10 things you need to know about postmenopause

Eileen Durward
Ask Eileen

09 May 2022

Today's topic

Today on A.Vogel Talks Menopause, I take a look at 10 things you need to know about the postmenopause.

There are things that every woman needs to know about what happens after menopause. This stage will come, regardless of where you are at the moment. At some point, you're going to think, "Oh, I'm in the postmenopause. What do I do now?"

So, here are 10 things you should know to help you to be prepared for it when the time comes because remember, knowledge is power. Or if you're already postmenopausal, then hopefully, this may help you to understand a little bit more about what you're going through and give you some answers to things you're not quite sure about.

1. What is postmenopause?

It's really confusing because there are quite a few definitions out there. Some sources say you're postmenopause after one year without a period. We tend to say two years just to give women that extra little bit of time because periods can come back after a year or more.

So, in theory, we would say you are postmenopause after two years without periods.

2. How long does postmenopause last?

So, postmenopause starts two years after your last period and will basically last for the rest of your life. So, after your oestrogen has dropped, which is normally around about two years, that's the point where you are not likely to get pregnant.

One thing to note here, if you have an active sex life, you may still need protection from sexually transmitted diseases because apparently, these are going up in women and couples over 50.

3. Symptoms don't suddenly disappear

I get so many women contacting me, who say, "I'm two years postmenopause and I still experience symptoms."

Symptoms don't just suddenly disappear when you reach the two-year mark. Some women find that after two years of no periods, it is at this point that their symptoms start to decrease, ease off, or stop. But, for other women, symptoms can go on for quite a few years afterward. Sometimes, some symptoms disappear, while others may linger for that little bit longer.

4. Other health conditions could be causing menopause-like symptoms

If you're still getting symptoms or if they're getting worse or you're getting new ones after roundabout the five-year mark without any period, then very often, other health issues have started to creep in.

So, if this is you, it's really important to ask your doctor to test you for low vitamin D, for underactive or overactive thyroid function, low vitamin B12, your iron levels, even if you're not getting periods, you could still be low in iron, diabetes too, and also heart disease.

All of these health issues can cause symptoms that can be confused with menopausal ones, so ruling these out so that you can continue looking after yourself is really important.

5. Not all symptoms go away

Some symptoms don't disappear after menopause, especially if you haven't done anything about them.

So, we know that in perimenopause and menopause, joint aches and muscle aches and pains are really common symptoms. But what happens here is if you don't support your joints and muscles, then the deterioration can get to the point where it causes permanent damage. So certain symptoms such as joint pain may continue.

Bladder issues as well can remain, so if you're starting to get an irritated bladder, that's unlikely to suddenly disappear if not treated.

The dryness issues, such as vaginal dryness, dry skin, dry eyes, dry mouth, are unlikely to just suddenly disappear after menopause, so the sooner that these appear that you treat them, then the less likely they're going to linger for any length of time. And getting them sorted means that you're going to feel better as time goes on too.

6. How you feel postmenopause depends on how well you take care of yourself during menopause

So, how you feel postmenopause, and that's health-wise, and also emotionally and mentally, often depends on how well you have taken care of yourself beforehand.

Menopause is a huge trial for our bodies. It puts our bodies under a tremendous amount of pressure. And if we don't look after ourselves, then once we're into postmenopause, we are going to be more vulnerable to all the other health issues that are associated with getting older.

So, whatever point you are at the moment, if you want to have a good postmenopause, you need to start taking care of yourself now.

A lot of women ask me, "What's going to happen? How am I going to feel after menopause?" You feel different. It's a different phase of your life but it can still be a good one. There's no reason why you can't feel as good in a different way. You don't have the monthly cycle to churn you up every single month. There's none of the hormonal up and down every single month. And that can be great. For me, I'm much calmer and level the whole time.

For a lot of women, once they've got everything under control, they do feel that they have a new lease of life. They can focus on different things now. They can prioritise themselves. They can end up doing something completely different. And it's interesting that a lot of new, little businesses that start up here in the UK are being initiated by postmenopausal women.

So, there's a great deal to offer postmenopausal women out there but you just need to grasp it and have a go. It can be quite exciting.

7. Postmenopausal women have a higher risk of developing osteoporosis and arthritis

As I've mentioned before, the older you get, the more vulnerable you are to aging health issues. And for postmenopausal women, especially, there are a couple of factors that you really need to look out for, such as osteoporosis.

You can lose about 25% of your bone density as you go through menopause, so that makes you much more vulnerable to fractures, to things like what we call a dowager's hump where your spine can start to crumble.

You can get much weaker joints and that can end up leading on to arthritis too, so keeping your joints strong and healthy is really, really important here.

To help support your joints, you would be looking at weight-bearing exercises. You should also make sure you're getting enough calcium and magnesium-rich foods into your diet and enough vitamin D. Low vitamin D is so common in peri and menopausal women and this is something that should be tested regularly so it doesn't continue into your postmenopausal years.

8. There is a heightened risk of developing high blood pressure in postmenopause

It seems to be that the more your oestrogen falls, the more predisposed you could be to high blood pressure. It's called the silent disease because there are very few symptoms. And with women, especially postmenopause, very often, the first indication of high blood pressure is a heart attack.

If you're stressed and anxious, then that can affect your blood pressure too. So, this is one that should be tested regularly. I don't mean every single week. You're going to put yourself under too much pressure. I recommend that you ask your pharmacist to check your blood pressure once every six months so that if something is going on, it can be identified and treated before it deteriorates too further.

9. It’s important to keep up the basics!

So, don't forget to keep doing all the basics I regularly recommend, that's your diet, your exercise, and getting plenty of rest.

Remember to keep up your self-care, even if you're still looking after other people in the family. One of the things about being postmenopausal is that many women are asked to start being babysitters for their grandchildren. And that can very often lead to quite a lot of stress. So, that time for yourself, the 'me' time as I call it, is still very important.

Remember to drink loads of water. It's really important here to keep your hydration up because dehydration can affect all the areas of your health.

For me, there are times when I just think, "Oh, I just don't want to do anything." But I know, if I want to stay healthy as I get older, if I want to stay fit and do the things that I'm doing now, then I've got to put the effort in to look after myself. And it's still paying off at the moment.

10. Don't forget your regular health checks

This is really important because the older you get, the more likely you are to get health issues, and the sooner these can be looked at, the sooner any of them can be diagnosed, then the sooner they can be treated and got into control.

I've mentioned a few of these checks above, but things to get checked annually or regularly would be things like blood pressure. Get your eyes checked. And I know, now, my optician gets me in once a year just to check my eyes.

If you're still at the age where you are being brought in for smears, don't ignore them. Still get these done.

Make sure you get your dental check-up, as well as any other health screening that you would normally do. Don't forget these because again, if they show anything up, you can get things sorted before they get out of control.

So, I hope you found this helpful. If any of you postmenopausal women out there are worried about other areas of your health, or if you're not sure about certain things, please ask and I will be happy to help.

Any of you not at that stage yet but are worried about any specific aspect of postmenopause, and there are quite a lot of things I haven't covered, so maybe we will look at more again shortly, please let me know.

Until next week, take care.

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