke.
If you have experienced early menopause or premature ovarian insufficiency, you should speak to your healthcare provider about heart disease.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) should also be offered to you until at least the age of 50 unless there is a reason why oestrogen is not recommended.
For people who cannot take hormone replacement therapy, making heart healthy changes to your lifestyle is especially important.
There are a number of things you can do to look after your heart, brain and blood vessels during and after menopause, including:
On World Heart Day, 29th September, join the Irish Heart Foundation and our panel of experts for a free webinar to help you take care of your heart health and talk, share and empower others to do the same.
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