Got menopause? Healthy lifestyle now is crucial for heart health

Journal of the American Heart Association report

DALLAS, Nov. 28, 2018 – A healthy lifestyle during the transition to menopause may offset the acceleration of atherosclerosis, the slow narrowing of the arteries that increases with age, according to new research in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the Open Access Journal of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.

Women participating in the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN), ages 42-52 at enrollment, were evaluated using a 10-year “Healthy Lifestyle Score,” developed for this study. Each woman had annual medical exams and completed questionnaires about their physical activity, eating habits and tobacco use. In addition, participants had at least one coronary artery ultrasound, which is a non-invasive test that provides images of the inside of an artery leading to the heart.

Compared to women with the lowest “Healthy Lifestyle Score,” those with the highest scores had significantly wider arteries, less arterial thickening and buildup of fatty plaque. The risk factor most associated with unhealthy arteries was smoking tobacco.

“Midlife is a crucial window for women to take their cardiovascular wellness to heart and set a course for healthy aging. The metabolic changes that often occur with menopause, especially increases in cholesterol levels and blood pressure, can significantly increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes and cognitive impairment later in life, said Ana Baylin, M.D., Dr.P.H., an associate professor of nutritional health sciences and epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

“The good news is that middle-aged women can take their wellbeing into their own hands and make healthy lifestyle changes, such as avoiding tobacco smoke, eating a healthier diet and getting more physical activity to reduce their cardiovascular risk,” Baylin said.

The study also notes that only 1.7 percent of the study population adhered to the three components of the “Healthy Lifestyle Score” throughout the study.

“The low prevalence of a healthy lifestyle in this group of midlife women highlights the potential for lifestyle interventions aimed at this vulnerable population,” added co-author Dongqing Wang, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Michigan. “Our prospective analysis clearly suggests that women approaching menopause can significantly lower this risk if they adopt healthier behaviors, even if cardiovascular issues have never been on their radar.”

The National Institute of Aging’s Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation is a long-term, multi-institutional study of 3,302 women in their middle years as they transition to menopause. It started in 1996 and the women included in the new research were followed for about 15 years, with their most recent medical exams in 2015-2016. 1,143 women were included in this analysis.

###

Other co-authors are Elizabeth A. Jackson, M.D., M.P.H.; Carrie A. Karvonen-Gutierrez, Ph.D., M.P.H.; Michael R. Elliott, Ph.D.; Siobán D. Harlow, Ph.D.; Michelle M. Hood, M.P.H.; Carol A. Derby, Ph.D.; Barbara Sternfeld, Ph.D.; Imke Janssen, Ph.D.; Sybil L. Crawford, Ph.D.; Mei-Hua Huang, Dr.P.H.; Samar R. El Khoudary, Ph.D., M.P.H; and Claudia U. Chae, M.D. Author disclosures are on the manuscript.

The Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation has grant support from the National Institute on Aging (NIA), the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR), and the NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health.

Additional Resources:

  • Available multimedia located on the right column of the release link: https://newsroom.heart.org/news/got-menopause?preview=f7e8be1b7b9d12d7eec8234a2f9ea083
  • After Nov. 28, view the manuscript online.
  • Women and heart disease
  • Get Involved – Advocate For Women’s Heart Health
  • How To Prevent Heart Disease in Women
  • Follow AHA/ASA news on Twitter @HeartNews
  • For updates and new science from JAHA, follow @JAHA_AHA

    Statements and conclusions of study authors published in American Heart Association scientific journals are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect the association’s policy or position. The Association makes no representation or guarantee as to their accuracy or reliability. The Association receives funding primarily from individuals. Foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical, device manufacturers and other companies) also make donations and fund specific association programs and events. The Association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing the science content. Revenues from pharmaceutical and device corporations and health insurance providers are available at https://www.heart.org/en/about-us/aha-financial-information.

    About the American Heart Association

    The American Heart Association is devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke – the two leading causes of death in the world. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. The Dallas-based association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. To learn more or to get involved, call 1-800-AHA-USA1, visit heart.org or call any of our offices around the country. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

  • Media Contact
    Darcy Spitz
    [email protected]
    212-878-5940
    https://newsroom.heart.org/news/got-menopause?preview=f7e8be1b7b9d12d7eec8234a2f9ea083

    Comments