Here’s what you need to know. 

When women start menopause, they expect symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats. They should also be aware of their risk for some serious illnesses, including heart disease, increases. 

As an OB/GYN and Certified Menopause Practitioner, I talk to patients about these topics. The effects of menopause aren’t something you “just have to live with” as you get older! 

Most women start menopause around 51 or 52, so their age is a risk factor for heart disease. Aging causes the heart muscle and blood vessels to become less efficient, regardless of overall health. Also, conditions like high cholesterol and hypertension are more common as we age. 

For menopausal women, there are additional risk factors to consider. 

During menopause, your estrogen levels decrease. Estrogen provides protection against heart disease, so lower levels mean less benefit for your heart. 

Also, some menopause symptoms, like depression and added abdominal fat, are linked to heart disease. Night sweats and hot flashes have been linked to high blood pressure. 

There are risk factors unique to each woman, too. Do you have a family history of heart disease? Did you have a high-risk pregnancy? Were you diagnosed with preeclampsia, i.e., high blood pressure in pregnancy? 

All these can put you at risk for heart problems later in life. Recognizing those risk factors and intervening early can prevent serious illness. 

Lifestyle changes are the first step. 

First, avoid or quit smoking, as there is a strong link between smoking and heart disease. 

Second, maintain a healthy weight. Exercising at least 150 minutes a week is good for weight management. It keeps the heart muscle strong and improves blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar. The second part of weight control, your diet, can have added benefits if you incorporate heart-healthy foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fish, and soy. 

Your doctor can also prescribe medications to help you manage conditions that raise your risk of heart attack, such as high cholesterol, hypertension, and diabetes. 

As a specialist in menopause care, I’m in a unique position to care for women from when they start their menstrual cycle through their reproductive years and into menopause. That helps me fully understand and address my patients’ needs and goals. 

I also believe in collaborative care, which means working with primary care, internal medicine, cardiology, and other specialists to provide comprehensive care for your heart health and other medical concerns. 

In my experience, women are their own best advocates. I believe in caring for my patients as I would for my sister, mother, or friend —which means listening to your concerns and helping you decide the best way to address them. 

Remember, getting older doesn’t mean you “just have to live with” bothersome symptoms and a higher risk of serious illness. We’re here to help you lead an active, healthy life as you age. 

As a Certified Menopause Practitioner, Dr. Pallavi Khanna has received advanced education and training through the North American Menopause Society, giving her insight and expertise in providing evidence-based care for menopausal women. 

For an appointment at our East Campus, 6555 Quince Rd., call 901.515.3100.