Ways Menopause Affects Women's Health

What to expect from your body and mind before, during and after menopause

Menopause can affect your health in wide-ranging ways. The more you know about the natural impact of menopause on your body, the better you can manage your post-menopausal health and anticipate symptoms. Take some time to learn about the changes in your body that occur during and after menopause.

Menopause symptoms

Signs of menopause will not be the same in every woman. However, according to the National Women's Health Information Center, common symptoms of menopause include:

  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Changes in menstruation patterns
  • Hair loss (possibly accompanied by increased facial hair)

Bone loss and menopause

Estrogen is a hormone that contributes to strong bones. Because estrogen levels drop during menopause, many women experience bone loss as a result of menopause. Weaker bones are more prone to breakage, while severely weakened bones are classified as osteoporosis. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends bone density testing for all postmenopausal women, and for all women aged 65 and older.

Early menopause

Early menopause, or premature menopause, can affect your health in different ways than normal-onset menopause. According to the National Women's Health Information Center, premature menopause is defined as menopause that occurs in women under 40, and its symptoms, while similar to regular menopause, can be more severe. Women who experience early menopause are also more at risk for bone loss and osteoporosis. Causes of early menopause include autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and thyroid disease, genetics, surgical removal of the ovaries and pelvic radiation therapy or chemotherapy.

Heart disease and menopause

Postmenopausal women are at greater risk for heart disease, perhaps because of declining estrogen levels, but also as a result of natural aging. The National Women's Health Information Center recommends regular blood pressure, triglyceride, blood glucose and HDL/LDL cholesterol tests following menopause in order to monitor your heart disease risk factors.

Mental health and menopause

According to the Center for Women's Mental Health at Massachusetts General Hospital, some women are at increased risk for depression when approaching menopause. This may be a result of hormonal changes, or it could be brought on by difficulty sleeping and other menopause-associated symptoms. Menopause also marks a major life transition that can cause emotional stress. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may be a treatment option, but it has become controversial in recent years. Anti-depressants may be an alternative. Speak to your doctor if you are experiencing mood changes in order to work out the best course of action.

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