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Why Menopause Matters

Menopause is more than just hot flashes and night sweats. While the symptoms of menopause can significantly impact a woman’s quality of life, not all women experience the same symptoms. Women can experience everything from sleep disturbances and mood changes to low libido and hair loss. Most symptoms begin in perimenopause, or the transition into menopause, and can last 7-10 years in some women. Whether a woman suffers from menopausal symptoms or not, all women can suffer the same consequences as a result of estrogen loss.

Increased Risk of Heart Disease

While menopause doesn’t cause heart disease, the symptoms of heart disease may become more prevalent as women go into menopause. Estrogen plays a role in blood flow and when women enter menopause and estrogen levels are depleted, the risk of heart disease may increase. While the relationship between estrogen and cardiac function is complex, it is important for women in midlife to recognize this connection and take the necessary precautions to mitigate their risk.

Increased Risk of Fracture

While menopause is a natural course of a woman’s life, osteoporosis and fractures do not have to be. As women enter menopause, they begin to lose bone at a rapid rate. It is estimated that women will lose 1-2% of bone per year for the first five years post menopause. Osteoporosis, or low bone mass, is common in women at midlife and not only affects quality of life and limits mobility, but it can also carry a significant financial burden.

Decreased Sexual Desire

Levels of sexual desire decrease as men and women age, however, women are 2-3 times more likely to experience this decrease than men. The severity of symptoms varies from woman to woman and is dependent on a variety of different factors. While some women are not bothered by their symptoms, other women are distressed and report a negative impact on their overall sexuality and quality of life. Understanding these changes and how to effectively communicate these changes to both your partner and your physician can help ease this transition.

So What Can You Do?

For women, the menopause transition is a good time to reassess your own health. Understanding how menopause may impact chronic disease risk will help you ultimately make smarter choices and lead a healthier life. Try these habits:

  1. Get regular exercise
  2. Adhere to a healthy diet – incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet while limiting processed foods and refined sugars
  3. Take Vitamin D3 – not only can this help with overall bone health,  but it also helps support a healthy immune system
  4. Speak with your doctor to ensure you are getting the proper screenings and discuss any medical concerns or symptoms that you may have

Remember: it’s never too late to start advocating for your health!

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About Sabrina K. Sahni, MD, NCMP

Dr. Sahni serves as a staff physician at the Cleveland Clinic Florida under the Department of Gynecology. She is a board-certified family medicine physician and a National Certified Menopause Practitioner.