Cholesterol and menopause: what is the relationship?

Menopause is a natural stage in life that occurs when a person with ovaries does not have their period for more than 12 months. On average, this happens at about 51 years old.

Hormonal changes occur at this stage of life. The ovaries produce significantly less estrogenand overall levels of this reproductive hormone decrease.

Uncomfortable, but common, symptoms can result. These can include hot flashes, poor sleep, vaginal dryness, night sweats, mood swings, and slower metabolism.

After menopause, health risks also change, including an increased risk of heart disease. The increased risk of heart disease is primarily due to the effect of menopause on cholesterol levels.

This article explores the relationship between menopause and blood cholesterol levels in more detail.

Menopause can lead to hormonal and metabolic changes, ultimately altering your lipid profile.

A lipid profile is a panel of blood tests that measure the type of fats in your blood, which can help determine risk factors for developing heart disease. A lipid panel understand the following markers:

  • total cholesterol
  • high-density lipoproteins (HDL), also called “good cholesterol”
  • low-density lipoproteins (LDL), also known as “bad cholesterol”
  • triglycerides

High levels of lipids, especially LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, can increase the risk to develop heart disease.

So where does menopause fit into all of this? It turns out that estrogen – the sex hormone that declines at this stage of life – has many heart protective mechanisms.

Estrogen acts on the liver to regulate lipid metabolism and maintain a healthy lipid profile.

So when menopause begins and estrogen levels drop, your body’s ability to maintain that healthy lipid profile can be affected. This can lead to an increase in cholesterol.

A review of 66 studies found that postmenopausal people had higher LDL and total cholesterol levels as well as higher triglyceride levels than premenopausal people. These higher levels increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Another observational study found similar results, except that postmenopausal people also had lower HDL cholesterol levels, which would further increase the risk of heart complications.

(However, observational studies are designed to find associations but cannot explain cause and effect – or Why associations exist. Their findings don’t always tell the whole story compared to other types of studies due to confounding variables.)

Fortunately, there are many lifestyle changes you can make to manage your cholesterol levels during menopause — or at any age and stage of life.

Diet can play an important role. Focus on increasing your intake of soluble fiberwho can bind to cholesterol and help it leave your body via stool.

Enjoy a variety of foods high in soluble fiber, such as:

  • legumes like beans, edamame, chickpeas, peas, and lentils
  • whole grains like barley and oats
  • fresh fruits and vegetables like apples and carrots
  • fiber supplements like psyllium

Also, enjoy foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, walnuts, ground flax, olive oil and avocado. Increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids can help lower cholesterol levels.

Be aware of your saturated fat admission. Excess saturated fat in the diet – from sources such as red meat, high-fat dairy products and butter – is related to increased LDL cholesterol levels.

soy protein can have a favorable effect on cholesterol levels in postmenopausal people. Eat tofu, edamame, soy nuts and soy milk more often.

Exercise can be incredibly beneficial for heart health. The The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity and resistance training at least 2 days a week.

To finish, smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease. If you smoke, you may consider enrolling in a smoking cessation program to help you quit.

Here are some questions people often ask about menopause and cholesterol.

Can menopause cause high cholesterol?

Menopause does not cause high cholesterol, but it does increase the risk.

High cholesterol has many risk factors including family history, lifestyle, hormones, comorbidities, environment, etc.

Does cholesterol drop after menopause?

No, because estrogen levels are reduced after menopause. Estrogen plays a role in keeping cholesterol levels low, so when estrogen levels drop, cholesterol levels can rise.

It is important to focus on managing cholesterol levels through diet and lifestyle.

How can I lower my cholesterol during menopause?

Focus on eating foods high in fiber and healthy fats, such as nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fatty fish, and olive oil. Incorporate an exercise routine if you don’t already have one. And if you smoke, consider quitting.

During menopause, estrogen levels decline. This is associated with increased cholesterol levels because estrogen helps your body regulate cholesterol and other lipids.

However, there are many lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk of heart disease after menopause.

These include enjoying a varied and balanced diet rich in plant foods and fatty fish, adopting or maintaining an exercise routine, and quitting smoking if you currently smoke.

Keep in mind that menopause and reduced estrogen are just one of many risk factors. Focus on what is in your control and do your best.

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