Health risks of the menopause

The menopause is a life changing event in every woman’s life when she moves from a fertile to non-fertile state. This is characterised by the cessation of her monthly periods and a fall in hormone levels.

This causes a series of physical and emotional symptoms which occur before and during the menopause. These are short term only and disappear once a woman reaches the post menopausal stage.

But this fall in hormone levels especially oestrogen levels means that a women is a risk of long term health problems which include:

These are discussed individually within this guide.

What causes these risks?

The answer to that is oestrogen. Oestrogen is a female hormone which confers a range of protective effects in the years leading up to the menopause.

This is why women have a lower risk of heart disease and strokes than men but this all changes once she reaches the menopause.

The drop in oestrogen means that she loses the benefits of this hormone which increases the risk of heart disease and other medical conditions.

The risk of heart disease increases after the menopause to the same level as that for men. In fact, heart disease rates are about the same for both sexes.

Other long term risks

Decreased hormone levels also result in weakened pelvic and vaginal muscles which increases the risk of incontinence.

Muscle mass decreases whilst body fat increases. Muscles become flabby and weaker overall.

Another long term problem is cataracts. The eyes age along with the rest of the body which leads to problems such as viewing objects close to (and reading), cataracts and glaucoma.

Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is another long term risk which can result in severely impaired vision. The area around the retina called the ‘macula’starts to weaken over time which causes visual problems.

Other post-menopausal diseases include dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. These tend to develop after the age of 65 and occur for any number of reasons which include severe head injury, brain tumour and meningitis.

This does not mean that you will automatically develop either of these as a result of the menopause just that there is an increased risk of doing so.

These diseases are commonly associated with the ageing process but there are people who live a long and active life without developing either of these diseases.

It can be difficult to maintain good health and a positive outlook after the menopause but doing so means that you are better placed to deal with any challenges that arise in the future.

There are long term health risks after the menopause but in most cases these can be avoided or dealt with. The important thing is to live your life and take each day as it comes.

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