Women, Hormones, and Heart Disease

Estrogen provides protective benefits that may help women delay heart disease.

It may appear as though women don’t get heart disease because they tend to develop it later in life than men, largely due to the protective effects of natural estrogen. As long as women are having regular menstrual cycles, they enjoy a significant, although not absolute, level of protection. Naturally produced estrogen is linked with lower levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides and higher HDL (“good”) cholesterol. When a woman’s estrogen production plummets in her late forties to early fifties, she begins to lose her hormonal advantage.

For decades, experts advised women to take hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to protect their hearts as well as to relieve menopausal symptoms and strengthen their bones. Estrogen’s heart-protective properties looked so promising that nearly half of all postmenopausal female physicians took HRT, a rate higher than that of the general public, according to a 1997 study.

JoAnne’s Story

“I feel younger now than I did 2 years ago.”

I’m 85 years old, and I have pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the arteries that supply the lungs). It can be very serious. When I went to see Dr. Agatston 2 years ago, I wasn’t doing well. I couldn’t walk across the room without getting out of breath. I was overweight and I felt terrible. He put me on a healthy diet and told me to get some exercise. Thanks to that, I’ve lost 40 pounds. I breathe a lot better now and I can do a lot more things. I like to walk, but I’m not a youngster. I go to the gym three times a week to walk on the treadmill and do the bike. I do as much as I can. When I get tired, I stop, but I feel much happier and I look much better.

I feel younger now than I did 2 years ago. I used to eat a lot of sugar and a lot of junk. Now I don’t eat fried foods, and I don’t eat sugar. I don’t keep it in my house. If you visit me and you want sugar, you have to bring your own! Now I eat a lot of chicken soup with fresh vegetables. I take care of myself. I do my own shopping and my own cooking. I’m still driving. I never expected to make it to this age. But here I am, thanks to a great lifestyle.

Article By: Arthur Agatston, M.D.