Menopause can really raise LDL cholesterol, but does it drop after “the change” is complete? Or is this increase permanent?

It’s not surprising for a women in menopause, or several months before the beginning or up to a year after the completion of menopause, to find that her LDL cholesterol number has gotten a lot higher, even though she hasn’t changed her diet and exercise habits.

“Based on a part of the SWAN study (Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation) which was started in 1995, the baseline LDL for pre-menopausal women was 113-116 and after menopause, rose to the 125-130 range,” says Monica Reynolds, MD, a cardiologist with ColumbiaDoctors Medical Group in White Plains, NY.

“Therefore, the rise in LDL is about 10-15 points.”

Is this LDL raise permanent?

Must a woman forever work extra hard to keep it down?

The answer is obvious if a woman’s diet has been poor all along and she hasn’t been exercising.

Introduction of healthier eating and regular exercise will surely lower the menopause-increased LDL.

But what about women who were already exercising and mindfully eating?

“I know of no study which is tracking LDL after the initial years of menopause specifically,” says Dr. Reynolds.

“However, LDL tends to rise with age regardless of gender. My experience is that the LDL bumps up after menopause and then stays up.”

This is why regular lipid tests are crucial. 

“As far as having to ‘permanently work harder’ to keep lipid levels controlled, I would look at it in a different way – these LIFESTYLE choices – healthy diet, exercise, not smoking, etc., should be part of our national culture and consciousness from our childhoods on,” explains Dr. Reynolds.

“You don’t have to work harder as you get older – it only seems harder – because the body naturally slows down, loses muscle mass, burns fewer calories minute by minute.

“Our exercise capacity trends down with age – strength and flexibility fade.”

Rising LDL levels is part of the natural aging process.

“Lipids rise with age regardless of gender. My recommendation is to always work towards a healthy lifestyle, monitor your risk factors and lipid levels, and under certain circumstances, you might need medications (i.e., statins).”

If you’re a menopausal or postmenopausal woman who’s in despair over rising LDL levels or the aging process, don’t give up hope of reclaiming childlike energy.

Assuming you’re healthy otherwise, the right TYPE of exercise can resurrect energy you thought was gone forever.

Since 1992 Dr. Reynolds has practiced clinical cardiology at ColumbiaDoctors Medical Group, one of the largest multi-specialty practices in New York State.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer. 

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Top image: Shutterstock/Elena Ray