“Good” cholesterol not so good for menopausal women

By Shayna Brouker • Published: January 18th, 2016
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Cholesterol can be a little confusing. You might have heard that it’s actually been divided into two camps: “good” and “bad” cholesterol. Good, or HDL, cholesterol actually works to clean up arteries from the havoc wreaked by bad cholesterol. But ladies in the throes of menopause, listen up: High HDL cholesterol levels are not a good thing for you, according to a new study revealed at the North American Menopause Society annual conference. The study showed that HDL can instead cause plaque buildup and atherosclerosis in menopausal women, regardless of factors like body weight or levels of bad cholesterol.

The study followed more than 200 women throughout the course of their menopausal years, measuring their plaque levels five times. The higher the levels of good cholesterol, the more plaque buildup, suggesting that menopause actually alters the nature of HDL cholesterol. The changes may be caused by factors such as extra fat around the heart and abdomen, which can result in chronic inflammation.

The moral of the story, according to researchers? That old standby: Maintain a healthy lifestyle. That’s easier said than done during menopause, when hormones go askew; in fact, almost 30 percent of women between the ages of 50 and 59 are not just overweight, but obese. But there are ways to keep extra pounds at bay.

It’s critical to keep muscle mass up, which keeps metabolism from drooping. You might also have to kick your workouts into high gear for this same reason: the rate at which you can use up energy during exercise declines. That means harder, longer workouts, no matter what your past activity levels were. Resistance training and aerobic exercise for 30 minutes a day will help keep cholesterol levels balanced and could help improve overall health.