Our moms called it “the change” for good reason. Menopause ends fertility but also shifts other key body systems, upping the risk for various health concerns. Here are 5 you should carefully monitor and discuss with your doctor as to how to modify their risks.
The American Heart Association maintains that a woman’s heart health changes after 50. Her risk for heart attack will equal that of a man’s by the time she reaches 65 because:
- Estrogen, which helps keep artery walls elastic, is greatly reduced.
- Blood pressure gradually increases.
- Good cholesterol (HDL) stays the same but bad cholesterol (LDL) increases.
What should you do?
- Maintain or reduce weight.
- Get 150 minutes of cardio- and strength-training exercise per week
- Stop smoking as this cuts the risk of heart attack by 1/2.
- Monitor blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol.
- Get regular check-ups.
A stroke is a blockage or a bleed in a blood vessel in the brain. Causative factors are closely related to heart disease, but the risk begins a bit sooner–during perimenopause, or the time when symptoms of menopause are starting. This is age 45 to 55. It is very important to know the symptoms of stroke and to call 911 when someone recognizes them:
- Numbness or weakness along one side of the body–e.g. an arm or one side of the face
- Confusion and/or trouble speaking
- vision changes
- unsteadiness in or loss of balance
This menopausal health concern can be mitigated with the same good health practices recommended for heart disease.
The National Institute on Aging warns that 1/2 of women over 50 will fracture a bone in their lifetimes. With reduced estrogen related to menopause, bones thin, especially in the spine and hip. Other risks include:
- family history
- early menopause (well before 50)
- small frame
A woman will lessen her changes of a osteoporosis and related fractures by building bone and muscle before she turns 30. After menopause she should:
- strengthen bone through exercise
- take 600 to 800 units of Vitamin D daily
- take 1200 mg of calcium daily
- get out in the sun as this activates the positive benefits of Vitamin D
Your doctor may recommend a DEXA-scan after 60 to check on your bone density.
This embarrassing health concern takes 3 forms in the menopausal woman:
- Stress incontinence, a minor leakage of urine occurring with a cough, sneeze, laugh, exercise or lifting
- Overflow incontinence, a bigger leak related to a very full bladder
- Urge incontinence, when a woman suddenly can’t wait to go to the bathroom
Bladder and peritoneal muscles weaken with time, weight, inactivity and loss of estrogen. To lessen the effect of urinary incontinence talk to your physician about exercises to strengthen related muscles, medications to calm urgency and surgery. In the meantime, there are several discreet, helpful and comfortable incontinence products in the form of pads and disposable undergarments.
The menopause belly–it’s a common concern. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says most menopausal women gain some weight until hormone fluctuations level off. The trick is to keep gain as low as possible as it adds to the health concerns already discussed here. So, here’s how:
- limit salt and alcohol as both bloat and increase blood pressure
- do 150 minutes of strengthening and aerobic exercise each week
- eat more leafy green veggies, antioxidant fruits such as blueberries, whole grains and yogurt
- help your mood with friends, a new activity and prayer
Menopause does present big health concerns, but thought about and care of your body systems will help any woman navigate “the change.”