As we go through menopause, let’s do everything we can do to have a stroke of luck – and that means not having a stroke at all.
So what exactly is a stroke? The National Stroke Association defines a stroke as being when a blood clot blocks an artery or a blood vessel ruptures, thus interrupting the flow of blood. Either of these scenarios, in turn, will interrupt the flow of blood to the brain, which will cause the death of brain cells and result in brain damage.
Going through menopause by itself doesn’t increase the risk of a stroke in women. However, a number of changes in the body that are often seen at this time of life – such as the decline in estrogen, the increase in blood pressure, an increase in triglycerides and the increase in “bad” cholesterol –do increase a woman’s risk. Additionally, women’s “good” cholesterol either remains the same or declines during this timeframe. When combined with unhealthy habits you’ve started earlier in life, these changes can mean that women can find themselves set up for an increased risk of a stroke.
So if you’re a menopausal woman, are you wondering whether there are steps you can take to decrease your risk of stroke? That’s what researchers recently looked at by mining data from 133,479 women who participated in the California Teachers Study. What they found offered some eye-openers, including the following:
- Moderate exercise actually works to lower a middle-age women’s risk of stroke – and, surprisingly, strenuous exercise doesn’t reduce your risk more than moderate exercise. Researchers found that participants who reported participating in moderate physical activity for three years prior to enrolling in the study had a 20-percent lower likelihood of suffering a stroke. “I was surprised that moderate physical activity was most strongly associated with a reduced risk of stroke,” Dr. Sophia Wang, the study’s lead author and professor in the department of population sciences within the Beckman Research Institute at the City of Hope in Duarte, CA, said in an American Heart Association press release. “More strenuous activity such as running didn’t further reduce women’s stroke risk. Moderate activity, such as brisk walking, appeared to be ideal in this scenario.” So what are examples of moderate-intensity physical activity? Here are some examples and time duration that you need to do to reach this level of activity, courtesy of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: gardening (30-45 minutes); shoveling snow (15 minutes); walking two miles (15 minutes per mile); washing windows or floors (45-60 minutes); bicycling (4 miles in 15 minutes or 5 miles in 30 minutes); jumping rope (15 minutes); swimming laps (20 minutes); water aerobics (30 minutes); and dancing fast (30 minutes). So what are some examples of strenuous exercise? Think walking fast with a load as you go uphill, playing basketball, climbing and playing soccer.
- Taking hormone replacement therapy increases your risk of a stroke by almost a third. However, participating in moderate exercise lowers – but does not totally negate – your risk factor if your taking this therapy. The researchers encourage women who are taking hormone replacement therapy to add some sort of moderate physical exercise on a daily basis. Furthermore, a woman’s risk of strokes starts to diminish once she stops taking hormone replacement therapy.
- Women who have diabetes have an increased risk of stroke. However, this finding may be a little muddled since many participants in this group were also overweight and may not eat a healthy diet, both of which also can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
This particular study didn’t look at what we eat, but most experts suggest eating a healthy diet that includes at least 4.5 cups daily of produce, 6-8 cups daily of fiber-rich whole grains and weekly servings of fatty fish, unsalted nuts and legumes.
Experts also recommend eliminating unhealthy behaviors. One of the big behaviors to lose is smoking, which decreases arterial flexibility and increases the risk of blood clots that can cause the stroke.
Primary Sources for This Sharepost:
American Heart Association. (2013). Menopause and heart disease.
American Heart Association. (2014). Moderate exercise cuts women’s stroke risk, helps offset increase risk from hormone therapy.
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. (ND). Guide to physical activity.
National Stroke Association. (ND). What is a stroke?
Published On: February 19, 2014