Some women look forward to menopause, simply due to the end of the monthly menstrual cycle that often comes with pain, cramping, and nausea. Others dread it due to the onset of hot flashes and the possibility of depression symptoms. In reality, hot flashes, while annoying, aren’t dangerous and depression is actually less common in older women than in younger women. But while these health problems may be overblown, there are many other serious health concerns associated with menopause. The following are the five most dangerous health concerns during menopause and the precautions you can take against them.
Vaginal Yeast Infections – Menopause changes your pH levels, making your vagina less acidic. In combination with a weaker immune system common in older women, this greatly increases your chance of an infection. If you feel any sort of itching, burning, or soreness in your vagina, see your gynecologist immediately. Your gynecologist can help treat the infection and may be able to put you on a simple drug regimen that will help prevent reoccurrence. You can also take proactive measures. Try to wear clothing that keeps your groin cool and change your underwear often. You can also use an antifungal cream proactively to help prevent the infection.
Urinary Problems – One of the side effects of menopause is the weakening of the bladder muscles. As a result, you may feel the need to urinate more often or leak urine, especially when you have a sudden muscle spasm, like while sneezing, laughing, or hiccupping. There isn’t a lot you can do to prevent this, but regular exercise and building up your muscles will help strengthen your bladder muscles. Adult diapers can be embarrassing, but for most women the same pads used for menstrual emissions will catch any leakage as well. The biggest danger is that this leakage can easily mask more dangerous problems. Even though it is an embarrassing topic, you should discuss any urinary problems with your doctor regularly, to make sure that these common symptoms aren’t hiding a more dangerous urinary health concern.
Heart Disease – Usually considered a danger in men, heart disease is the leading cause of death in women over 50. Reduced estrogen levels after the onset of menopause make biochemical changes in the blood that are believed to increase the risk of heart problems. Heart disease can be quite sudden and lethal, so it is best to take preventative measures before menopause sets in. Preventing heart disease is relatively simple. You want to have a regular exercise routine, eat healthy, avoid smoking, keep your weight down, and drink in moderation. If you get into these habits before menopause it is a lot easier to maintain them afterwards, rather than trying to start these habits after your body has experienced a major biochemical shift.
Osteoporosis – Most women experience a rapid loss in bone density during the first 4 or 5 years after menopause begins. This decreased bone density commonly leads to broken or shattered bones, especially hip bones. The danger is particularly great early when you are still used to your younger body and may not have made adjustments to deal with your more brittle bones. If you want to take preventative measures, you should start before the onset of menopause. Strengthen your bones while you are young and the density loss will be mitigated. Vitamin D, most commonly found in milk and sunlight, is a good start. Additionally, you should incorporate a low impact exercise routine into your life. The exercise will help strengthen your bones and since it is low impact, you can continue it safely once menopause begins without risking broken bones.
Sleep Disorders – There is one side effect of hot flashes that is a dangerous health concern. Hot flashes at night can wake you quite suddenly. Between this and potentially having to wake up multiple times a night to urinate, you may find that you are getting little to no productive sleep. In the short term this can cause irritation and fatigue. In the long term, this will endanger your overall health, including further weakening your immune system. Additionally, normal activities like driving and walking down stairs become much more dangerous when you have high levels of fatigue. Try preventing this problem by keeping your sleeping area well ventilated and on the slightly cool side. Don’t drink any liquids within a few hours of going to sleep and always urinate before going to sleep. If you are still having trouble getting effective rest, talk to your doctor about prescription sleep aids.