You may have heard that after women enter menopause, their risk of heart disease rises sharply. Why?
Mainstream medical thinking has pointed to the significant drop in estrogen as a possible cause for an increase in LDL (sometimes called the “bad” cholesterol) and a drop in HDL (the “good cholesterol). For many years it was believed that estrogen was the key to heart health – but newer research shows that estrogen is only one part of the picture.
Hormones and Your Heart
We now know that increasing estrogen alone actually works against heart health, while balancing estrogen with progesterone improves heart health. Other hormones also play a role: testosterone has cardiovascular benefits, including the ability to lower bad cholesterol and reduce platelet “stickiness.”
Thyroid hormone imbalance is also strongly correlated with heart health; hypertension is often found in patients with thyroid deficiency.
Menopause impacts 25 million women worldwide each year, and heart disease is the number one killer of women in America; finding treatments that can make a difference in fighting heart disease is critical.
BHRT Can Help Your Heart
In addition to relieving many symptoms of menopausal hormone imbalance, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) has a positive cardiovascular impact.
Research shows that for women on a hormone replacement regimen that includes both estrogen and bioidentical progesterone, the use of progesterone actually serves to reduce coronary vascular activity. In other words, bioidentical progesterone has a cardioprotective effect on the body!
Progesterone Reduces High Blood Pressure
One way that progesterone protects the heart is its ability to reduce high blood pressure. During pregnancy, high levels of progesterone protect against the constriction of blood vessels. Hyperactivity of the blood vessels can cause the development of strokes and heart attacks.
One study directly compared the effect of estrogens + bioidentical progesterone vs. estrogen + synthetic progestins on a marker of heart health in women with established coronary artery disease or previous myocardial infarction (or both).
Results showed that the bioidentical progesterone improved patients’ blood flow on a treadmill test (measured as “increased exercise time to myocardial ischemia”), whereas the synthetic progestin did not.
The Benefits Are Vast and Varied
A recent study, published in 2013, followed 75 perimenopausal and post-menopausal women who were given bioidentical estrogen, progesterone, DHEA, and testosterone, at levels adjusted for each participant, over the course of three years.
Results showed that, among other benefits, “…cardiovascular biomarkers, inflammatory factors, immune signaling factors, and health outcomes were favorably impacted.”
If you are concerned about heart health, remember that maintaining lifelong hormone balance is vital for the prevention of cardiovascular disease!