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Cardiovascular Burden Of Womanhood And Its Health Implications In Relation To Menopause

Updated on February 22, 2014

The Beauty Of Womanhood

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A General Overview

The female reproductive system is designed to carry out several functions including production of the female egg, provision of safe environment for conception and for the development of the baby before it is time for it to make its way into the outside world. If fertilization does not take place, the system is designed to menstruate and produce female sex hormones that maintain the reproductive cycle. These continue from menarche to menopause.

With every menstrual cycle, the woman’s body prepares for a potential pregnancy, whether or not it is the woman’s intention. The average menstrual cycle takes about 28 days and occurs in phases; the follicular phase, the ovulatory phase (ovulation) and the luteal phase. There are four major hormones involved in the menstrual cycle: follicle stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone, estrogen and progesterone.

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Menopause

Menopause is the permanent cessation of menstruation resulting from loss of ovarian follicular activity. It is nature’s original contraception. When menopause occurs, between the ages of 45 and 55 (menopausal decade), it is considered “natural” and is a normal part of aging.

During menopause, the female reproductive system gradually stops making the female hormone necessary for the reproductive cycle to work. Pre-mature menopause is that which occurs before the age of 45. For women undergoing natural menopause, the process is gradual and is described in three stages:

Peri-menopause: This begins between 8 to 10 years before menopause, when the ovaries gradually produce less estrogen. In the last one or two years of perimenopause, the decrease in estrogen accelerates. At this stage, may women experience menopause sysmptoms including hot flashes, felling of sadness, lack of motivation, anxiety, aggressiveness, fatigue, depression, difficulty concentrating, mood changes, tension headache, joint and muscle pains, changes in libido (sex drive) and bladder control problems.

Menopause: The point when women have their last menstrual period. It is diagnosed when a woman has gone without a period for 12 consecutive months. So the date is established in retrospect.

Post menopause: The succeeding period after menopause has been established.

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Heart Diseases Significant In A Woman’s Health

Women significantly have cardiovascular burdens in three major phases of their lives. These phases include pregnancy, before menopause and after menopause.

Heart diseases during pregnancy: They include the following

  1. Heart murmurs: may mean problem with heart valves.
  2. Arrhythmias: Fast or slow heartbeat that may be regular or irregular
  3. Hypertension: Serious complication of pregnancy. Very high blood pressure can occur, with a rapid weight gain, swollen ankles and protein in urine. This disorder is known as toxemia of pregnancy or “pre-eclampsia”. It affects the blood vessels, Kidneys, liver and brain. It can progress to life threatening condition called eclampsia and so require immediate medical attention.

Heart diseases before menopause: Before menopause, heart diseases are uncommon in women. Estrogen in pre-menopausal women has a protective effect in cardiovascular diseases. But the incidence of coronary artery disease and stroke rises after the menopause. This process goes parallel with the metabolic changes that add up to create an unfavourable risk factor profile for cardiovascular diseases. This metabolic syndrome includes weight gain, changes in lipids and insulin resistance.

Estrogen protects women’s body against heart disease by helping maintain healthy levels of cholesterol in the blood (it keeps HLD high and LDL low). It may also improve blood flow to the heart, muscle, and reduce the risk of blood clots. When estrogen levels drop during menopause, a women no longer received the benefits of estrogen and is, thus at increased risk of heart disease.

Heart diseases of menopause: Diseases of the heart and the blood vessels, such as heart attack and stroke has traditionally been perceived as a condition that is predominantly affecting man. However, in recent years, it has become increasingly evident that this belief is inaccurate.

  1. Hypertension: Of all risks linked with menopause, hypertension is the least recognized. Most women with hypertension, if not picked up at routine examination will have no complaints. They may associated any warning symptoms with the fact that they are menopausal or aging and dismiss them as “normal”. The first problem may be heart attack or stroke either of which can be devastating or even fatal.

Blood pressure rises steadily from young adulthood onwards in women, but loss of natural hormones during and after menopause may accelerate this process. As a result, one third of women have hypertension in the menopausal decase, (45 to 55 years). Every woman should therefore have her blood pressure checked regularly during and after menopause.

  1. Diabetes: The cardiovascular complication of diabetes is more serious among women than men. Also the risk of diabetic coma is higher in women.
  2. Lipid disorders: High LDL or “bad” cholesterol and low HDL or “good” cholesterol.
  3. Other heart disease risk factors such as smoking, obesity, inactive lifestyle and family history of heart diseases.

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Conclusion

Women in high authority jobs with huge demands are at higher risk of developing heart diseases compared to ones with low-authority ones. Some other lifestyle adjustment can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular burden in women. Such are: Cessation of smoking, controlling of blood pressure, control of cholesterol level, maintenance of a healthy body weight, regular exercise, good diet consumption and proper care of other systemic diseases, especially diabetes.

© 2014 Funom Theophilus Makama

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