A woman’s body goes through many changes during menopause, and these changes can increase her risk for heart disease and stroke.

After menopause, women’s diminishing levels of estrogen and progesterone (two female sex hormones) can make her more vulnerable to heart disease and stroke. Lower levels of estrogen can increase a woman’s LDL blood cholesterol (the harmful kind of cholesterol) and triglyceride levels and decrease her levels of HDL blood cholesterol (the beneficial kind).

Menopausal and postmenopausal women can help offset these increased risks with preventive behaviours such as increasing activity levels, eating a low-cholesterol diet and managing their weight.

Some women may choose to use hormone replacement therapy to manage some of the symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, night sweats and discomfort during intercourse.

The benefits and risks of hormone replacement therapy are still being determined in clinical tests.

However, the Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends that women do not begin or continue to use hormone replacement therapy to prevent heart disease or stroke. To make the best decision for your health, consult with your doctor about the risks and benefits of hormone replacement therapy in your particular case.

Read the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s position statement on hormone replacement therapy.