Some women dread the menopause and its role as a harbinger of old age, while others welcome the calm balance it can bring.
Whatever your feelings, the menopause is certainly a milestone in a woman’s life.
The International Menopause Society (IMS) is now urging women to use this life marker positively by taking action to improve future health.
The report suggests that women get active by making some lifestyle choices in order to reduce the risk of serious health conditions.
Women can become more susceptible to certain conditions following the menopause, including heart disease, osteoporosis and cancer.
The report also recommends that women who have passed the menopause should arrange regular ongoing health checks. This will help medical professionals catch the onset of a health problem before it becomes too serious.
What happens during the menopause?
Women are born with all the egg cells they will have for their whole lives – about half a million. When a woman reaches puberty her body produces hormones that trigger the release and development of these eggs. Hormones also regulate the build-up and shedding of the uterine lining. This shedding is known as a period.
The menopause occurs when a woman has almost no eggs left. This leads to a massive fall in the hormones oestrogen and progesterone.
This fall in hormone levels causes periods to stop, as well as a number of other symptoms. These can include:
- hot flushes
- mood changes
- problems sleeping and night sweats
- urinary tract infections
Conditions more prevalent after the menopause:
Post-menopausal women have been shown to be at greater risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). CVD occurs due to a narrowing of blood vessels. It is thought that falling hormone levels may contribute to this.
Studies show that the bones of women who have gone through the menopause are less able to take on minerals or produce the bone cells that help to strengthen bones. This can cause bones to become weak.
The menopause itself does not increase the chances of developing cancer, but a higher risk is associated with age. Some treatments that alleviate menopausal symptoms (hormone replacement therapy) are also thought to increase the chances of developing cancer. It is therefore usually recommended that you do not take hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for more than 5 years.
Recommended lifestyle changes
Women who are going through or have gone through the menopause are advised to make certain lifestyle changes in order to reduce the chances of developing the health conditions mentioned above.
These changes include:
- Maintaining a healthy diet. This will supply your body with the correct vitamins and minerals while also helping to keep your weight down.
- Exercising regularly. Strengthening your muscles will take pressure off your bones and improve your heart health.
- Drinking moderately. Cutting down on alcohol is good for the heart and will help you take the first step to addressing your other lifestyle commitments.