Monday, January 28, 2013

Ask Us Anything: I'm in Menopause and Have Cardiovascular Symptoms. What Should I Do?

"I'm in menopause and have been having steady weight gain, with nearly the same lifestyle. I'm developing cardiovascular symptoms as well. What is your advice?"

Beth Nicastro, Corporate Nurse Educator, Responds:

Thank you for your question.

If you experience cardiac symptoms such as shortness of breath, or uncomfortable squeezing or pain in the chest, back or arms, you should seek emergency medical care immediately. If you have any of these symptoms, call 911. Between the ages of 45 to 64, one in nine women develop symptoms of some form of cardiovascular disease. After menopause, a woman’s risk increases (especially after age 65), leading some to suggest that estrogen provides cardioprotective benefits. The extent to which lowered estrogen levels may lead to an increase in CVD risk is not clear, but research continues. Discuss with your physician the best treatment plan for you.

According to the American Heart Association, every minute in the US someone's mother or daughter dies from heart disease or a stroke. Women's cardiac health is equally as important as men's health. It is key to know your cardiac risk factors such as family history, diabetes, hypertension, smoking and high cholesterol. 80% of cardiac events can be prevented by making the right choices with a heart healthy diet and regular exercise.

Another way to lower your risk is to monitor your cholesterol, glucose and blood pressure levels. Visit the American Heart Association website for more information.

Your second question refers to the changes a woman experiences during menopause. In their 40s and 50s, women often gain weight, and they sometimes attribute this gain to menopause. Midlife weight gain appears to be mostly related to aging and lifestyle, but menopause also contributes to the problem. In general, fewer calories are needed after midlife because less energy is expended.

– Beth Nicastro

Beth Nicastro, PNP-BC, is a women's health community coordinator/educator. She also sees patients as a nurse practitioner at East Aurora Pediatrics.

If you have a question about your health, click here to ask our experts.

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