Ask any group of women how their transition to and through menopause has gone, and you’re likely to get a very wide variety of answers. Some coast through with barely any issues (and probably get scowled at a lot), while others get the whole barrage of night sweats, hot flashes, mood changes and all the other lovely potential effects of this later-age change in hormone regulation.
But did you know that, according to a new study in the journal Menopause that was published in April, the extent to which a woman deals with this array of menopause symptoms may indicate her level of risk for future heart disease risk? If that is the case, women may have yet another tool to use to take proactive steps earlier on and work to decrease controllable factors for risk of heart disease. Ideally, everyone should be leading a healthy lifestyle as long as possible with the goal of a long and enjoyable life, but some may need another wake-up call to point them in the right direction. This maybe it.
The small study performed at the University of Colorado School of Medicine looked at outcomes for 138 menopausal women, comparing classical symptom frequency to vascular changes that were contributors to heart disease. What was found was that throughout menopause, rating a lower quality of life and experiencing more frequent menopause symptoms, like hot flashes, were associated with greater arterial stiffening and blood vessel dysfunction. These changes are then what can lead to heart attack and stroke.
The exact mechanism of why these changes would occur was not detailed, only that an association was found. Whenever hormone levels change though, be it estrogen, progesterone, thyroid, cortisol…, the effects can be felt in various areas of the body. Knowing where your hormone levels are, especially if you are feeling changes not attributable to any differences in lifestyle habits, may be the next step in feeling normal again. There are always age-related declines that will occur with our sex hormones, but other controllable factors can interfere with them as well. Blood sugar imbalances, stress, poor diet and nutrient deficiencies can all impact estrogen and progesterone levels, possibly making menopausal symptoms worse.
Some women may opt for hormone replacement therapy, but others may be dissuaded by the associated links to stroke and certain cancers and want to seek more natural means to help restore balance. Lifestyle habits are more powerful than people think in helping to achieve this, and there are safe and effective natural supplements that can help beyond making sure the basics are all in line. And right along with this, many of the good changes will also have a direct effect on reducing heart disease risk independent of the estrogen connection.
Our office offers a natural approach to helping restore balance to the body by both eliminating the things that may be causing disharmony to your system and adding support for any areas that may be lacking or imbalanced. Many great improvements can be seen with a structured, individual-focused program. If it does turn out to be primarily age-related declines, then safer bio-identical hormones may be a better option that can be implemented along with the changes used to support proper health. The key is finding that level of balance that will allow you to enjoy the quality of life that you want while also minimizing the risks for future health issues, just like our patients experience. Yes, you can have your cake and eat it too! (so to speak…)