Do you know your cholesterol levels? If not, it’s time to talk to our women’s health care provider about them! You may not realize, but menopause could change your cholesterol levels and put you at a higher risk for high cholesterol, which can put your health at risk. Even if your cholesterol levels have been healthy before, menopause is a critical time to get screened and talk to your doctor about strategies to help you stay healthy.
High cholesterol usually doesn’t cause any symptoms. It’s a silent condition, but it can put your health at risk in many different ways. So, it’s important to know whether you have high or elevated levels and learn strategies to lower them or keep them in healthy ranges.
Here are the current cholesterol screening recommendations for women with low risk:
However, if you do have certain risk factors, our women’s health care provider may recommend more frequent screenings.
Here are some general cholesterol goals for most healthy adults:
The key to remember is you want your LDL (bad cholesterol) levels low and your HDL (good cholesterol) levels to be high. This is because LDL sticks to and builds up in the arteries, like hair clogging a drain in your home. HDL, on the other hand, is sort of like a drain cleaner, taking cholesterol out of the bloodstream and back to the liver.
If you’re going through menopause, now may be an important time to get a cholesterol test. LDL cholesterol levels tend to rise and HDL levels tend to decrease around this time. There may be a link between low estrogen levels and this cholesterol change during menopause. Other changes during this time can also contribute to the risk for high cholesterol.
While both men and women can have high cholesterol levels, women are more at risk later in life after menopause. This is because estrogen drops off pretty dramatically during menopause. Estrogen is a hormone that has been linked to higher HDL cholesterol levels. Remember, HDL cholesterol is the good kind, that helps remove the LDL from your arteries and back to the liver. However, lower estrogen levels after menopause can mean your HDL levels start to decline and your LDL levels start to increase. Therefore, even if you’ve never had high cholesterol levels before, these hormone changes can have a significant impact.
One study found that cholesterol levels rose dramatically anywhere from one year before to one year after the last period for women who participated in the study. That’s why it’s important to talk to your women’s health care provider about cholesterol and how to keep it in healthy ranges during and after menopause.
It’s a common misconception that only middle-aged men need to worry about cholesterol, but women are at risk for high cholesterol as well, particularly after menopause. The problem with high cholesterol is that, even though it doesn’t necessarily have any symptoms, it can cause other serious health conditions. Some of the most concerning and life-threatening are cardiovascular problems from high cholesterol.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, especially for women after menopause. Unfortunately, cholesterol awareness is particularly low among women. One survey from the American Heart Association found that most women, about 76%, didn’t know their cholesterol levels. However, cholesterol can put your health at risk.
High cholesterol levels can increase your risk for conditions like:
The main problem with cholesterol is that it can clog your arteries. Cholesterol can become sticky plaque that sticks to the arteries and blood vessels. Over time, this can harden your arteries and make them narrower, meaning less blood can flow through them. This can make your heart work harder and even damage the heart muscle from all the overwork.
Also, the plaque can break off and cause clots that block blood flow. If the blood clot blocks blood flow to your heart, you have a heart attack. If it blocks blood to the brain, you have a stroke. Therefore, it’s incredibly important for your heart health to keep your cholesterol levels in check.
To understand how to keep your cholesterol levels healthy, you need to know what cholesterol is and where it comes from.
First, what is cholesterol? Cholesterol is a fatty, waxy substance in your blood. Cholesterol isn’t all bad, and you actually need it to make many different things in your body, like bile, sex hormones, cortisol, and vitamin D.
Since cholesterol is so necessary for many different processes in your body, your liver actually makes most of the cholesterol you need. About 80% of cholesterol comes from your liver. The other 20% of cholesterol comes from your diet.
It’s a common misconception that dietary cholesterol increases your blood cholesterol levels. This isn’t necessarily the case. Actually, dietary cholesterol is unlikely to significantly increase your risks for high cholesterol. However, trans fats and saturated fats certainly can.
Some things that play a role in your risks for high cholesterol include:
Getting your cholesterol tested is a simple blood test we perform at our women’s health clinic. Our team can check your cholesterol levels as part of your annual health exam. We can also talk about strategies for keeping your cholesterol levels healthy. Even if you don’t have high or elevated levels, we can talk about things you can do to keep them low.
If you do have unhealthy cholesterol levels, we’ll work with you to create a treatment plan to help you stay healthy and reduce your risks. So, make sure you get regular cholesterol screenings as part of taking care of your overall health.
If you do have high cholesterol levels after menopause, our women’s health care team can help you find treatment solutions for how to lower cholesterol. Treatment for high cholesterol can look different for different people, and it all depends on your specific situation.
For instance, some women are able to lower cholesterol with diet and lifestyle changes, like cutting out trans and saturated fats and increasing how much they exercise. In other cases, you may need medications to help lower your cholesterol. Many women require all of these strategies. Our medical professionals will work with you to personalize your treatment and help you reduce health risks from high cholesterol.
Our team at HerKare is here to empower you by helping you take care of your health. We listen, understand, and help you take steps to improve your overall wellness. We’re with you at every stage of life to help you stay healthy and help you feel great. Whether you have a specific health concern or just need a checkup to get necessary screenings to help with early detection of serious conditions, our team is here for you. Make an appointment with one of our women’s health care providers today!