A heart attack occurs when the flow of oxygen-rich blood to a section of heart
muscle suddenly becomes blocked and the heart is deprived of oxygen. If blood flow
is not restored quickly, the section of heart muscle begins to die. Heart attacks are a
leading killer of both men and women in the United States.
Women tend to be older than men by about 10 years when they receive a
diagnosis of heart disease, which is likely related to the female hormone estrogen,
which plays a positive role in maintaining the body’s levels of “good” HDL
cholesterol that is known to protect heart health. Estrogen also plays a number of
other roles in heart health, such as helping to maintain normal blood pressure and
prevent some blood vessel damage.
After menopause, however, when estrogen levels decline, the rate of heart
disease-related deaths among women steadily increases, because of the withdrawal
of the natural estrogen that occurs in menopause. The lowering of the "good
cholesterol" and an increase in the "bad cholesterol" increases the risk of heart
Researchers have looked at how hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
may affect women’s cardiovascular health. “In the Heart and Estrogen/progestin
Replacement Study (HERS), doctors found that postmenopausal women with heart
disease who were given estrogen and progestin actually had more heart attacks and
heart disease deaths. After HERS and other trials, the American Heart Association
(AHA) recommended against the use of HRT in women with known heart disease.
“In 2002, one phase of the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) trial showed that
healthy postmenopausal women who were taking the combination hormone
treatment of estrogen plus progestin were not protected from heart disease.” AHA
does not advise women to take HRT as a deterrent for coronary heart disease.
Being aware of the risk factors for cardiovascular disease and making...