Because of cortisol and estrogen interactions, menopause transitions can take a toll on your heart. Keep reading to find out why your heart health can be threatened during menopause, and learn how to protect it.
What Causes Heart Problems in Menopausal Women?
Cortisol and estrogen have a relationship which is reliant on estrogen controlling the production of cortisol. When estrogen is depleted, during and after menopause for example, in times of stress cortisol production skyrockets to extremely high levels and stays there.
How Does the Body Respond to Stress?
When you are stressed, emotionally or physically, cortisol helps to prepare your body for the worst by gearing up all of its systems. Coagulating agents appear in the blood in case you have an injury that requires it to clot to prevent excess bleeding. Consequently, blood vessels contract and your heartbeat speeds up.
This response is natural and beneficial in situations where you may need to react quickly. The danger comes during times of prolonged stress (chronic stress) when menopausal women can end up suffering from constantly high levels of cortisol. Being in a perpetual state of stress takes a toll on the heart and the arteries and can lead to an increased risk of heart disease.
How Is Stress Bad for the Heart?
The burden that stress can place on the heart can leave it less capable of responding to the body's changing needs.
If you begin to notice heart palpitations, you should make an appointment with your doctor to make sure they are not signs of a serious condition. If you experience an irregular heartbeat accompanied by feelings of dizziness, difficulty breathing, pain in your chest or hot flashes, you should call a doctor immediately.
How Can I Treat Stress?
There are several ways to naturally regulate the body's response to stress. First, examine your habits to determine if you are consuming stimulants that could trigger your stress, such as alcohol, caffeine or nicotine. Then, make time for activities that can help you relieve daily stress, such as yoga, meditation or relaxing hobbies.
More Information about an Irregular Heartbeat during Menopause
If you experience chronic tingling, rather than episodic sensations of prickly or burning skin, you should contact a doctor to rule out the possibility of a more serious condition, such as a stroke. Click the following link for more information about treatments for irregular heartbeat.
- Hutchinson, Susan M.D. "The Stages of a Woman's Life: Menstruation, Pregnancy, Nursing, Perimenopause, Menopause". November 2007.
- Love, Susan M.D. Menopause and Hormone Book. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2003.
- BMJ Group. "Menopause: What is it?" Patient Leaflet. 2007