Hormonal changes that take place during menopause could increase the risk of heart disease in women, according to a study.
"Many women younger than 50 have not yet gone through menopause and still have high levels of the female hormone estrogen in their blood, which is thought to help protect the heart," says Vera Rigolin, associate director of the Center for Women's Cardiovascular Health in the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute of Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
"After menopause, however, the levels of estrogen in a woman's body drop significantly and can contribute to the higher risks of cardiovascular disease," Vera Rigolin adds.
Weight gain is also a factor that may play a role in postmenopausal risk of heart disease. Maintaining a healthy weight often becomes difficult after your body experiences a change in hormone levels.
Extra mass can take a toll on the body causing physical inactivity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol, all risk factors that can lead to heart attack and stroke.
Rigolin says that women, especially those who are menopausal, can reduce the risk of heart disease by adopting a healthy lifestyle.
"If you are a smoker, quit immediately and avoid second hand smoke. Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and exercise at least three times per week to maintain a healthy body weight," says Rigolin.
Rigolin also recommends visiting the health care provider at least once per year to have your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels checked.