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Sex hormone changes in menopause linked to heart-health decline. But you can fight back

Changes in sex hormones during menopause are directly related to a decline in heart health. You can't stop menopause, but you can take some control by eating right and moving more. Viv Williams has details of a new study in this episode of NewsMD's "Health Fusion."

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Menopause-related rise in cholesterol linked to sex hormone changes. Exercise, healthy fats and HRT may help. (Dreamstime/TNS)
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ROCHESTER, Minn. — Menopause causes a rise in bad cholesterol levels, and a new study shows that a change in sex hormones is responsible for 10% of the issue.

Most women go through menopause between the ages of 48 and 52. During that time, levels of LDL cholesterol rise. LDL is the bad kind of cholesterol that contributes to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attack and stroke.

Researchers already knew that during menopause, women experience changes related to metabolism that can cause a decline in heart health. The new research published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology links the shift in metabolites to changes in sex hormones.

“Menopause is unavoidable but it is possible that the negative metabolite shift can be diminished by eating healthily and being physically active,” said study author Dr. Eija K. Laakkonen of the University of Jyväskylä, Finland. “In particular, women should pay attention to the quality of fat in their diet and getting sufficient exercise to maintain cardiorespiratory fitness. HRT is an option that women should discuss with healthcare providers at this point in their lives.”

The researchers say that HRT, or hormone replacement therapy, is found to be most beneficial when taken while menopausal changes are happening.

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As for the type of fats you should eat, look for monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, such as olive oil, avocado oil or canola oil. These fats are also found in nuts and fish.

Laakkonen says that more research is needed. But she adds that their findings provide evidence that lifestyle changes and HRT can help mitigate heart-heath issues in menopause and should be discussed with your health care provider.

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Follow the  Health Fusion podcast on  Apple,   Spotify and  Google podcasts. For comments or other podcast episode ideas, email Viv Williams at  vwilliams@newsmd.com. Or on Twitter/Instagram/FB @vivwilliamstv.

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