Guest Post by Jane Dowling (Founder of Meno and Me)
Why is looking after your heart even more important during menopause?
As our oestrogen levels drop when we enter perimenopause we are at a higher risk of heart disease. The drop affects the arteries in the heart, making them less elastic and pliable. Our levels of oestrogen constantly drop so throughout menopause and beyond we really need to make sure our heart is protected. Our younger blood is cleaner and carries less cholesterol and fatty deposits and along with young arteries we are at less at risk of heart disease.
When we are younger, the arteries that surround and feed our heart with lovely oxygen-rich blood are very pliable and so it is easy for the blood to nourish the heart. But over time environmental stresses, such as pollution, stress, bad food choices, inactivity and smoking (even passive smoking) all contribute towards heart disease.
…when you inhale nicotine you create what is like an open sore on the inside of your artery.
If you are in your 50s I am sure you will remember that smoking was allowed on trains and buses, as well as in pubs and clubs. Do you remember coming home after a night out and having to wash your hair and clothes because of how they smelt of smoke? Think of what affect that has had on our health. If you have ever smoked then the risk of damage is greater; when you inhale nicotine you create what is like an open sore on the inside of your artery. That sore would be sticky and any fat that you have in your blood will stick to that sore. Therefore, over time those beautiful clear pliable arteries become congested, these fatty deposits over time become bigger therefore making that artery vessel smaller.
Your heart is a muscle just like any other muscle, if you do not use it then it will lose strength.
Hit menopause and the decrease in oestrogen causes the artery to be less elastic, therefore making it harder for the oxygen to nourish your heart and to be pumped around your body. Your heart is a muscle just like any other muscle, if you do not use it then it will lose strength. Strength is required to help beat blood around your cardiovascular system to your muscles and through the arteries in your heart. If you are inactive, undergoing a lot of stress, have a bad diet and are low on oestrogen, your risk of heart disease increases as does your risk of strokes, heart attacks, angina and diabetes.
I have taught specialist exercise sessions to cardiac patients. They are a joy to teach! After such a life changing event, heart attack or another related cardiac event and a hospital stay, they feel very lucky to be able to carry on their new health journey. If they had the knowledge of taking preventative measures, would these patients have taken them? Damn yes! The ratio of women to men in these sessions were higher.
Do I have your attention now? Good.
So, apart from exercising for our mental health, bones, general well-being and to feel good, exercise really is a necessity when we hit menopause.
What can you do?
Eat well, cut out stress, stop smoking and move more!
Government guidelines recommend 30-40 minutes of physical activity 3 to 4 times per week i.e becoming breathless 3 to 4 times per week for that amount of time. It sounds like a lot, right? It’s okay! This can be broken down into smaller segments (10 mins here and there).
Look at how you can incorporate becoming breathless into your everyday life:
- Walk as much as you can – ditch the car, those of you who follow me on Instagram stories know how much I try and incorporate steps into my everyday life.
- If you take the lift, stop right now and start taking the stairs.
- If you already take the stairs take 2 at a time and go quicker.
- Escalators – if you stand, start walking up them.
- Hoovering can be great, well I hate it, but my point is that doing it more vigorously will make you breathless. Put on music while you do it or plug yourself into your headphones – it will drown out the hoover and family members!
- At the weekend, arrange to meet a friend for a cuppa but go for a walk first together.
- Increasing your walking speed will really help. It’s simple!
My studio is in London Bridge but I get off the tube at Borough station for two reasons:
- It is further away so I incorporate more steps into my day.
- It has 102 stairs (yes I could take the lift but I don’t) and that means I become breathless. I find it sets me up for the day, both physically and mentally.
Becoming breathless will not only help your heart but your mental health too! If you are still not sold on taking up exercise, look at our new page on the Meno&Me website. There, you’ll fine testimonials from real women who have embraced exercise!
Jane is a clinical exercise specialist with extensive experience dealing with a variety of people including older adults suffering with heart disease and osteoporosis which fuels her passion to educate younger women on how to take preventative measures. Jane has over 20 years’ experience in personally tailored training and health solutions. Inspired by her own menopause experience she founded MENO&ME, a source of advice and ideas on diet, exercise and lifestyle changes designed to help women stay fabulous through the Meno and beyond! Jane regularly talks at events and she offers one-to-one sessions via Skype or at her London Bridge studio. She offers daily tips on her Instagram page.