Hormones and heart disease

Premenopausal women have lower risk of heart disease than men

Women who are premenopausal actually have a lower risk than men of developing heart disease. However as women’s hormones change after menopause and their estrogen levels decrease, they increase their risk for heart disease.

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine, women that are taking hormone replacement therapy during menopause have an increased risk for heart disease. The study found that women taking estrogen and progestin had a higher risk for developing heart disease than those on the placebo. Following this study, millions of women stopped taking hormone replacement therapy.

Today only about 10 percent of the populations are taking hormone replacement therapy, according to a CBS news report. Hormones can actually increase our risk for heart disease instead of preventing heart disease as some previously had thought.

Those who need hormone therapy to help deter several menopausal symptoms are cautioned to take the lowest dose for the shortest period of time they can. The effects of hormones on heart disease increases with age as well. It is encouraged to taper hormones by age 59 and to have stopped therapy by age 65.

People who are taking thyroid replacement therapy tend to be over-treated, resulting in an increased risk of developing heart disease. Those that had higher levels were four times more likely to die from sudden cardiac death.

Some other studies show that being on hormone therapy for menopause outweighs the risk for heart disease to control your symptoms. Seeing your provider to assess individual needs and risks is very important as each situation can be addressed and curtailed to that person. There are many factors that come into play such as:

• Past medical history,

• Family medical history,

• Type of hormone therapy (estrogen alone or given with progestin),

• Current age and age of menopause onset,

• Type of estrogen and route it is given,

• Previous heart history.

We can help limit the risks of heart disease by trying a form of therapy that has limiting effects such as a lower dose and shorter duration. As anything else in life goes, following a healthy lifestyle is always the key in prevention of any disease process. Steps to making healthy lifestyle choices are:

• Eating a healthy diet that focuses on fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low fat proteins,

• Exercise,

• Regularly scheduled screenings and physicals for your blood pressure and cholesterol levels,

• Maintaining a healthy weight,

• Avoiding tobacco products.

Come join us on Thursday, Feb. 23 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at UnityPoint Health –Trinity Regional Medical Center, Conference Rooms 3 and 4, to listen to Dr. Ilene Olson discuss hormones and how they affect a woman’s heart. Sign up for this free event at unitypoint.org/hormones.

16 Surprising Facts About Your Heart

Here are some other quirky and interesting things your heart can do, all without being asked.

1. Your heart can weigh between 7 and 15 ounces.

A man’s heart weighs, on average, around 10 ounces and a woman’s heart weighs around 8 ounces.

2. Newborn babies have the fastest heart beats.

A newborn’s heart rate is around 70 to 190 beats per minute. The average adult should have a resting heart rate between 60 and 100 beats per minute. If your resting heart rate is higher or increases over several years, it could be a sign of current or impending heart problems. Athletes, who regularly train, will have a very slow resting heart rate around 40 to 60 beats per minute. Women also have faster heart rates, on average, than men because their hearts are smaller in size and need to beat more to pump the same amount of blood.

3. Your heart is located in the middle of your chest.

It’s found behind your breastbone, but it’s tilted to the left, which makes it easier to feel on that side of your chest.

4. Your heart beats around 100,000 times a day.

The sound you hear when it beats is actually the noise of the heart valves opening and closing.

5. Your heart pumps 2,000 gallons of blood a day.

That blood travels about 12,000 miles through your body each day, which is four times the size of the U.S. from coast to coast. During your lifetime, you pump about one million barrels of blood.

6. Heart attacks happen most often on Monday mornings.

Stress hormones are higher in the mornings than at any other point during the day, and Mondays in particular seem to cause people more stress than other days of the week. A rise in blood pressure, plus an increase in heart rate and stress hormones can break pockets of plaque and cause a blockage to the heart.

7. There are 60,000 miles of blood vessels in your body.

If one of the vessels is damaged, it makes your heart have to work harder to pump your blood.

8. No one knows why the heart is associated with love.

Different civilizations and historical time periods had different meanings for the heart. The belief that the heart controlled all thought and emotion was the general assumption in ancient civilizations. They also believed that the brain was completely useless. Over time, the idea that love came from the heart stuck in popular culture.

9. Men and women have different heart attack symptoms.

The symptoms of a woman having a heart attack are much less prominent than a man. For women, heart attacks can feel like uncomfortable squeezing, pressure, fullness or pain in the center of the chest. It can also produce pain in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach, shortness of breath, nausea and other symptoms. Men experience the typical heart attack symptoms of chest pain, discomfort and pressure. They, too, can experience pain in other areas, such as the arms, neck, back and jaw, as well as shortness of breath, sweating and discomfort that mimics heartburn.

10. Laughing is good for your heart.

Studies have shown that your blood vessels relax when you’re laughing, which sends 20 percent more blood through your body. Relaxed blood vessels mean your heart doesn’t have to work as hard.

11. The heart works twice as hard as the leg muscles of a sprinter.

It takes a lot of force to move your blood around your body, and that is why a strong, healthy heart is so important. The heart, which is a muscle, has twice the power of the leg muscles of someone sprinting.

12. Sneezing does not stop your heart.

Contrary to popular belief, sneezing does not stop your heart or make it “skip a beat.” It can, however, briefly change your heart’s rhythm. The only time your heart stops is during cardiac arrest.

13. Your aorta is as large as a garden hose.

The biggest artery in your body, the aorta, runs from your heart to your belly. It carries the most blood and is also the most common sight for problems like aneurysms.

14. A “broken heart” can feel like a heart attack.

Intense and sudden feelings of sadness can mimic the symptoms of a heart attack. Stress hormones are released into the body and can cause chest pain and shortness of breath. Luckily, with a little bit of rest, your heart will begin to feel normal.

15. Some capillaries are 10 times smaller than a human hair.

They are so small that blood cells have to travel single-file through them. Oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged through the very thin walls of the capillaries.

16. Horses can mirror a human’s heart rate.

A study showed that a horse can mimic the heart rate of the person touching them. Along with dogs and cats, horses have been added to the list of animals that are emotionally responsive to humans, and they may one day be used to detect stress hormones in patients.

Jessica Smith is supervisor of Wellness Services and Diabetes Center for UnityPoint Health — Fort Dodge. Dr. Ilene Olson is a UnityPoint Health — Fort Dodge OB/GYN.