Cardiologist, author, and heart health expert Dr. Sarah Samaan offers advice on how to live a heart smart life.See all posts »
Best Practices for a Healthy Heart Step 7: Hormones and Women
My book, Best Practices for a Healthy Heart: How to Stop Heart Disease Before or After it Starts, was published this month by The Experiment publishing house, and is distributed by Workman. In the book, I outline seven important steps that will help you achieve optimum heart health and provide you with powerful protection against stroke, dementia, and even cancer.
We’ve gone through Step One (Know Your Numbers), Step Two (Eat Well to Live Better), Step Three (Learn How to Take a Break without Checking Out), Step Four (Get a Move On), Step Five (Use Your Common Sense), and Step Six (Know Your Options). In Step Seven, “Be Hip to Your Hormones”, I’ll bring you up to date on the latest information connecting hormones, including estrogen and testosterone, to heart health.
Although for many years the popular opinion was that women were nearly immune to heart disease, heart disease has been the leading cause of death for both men and women since the early 1900’s. In the 1980’s, medical science finally woke up to the reality that the hearts of men and women are different, and the study of the effects of estrogen and hormone replacement on the heart began in earnest.
Since that time, we have probably generated more questions than answers. In 2011, the National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease outlined a series of questions regarding women’s heart health that have yet to be conclusively answered.
At one time, it appeared that estrogen might protect women’s hearts, but subsequent research actually suggested the opposite. As valuable as the studies were, there were serious flaws, including the fact that many women were started on hormone replacement a decade or more after menopause. In addition, the larger studies have used Premarin, a form of estrogen made from horse urine, which is quite unlike our own natural estrogen. Several studies have found that estrogen patches provide more benefit with less risk.
In this section of the book, I’ll take you through the various arguments for and against hormones and heart health, and tell you which options are likely to be safer. I also address the options of supplements and other non-pharmaceutical ways to deal with menopausal symptoms.
While men do not go through menopause, their natural levels of testosterone do decline over time, affecting heart health and general well-being. In an upcoming post, I’ll give equal time to the guys, and explain what you can do to raise testosterone levels naturally, and how erectile dysfunction can be an important warning of heart disease.