Post Menopause Cholesterol

June 20, 2010

In 2009, the organizers of a medical study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology said they had found irrefutable evidence that cholesterol levels are higher in postmenopausal women. The medical world had already been aware for some time that postmenopausal women were at a higher risk than menstruating women of suffering heart disease or strokes, but no one was exactly sure why. Now it seems we may have at least part of the answer.

Rising LDL

The study was conducted over 10 years and followed 1,054 women who were in their 40s and 50s at the time the study began. They were all still menstruating at the launch of the research, but had completed menopause by the time it finished. The study found that all the women who took part, regardless of ethnicity, experienced a surge in LDL or "bad" cholesterol levels around the time of menopause.

The Statistics

LDL levels rose in all the women within the time frame of one year before, to one after, their very last period. On average, the LDL levels rose by 10.5 points, or 9%. The total cholesterol levels of the women went up by an average of 6.5%. Other risk factors for strokes and heart disease, such as (obviously) age, insulin problems and high blood pressure also increased, but the change in LDL was the most significant. The representatives of the study say that this proves beyond a doubt that it is the menopause itself which sends cholesterol levels up.

Dealing With The Risk

Although this study means that no menopausal woman can afford to be complacent about her cholesterol, on a positive note, it also tells us what we need to focus on in order to rectify or alleviate this problem.

Cholesterol levels can be brought down through good diet and exercise. These should always be the first measures taken before medication is considered. Postmenopausal smokers should also quit the habit, and all menopausal women need to make sure that they drink alcohol in moderation.

Some recent medical research has suggested, however, that high cholesterol levels may be genetic in some people. Such people may find that diet, exercise, quitting smoking and drinking sensibly don't help to bring cholesterol as far down as it needs to be. In this case, cholesterol-reducing medications called statins may be prescribed.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT), a common treatment for other menopause symptoms such as hot flashes, has also been shown to reduce cholesterol. However, some studies have linked HRT to a risk of stroke and breast cancer. HRT is therefore not recommended for women who are primarily concerned by their cholesterol, but who don't feel they need treatment for other menopause symptoms.

Monitoring

If you're going through menopause or are already postmenopausal, you and your doctor need to start monitoring your cholesterol levels now. This can be done by means of a simple blood test, usually performed when the patient is fasting. Ask your doctor for advice concerning diet and an appropriate exercise routine for someone of your age and in your state of health.

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