Menopause happens when your period permanently stops, meaning you’ve gone at least 12 months in a row with no period. Menopause typically occurs around age 50 and presents a wide range of symptoms and changes in the female body.1 Symptoms of menopause and perimenopause (the years leading up to menopause) include hot flashes, trouble sleeping, and changes in mood, among various others. During menopause your hormone levels change, which may have an impact on your overall health, including your heart.
It’s important to keep in mind that menopause is a natural and normal phase of life, and that the risk of heart disease rises with age for everyone. When it comes to your heart, menopause does not cause cardiovascular disease, but it may increase risk factors or make them more obvious.2
Cardiovascular disease risk factors affected by menopause
Although menopause does not cause heart health issues, health and hormone changes brought on by menopause can increase risk factors for heart disease.
- High blood pressure
Menopause causes a drop in the hormone estrogen. When this drop occurs, your heart and blood vessels drop in elasticity as well, becoming stiffer. This stiffness can increase blood pressure, which adds strain on the heart.3
- High cholesterol
When your good cholesterol (HDL) is low and your bad cholesterol (LDL) is high, your risk of heart disease and heart attack rises. A drop in estrogen levels can cause these imbalances as well as a rise in triglycerides, another type of fat in the blood.3
- Weight gain
Another function of the hormone estrogen is determining where the body stores fat and how fat is burned. With less estrogen, many people experience a slower metabolism and easier weight gain, which can lead to a higher risk of heart disease.3
Some of the hormone changes associated with menopause can make you less responsive to insulin. Insulin helps you convert blood sugar into energy, and without it properly functioning, the likelihood of developing diabetes or prediabetes can increase. Having diabetes can increase the risk of heart disease.3