How to take care of your cardiovascular health

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This menopause month Dr Rebeccah Tomlinson, GP at Health & Her, explains why & how to look after your heart during perimenopause & menopause.

It may come as surprise to many that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of mortality in women, killing as many as one in 14 females a year in the UK – around 2.5 million – making it ten times deadlier than breast cancer. 

Studies have shown that perimenopausal and menopausal women are at greater risk of heart disease² as a result of hormonal and physical changes, including a decrease in production of oestrogen. 

Oestrogen provides vital functions across the body and helps protect bones, brain, skin and vagina as well as the heart and blood vessels, where it helps prevent the build-up of fatty plaque in the arteries. 

Dr Rebeccah Tomlinson, GP at Health & Her and registered member of the British Menopause Society, explains: “As a woman enters the hormonal transition, production of this all-important hormone decreases, increasing the risk of heart and circulatory disease, high cholesterol levels and heart palpitations.”

This year International Menopause Day on 18th October is focusing on cardiovascular disease and is highlighting the importance of good heart health for the nation’s women. 

Dr Tomlinson is joining the campaign and is urging women to look after their heart health especially during perimenopause, menopause and beyond. She shares her top five tips on keeping your ticker in tip top condition:

1. EXERCISE:

Maintaining a healthy body weight is important for optimal cardiovascular health. Regular physical activity, particularly aerobic exercise, can lower weight, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels, as well as creating healthier cholesterol levels. 

The menopause can often lead to weight gain around the middle as a result of an increase in visceral fat. Visceral fat surrounds the internal organs and contributes to high blood pressure, elevated blood cholesterol, and Type 2 diabetes – all risk factors for heart disease. 

Carrying weight around the middle can also increase your chance of suffering of a heart attack, more than if you’re just heavier overall. 

Try to do 150 minutes of moderate exercise (such as brisk walking) or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week to reduce your weight.

2.WATCH YOUR DIET:

Eating a healthy diet will help reduce the risk of developing coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure as well as limiting weight gain. 

The Mediterranean diet has been shown to lower risk factors for heart disease³ so look to the Med for inspiration when it comes to what you eat. 

A typical Mediterranean diet includes mostly nutrient-dense, vitamin and mineral packed seasonal produce. Try eating plant-based foods with whole grains, fruits, vegetables featuring heavily every day. Fish, beans, poultry and eggs are consumed just once a week, while dairy is eaten in moderate portions. 

In contrast red meat is eaten sparingly, along with foods that have added sugar and alcohol is kept within the recommended guidelines – whether you drink every day, once or twice a week or just occasionally.

Make sure you also include foods which are high in Magnesium such as nuts and seeds such as pumpkin and flaxseed (which is a rich source), as magnesium is one of the most beneficial minerals for cardiovascular health.   

3.CHECK YOUR CHOLESTEROL:

Cholesterol performs a series of vital functions in the body including building the structure of cell membranes, making hormones like oestrogen, testosterone and adrenal, and helping your metabolism work efficiently.  

During the menopause LDL-cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) increases, while HDL-cholesterol (“good” cholesterol) declines.  This increases the risk of the coronary arteries narrowing whereas it previously protected the lining of the artery walls reducing the build-up of plaque. 

Get your cholesterol checked and talk to your doctor about your specific cholesterol goals and whether medication is needed to lower cholesterol levels and keep your heart healthy. Get your cholesterol tested every 4 to 6 years, or more often if you’re at higher risk. 

4.MONITOR YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE:

Blood pressure describes the strength with which your blood pushes on the sides of your arteries as it’s pumped around your body. 

Ageing combined with falls in oestrogen levels can result in blood vessels being less flexible, something that can contribute to higher blood pressure. 

Symptoms of high blood pressure can include blurred vision, nosebleeds, shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness and headaches but many people feel fine, so it’s important to get your blood pressure checked regularly. 

Being more active, losing weight, eating less salt and reducing alcohol intake can all help to lower your blood pressure.

5.INCREASE YOUR OMEGA 3 INTAKE:

The National Nutritional Diet Survey (NDNS)4 shows that adult women are consuming just 40%5 of the weekly recommended 156g a week of oily fish, the main source of Omega 3. 

Omega 3 plays an important role in supporting normal brain and heart function and has been linked to many health benefits including lowering triglycerides, (a fat that enters your blood after a meal), improving blood circulation, preventing blood clots, lowering blood pressure and keeping the rhythm of your heart steady.

Vegetable oils, nuts and seeds and oily fish such as sardines, salmon and mackerel are the best food sources of Omega 3 so make sure they are factored into your diet wherever possible, if you don’t consume food sources then take a suitable supplement.

The post How to take care of your cardiovascular health appeared first on Wellbeing Magazine.

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