11 Incredibly Important Insights About The #1 Killer Of Women – Heart Disease

middle age woman

Heart disease is the biggest killer of women in the world and accounts for 35 percent of female deaths.

That’s why it’s super important we talk about it here! Women in post-menopause are particularly vulnerable to heart disease. One very important reason for the formulation of 55+ (more on that later).

Traditionally thought of as a male disease, cardiovascular diseases (CVD) are “understudied, underdiagnosed and undertreated” according to the female-led Lancet Commission.

The New Zealand Heart Foundation report that 50 Kiwi women die from heart disease every week while 65,000 are living with it. And in Australia 20 women a day lose their lives to CVD.

What’s more, females become more vulnerable to CVD at post-menopause due to a reduction in protective estrogen.

1. When should women get their heart health checked?

Women without known risk factors:

From 55 years of age

Women with significant known heart disease risk factors:

From 45 years of age

Māori, Pacific or South Asian women:

From 40 years of age

Women with type 2 diabetes:

As part of the annual diabetic review

Women with severe mental illness:

From 25 years of age.


NB: In Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait women are twice as likely as non-indigenous women to have CVD. Source

2. What are the risk factors of heart disease for women?

  • Age (over 55 for women)
  • Post-menopause
  • Smoking
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Gestational diabetes or pre-eclampsia during pregnancy
  • High blood pressure
  • Raised cholesterol
  • Diabetes/pre diabetes
  • Family history
  • Smoking
  • Kidney disease
  • Excessive alcohol
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Hormonal disorders

Some studies have revealed that women who suffer from hormonal dysfunctions such as polycystic ovary syndrome before menopause are at increased risk of heart disease in later life

Taking a closer look:

3. The age factor

For women, age is a huge risk factor. When we enter post-menopause our levels of protective estrogen drop. Another key point is that if you’ve experienced early menopause naturally you’re also twice as likely to develop heart disease. The same is true if you have had your ovaries surgically removed.

In addition, as women, our risk of CVD triples with every decade of life. The Australasian Menopause Society report that it’s estimated that 82 percent of people who die of heart disease are 65 years or older. And it’s important to realise that the risk of stroke doubles every decade after age 55.

4. The importance of exercise

There’s a reason we recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate movement daily. Especially since there is compelling evidence that the risk of heart disease (and diabetes) is reduced with regular exercise. To clarify, risk reduces by almost a third with 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week. It also aids weight loss, blood sugar balance and blood pressure making it a no brainer.

5. Still smoking?

The evidence-backed perils of smoking are well documented. Consequently, approximately 10 percent of CVD is attributed to smoking. Equally noteable is that this includes second-hand smoke.

6. What you eat is pivotal

Bowl of fruit and vegetables

When it comes to the human body a good diet reigns supreme. To put it another way, if you want to live well for longer take a look at what you eat.

This rings true even more as you enter the menopause years. Because the significant hormonal shifts we experience affect our digestion, stomach acid, thyroid and blood sugar.

Moreover, a high intake of unhealthy fat coupled with a low intake of fruits, vegetables and fish are linked to CVD.

The Mediterranean Diet

We’ve often pointed to the studies that support a Mediterranean diet being particularly good for women in midlife. By the same token, evidence suggests that it helps to decrease the risk of heart disease too.

Additionally, it may be more effective than a low-fat diet in lowering cholesterol levels and decreasing high blood pressure.

The DASH Diet

Comparatively, The DASH diet, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension is also hailed as a good choice.

For one thing, it tied for first out of 39 diets for “Best Diets for Healthy Eating” and “Best Heart-Healthy Diets” in the 2021 Best Diets report from U.S. News & World Report.

DASH has been shown to reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol and assist with losing and/or maintaining a healthy weight. It’s high in nuts, fish, fruits and vegetables, and low in sweets, red meat and fat.

Bowl of nutritious nuts
Non-processed foods

Or course, we can’t forget our ‘good diet’ basic of avoiding processed foods. We always recommend avoiding these as much as possible because they’re high in fats and sugars. As such, they can increase our risk of heart disease – not to mention weight gain.

In a similar fashion, there is evidence that higher consumption of sugar is associated with raised blood pressure and increases the risk of diabetes.

7. Alcohol

While some studies suggest that low levels of alcohol are protective against CVD, there appears to be an increased risk with moderate or high levels.

Niacin (vitamin B3) may decrease the risk of cardiovascular events in those with an elevated risk level. Studies also found that magnesium supplementation can lower high blood pressure.

Source and source

Take the tests:

New Zealand: My Heart Check

Australia: Take the Heart Age Calculator risk assessment.

What women need to know

The North American Menopause Society interviewed Dr Chisandra Shufelt who is (among other things) Associate Director of The Barbara Streisand Women’s Heart Centre and Director of the Women’s Hormone and Menopause Program at The Cedars Sinai Heart Institute in the US.

8. How does post-menopause affect CVD?

According to the Heart Foundation menopause affects a woman’s body in a number of ways.

