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A Doctor’s Advice: ‘Does Menopause Raise Cholesterol?’

There are steps you can take to help.

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As we age, our lives change. That’s not a bad thing, either. We gain wisdom, make memories, and learn more about who we really are and what’s important to us. One change that can be uncomfortable and confusing, however, is menopause. As our hormones ebb and flow, our bodies react in different ways, even down to our blood. So while you may diet and exercise religiously to make sure your next bloodwork lab results are good, natural, age-related changes can make an impact regardless. How does menopause effect cholesterol levels? We asked an expert for the answer.

Q: I’m 54 and my hot flashes and other menopause symptoms have finally gone away. But I just found out my cholesterol is high for the first time in my life. What’s up?

A: Surprisingly, researchers have found that cholesterol levels, especially “bad” LDL cholesterol, tend to rise in menopausal women 55 to 65 years of age, thanks to declining estrogen. That’s why I suggest loading up on soy-rich foods, such as tofu, tempeh, soy milk, and edamame, which contain plant estrogens that may boost estrogen naturally.

What’s more, studies show including plant-based foods in your diet (think beans, oatmeal, and whole grains) in and of themselves lower LDL levels by inhibiting cholesterol absorption. Also smart: supplementing with 1,000 mg. of citrus bergamot daily. One study published in the journal Integrative Food, Nutrition, and Metabolism found doing so may lower LDL cholesterol while raising “good” HDL cholesterol. One to try: Naomi Italian Citrus Bergamot (Buy from NaomiW.com, $35).

Meet our expert

Barbara DePree, MD, is a gynecologist in private practice and director of Women’s Midlife Services at Michigan’s Holland Hospital. A Certified Menopause Practitioner, she is the founder of MiddlesexMD.com, an educational resource for women’s sexual health in perimenopause and beyond. To ask her a question, send an email to health@firstforwomen.com.

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

This article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.

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