For many years, established medical and scientific thinking professed that women were at universally lower risk of ailments such as high blood pressure and heart attack. These diseases, along with coronary artery disease and various forms of heart disease, were overwhelmingly seen as male problems. New research, however, has clarified several of the links between gender and cardiac disease, especially high blood pressure.
The Protective Effects of Estrogen
During a woman’s reproductive life (the span of time from first menses until menopause) she is indeed at a lower overall risk of developing high blood pressure because of the protective effects of estrogen. Estrogen acts through many different mechanisms to help keep the blood vessels flexible and to modulate other hormone activities that can contribute to developing high blood pressure. Since women of reproductive age have generally high levels of estrogen, they enjoy a fairly broad level of protection from high blood pressure.
Estrogen During Menopause
The ovaries are the primary source of protective estrogen in women of reproductive age. During menopause, a changing hormone profile in the body causes important shifts in the levels of estrogen present in the female body. Overall, this change is primarily a large drop in the average amount of circulating estrogen. The falling level of estrogen is the primary cause of familiar menopause symptoms like hot flashes, mood swings, and appetite changes.
Falling Estrogen & Blood Pressure
As levels of estrogen decrease, a woman’s risk of developing high blood pressure increases dramatically. Because of the interplay of other hormones, such as progestin, and the effect that estrogen has on other important risk factors, post-menopausal women are actually at higher risk for developing high blood pressure than are men.
Keeping Yourself Healthy
While it is always important for women to follow good health practices, this importance increases after menopause. Since declining estrogen affects many different aspects of heart health, it is critical to pay attention to