Surprising Health Risks that Happen After Menopause .You can’t control aging or the loss of your period—but you can take better stock of your health to reduce your risk of common post-menopausal health conditions.
Sleep apnea is pretty common for postmenopausal women but, unfortunately, nearly 90 percent of women are not diagnosed, says Dr. Pinkerton, citing The Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study. (Related: These are silent signs you could have sleep apnea.) Unlike men, women may not have the hallmark signs of the sleep disorder—snoring, pauses of breath, and excessive daytime sleepiness, for instance. Instead, they may experience such atypical symptoms as insomnia, morning headache, fatigue, tiredness, depression, and anxiety, she notes.
The estrogen your ovaries produce before menopause provides powerful protection for your heart. It increases HDL (“good”) cholesterol and lowers LDL (“bad”) cholesterol; dilates blood vessels so that blood flow increases; and prevents high blood pressure (a major cause of stroke) and cholesterol-laden plaque, which causes coronary heart disease. Makes sense then that a marked reduction of estrogen after menopause makes your risk of heart disease climb.
Breast cancer is more likely to strike postmenopausal women than younger women. But in this case, you can blame your birthday instead of your estrogen levels. For a 30-year old woman, the chance of developing breast cancer over the next 10 years is one in 227. By age 60, the risk jumps to one in 28, according to the National Cancer Institute. “The biggest factor for breast cancer that you can reverse is weight gain after menopause,” Cynthia Geyer, MD, medical director of Canyon Ranch in Lenox, Massachusetts,
That eight- to 10-pound weight gain common during “the change” can certainly be a trigger for women with a predisposition for or past history of disorder eating. And research backs it up: A study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders found that the menopausal transition (with its hormonal fluctuations and body composition changes) is linked to increased eating disorders and negative body image.
Women account for more than 75 percent of the 50 million Americans living with autoimmune disorders—and, if you’re postmenopausal, you’re particularly vulnerable. Although the reasons are unclear, researchers found that the risk of developing autoimmune diseases—including lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Graves’ disease, scleroderma, and thyroiditis—rises after menopause, according to a study in the journal Expert Review of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Urinary incontinence (involuntarily urine leakage when you laugh or sneeze) is particularly common after menopause. This is likely due to the thinning of the urethra (caused by declining estrogen) as well as weakened pelvic floor muscles (a result of vaginal childbirth), Pinkerton says. During this time, you’re also more prone to recurring urinary tract infections (UTI), according to a study from the Washington University School of Medicine. That’s because estrogen also helps keep bacteria out. Some preventative steps: Do those Kegels, drink plenty of fluids, and hit the ladies’ room before and after sex. These home remedies for UTI could help too.
Declining estrogen and increasing age strike again, as they make it harder for your liver to repair from the harmful effects of alcohol, infections, or excess fat. “Women are more susceptible to organ damage from alcohol,” Pinkerton says. Women also develop alcohol-induced liver disease, alcoholic hepatitis, and die from cirrhosis, which may all be related to estrogen according to animal research, she adds.