Health expert: Early menopausal women at risk of non-fatal cardiovascular disease

(PNA photo by Avito Dalan)

The Philippine Heart Association (PHA) said women who undergo premature or early menopause have increased risk of non-fatal cardiovascular disease that happens before age 60.

In a virtual Kapihan forum, PHA Council member, Dr. Cynthia De Lara said premature menopause leads to decrease in estrogen, the hormone controlling cholesterol levels in women.

De Lara cited the Framingham Study in 1976 which showed that cardiovascular disease — a disease of the heart and the blood vessels — was common in women who experienced an earlier menopause.

“Women who had undergone a surgical menopause before the age of 35 were seven times at greater risk of myocardial infarction or heart attack compared to other women of the same age,” she said.

She added that the leading cause of death among Filipino women in 2018 was ischaemic heart disease which is 14% of the total number of 252,920 fatalities for the group that year.

Menopause and its stages. Menopause is a natural phase of life for women in their 40s or 50s signifying a permanent cessation of ovarian function and transition from reproductive to non-reproductive phase of their lives, de Lara said.

Its stages are perimenopause, menopause and postmenopause. Perimenopause include the most symptomatic years when women may experience decline in estrogen levels, hot flashes and night sweats, depression, sleep problems, increased body fat around the organs, increased cholesterol levels, and stiffening or weakening of blood vessels.

Menopause, the second stage is where a woman does not have a menstruation for 12 months in a row. The last stage is postmenopause where many women spend up to 40% of their lives after menopause.

“Perimenopause is the best or key time for women to reduce their cardiovascular risk. They need not wait for the menopause stage,” de Lara said.

Women could reduce their risk for cardiovascular disease by avoiding alcohol and cigarettes, eating healthy diet, exercising and maintaining a healthy weight, managing stress, and managing other health conditions like high blood pressure or high blood sugar.