In recognition of American Heart Month, we’re focusing on cardiovascular health in our 4-part series. This week we’re exploring how hormone replacement therapy can improve heart health.
Heart health is both a national and global concern. According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. 50% of American adults are impacted by heart disease and 1/3 of adults worldwide have high blood pressure. High blood pressure is the most common cause of heart disease-related deaths.
Types of Heart Disease
Heart disease encompasses a wide range of cardiovascular problems. The term cardiovascular disease may be used to refer to heart conditions that specifically affect blood vessels. There are a variety of conditions that fall under the heart disease category.
- Arrhythmia: Abnormal heart rhythm
- Atherosclerosis: Hardening of the arteries
- Cardiomyopathy: Weak heart muscles
- Congenital Heart Defects: Heart birth-defects and irregularities
- Ischemic or Coronary Artery Disease (CAD): Plaque buildup in arteries
- Heart Infections: Caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites
Causes of Heart Disease
Many medical conditions and lifestyle choices can increase risk for heart disease including:
- Unhealthy Diet
- Lack of Physical
- Excessive Alcohol Use
How Hormones Influence the Cardiovascular System
If you’re already eating a nutritious diet, exercising regularly and avoiding harmful substances, hormone imbalance may be affecting your heart health. Hormones influence major processes including your cardiovascular system, sleep cycle, digestion, detoxification, cognitive function and stress-response.
The 2008 Report “Hormones and the Cardiovascular System” states: “Hormones have an influence on many tissues and organs, including the cardio-vascular system (CVS)…
Hormones which increase blood pressure include: urotensin II, endothelins, angiotensin II, catecholamines, aldosterone, antidiuretic hormone, glucocorticosteroids, thyroid hormones, growth hormone and leptin.
On the other hand, blood pressure can be decreased by: natriuretic peptides, the calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) family, angiotensin 1-7, substance P, neurokinin A, ghrelin, Parathyroid hormone-related protein (PTHrP), oxytocin, and, sex hormones. (Such as estrogen)
Hormones which when appearing in excess increase the heart rate are: catecholamines, endothelins, glucocorticosteroids, thyroid hormones, leptin and PTHrP.”
How Hormone Replacement Therapy Can Improve Heart Health
If genetic factors prevent your body from producing the proper balance of hormones, hormone replacement therapy can provide a natural solution to support both your endocrine and cardiovascular systems. Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT) uses compounds that have exactly the same chemical and molecular structure as hormones that are produced in the human body. Unlike synthetic hormones, your body can’t distinguish bioidentical hormones from the ones your endocrine system produces naturally.
Balance Estrogen to Increase Blood Flow
Estrogen is a hormone that exists both in men and women. Estrogen not only affects reproduction, but also influences cognitive, bone and cardiovascular health. Women who are perimenopausal, menopausal and post-menopausal may experience heart disease symptoms caused by the change in hormone levels.
Estrogen can affect the cardiovascular system in both positive and negative ways:
- Increases HDL cholesterol (the good kind)
- Decreases LDL cholesterol (the bad kind)
- Promotes blood clot formation, and also causes some changes that have the opposite effect
- Relaxes, smooths and dilates blood vessels so blood flow increases
- Soaks up free radicals, naturally occurring particles in the blood that can damage the arteries and other tissues.
When estrogen levels decline, levels of LDL cholesterol (the harmful kind) increase, and levels of HDL cholesterol (the beneficial kind) decrease, leading to the build up of fat and cholesterol in the arteries that can lead to heart attack and stroke.
By balancing estrogen levels with hormone replacement therapy, you can reduce the buildup of fat and cholesterol, increase blood flow and reduce risk for heart disease.
As stated by the American College of Cardiology, “Women using hormone replacement therapy to relieve the symptoms of menopause faced a lower risk of death and showed lower levels of atherosclerosis, or plaque buildup in the heart’s arteries, compared to women not using hormone therapy, according to a single-center study scheduled for presentation at the American College of Cardiology’s 66th Annual Scientific Session.
‘With proper screening and proper follow-up, from a cardiovascular standpoint I believe it is beneficial to take hormone replacement therapy,” said Yoav Arnson, MD, a postdoctoral scientist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, and the study’s lead author.
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