Cholesterol Levels for Women – How Does Menopause Affect Them?
Ah, menopause! It is the time in a woman’s life when their bodies go through changes that no longer allow them to menstruate or bear children. It usually occurs to middle age women around the age of fifty, but it can occur as early as forty or as late as sixty on average. Many changes occur to the body during this time, with the majority of them being hormonal in nature. However, new evidence suggest that changes in cholesterol levels for women also occur during menopause, which can drastically increase the risk of coronary related illness following the change of life.
Bad cholesterol levels are not uncommon, particularly in the United States where diets high in bad fats and sugar are more prevalent than in other parts of the world. Bad cholesterol can occur for a multitude of reasons, and normally many factors present that contribute to higher than desirable cholesterol numbers. The National Cholesterol Education Program explains that lifestyle factors like smoking and exercise amounts in conjunction with dietary considerations play a role. However, aside from these external sources of bad cholesterol, the body itself can also be responsible for a raise in blood fats too. How much the body makes may depend on genetics and heredity as well. And, it is becoming apparent that another factor may play a role in cholesterol levels for women – menopause.
This revelation has finally provided a link between why post menopausal women are more prone to developing heart disease. Previously, researchers were not exactly sure why this was happening, but a new study has finally shed some light on the phenomenon. The study was impressive, following over a thousand menopausal women over a decade. It found that regardless of ethnicity, cholesterol levels for women increased sharply following the change of life. The results further indicated that the first two years following a woman’s last menses contributed to a nearly ten percent rise in LDL cholesterol levels alone, according to CNN.com. While this may not seem significant, as these increases build over time, the risk for heart disease can be dramatically amplified.
So, how does menopause play a role in a woman’s cholesterol levels? And, why don’t these changes appear in cholesterol levels in children or men? Well, while the risk of heart disease does increase with age regardless of gender, it is thought that the hormone estrogen may play a role in why menopausal women are more affected later in life. Because of the importance of estrogen in a woman’s body, it is logical that this connection was made and why cholesterol levels for men are not affected as significantly (although their risk also increases). Heart.org explains that estrogen is useful to keeping artery walls healthy and flexible; the changes that occur during menopause which include a natural decrease in estrogen may be responsible for an increased risk of heart disease. However, just how these hormonal changes actually affect cholesterol levels for women is still unknown, despite conclusive and large scaled studies.
With the scientific community certain of the outcome yet still unsure of the cause, menopausal women can take their change of life as an opportunity to proactively control their cholesterol before it becomes a problem. As early as three years prior to menopause, cholesterol levels may begin to rise. During this time, making healthy lifestyle changes like quitting smoking, making dietary changes and increasing exercise are all an excellent idea. There are also natural options to consider, like the best supplement to lower cholesterol, one based on plant sterols and stanols. These naturally occurring compounds have been shown to naturally lower cholesterol. In fact, they are so effective that they are added to foods like some margarines in an effort to promote heart health.
There are other natural options to help control cholesterol levels for women such as spices like turmeric and herbal options like garlic. The compounds found in these naturally occurring remedies have been shown in some studies to help reduce LDL and help achieve healthy cholesterol levels. However, one in particular is so effective that it is the basis for many medications to control cholesterol, red yeast rice. It is literally comprised of yeast that is grown on rice, and it is a mainstay of cuisine in some parts of the world. However, it is also available as a supplement, which is more convenient (although there are some risks involved so talk to your doctor first).
CNN.com references the study surrounding menopause and cholesterol levels and women and notes that an opportunity, rather than a hindrance, can come from this unusual physiological relationship. With the knowledge that cholesterol levels for women can sharply increase following the change of life, women can take advantage of the opportunity to get healthier for their second half of life by protecting their hearts with lifestyle changes, dietary considerations and the incorporation of natural choices for cholesterol reduction.