WORLD MENOPAUSE DAY 2023 - Heart Health & the Menopause
Last updated: 3.08pm, Wednesday 4th October 2023
The 18th of October marks World Menopause Day and the International Menopause Society this year will focus on cardiovascular disease and heart health. The menopause conversation is really opening up, but The British Menopause Society have identified theres still a lot of mis information out there. I thought I would look at the silent symptoms of menopause that you don't really see but really need to be addressed, and how exercise and physical activity can be part of the magic we all need.
Hot flushes and night sweats are typically the hallmark symptoms of menopause, but it is so much more, as any menopausal woman will tell you! There is something else happening to women entering their late 40s and early 50s that they can't see or feel and may not even know about: Their cardiovascular disease risks are rising. This is mainly to do with the decreasing levels of oestrogen.
During the peri menopause and menopause, less oestrogen is produced. Oestrogen has a protective role to play in numerous parts of the body including: the digestive tract, bones, brain, skin, vagina, and the heart and blood vessels. There are hormone receptors all over the body so this lack of estrogen helps to explain the widespread symptoms we may experience.
How does it affect the heart?
Heart and circulatory diseases kill 1 in 4 people in the UK. Not being active enough is one of the reasons people get heart and circulatory diseases like angina, heart attack, stroke, and vascular dementia. The risk is increased by being overweight, having high cholesterol, high Bp, or Type 2 diabetes. Getting your body moving is one important way to improve your heart health. Producing less estrogen can mean accumulating more fat around your stomach. This is part of a cluster of symptoms called metabolic syndrome. If you have at least 3 of these symptoms: abdominal obesity, high triglycerides, low good cholesterol, high blood pressure, or high blood sugar, then you would be classed as having metabolic syndrome, which puts you at an addiotional risk of heart disease.
It’s not just about managing menopause symptoms but managing the physiological changes to the body and understanding what is happening and what it means to them. Exercise can help with all of this. We want to get and keep women as active as we can.
How can Exercise Help?
High blood pressure:
Regular physical acvitity improves and maintains heart function and has been proven to reduce blood pressure.
Physical activity raises your levels of good cholesterol (HDL), and lowers the bad cholesterol (LDL), so it’s less likely to clog up the arteries which can cause a heart attack or stroke.
Type II Diabetes
Physical activity helps to maintain normal blood glucose (sugar) and prevent the development of type II diabetes.
Relaxation exercises can help reduce palpitations whereby you feel your heart beating faster than usual due to the changing hormone levels. This can sometimes happen during hot flushes.
Exercise can help to regulate cortisol, which is the stress hormone. Being active reduces cortisol and thus stress.
Overall, women are not meeting the physical activity guidelines set by the Government’s Chief Medical Officer, which are 150-300 minutes per week of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity or 75 -150minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic activity per week, or a mixture of both. Ideally this should be combined with 2-3 strength sessions.
The emphasis has been changed from exercise to physical activity as it was seen to be less threatening, but also because ALL activity counts such as: carrying shopping, using stairs, cutting the grass, even hoovering. Even 10-minute bouts of physical activity repeated during the day can be beneficial at helping you keep fit and reduce body weight. In fact “Walking and strength training have been described as the most underrated activities for health and longevity”.
This is all well and good, but what if you have never really exercised in your life? What if you know the benefits but don’t know where to start? You feel bloated and the thought of putting a pair of leggings and gym gear is enough to put you off, before you even start? What if you suffer from low back pain and are afraid r to exercise? What if you have a prolapse and are afraid exercise could make it worse? What if you hate exercise but know you really need to do it?
These are all common phrases we hear and can be big barriers to exercise. My response to this is, everyone is different. Exercise or physical activity is not a choice, it’s a necessity for your overall health and well-being, but it’s about finding out what you like doing, and finding the magic that suits you. It’s the magic we all need! Buddy up with a friend, try something and if you don’t like it, move on to try something else.
Exercise is only one aspect of a healthy lifestyle that needs to be addressed. Other areas to address are not smoking, eating a healthy balanced diet, maintaining a healthy weight, getting enough sleep, and keeping cholesterol, blood pressure and blood glucose levels under control. However, exercise is a great place to start.
If you are struggling to find the magic, or affected by the above barriers to exercise, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Louise leads our Physiotherapy for Women service at Hampden Sports Clinic.
An exciting clinic aimed at getting all women active.
If you would like any more information on the benefits of exercise or are struggling with an injury, or affected by anything discussed here, then please don’t hesitate to contact me. I’d love to hear from you.
Check our website for full info around our Physiotherapy for Women service. Alternatively, you can e-mail Louise on email@example.com.