Menopause and heart disease

A middle aged woman smiling with a pair of glasses on her head, standing by a river with a bridge in the background.

Before the menopause, women in general have a lower risk of being affected by coronary heart disease. But during and after the menopause, your risk of getting coronary heart disease and other circulatory conditions rises.

Why does the menopause affect your heart?

Oestrogen is a hormone produced in a woman’s body which helps to protect different parts of her body, including the heart and blood vessels.

During and after the menopause, a woman’s body will produce less oestrogen than it used to. This increases the risk of developing coronary heart disease, or a circulatory condition such as stroke, because the heart and blood vessels are less protected.

Does HRT affect your risk of heart and circulatory disease?

Women going through the menopause can suffer from unpleasant symptoms, such as hot flushes, night sweats, mood swings and bladder symptoms. If you experience these, you may be prescribed hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to help relieve the symptoms.

HRT can be very effective for relieving symptoms of the menopause. But some women avoid taking it because they worry that it may increase their risk of certain health conditions, including heart and circulatory diseases.

Recent evidence shows that menopausal women taking HRT have no higher risk of dying from heart disease or a stroke than women who don’t take HRT.

Taking HRT as a tablet can increase the risk of a blood clot, which could lead to deep vein thrombosis or stroke. But this risk can be avoided by having HRT through the skin, as a patch or gel.

Some women with symptoms of the menopause may find that taking HRT helps them to avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as overeating or being inactive. These habits can increase the risk of heart and circulatory disease, so taking HRT, alongside a healthy lifestyle, could help to reduce this risk.

Early menopause and the heart

If you have early menopause (before the age of 40) you are at higher risk of premature heart and circulatory disease, so treatment is very important. Common treatments include HRT and the combined contraceptive pill - you can speak to your GP about whether these are suitable for you.

I'm menopausal and I can feel my heart beating really strongly, is this serious?

Some women who are going through the menopause may be more aware of their heart beating (palpitations). If you experience this, see your GP. For most women the palpitations are harmless and don’t mean anything is wrong with the heart, but your GP may wish to give you a check-up to be sure.

Help and information

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