Menopause commonly gets a bad rap as a point in life when hot flashes, overactive bladder, and other embarrassing symptoms begin. In fact, it’s during perimenopause (months or years before menopause occurs) when the main side effects happen. You achieve menopause itself 12 months after your final period, and you are then in the phase call postmenopause.
But as a result of several factors, including a lower level of estrogen, postmenopausal women are at increased risk for a number of health conditions, such as osteoporosis and heart disease.
How to identify Postmenopausal?
A woman is considered to be postmenopausal when she has not had her period for an entire year. Having your doctor measure your follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) level is another way to see if you are near menopause. FSH is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland (located at the base of the brain). Your FSH levels will dramatically rise as your ovaries begin to shut down; these levels are easily checked through one blood test. FSH levels can fluctuate during perimenopause, so the only way to know you are definitely postmenopausal is when you have had no period for a year.
HOW POSTMENOPAUSE AFFECTS THE BODY
We don’t fully appreciate the natural hormone estrogen until it’s gone. This humble hormone is essential for maintaining health throughout a woman’s body – not just the reproductive system. With a decrease in estrogen, your body’s major systems can be affected too.
Here’s how estrogen relates to the rest of your body once you’re postmenopause.
Estrogen may have a positive effect on the inner layer of artery wall, helping to regulate blood flow. That’s why researchers believe a decline in estrogen after menopause may be a factor in the increase in heart disease among post-menopausal women, according to the American Heart Association. Even though heart disease risk goes up after menopause, taking estrogen as a medication can actually increase your risk further.
There is a direct relationship between the lack of estrogen after menopause and bone loss. Women who’ve gone through menopause are more likely to develop osteoporosis, a condition that causes bone to become brittle and weak.
Lower levels of estrogen may cause the urethra lining to thin. Also, the pelvic muscles around the urethra may get weaker due to aging or vaginal childbirth. This can increase the risk of bladder leakage (incontinence), urinary tract infections, and other urogynecology problems.
Estrogen helps maintain the natural lubrication in the walls of the vagina. Lowered estrogen during menopause causes the vaginal tissues to become thinner and more easily irritated during sex—or dry out. This can lead to an increase in urinary tract infections and genitourinary syndrome of menopause, also known as atrophic vaginitis or vaginal atrophy.
Reduced estrogen may lower your metabolic rate, which prompts your body to store fat instead of burning it. But menopause alone isn’t to blame. Age-related weight gain often occurs with a natural decrease in physical activity.
When to meet Doctor?
Even if you are postmenopausal, getting regular check-ups and preventive screening tests such as pelvic exams, Pap smears, breast exams, and mammograms are among the most important things you can do for yourself. How often you need a check-up depends on your health history. Talk to your doctor to determine how often you should be seen.