The truth about estrogen and heart disease

Estrogen can only protect women for so long, and adopting healthy habits early is key to preventing heart disease

The truth about estrogen and heart disease

Source: Best Health Magazine, January/February 2012

Recent research from Queen Mary University of London shows that estrogen can help protect women from heart disease. The hormone helps white blood cells travel through blood vessels so they don’t stick to the walls, avoiding blockage.

But estrogen can protect us for only so long, according to cardiologist Dr. Beth Abramson, a spokesperson for the Canadian Heart & Stroke Foundation and director of the Cardiac Prevention Centre at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. ‘After menopause, when estrogen levels fall, women’s rates for heart disease start to increase.’ She adds that hormone replacement therapy does not lower the risk, but making some changes in lifestyle does.

Prevention should begin before menopause, said Dr. Clyde Yancy, past-president of the American Heart Association, in his presentation at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Vancouver in late 2011. By adopting crucial healthy habits’being physically active, maintaining a normal body weight, watching cholesterol and blood pressure levels, eating a balanced diet, and not smoking‘people can live a long life, even past 90 years of age, free of heart disease.

‘We need to know that heart attacks are preventable,’ says Abramson. Make a doctor’s appointment to find out if you are at risk.

Symptom Checker

You’ve likely seen the Heart & Stroke Foundation’s recent ads, ‘Death Loves Women. Make Death Wait,’ which bring attention to the fact that heart disease is the number one killer of women in Canada. It’s estimated ‘that 37,000 Canadian women will die from this disease in 2012. And while it used to be thought that women had different heart disease symptoms than men, the Heart & Stroke Foundation says that’s not actually true.

Here’s what to look for:

Heart attack symptoms

‘ Chest discomfort, such as pressure, squeezing, burning and/or pain
‘ Discomfort in the neck, jaw, shoulder, arms and/or back
‘ Shortness of breath
‘ Sweating
‘ Nausea
‘ Light-headedness

This article was originally titled "Estrogen and your heart" in the January/February 2012 issue of Best Health. Subscribe today to get the full Best Health experience’and never miss an issue!