It increases:

  • overall cholesterol blood levels
  • Blood pressure
  • Body fat
  • Insulin resistance – which can prevent the body from breaking down sugars thereby increasing the risk of developing diabetes

It can change:

  • Metabolism. A decrease in metabolism contributes to raised blood pressure, cholesterol and weight gain.
  • Body fat distribution. Fat deposits that sit around the torso/abdomen increase the risk of heart disease even in women of normal weight.

9. What are the symptoms of heart attack in women?

If women are having a heart attack the signs can differ from those of men.

In fact, women may experience a heart attack without discomfort or chest pain which is known as a silent heart attack.

In addition, symptoms can show up in varying areas including:
  • Chest
  • Shoulder
  • Jaw
  • Arm
  • Upper back
  • Neck
  • Abdomen
Common signs can include:
  • Heaviness
  • Tightness
  • Pressure
  • Discomfort/pain
  • Sweating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Indigestion
  • Unusual fatigue
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Pain that comes and goes

10. In conclusion

Preventing heart disease post-menopause

High blood pressure is the single, most important, treatable risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

By managing and reducing blood pressure, the risk of stroke is reduced by 30-40 percent. Myocardial infarctions (damage to the heart muscle) risk is reduced by 20-25 percent and heart failure is reduced by 50 percent.

Regular screening for heart disease in post-menopause is extremely important.

The American Heart Association has outlined diet and lifestyle recommendations to reduce heart disease based on a variety of studies. As a result, in some cases, the 10-year heart disease risk was substantially reduced by 12-14 percent by lifestyle intervention.

9 tips to prevent heart disease

  1. Stop smoking and avoid second-hand smoke.
  2. Reduce alcohol intake. Drinking 1–2 standard alcoholic drinks per day may reduce heart disease risk by 30 percent. However, overdrinking increases the risk of heart disease.
  3. Regular exercise – 30 minutes per day at least five times per week.
  4. Healthy diet. High fibre, whole grains, fruit, vegetables and limited sugars and processed foods. Your five+-a-day servings can reduce risk by 25 percent.
  5. Manage your weight especially if you are overweight or obese.
  6. Work to lower raised blood pressure.
  7. Decrease cholesterol.
  8. Reduce stress. Mental stress-induced myocardial ischemia can contribute to heart problems in those with a history of heart disease.
  9. See your medical professional.


11. What you need to know about the #1 cause of death in women

The Menopause Society shared this interview with heart specialist Dr Samar El Khoudary.

MenoMe® 55+, Heart Disease, Enzogenol® & Post-Menopause

Heart disease is one of the reasons we’ve chosen to use Enzogenol® and magnesium in MenoMe® 55+. We think of it as essential for the rest of your life post-menopause.

While our heroine ingredient EstroG-100™ supports hormone balance, 55+ also contains vitamin D3, magnesium and Enzogenol® for bone, brain, eye and heart health.

Enzogenol® is a pine bark extract that comes from the bark of New Zealand Pine radiata trees. It’s packed with potent antioxidants known as proanthocyanidins.

whats inside MenoMe55
MenoMe® 55+ Perimenopause support

Indeed, it has been through studies that show it’s extremely beneficial for heart health. Not only does Enzogenol® support healthy blood vessels but also blood viscosity and blood pressure. Studies link.

Magnesium is also helpful for cardiovascular wellness as it can regulate blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attack and/or stroke.

Read more here. Or listen to a 30-minute video here.

Buy 55+ here.

Useful Resources:

With thanks to The International Menopause Society, The Australasian Menopause Society, The New Zealand Heart Foundation and The Australian Heart Foundation.

Our articles are a guideline only. Any signs and symptoms you are experiencing could be due to a number of reasons. For this reason, this should not take the place of medical advice. If you’re experiencing ongoing signs please see your health professional.

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This is the time when menstruation is well and truly over, the ovaries have stopped producing high levels of sex hormones and for many ladies, perimenopause symptoms subside.

Estrogen has protective qualities and the diminished levels mean organs such as your brain, heart and bones become more vulnerable. It’s also a key lubricant so your lips may become drier, your joints less supple and your vagina might be drier. In addition, your thyroid, digestion, insulin, cortisol and weight may alter.

At this juncture, a woman might experience an increase in the signs of reduced estrogen but she should have a decrease of perimenopause symptoms. That said, some women will experience symptoms like hot flushes for years or even the rest of their lives.


Peri = ‘near’

Most females begin to experience the symptoms of perimenopause in their mid-forties. Your progesterone levels decline from your mid-30s but it’s generally from around 40 that the rest of your sex hormones begin to follow suit. 

Perimenopause is a different experience for every woman and some women may barely notice it. The first indicators are usually changes to the monthly cycle. This means that for some ladies, this can be accompanied by things like sore breasts, mood swings, weight gain around the belly, and fatigue as time goes on.

For those with symptoms it can be a challenging time physically, mentally and emotionally.

Importantly, perimenopause lasts – on average – four to 10 years. The transition is usually a gradual process and many women enter perimenopause without realising.