Dr. Santoro tells Giddy about heart disease in postmenopausal women, and how risks and symptoms differ from those in men
“Women seem to have a superpower before menopause in that most are relatively free of heart disease risks until they are postmenopausal,” said Dr. Nanette Santoro,the E. Stewart Taylor Chair of the Divisions of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility & Reproductive Sciences, department of obstetrics and gynecology. “After menopause, the low levels of estrogen seem to reduce cardio protection, and the protective effect of estrogen wanes with age.” She notes that heart disease is not caused by menopause.
“Women may report jaw pain, nausea, even sweating as their only sign of a heart attack,” Dr. Santoro said. “This is different from the classic presentation in men of left-sided chest pain that may radiate down the arm.” Depression, autoimmune disease, and inflammation are also larger risk factors for women compared to men when it comes to heart disease.
Exercising, improving diet and managing psychological health can all help protect the heart as it ages.