Health Recommendations for Postmenopausal Women

Respected and ongoing research has looked at the most common causes of death, disability, and poor quality of life in postmenopausal women. The causes include heart disease, diseases of blood vessels, diabetes, depression, cancer, and bone loss (osteoporosis). Many things can be done to help lower the chances of developing these and other common problems:

CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE

Heart Disease: A heart attack is a medical emergency. Know the signs and symptoms of a heart attack. Below are things women can do to reduce their risk for heart disease.

  • Do not smoke. If you smoke, quit.

  • Aim for a healthy weight. Being overweight causes many preventable deaths. Eat a healthy and balanced diet and drink an adequate amount of liquids.

  • Get moving. Make a commitment to be more physically active. Aim for 30 minutes of activity on most, if not all days of the week.

  • Eat for heart health. Choose a diet that is low in saturated fat and cholesterol and eliminate trans fat. Include whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. Read and understand the labels on food containers before buying.

  • Know your numbers. Ask your caregiver to check your blood pressure, cholesterol (total, HDL, LDL, triglycerides) and blood glucose. Work with your caregiver on improving your entire clinical picture.

  • High blood pressure. Limit or stop your table salt intake (try salt substitute and food seasonings). Avoid salty foods and drinks. Read labels on food containers before buying. Eating well and exercising can help control high blood pressure.

STROKE

Stroke is a medical emergency. Stroke may be the result of a blood clot in a blood vessel in the brain or by a brain hemorrhage (bleeding). Know the signs and symptoms of a stroke. To lower the risk of developing a stroke:

  • Avoid fatty foods.

  • Quit smoking.

  • Control your diabetes, blood pressure, and irregular heart rate.

THROMBOPHLEBITIS (BLOOD CLOT) OF THE LEG

Becoming overweight and leading a stationary lifestyle may also contribute to developing blood clots. Controlling your diet and exercising will help lower the risk of developing blood clots.

CANCER SCREENING

  • Breast Cancer: Take steps to reduce your risk of breast cancer.

  • You should practice "breast self-awareness." This means understanding the normal appearance and feel of your breasts and should include breast self-examination. Any changes detected, no matter how small, should be reported to your caregiver.

  • After age 40, you should have a clinical breast exam (CBE) every year.

  • Starting at age 40, you should consider having a mammogram (breast X-ray) every year.

  • If you have a family history of breast cancer, talk to your caregiver about genetic screening.

  • If you are at high risk for breast cancer, talk to your caregiver about having an MRI and a mammogram every year.

  • Intestinal or Stomach Cancer: Tests to consider are a rectal exam, fecal occult blood, sigmoidoscopy, and colonoscopy. Women who are high risk may need to be screened at an earlier age and more often.

  • Cervical Cancer:

  • Beginning at age 30, you should have a Pap test every 3 years as long as the past 3 Pap tests have been normal.

  • If you have had past treatment for cervical cancer or a condition that could lead to cancer, you need Pap tests and screening for cancer for at least 20 years after your treatment.

  • If you had a hysterectomy for a problem that was not cancer or a condition that could lead to cancer, then you no longer need Pap tests.

  • If you are between ages 65 and 70, and you have had normal Pap tests going back 10 years, you no longer need Pap tests.

  • If Pap tests have been discontinued, risk factors (such as a new sexual partner) need to be reassessed to determine if screening should be resumed.

  • Some medical problems can increase the chance of getting cervical cancer. In these cases, your caregiver may recommend more frequent screening and Pap tests.

  • Uterine Cancer: If you have vaginal bleeding after reaching menopause, you should notify your caregiver.

  • Ovarian cancer: Other than yearly pelvic exams, there are no reliable tests available to screen for ovarian cancer at this time except for yearly pelvic exams.

  • Lung Cancer: Yearly chest X-rays can detect lung cancer and should be done on high risk women, such as cigarette smokers and women with chronic lung disease (emphysema).

  • Skin Cancer: A complete body skin exam should be done at your yearly examination. Avoid overexposure to the sun and ultraviolet light lamps. Use a strong sun block cream when in the sun. All of these things are important in lowering the risk of skin cancer.

MENOPAUSE

Menopause Symptoms: Hormone therapy products are effective for treating symptoms associated with menopause:

  • Moderate to severe hot flashes.

  • Night sweats.

  • Mood swings.

  • Headaches.

  • Tiredness.

  • Loss of sex drive.

  • Insomnia.

  • Other symptoms.

Hormone replacement carries certain risks, especially in older women. Women who use or are thinking about using estrogen or estrogen with progestin treatments should discuss that with their caregiver. Your caregiver will help you understand the benefits and risks. The ideal dose of hormone replacement therapy is not known. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has concluded that hormone therapy should be used only at the lowest doses and for the shortest amount of time to reach treatment goals.

OSTEOPOROSIS

Protecting Against Bone Loss and Preventing Fracture:

If you use hormone therapy for prevention of bone loss (osteoporosis), the risks for bone loss must outweigh the risk of the therapy. Ask your caregiver about other medications known to be safe and effective for preventing bone loss and fractures. To guard against bone loss or fractures, the following is recommended:

  • If you are less than age 50, take 1000 mg of calcium and at least 600 mg of Vitamin D per day.

  • If you are greater than age 50 but less than age 70, take 1200 mg of calcium and at least 600 mg of Vitamin D per day.

  • If you are greater than age 70, take 1200 mg of calcium and at least 800 mg of Vitamin D per day.

Smoking and excessive alcohol intake increases the risk of osteoporosis. Eat foods rich in calcium and vitamin D and do weight bearing exercises several times a week as your caregiver suggests.

DIABETES

Diabetes Melitus: If you have Type I or Type 2 diabetes, you should keep your blood sugar under control with diet, exercise and recommended medication. Avoid too many sweets, starchy and fatty foods. Being overweight can make control more difficult.

COGNITION AND MEMORY

Cognition and Memory: Menopausal hormone therapy is not recommended for the prevention of cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer's disease or memory loss.

DEPRESSION

Depression may occur at any age, but is common in elderly women. The reasons may be because of physical, medical, social (loneliness), or financial problems and needs. If you are experiencing depression because of medical problems and control of symptoms, talk to your caregiver about this. Physical activity and exercise may help with mood and sleep. Community and volunteer involvement may help your sense of value and worth. If you have depression and you feel that the problem is getting worse or becoming severe, talk to your caregiver about treatment options that are best for you.

ACCIDENTS

Accidents are common and can be serious in the elderly woman. Prepare your house to prevent accidents. Eliminate throw rugs, place hand bars in the bath, shower and toilet areas. Avoid wearing high heeled shoes or walking on wet, snowy, and icy areas. Limit or stop driving if you have vision or hearing problems, or you feel you are unsteady with you movements and reflexes.

HEPATITIS C

Hepatitis C is a type of viral infection affecting the liver. It is spread mainly through contact with blood from an infected person. It can be treated, but if left untreated, it can lead to severe liver damage over years. Many people who are infected do not know that the virus is in their blood. If you are a "baby-boomer", it is recommended that you have one screening test for Hepatitis C. 

IMMUNIZATIONS

Several immunizations are important to consider having during your senior years, including:

  • Tetanus, diptheria, and pertussis booster shot.

  • Influenza every year before the flu season begins.

  • Pneumonia vaccine.

  • Shingles vaccine.

  • Others as indicated based on your specific needs. Talk to your caregiver about these.