The female sex hormone estrogen tends to raise HDL cholesterol, and as a rule, women have higher HDL (good) cholesterol levels than men. Estrogen production is highest during the childbearing years. This may help explain why premenopausal women are usually protected from developing heart disease.
Older women tend to have higher triglyceride levels. As people get older, gain weight or both, their triglyceride and cholesterol levels tend to rise.
At one time, it was thought that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) might lower a woman’s risk of heart disease and stroke. However, recent studies have shown that HRT does not reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke in postmenopausal women, and the American Heart Association recommends it not be used for cardiovascular prevention.
The American Heart Association recommends LDL (bad) cholesterol-lowering drug therapy for most women with heart disease. Drug therapy should be combined with a diet low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, and added sugars and rich in fruits, vegetables, fiber-rich whole-grain foods, and fat-free and low-fat dairy. Fish (such as salmon, trout or herring) should be eaten twice a week. In addition, women should manage their weight, not smoke and get an average of 40 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic activity 3 or 4 times per week.
This content was last reviewed on 04/21/2014.