Heart Attack Risk and Menopause

As women begin to enter middle age, and they start to experience menopause, their risk of heart attack goes up dramatically. Cardiologists even suggest that women of this age get a good handle on their family history with regard to heart disease problems. They also suggest that women do everything they can to control their other risk factors like diet and smoking.

At one time, heart disease was considered to be only a risk for men. Scientists in the country stressed that men control their risk factors, as they seemed to be more prone to having heart attacks. However, recent studies have shown that women, particularly those who are over fifty and who have already experienced menopause, have the same risk that men do at that age.

Moreover, these studies have shown that while many men recover quite well from a heart attack and go on to lead a normal life, most women who suffer a heart attack will probably die during or just after the attack. Most experts say that as soon as a woman reaches the age of menopause, she needs to control her risk factors more carefully, because it is at this time that her risk skyrockets.

Estrogen a Heart Protectant

Before a woman hits menopause, the female reproductive system has a relatively normal cycle. The estrogen content of the female body is released on a normal basis at levels that do a number of different things for the female body. Among the things estrogen does is act as a protectant for the heart. It helps with both the lipid profile, a major heart attack risk, and with the overall risk for a heart attack.

Once the estrogen is gone, though, as happens in a gradual process for women who undergo a normal menopause cycle, the risk of a heart attack goes up because the estrogen is no longer there. This is particularly true for women who smoke. Industry experts estimate that all most ninety five percent of women who suffer from heart attacks are post-menopausal.

Those who are not post-menopausal are almost always smokers. Most doctors would be able to tell you that they have never treated a pre-menopausal woman for a heart attack who has not regularly smoked nicotine cigarettes.

Symptoms Different for Women

Not only does a woman’s risk for heart attack go up, it can also be more difficult to identify potential female heart attack victims after menopause because they simply don’t show the kinds of heart attack symptoms that men do. For most men, they have a pain in their chest. It sometimes moves to their arms, their necks, and their shoulder blades. Occasionally, it is so bad it causes vomiting, sweating, and shortness of breath.

With women, though, the symptoms are quite different. They are usually tired, and they have a sense of vague discomfort with their bodies. Oddly enough, women are far more likely to be sensitive to their bodies, but they are unable to detect serious problems like this. It most cases, a woman’s heart attack cannot be caught until the later and more dangerous stages, which is why they are more likely to die from it.

The key for women to prevent heart attacks is to control their risk factors. Eating healthy, exercising regularly, and controlling ongoing medical problems like cholesterol and high blood pressure are essential to fending off this attack. Women should be aware of their familial backgrounds with regard to heart disease, and they should talk to their doctors about what they can do to prevent heart attack after menopause.