Preventing heart disease in menopause. It’s as simple as L-D-L

Posted by on Jan 15, 2010 in estrogen, heart disease | 7 comments

Aging. It’s associated with all sorts of diseases. In women in particular, heart disease is a big red flag since there is a lot of evidence showing that after age 40, risk for developing heart disease rises and continues to rise.

So, is increased risk due to to aging in general or to menopause in particular? Moreover, is there anything you can do now to reverse the trend?

Researchers have recently solved an important piece of the puzzle, discovering that significant increases in cholesterol coincide with the period right before and immediately after menopause sets in. Coincidentally, at the same time, women experience significant declines in estrogen. In this particular trial, which involved over a thousand women, researchers examined various factors that might contribute to increased heart disease risk (e.g. blood fat levels, blood sugar and blood pressure). They then compared changes in these factors over time and whether they were more in sync with aging or with ovarian changes associated with menopause.

Over the course of three to five years before menopause, a year after, and then three to five years thereafter, substantial changes were noticed in blood fats, namely low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which rose as average of 12 points between the first two time periods and then leveled off a few points higher (from 113 and 116, to 125 to 130. Current guidelines suggest that optimal LDL levels are below 100 and that at the very least, individuals attain LDL cholesterol levels of <130 if they have two more heart disease risk factors (and preferably, lower).

So, what are the take-away messages?

  • First, declining levels of estrogen place women at risk for heart disease as they approach menopause, namely due to significant increases in LDL and total cholesterol.
  • Second, women nearing menopause need to know their cholesterol numbers and insure that that becomes a priority during a normal checkup.
  • Lastly, exercise and diet are key to lowering cholesterol levels, at least initially.

Both the National Lung Blood and Lung Institute and the American Heart Association recommend diets low in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol, and rich in whole grains, fiber, fish, lean meats and poultry. Exercise is essential, at least 30 minutes worth daily. Finally watch those risk factors and talk to your practitioner about those that may be problematic and what you can do to address them.

We may not be able to control declining estrogen but we can take positive steps to make sure that it doesn’t affect our risk for heart disease.


  1. 1-15-2010

    This is so important–my cholesterol levels were low all my life (or high for good cholesteral)…menopause hit and boom! If I hadn’t been having my blood tested for other reasons, I would have been blissfully unaware that I was hurting my heart!

  2. 1-15-2010

    Thanks for your comment Laura! Great to hear first-hand about the action you took and timely too.

  3. 1-20-2010

    The chance of getting diseases or cancer are increased when dealing with menopause and you don’t do anything about it. The first step is definitely adopting a healthy active lifestyle, but then you can find something like Bioidentical hormone therapy. Which my wife has completed 4 months of so far and has seen a significant change in her symptoms and has a positive outlook now. Her sleep has increased, libido increased, and her hot flashes have decreased. Research the different treatment options for you and see where you fit.

  4. 2-4-2010

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  5. 1-24-2011

    Interesting post Liz.

    My cholesterol numbers were always excellent until my mid-forties, that is high HDL, low total cholesterol (TC) and LDL. Then my TC and LDL started to creep up a little each year, despite no changes to my reasonably healthy diet and regular exercise routine.

    However, one year they really shot up and stayed high for two years. Since starting a low dose regime of bio-identical hormones, the cholesterol has started to come down. My HDL always remained high (although it went even higher when the other numbers increased). Of course, I did go on HT for this reason, it is just something I noticed after I started the HT. The only change in my lifestyle, as far as I know, was the initial flucuations in my hormones
    (perimenopause and menopause) and the subsequent use of HT.

    I found this to be an interesting, and welcome, side effect to taking HT.

    • 1-25-2011

      More like a benefit, right?! I hope you checked out the primary post on bioidenticals.



  6. 1-24-2011

    A correction to my comment above: I did NOT go on HT for this reason (due to high cholesterol), but rather for other symptoms. I left out the word “not” in error.


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