Menopause usually begins between the ages of 40 and 58. The average age of menopause is 51. If you have not menstruated for 12 consecutive months, you have graduated from perimenopause to menopause. (If you have had any spotting or bleeding, you must start the clock over.)
When our ovaries produce less estrogen, and our estrogen levels decline, we may find that our cholesterol levels increase. This shift can impact our risk of heart disease. There may be other reasons for elevated cholesterol, including family history and lifestyle, just to name a couple.
Cholesterol is a fat-like, waxy substance produced in the body. There are two kinds of cholesterol – good and bad.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is called the “good” cholesterol. You want to have high levels of HDL because HDL helps to get rid of bad cholesterol in your blood by taking it to your liver to get broken down and removed. A high HDL will help protect you against heart disease and strokes.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is the “bad” cholesterol. It can build up in the walls of our blood vessels and result in narrowing. This narrowing can cause several health events, such as a heart attack.
It is easy to measure your cholesterol. Ask your Menopause Specialist to do a lipid profile. This is done with a simple fasting blood test measuring your total cholesterol, HDL, LDL, and triglycerides.
A 2018 study confirms that sex hormones such as estrogen provide some protection against heart disease before menopause. A 2020 study found that total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides levels were much higher in post-menopausal women than in perimenopausal women. HDL cholesterol levels were reduced in all the participants.
If you find you have high cholesterol, don’t freak out. There are many things you can do to get those numbers down. Here are some suggestions from Mayo Clinic:
- “Reduce saturated fats. Saturated fats, found primarily in red meat and full-fat dairy products, raise your total cholesterol. Decreasing your consumption of saturated fats can reduce your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol — the “bad” cholesterol.
- Eliminate trans fats. Trans fats, sometimes listed on food labels as “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil,” are often used in margarine and store-bought cookies, crackers, and cakes. Trans fats raise overall cholesterol levels. The Food and Drug Administration has banned the use of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils by Jan. 1, 2021.
- Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids.Omega-3 fatty acids don’t affect LDL cholesterol. But they have other heart-healthy benefits, including reducing blood pressure. Foods with omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, mackerel, herring, walnuts, and flaxseeds.
- Increase soluble fiber. Soluble fiber can reduce the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream. Soluble fiber is found in such foods as oatmeal, kidney beans, Brussels sprouts, apples, and pears.”
If you find that your lipid levels are such that you need medication. It is best to see a Cardiologist to help create an individual plan that works for your health needs. I discovered that I had Familial Hypercholesterolemia (FH) when I was young. FH is a high cholesterol genetic condition passed on by your parents. My father had open heart surgery due to cholesterol deposits clogging his arteries. The surgeon recommended that all of us kids get tested as high cholesterol can be hereditary. My cholesterol was off the charts, and I hadn’t even gone through puberty yet! As such, I have been on medicine most of my life for high cholesterol. Thankfully, science has progressed, and my numbers are in the healthy range with lifestyle changes and medication.
Now that you understand the role estrogen plays in your heart health and have some helpful tips on staying heart healthy, be sure that you have a good Menopause Specialist to help you on your healthy aging journey.
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2 thoughts on “Can Menopause Affect Your Cholesterol Levels?”
So true! Just put on meds!
Thanks for sharing, Robin. Many women find their cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL (lousy cholesterol) numbers begin to climb. That is why getting a cholesterol panel done each year is so important. Some women find that they need medication such as a statin to get those numbers back down. Others find changes in diet and exercise only can reduce their numbers. Happy you are so proactive about your heart health.