Global Health Asia-Pacific May 2022 May 2022 - Page 16

SPONSORED FEATURE

Menopause and heart disease : is there a link ?

During the start of perimenopause , a woman ’ s body gradually produces less estrogen and progesterone . This drop in estrogen is thought to be a factor in increasing women ’ s risk of heart disease .

Although the risk of heart disease for everyone can increase with age , the risk may be even higher for women experiencing menopause . While an increasing number of studies show there is a link between menopause and heart health , there is currently no clear-cut consensus as to how this natural biological process affects the heart .

“ Some experts say that this could be due to the drop in estrogen levels during menopause , but more research needs to be done in this area to consider other possible factors as well ,” explains Institut Jantung Negara ( IJN ) cardiologist Dr Suraya Hani Kamsani . “ However , menopause is a normal part of ageing , and women should not be made to fear it . What they can do however , is be aware of the possible risks , so they can take the right steps to stay healthy .”
Effects of menopause on the heart Menopause refers to the end of a women ’ s reproductive cycle , specifically when a woman has not had her periods for 12 months or more . In the years leading up to menopause , some women may experience changes in their monthly periods , hot flashes , mood swings and other symptoms – this stage of transition is called perimenopause .
During the start of perimenopause , a woman ’ s body gradually produces less estrogen and progesterone ( the hormones that regulate menstruation ). According to Dr Suraya Hani , this drop in estrogen is thought to be a factor in increasing women ’ s risk of heart disease .
“ There is some research to suggest that estrogen has a “ protective effect ” against heart disease , as the hormone may help keep blood vessels flexible . This flexibility helps the vessels relax and expand to accommodate a healthy blood flow . So the theory is that a sharp drop in estrogen may contribute to the stiffening of these blood vessels ,” she says .
She adds however , that various other physiological changes that occur during menopause are equally likely to affect the heart . “ This includes changes in metabolism
14 MAY 2022 GlobalHealthAsiaPacific . com