Questions and Answers
Every woman experiences menopause differently. Some women may not experience any noticeable symptoms, while others may feel as if they are experiencing every listed symptom of menopause. Symptoms can last for a few months or for several years and are caused by changes in the female hormones estrogen and progesterone.
Recent studies show that 15% of females have bothersome hot flashes into their 80s. Changes in hormones are a result of aging, or are medically induced through medication or an operation.Show Less
The hormone changes that happen around menopause affect every woman differently. Some of these changes may lead to:
• Irregular periods;
• Hot flashes;
• Troubled sleeping;
• Vaginal dryness;
• Sexual problems;
• Mood changes;
• Weight gain;
• Joint aches and pain.Show Less
Each woman’s menopause experience is different. Many women who undergo natural menopause report no physical changes at all during the premenopausal years, except irregular menstrual periods that eventually stop when they reach menopause. Other changes may include hot flashes, difficulty sleeping, memory problems, mood disturbances, vaginal dryness, and weight gain. Not all these changes are hormone-related, and some, such as hot flashes and memory problems, tend to resolve after menopause. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle during this time of transition is essential for your health and can even prevent or blunt some of these changes.Show Less
It is not a disease. Menopause is a normal, natural event—defined as the final menstrual period and usually confirmed when a woman has missed her periods for 12 consecutive months (in the absence of other obvious causes). Menopause is associated with reduced functioning of the ovaries due to aging, resulting in lower levels of estrogen and other hormones. It marks the permanent end of fertility. Menopause occurs, on average, at age 51. It occurs most often between ages 45 and 55. The term “premenopausal” refers to the phase of life that precedes menopause. For many women, it is an optimal time to reassess their health.Show Less
Tips for better heart health include:
• Going for regular health check-ups with your doctor.
• Taking steps to manage other health conditions, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
• Quitting smoking and avoiding tobacco in any form. Heart disease risk reduces by 50 percent just 12 months after someone quits smoking.
• Avoiding illegal drugs, especially stimulants, such as cocaine and amphetamines.
• Losing weight if overweight.
• Engaging in at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity, such as walking, every day.
• Eating a balanced diet and visiting a dietician if necessary for dietary advice.Show Less
Anyone who suspects symptoms of a heart attack should call emergency services immediately.
Only 65 percent of women would call emergency services if they suspected they were having a heart attack, according to a 2012 survey.
Emergency treatment can save lives. Anyone noticing the following symptoms should call an ambulance immediately, especially if the signs are present for 5 minutes or more:
• chest pain or discomfort;
• pain in the upper body, including arms, back, neck, jaw, or shoulder;
• difficulty breathing;
• extreme weakness;
• indigestion or heartburn;
• rapid or irregular heartbeat;
• shortness of breath;
• unexplained anxiety;
• vomiting.Show Less
Generally, all women over 40 years of age should have regular checks with their doctors. This helps identify risk factors early so that they can be treated. Early intervention reduces the chances of a cardiac event.
Anyone who notices the warning signs of a heart attack, such as the following, should see a doctor immediately:
• unusual fatigue;
• shortness of breath;
• upper body pain.
A doctor will note symptoms, check blood pressure and heart rate, and may order blood tests or use an electrocardiogram (EKG) to see the heart’s electrical activity.Show Less
• Age: Those aged 55 years or older are at greater risk of a heart attack. This may be because hormones provide some protection from heart disease before menopause.
• Family history: Those with a male relative who had a heart attack by the age of 55, or a female relative who had one by 65, are considered to have a family history of heart attack and are at increased risk.
• Health status: Certain markers, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, increase the risk of a heart attack in both males and females.
• Medical conditions: Those with conditions, including diabetes, obesity, and autoimmune disorders are more likely to have a heart attack. Diseases such as endometriosis, PCOS, or a history of preeclampsia during pregnancy are also at a higher risk.
• Lifestyle choices: Using tobacco or stimulant drugs, for example, cocaine or amphetamines, a sedentary lifestyle, or high levels of stress will all increase the risk of a heart attack.Show Less
The risk of heart attack increases due to falling estrogen levels after menopause.
Post-menopause heart attack symptoms include:
• pain or discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach;
• rapid or irregular heartbeat;
• severe chest pain;
• sweating without activity.Show Less
Chest pain is the most common symptom of a heart attack.
Many people expect a heart attack to come on suddenly. But research suggests that women experience symptoms for several weeks before a heart attack.
A study of 515 women who had experienced a heart attack, published in 2003, reports 80 percent of women had at least 1 symptom at least 4 weeks before their heart attack.
Symptoms may be constant or come and go, and they may also disrupt sleep.
It is vital for a woman who experiences any of these symptoms to seek help immediately, as heart attacks can be fatal, regardless of whether symptoms are mild or severe.
The symptoms of a possible heart attack are:
1. Chest pain
The most common symptom of a heart attack in both males and females is chest pain or discomfort.
It may be described as:
However, women can experience a heart attack without having any chest discomfort.
29.7 percent of the women surveyed in the 2003 study experienced chest discomfort in the weeks before the attack. Also, 57 percent had chest pain during the heart attack.
2. Extreme or unusual fatigue
Unusual fatigue is often reported in the weeks leading up to a heart attack. Fatigue is also experienced just before the event occurs.
Even simple activities that do not require much exertion can lead to feelings of being exhausted.
Feeling weak or shaky is a common acute symptom of a heart attack in a female.
This weakness or shaking may be accompanied by:
• feeling lightheaded.
4. Shortness of breath
Shortness of breath or heavy breathing without exertion, especially when accompanied by fatigue or chest pain, may suggest heart problems.
Some women may feel short of breath when lying down, with the symptom easing when they are sitting upright.
Excessive sweating without a normal cause is another common heart attack symptom in women.
Feeling cold and clammy can also be an indicator of heart problems.
6. Upper body pain
This is usually non-specific and cannot be attributed to a particular muscle or joint in the upper body.
Areas that can be affected include:
• upper back or either arm.
The pain can start in one area and gradually spread to others, or it may come on suddenly.
7. Sleep disturbances
Almost half of women in the 2003 study reported issues with sleep in the weeks before they had a heart attack.
These disturbances may involve:
• difficulty getting to sleep;
• unusual waking throughout the night;
• feeling tired despite getting enough sleep.
8. Stomach problems
Some women may feel pain or pressure in the stomach before a heart attack.
Other digestive issues associated with a possible heart attack can include:
• vomiting.Show Less