Sarah Keogh, Dietician at Eatwell
Hot flushes are one way your body lets you know that things are changing during menopause. But getting overheated is just one change that affects your blood and circulation. Although menopause does mean that you no longer have to deal with periods, it does mean that things can start to go in the wrong direction for heart health.
Hormones and your heart
Hormones like oestrogen help protect women from heart disease but at menopause, levels of oestrogen start to go down. This can lead to cholesterol levels going up – and increase your risk of heart disease. Women can also see an increase in blood pressure after menopause so this is a really good time to start looking after your heart (if you don’t already…).
Cholesterol at Menopause
Although cholesterol can start to increase at menopause, there is a lot you can do to keep it under control. Do get your cholesterol tested – your total cholesterol should be less than 5. Your good cholesterol (HDL cholesterol) should be more than 1.0-1.5 and your bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) should be less than 3.
If you have high cholesterol:
- Eat more oats and barley. These contain a sticky kind of fibre called beta glucan that actually helps lower cholesterol. Try porridge for breakfast, oat cakes for lunch or try oat based or yoghurt bread made with oats – it’s a very easy way to get more oats into what you eat everyday. You can add barley to soups, stews or casseroles.
- Add seeds. Linseed or flaxseed are rich in the omega-3 ALA which helps to lower cholesterol. Add a dessertspoon of ground linseed or flaxseed to breakfast cereals, yoghurt, salads or homemade bread.
- Eat nuts. Nuts like walnuts and almonds also help lower cholesterol. And they are packed with heart healthy vitamin E as well as iron and B vitamins. Add and handful a day to meals or as a tasty snack – try not to always go for salted!
- Limit butter and cream. Although butter is delicious, it is packed with saturated fat and linked with higher cholesterol and heart disease. Use less; choose a low fat spread; or choose a spread based on olive oil or sunflower oil. Limit cream as well as biscuits, cakes and pastries. Keep an eye on processed meat as well – especially sausages, black and white pudding, salami, chorizo etc. You don’t need to ban these, but it is hard to keep cholesterol under control if you are eating these foods every day (or five times a day…).
- Use olive oil and rapeseed oil in cooking. Remember that coconut oil is high in saturated fat and does raise cholesterol – okay to use now and again but not as your main cooking oil.
Blood Pressure and Menopause
High blood pressure is a bigger problem for heart disease in women than and in men. Again, do ask your GP to check your blood pressure to make sure it is nice and healthy. In many ways, it can be a lot easier to lower blood pressure than cholesterol so do try some of the tips below:
- Get moving. One of the best ways to keep blood pressure healthy is exercise. Don’t think about hours at the gum or running marathons – unless you want to! 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days will make a big difference. So what does this mean? A fairly brisk walk is great. Swimming is brilliant. Aqua aerobics, Pilates, yoga – anything that gets you breathing a little faster and moving will really help.
- Eat lots of fruit and vegetables. We hear a lot about cutting out salt when we talk about high blood pressure, but did you know that adding potassium actually lowers it? You’ll find lots of potassium in all kinds of fruit and vegetables – not just bananas! Get into the habit of adding fruit and/or vegetables to every meal. Try adding fruit to cereal at breakfast – have a fruit smoothie. Have a nice bowl of vegetable soup or a salad at lunchtime and make sure half of your plate at dinner is filled with vegetables or salad.
- Do keep an eye on salt. Limit salty foods like crisps, popcorn, salted peanuts, bacon and ham Now and again is fine with these foods but definitely not everyday. Ready meals and bought soups can also be really high in salt so check labels and look for lower salt options.
- Low fat dairy helps to lower blood pressure (and doesn’t raise cholesterol). Go for low fat milk with cereal, as a drink with meals or in smoothies and milky coffees. Yoghurt is brilliant as part of breakfast or as a healthy snack. You will get all the benefits of the calcium too!
We visit you
Taking time out to visit a healthcare professional isn’t always convenient. That’s why at Irish Life Health, we visit you. With MyClinic, our members get unlimited 24/7 virtual consultations with GPs, nurses and professionally trained counsellors, as well as expert advice from physiotherapists, dieticians, plus much more*. So, if you need to speak to qualified dietician or GP about your menopause journey, book an appointment with MyClinic today.
Find out more about MyClinic by Irish Life Health here: https://www.irishlifehealth.ie/myclinic
Irish Life Health dac is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland. *Professional counselling is provided through Lifeworks by Morneau Shepell and is available to age 16+. Virtual Physiotherapy and Virtual Dietician services are provided by Spectrum Health. Members must be aged 18+. Digital Doctor service provided by Health Hero. Nurse on Call provided by Healix Medical Partnership LLP. General terms and conditions apply, see your Table of Cover and Membership Handbook for details of exactly what’s covered. Virtual Physio and Virtual Dietician have separate terms and conditions and they can be viewed here[EY1] .
Irish Life Health are a sponsor of the Menopause Success Summit 2021.