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Despite the benefits of estrogen, the American Heart Association recommends against using postmenopausal hormone therapy to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease or because some studies have shown it appears to not reduce the risk.

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Assorted changes in the body occur with menopause. starts to go up. , or “bad” cholesterol, tends to increase while HDL, or “good” cholesterol declines or remains the same. Triglycerides, certain types of fats in the blood, also increase.

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If you’ve followed a healthy lifestyle and continue doing so at menopause, your risk for heart disease and stroke is lower. also contributes to your risk.

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Menopause does not cause . However, certain risk factors increase around the time of menopause and a high-fat diet, smoking or other unhealthy habits begun earlier in life can also take a toll, said Dr. Nieca Goldberg, a cardiologist and an American Heart Association volunteer.

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Women should take care of their heart through regular exercise and good nutrition and by eliminating unhealthy habits like smoking, which may contribute to early menopause, increase the risk of , decrease the flexibility of arteries and lower the levels of HDL cholesterol, Dr. Goldberg said.

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On average, the onset of menopause, when menstrual periods permanently stop, occurs around age 54, said Dr. Goldberg, medical director of the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health at New York University Langone Medical Center.

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Women should aim for a 150 minutes of each week to help , and an hour daily for a program, depending on individual needs. Walking, cycling, dancing or swimming — activities that use larger muscles at low resistance — are good aerobic exercises, said Dr. Goldberg. And, she advised, don’t worry about how you look while exercising or whether you have fashionable workout clothes.

“You have to get over that,” she said, adding: “Do the activity that works for you.”

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