2 health risks women can face during or after menopause

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Menopause Advisor
Ask Eileen

09 August 2021

Today's topic

Today on A.Vogel Talks Menopause, I take a look at two health risks that women can face during or after menopause.

Menopause can give rise to several health conditions, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes, which I've looked at before. But there are more health risks or problems that menopausal women can be more prone to.

So, let's look at two other common health issues that women can face, including why they can occur, and what you can do to help yourself.

1. Osteoporosis

Unfortunately, this is a really common problem and there are very often no symptoms. Often the first time that women know they have it is when they fall over and break a bone.

Why does this happen?

First of all, women have smaller bones than men so they're usually more prone to fractures. We know that low oestrogen plays a big part in bone health. Oestrogen itself supports bone health so if your oestrogen starts to fall as you approach menopause and go through menopause, this can have a direct effect on the bones.

This means that less calcium can be delivered to the bones so, over time, the bones become more porous and become weaker. And even a small amount of trauma like just tripping over and maybe putting your hand down or falling on your side can cause wrist fractures, arm fractures, and hip fractures.

The other risk can be smoking. Calcium deficiency is also a really big factor. This can be caused by a poor diet.

It can be low vitamin D, which is really prevalent in the UK, and also, low magnesium. And your bones need vitamin D and magnesium to carry the calcium to the bones. So, if you're deficient in either of these two, that can have a direct effect on how much calcium gets to the bone.

Lack of exercise can also weaken the bones. Weight-bearing exercises help to strengthen the bones, so it is important to do this type of exercise regularly.
It could also be low thyroid function. We have something called the parathyroid gland which is just above the thyroid. This is involved in making sure that there's the right balance of calcium in the bones. So, if your thyroid starts to go a little bit wobbly in menopause, then this can also have a direct effect on how healthy your bones are.

What can you do to prevent osteoporosis as you go through menopause?

Calcium is vital in your diet and getting it from food is the best way. So, this could include eating calcium-rich foods such as dark green leafy vegetables, legumes, pulses, and a small amount of dairy. But just remember that dairy is high in fat and low in magnesium, so it may not necessarily be the best source of calcium for yourself.

You can also look at dried fruit, but just a minimum amount. Very often, it contains a nice, high amount of calcium and magnesium.

Remember the exercise, regular weight-bearing exercise can help to keep your bones strong and healthy. Even something like a 10-minute or 15-minute brisk walk every day is going to make a difference, long term, to the strength of your bones.

You can also look at calcium supplements. The only thing I would say here is to make sure it's a combination supplement. If you take calcium on its own and you are deficient in vitamin D, or magnesium, or even vitamin K, then the calcium you're taking will go just about everywhere else but apart from your bones.

So if you're going to get a calcium supplement, then make sure it has magnesium, vitamin K, and vitamin D in it. And some supplements also have a little bit of boron which can be quite helpful, too.

For more tips and advice, head over to my blog '6 ways to protect your bones during menopause'.

2. Thyroid problems

This is another common problem in menopause that can start to manifest before you get any symptoms. The other problem is that a lot of thyroid symptoms are the same as menopause ones, so a lot of women think that they are experiencing menopause symptoms when in fact, their thyroid is starting to wobble a little bit.

Why does this happen?

The thyroid is part of what's called our endocrine system. When we talk about hormones, most people just think of the sex hormones, which is your oestrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, but we have a whole range of hormones that manage other areas of our body.

Our nervous system and our adrenals are run by hormones, and so is our thyroid. So, if there is stress going on in any area of the endocrine system, for example in menopause, it would be the ovaries, then that can put pressure on all the other systems. And this is why, very often, in menopause, a lot of women suffer from anxiety because their nervous system becomes compromised, but the thyroid is another gland that can be affected. And this can then manifest into a whole range of symptoms, as I mentioned before, very similar to menopause ones.

There are two situations here:

Low thyroid function

This is when your thyroid starts to slow down. So very often, this would cause symptoms, such as fatigue, low mood, anxiety. It will affect your sleep. It can cause joint pain. You may find that your hair and your nails start to deteriorate.

You can also get hair loss. A classic sign of low thyroid function is when you start to lose the corner of your eyebrows. You can feel cold all the time, regardless of how hot it is, and you can also get weight gain, sometimes quite quickly, and you will find it practically impossible to lose this weight gain.

Overactive thyroid

The other opposite scale is an overactive thyroid. For this one, you may feel jangly. You may feel that you're on edge the whole time. You would get flushes and sweats. You can't sleep because your mind and you just feel your body is racing the whole time. You may get sudden weight loss and you find in that situation that it's very difficult to put the weight back on.

So, in this situation, if you are suffering from any combination of these symptoms, ask our doctor for a thyroid test. This is something I recommend that every single woman asks for as they start menopause because if this is happening, then no amount of hormonal remedies will put this right, whereas it can be treated simply once you get diagnosed.

If you are approaching menopause or going into menopause and your thyroid is ok, the best supplement for thyroid support is Kelp. And this is something that you can start at any age, as long as you're not on any thyroid medication. And what we have found is that many women who have supplemented with Kelp pre-menopause, find that they go through menopause that little bit easier because their thyroid is stable throughout the whole time.

I hope you found this one helpful. As usual, if any of you out there have any tips or you found something that's helped you in either of these two situations, then please share because we would love to hear about it.

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Key things to take away from this blog:

  • Osteoporosis and thyroid problems, including low thyroid function and overactive thyroid, are common health risks which women can be prone to during or after menopause
  • For osteoporosis, as well as including calcium-rich foods in your diet, I generally recommend that you also make sure that you are not low in magnesium or vitamin d. These two nutrients are essential for ensuring that calcium is delivered to your bones to keep them healthy and strong
  • Thyroid problems often have very similar symptoms to menopause so I normally recommend that women ask their doctor for a thyroid test to rule this out.

Until next week, take care.

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