Are You Having Period Struggles?
Maybe you find yourself sitting in bed in agony, wondering why your cramps hurt so badly. Or perhaps you wonder why your periods have been so irregular. Rest assured that these thoughts are not just confined to you. Women worldwide have period struggles. Your period pains may offer a look into what’s going on in your body, specifically as it relates to heart health.
What Does Your Period Have to Do with Your Heart Health?
Your period can indicate how healthy your heart is. Having regular periods is a sign of good overall health. Irregular periods, heavy periods or severe cramps can be due to hormonal disturbances, stress, weight gain or under-eating, unhealthy lifestyle practices or a combination of all. Long and irregular cycles are linked to heart issues like cardiovascular disease.
Period issues are not uncommon, but regardless, they should be treated urgently. Irregular periods signal that not everything may be right in the body. For example, they can be caused by polycystic ovarian syndrome, otherwise known as PCOS. While PCOS is primarily due to hormonal issues such as excess male hormone levels in women, there seems to be a correlation between PCOS and a sedentary lifestyle and hypertension.
Many studies show that when women miss menstrual cycles due to low estrogen levels, their blood vessel function is low. This is an early sign of heart disease. Estrogen has long been known to be essential for protecting a woman’s heart and is continually being studied. Still, researchers believe this can provide insight into how menstrual imbalances can negatively impact younger women’s cardiac health.
Some other signs of heart disease occur when women have increased chest pains during their periods. One medical journal reported that women with less estrogen circulating in their bloodstream often have low blood flow to the heart. A clinical study conducted by the Oregon Health and Science University sought to determine why a regular menstrual cycle is associated with a lower risk of heart disease. The researchers determined that the estradiol and progesterone hormones, common to periods and the normal processes in the follicle, are related to “good” and “bad” cholesterol levels in the bloodstream.
Some studies have also found correlations between the age women had their first period and their risk for heart disease. One study found that women who had their first period around age 13 had:
- 27% more hospitalizations or deaths due to heart disease;
- 16% more hospitalizations or deaths from stroke; and
- 20% more hospitalizations with high blood pressure or deaths due to complications.
Additionally, studies found that women whose cycle increased in length two years before their final menstrual period were healthier after menopause.
What to Do to Help Your Heart?
If you are concerned about your period and want to secure your heart health, and your menstrual health, there are several things you can do.
First, exercise frequently! Research shows that performing aerobic exercises, resistance training and stretches several times each week can decrease heart complications.
Second, remember to eat healthy foods! Foods such as nuts, green leafy veggies, chocolate, berries, fish, beans and whole grains provide Omega-3 oils and other vitamins that decrease cardiovascular issues. Remember to talk to your doctor if you want further information on the best approach to keeping your heart healthy.
A Parting Reminder
If you notice anything odd about your period, make sure to alert your doctor. While not all period issues are signs of more significant health issues, any issues you might have can be quite telling of your overall health–especially your heart’s health. As research shows, the more frequent your periods are, the lower the risk is for heart disease. Ensure exercising, eating well and resting to provide better care for yourself, and it will show in the often painful but beneficial period.