Menopause is described as a natural part of a woman’s ageing process, where oestrogen levels start to decline between the ages of 45 and 55. Apart from the common symptoms that can be experienced such as hot flushes, night sweats, problems with memory and concentration, headaches, etc.; the drop in oestrogen level increases the risk of women developing cardiovascular disease.
A fair amount of research has connected menopause with a high risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. This is linked to changes in blood pressure, rising LDL (bad cholesterol), decreasing HDL (good cholesterol) and glucose level
The drop in oestrogen levels associated with the menopause means that women are at more risk of developing:
- High blood pressure (your heart and blood vessels may become stiff and less elastic which tends to raise your blood pressure)
- High cholesterol (lack of oestrogen can cause changes in your cholesterol and blood fats. Good cholesterol levels may reduce and bad levels may increase)
- Diabetes (women’s bodies can become more resistant to insulin, which is the hormone needed to convert blood sugar and starches into energy cells)
- Weight gain (menopause can cause the metabolism to slow and oestrogen affects where woman store fat and how it is burned)
- Atrial fibrillation (a faster heart rate can occur, but sometimes hormonal changes can cause a slowing of the heart and heart blockages that can cause symptoms like dizziness)
Research shows that regular exercise is a critical lifestyle factor in helping women control these risk factors and lowers their overall chance for developing disease
Cardiovascular exercise and strength training can make positive changes to all of the above symptoms.
Cardiovascular exercise (that’s any exercise that increases your heart rate and gets your lungs working harder) burns calories and uses energy which in turn metabolizes fat and preventing weight gain (plus other conditions such as diabetes). It also strengthens the heart, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, can reduce arthritic and joint pain, and reduces stress hormones through the release of endorphins. These feel-good chemicals should also help you to sleep better.
Cardiovascular exercise alone can improve a large portion of the symptoms of menopause.
There are so many cardio exercises. Examples include brisk walking, running, swimming, dancing, cycling, water aerobics, gym machines, racket sports. The most important thing is for everyone to find a cardiovascular form of exercise that they enjoy and that fits into their lifestyle. Just remember that if you’re not used to cardio, start with low impact and work your way up to a more strenuous workout when your body gets stronger.
The embedded video contains a 10mins medium intensity cardio workout that can be done in the comfort of the home.