The Hysterectomy-Heart Connection
Hysterectomy, or removal of the uterus, is the second most common surgery in women. It is used to treat cancer, fibroids, and a slipped uterus. It can treat abnormal vaginal bleeding and other uterine problems, too. Sometimes the ovaries are removed along with the uterus. It's long been known that removing the ovaries of premenopausal women raises their heart disease risk. That's because the ovaries produce estrogen, a hormone that promotes healthy cholesterol levels.
Less estrogen may be to blame
Research suggests that removing the uterus alone before menopause also may harm the heart. A Swedish study in the European Heart Journal found that women with a hysterectomy before age 50 were more likely to die from heart disease or stroke in later years. Researchers think that with the uterus gone, blood flow to the ovaries lessens. This may cause the ovaries to become less healthy and make smaller amounts of estrogen. The lack of estrogen may lead to unhealthy cholesterol levels, raising the risk for heart disease.
Check out your options
A hysterectomy may be the best way to treat uterine, cervical, or ovarian cancers. But there are other options for precancerous or benign uterine problems. Talk with your doctor about medicines and less drastic surgical procedures. Here are some questions to ask:
What is causing my condition?
Are there other tests that can confirm the diagnosis?
Do I need a hysterectomy?
Are there other treatment options? What are their risks and benefits?
Is it safe for me to wait awhile before I decide?
Should I get a second opinion from another doctor?
Once you have all the facts, you and your doctor can make the decision that's right for you.