3 health conditions to watch out for during menopause

Eileen Durward
Ask Eileen

09 November 2020

Today's topic

Today on A.Vogel Talks Menopause, I'm going to look at three health conditions to watch out for in menopause.

When I was going through peri-menopause, I found it frustrating that I could find very little information about what symptoms to expect, what could go wrong, what I needed to watch out for, and how to look after myself well.

One of the great things today is that there is so much more research going on in menopause, looking at menopause symptoms, also looking at symptoms that may be associated but not caused directly by the menopause.

Health conditions you need to be aware of during menopause

The problem we have is that certain health conditions appear so much like menopause that menopause gets blamed for them and they get ignored in any health checks or any programs that you need to be looking at to keep yourself healthy.

So, let's have a look at three of them...

1. Heart disease

There's new research coming out now that shows how falling oestrogen in menopause and post-menopause can affect the heart. Oestrogen helps to keep our blood vessels elastic. It helps to open them up. And when our oestrogen falls, this can have quite an impact on the elasticity of the little blood vessels in the heart.

So, our heart muscle itself ends up getting less oxygenated. It gets fewer nutrients. And these both can affect heart function itself.

So, this has nothing to do with high cholesterol. It's purely the effect that falling oestrogen and low oestrogen can have on your heart.

The problem is that symptoms of heart disease, are very similar to ones you can experience during menopause, such as high blood pressure, fatigue, palpitations.
You might find that your heart misses a beat. And this is often misinterpreted as stress palpitations rather than actual heart function itself. You can get swollen ankles. You can break out in a sweat. You can get hot flushes. You can get night sweats. You can get digestive problems, which I thought was a really interesting one.

You can get headaches. You can get a loss of concentration. You can get brain fog and you can also find that it's very uncomfortable, just a general discomfort if you lie on your left side when you go to bed.

What can also happen is that if you do the slightest little bit of exercise such as run for the bus, carry some heavy shopping, or even walking up and down the stairs, you'll find that your heart seems to go into overdrive and you find you can get breathless as well.

So, if you are experiencing a similar menopause scenario, it's really important to get all of this checked out by your doctor.

For lots of self-help tips, please have a look at my blog 'How menopause affects your heart & tips to keep it healthy'. But the main thing to do is to check your diet, look at fish oils, look at magnesium, and just some sensible exercise regularly.

2. High blood pressure

So, this is often linked to heart disease, but it can be something that happens on its own. Again, because falling oestrogen will affect the blood vessels themselves, the heart has to work a lot harder to get the blood through the body. This is because the main arteries and the little arteries are not opening up to accommodate the blood that's flowing from the heart.

Also, high blood pressure can be caused by stress and anxiety, two common menopause symptoms. And also, who isn't stressed in day-to-day life and what's going on just now. Hormonal changes will also put extra pressure on your nervous system and that can also result in high blood pressure as well.

There are very few high blood pressure symptoms. So, this is why it's really important in menopause and post-menopausal to get your blood pressure checked regularly. Now, I do not mean buying a blood pressure machine and taking your blood pressure every day because that's going to cause more anxiety.

But see your physician or your pharmacist maybe once every six months just to get a regular check-up.

What can happen with high blood pressure? You can get dizziness. You can get headaches. You can sometimes get swollen ankles. You can get the fatigue and you can also get palpitations if you start to get that little bit extra anxiety.

But again, with this particular scenario, get it checked out by your doctor first. Please also have a look at my blog, 'Can menopause bring on high blood pressure?' for more tips and advice on how to minimise the risk of high blood pressure during menopause.

3. Diabetes

In menopause, one of the things that happen is that our insulin control or our insulin balance becomes much less effective.

And this can lead to either prediabetes or diabetes. What happens here is that our blood sugar levels rise too quickly. The insulin can't cope with it efficiently enough and if left, then this could lead to the condition of diabetes itself.

With this particular condition, symptoms again can vary. You can get flushes. You can get sweats. You can get tingling, especially in the lower legs, and the feet, and sometimes the hands. You can get excessive sweating. You can get fatigued, excessive thirst, and also needing to go to the toilet a lot.

And sometimes, you can also get that weight gain around the middle, again this is something that is also very common during menopause.

So, again, with this one, if your symptoms fit this particular scenario, please check with your doctor first. Please also check out my blog, 'How menopause affects your blood sugar levels' for tips on how to control your blood sugar levels a little bit better during menopause.

My Self-Care Tip: Other health issues to ask your doctor to check for during menopause

If your menopause symptoms appear worse or come back, especially after menopause, watch my self-care tip below, where I recommend a few tests you should ask your doctor for to rule out some other health issues that can arise during and after menopause:

So, I hope you've enjoyed this one. It is a serious one because one of the things we're finding over the years is that more and more women are coming to us with these particular symptoms. They are either ignoring them or they are being missed when they're going for health checks.

So, if you do go to your doctor, just make sure that you ask for a follow-up with all these tests so that they're not being missed and then you find maybe five or six years down the line, your condition has worsened.

If any of you have any tips on these, if any of you have had any experience with any of these and what you've done to help yourself, we would love to hear about it.

And until next week, take care.

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