Menopause is a new life stage and a good opportunity for a woman to evaluate her health and take steps to improve it by cutting out bad habits like smoking, excessive drinking and too much stress; and increasing the good ones like eating well, exercising, losing extra weight, doing regular breast checks and having regular medical check-ups.
However, we prematurely menopausal women have unique concerns we must consider. A lack of oestrogen for many years will take its toll on our bodies which is why Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is often advised. Here’s Dr. Andrew Shelling from the University of Auckland:
“Most women with premature menopause are advised to take HRT until the age of 50 for the treatment of menopausal symptoms, and for long-term protection against osteoporosis. Women who are concerned about avoiding pregnancy are often advised to take the combined oral contraceptive pill. This is a very difficult area, and there is divided opinion among the medical profession what is the best way of dealing with hormone replacement for women with premature menopause. It is difficult to make statements about what all women should do, as there will be individual issues for each person. You should discuss this with your health professional.”
Women with a history of hormone-sensitive cancer are advised against HRT. There are other therapies available to aid symptom relief and promote bone health. Lifestyle changes can also help.
Some studies have shown that HRT can increase risk of breast cancer, endometrial cancer, stroke and cardiovascular events in older women. It is impossible to extrapolate these results to young women but, we are sad to say, there is very little data on women with early menopause. We strongly advise you to keep up-to-date with the latest thinking in this area, discuss your personal risk factors with your health professional and investigate any irregularities.
So, what can you do? Here’s Dr. Andrew Shelling again:
“Women with premature menopause would significantly improve their health by stopping smoking. Smoking has the direct effect of decreasing the amount of active oestrogen, and contributes to earlier menopause. It is also a major risk factor in heart disease and osteoporosis. Smoking has a multitude of effects on fertility at a number of different levels, and limits fertility in a significant number of women.
“There is substantial evidence that a well-balanced diet and regular exercise are going to improve your health and alleviate the long term effects of oestrogen deficiency. Some foods can interfere with your ability to absorb calcium, such as tea, salt and alcohol. Most importantly, you can increase the amount of calcium in your diet. Vitamin supplements may help, but won’t replace a well-balanced diet. Regular sensible exercise, at least 30 minutes 3 times a week will offer protection against coronary heart disease and osteoporosis. Weight-bearing exercise is the best type of exercise, as it helps to maintain bone strength. Walking, running, tennis, aerobics and dancing are all good forms of weight-bearing exercise.”
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