Moving Through Menopause - The Facts You Need To Know
When a woman reaches menopause her risk of developing osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease increases. Women can lose 3 to 5% of their bone mass each year for an average of 10 years because of the low levels of estrogen after menopause. It is possible for a woman to lose as much as 30% of her total bone mass during this period leading to postmenopausal osteoporosis (weak, thin bones). Cardiovascular disease, on the other hand, is the leading and least recognized cause of death in women after menopause also because of a woman's lower estrogen levels, and by the age of 65-70 years, women have the same risk for coronary disease as men their age.
A decline in estrogen levels also causes the vaginal tissue and tissue in the lower urinary tract to become thinner and drier, and as a result intercourse can be more painful and you may be more predisposed to urinary tract infections. Talk to your health care professional and he/she will be able to recommend an appropriate course of action.
Eating right and incorporating regular physical activity into your lifestyle can make a significant difference in the way you feel and can prevent some of the long-term effects associated with estrogen deficiency (for example, osteoporosis). Calcium and vitamin D are key to maintaining healthy bones. Women 50 years of age or older should have a calcium intake of 1,500 mg per day and a vitamin D intake of 800 IUs per day. Also avoid excessive caffeine and alcohol intake and discontinue cigarette smoking.
Most women gain weight. This is in part due to the hormonal changes associated with menopause and to the fact that women tend to be less active as they grow older. To ensure you stay physically fit, exercise regularly and make it a priority.
Some women continue to experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms such as bloating, moodiness or tender breasts as they approach menopause.
There are now safe and effective natural alternatives women can choose to alleviate menopausal symptoms and improve bone and heart health. For example, Promensil and Rimostil, isoflavone supplements derived from red clover, have been shown in clinical studies to relieve the frequency and severity of hot flashes, increase bone density, and improve HDL (good cholesterol levels) in postmenopausal women. These natural remedies are available over-the-counter in pharmacies and health food outlets across the country. Talk to your doctor first to see if these supplements are the right option for you.
If you choose to go the natural route talk to your doctor about how often you should visit him/her and what tests you should undergo. For example, you should probably have a blood test to measure your cholesterol levels at menopause and if you're at risk for osteoporosis you should have a bone mineral density test done to examine the strength of your bones.
And finally, take time out for yourself and try to balance your lifestyle. If you need support, talk to your family and friends or ask your doctor or pharmacist about support groups in your community that deal with menopause.
- News Canada