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Endometriosis and heart disease: What's the link?

April 6, 2016 General Wellness

New research published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, an American Heart Association journal, indicates that women with endometriosis may be at an increased risk for heart disease.

“We have known for years that women are at an increased risk for heart disease because of unique risk factors like the complications of pregnancy, estrogen, and a greater incidence of diabetes, but this is the first study that has found a direct correlation between endometriosis and heart disease risk,” says Katie Hawthorne, MD, Lankenau Heart Institute cardiologist at Lankenau Medical Center.

Researchers found that women with endometriosis were not only at a greater risk for heart disease, they were also more likely to experience chest pain, have a heart attack, and require surgery to open and repair blocked arteries.

“Endometriosis is another risk factor that does not appear in the Framingham risk calculator, but that we need to seriously consider when calculating a woman’s heart health risk,” says Dr. Hawthorne.

Endometriosis: Unique risk factors

Why the link between endometriosis and heart disease? Although it may seem like a curious connection, women with endometriosis have unique risk factors that could put them at risk for heart disease, including:

  • Chronic inflammation
  • Higher levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and lower levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol
  • Oxidative stress, which has been shown to negatively impact heart health

In addition to these factors, the treatment options for endometriosis may also be putting women at risk. Treatments can include hormone therapy and, in severe cases, a hysterectomy, both of which have been shown to increase heart disease or heart disease risk factors like high blood pressure.

Can you control your risk?

If you’re living with endometriosis, it doesn’t have to mean heart disease. There are still steps you can take to control your risk.

“Women with endometriosis, and any women who are at increased risk of heart disease, can control their risk with preventative health measures like exercising regularly, eating healthy, quitting smoking, and limiting their alcohol intake,” explains Dr. Hawthorne.

In addition, it’s important to recognize the symptoms of a heart attack, and seek medical attention immediately. Dr. Hawthorne explains the unique heart attack symptoms women should recognize.

Finally, women with endometriosis should talk to their health care provider about their questions or concerns.

“This study underscores the need for cardiologists, gynecologists, and primary care physicians to work together to consider endometriosis and other conditions when thinking about a women’s heart disease risk,” says Dr. Hawthorne.

At the Lankenau Heart Institute, we know that not all hearts are created equal. Our cardiac experts understand the unique heart health needs of women, and we’re proud to feature a team of 13 female cardiologists. Visit our website to learn more or make an appointment with a Lankenau Heart Institute cardiologist.