A Heart Health Guide for Your 30s, 40s, and 50s
In Your 50s
As you go through menopause, protective estrogen levels drop, bad cholesterol levels typically rise while good cholesterol levels fall, and blood vessels become less elastic. Fat begins to accumulate more in your gut than on your hips. All of these are warning signs.
- Review the major risks. Talk with your doctor about family and pregnancy history, high cholesterol, hypertension, obesity, and physical activity. Having just one major factor substantially increases the danger, Dr. Kurtz says. If you've been diagnosed with diabetes, peripheral artery disease, or chronic kidney disease, or have a known heart condition, your chances of a heart attack go up even more.
- Think twice about hormones. Carefully weigh the pros and cons of hormone therapy for menopause symptoms with your doctor. HT is not recommended by the American Heart Association, but recent research suggests some formulations may be less risky to the heart, especially when taken in low doses early in menopause or in perimenopause. "We no longer view HT as all or nothing but in shades of gray," says Claire Duvernoy, MD, founder of the Women's Heart Program at the University of Michigan Health System.
- Lift some weights. Make strength training part of your exercise routine. You lose muscle with age, but women who work out retain some forms of strength better than men.
- Consider meds. Talk to your doctor about taking aspirin or statins if you're at risk.