Menopausal State: Disease Risk

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Cardiovascular (heart) Health and Menopause

Mickie Griffith-Autry, PhD, NP-C

Mickie Griffith-Autry Article


The occurrence of cardiovascular (heart) disease to include heart attach and stroke is the leading killer of women who are 65 years of age and older. Recent statistics report that it is the second leading cause of death in women 45 to 64. This is true for women in the United States and in Canada. Cardiovascular disease includes conditions of: arrhythmias (irregular heart beats), atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries in the heart), congestive heart failure (fluid accumulation), myocardial infarction (heart attack), angina pectoris (heart pain), hypertension (high blood pressure), stroke, and heart valve disease.

Menopause has not been determined to cause heart disease but because a woman's risk of heart disease increases significantly after age 65, some suggest that estrogen may provide some protection for the heart. The association between a lack of estrogen that occurs with menopause and cardiovascular (heart) disease is not clear. Some sources state that there is a relationship between premature menopause (menopause before the age of 35) and the increase in the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Significant risk factors in women that increase the incidence of cardiovascular (heart) disease include cigarette smoking, sedentary lifestyle, high blood pressure, obesity, poor diet, family history of premature cardiovascular heart disease, and metabolic syndrome.

It is advised that every woman undergo annual screening with her health care provider. This screening should include blood pressure monitoring, blood lipid testing that evaluates low-density cholesterol, total cholesterol, triglyceride, and high-density cholesterol testing.

Lifestyle modifications can be incorporated by any women and are significant to a menopausal woman's health. Stopping smoking no matter how long a woman has smoked drops the risk of heart disease dramatically. Physical activity to include regular aerobic exercise promotes a healthy heart. Following a heart healthy diet that includes increasing intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grain, high fiber foods is paramount to weight control.

Maintaining your ideal weight has been proven to reduce the overall risk of heart disease by 35-55%. Weight maintenance or weight loss through maintaining a balance between exercise and monitoring caloric intake. The goal of weigh loss is to maintain a body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 and 24.9 kg/m and a waist circumference of less than 35 inches.

While in the United States a woman will live the majority of her life in menopause, it is imperative that the development of a healthy life style and a good relationship with her health care provider be achieved. Women and stronger and healthier now than ever before and we should remain that way.



Ms. Autry earned her Bachelor of Science degree in nursing from Jacksonville State University, her Masters of Science degree in nursing from the University of Alabama Huntsville, and her PhD from Walden University. Her research dissertation was entitled Pelvic muscle strengthening: Impact on sexual functioning in the menopausal woman. Ms. Autry is certified by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, the American Nursing Credentialing Center, and the Certification Board for Urological Nurses and Associates. She has completed multiple postgraduate preceptor programs in female sexual medicine, pelvic pain, and pelvic floor dysfunction. Ms. Autry is an active member of the Society of Urological Nurse Associates, North American Menopause Society, American Urological Society, and the International Pelvic Pain Society and founder of two women's health support groups. She is a national and local speaker for multiple pharmaceutical and medical companies, has participated in clinical trial studies, and has published articles in the Society of Urological Nurse Associate and North American Menopause Society journals.


Mickie Griffith-Autry, PhD, NP-C



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