We’ve all heard about hot flushes and night sweats, but not many women know about the changes our bodies face after the menopause.
Here are certain aspects of post-menopause health and wellbeing that you need to be aware of.
What does postmenopausal actually mean?
The years before your periods stop completely is the perimenopause – your hormones are in flux, causing symptoms such as hot flushes – and the menopause is technically your last period.1
Once you’ve gone 12 months with no periods, you’re officially postmenopausal.
For many women, this can be very liberating: not only are you free from periods and any issues you had with them, most perimenopausal symptoms usually vanish too.
This means you may feel healthier and more energetic than you have for some time.2
However, there are some specific health issues that may now appear on the horizon.
Post-menopausal women have a higher risk of developing osteoporosis - this is linked to declining levels of the female hormone oestrogen.3
Oestrogen tells bone cells to stop breaking down, so your bones can become more fragile after the menopause.
The average woman loses 25% of her bone density between menopause and the age of 60, and it continues to decline throughout your life.4
What you can do:
- Exercise - particularly weight-bearing exercise such as walking and dancing, helps maintain bone density.
- Get enough calcium - it’s important to keep your levels of bone-protective calcium topped up by eating plenty of green leafy veg, dairy, nuts and seeds.
- Get enough Vitamin D - as it helps your body use calcium.5 The government recommends that all adults take a 10mcg vitamin D supplement every day.
Oestrogen helps protect your heart and blood vessels but after menopause your risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), including heart disease, increases.
You may be more at risk of developing circulatory disorders such as high blood pressure and stroke, too.6
What you can do:7
- Eat a healthy diet - find out what the best foods for menopause are.
- Stay active - here are 19 ways to fit exercise into your daily routine.
- Stop/avoid smoking - read up on some tips here.
Your GP can assess your risk and offer tailored advice, if needed, while HRT may be beneficial for certain women who have a particular risk of developing CVD.8
Changes to your body shape – and weight
Many older women blame the menopause for putting on weight, but there’s not a lot of evidence that hormone changes lead directly to weight gain.
Experts think it’s more likely due to the ageing process, a slowing metabolism, and being less active.9
That said, research suggests menopause may cause fat to be redistributed around your stomach, meaning many women change from a pear shape to an apple shape.
However, carrying extra weight around the middle is known to up your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and CVD.10
What you can do:
- Get to (or stick to) a healthy weight - You may need fewer calories in your 50s and beyond, so focus on a fresh wholefood diet, and cut down on sweet or fatty treats and alcohol.
- Exercise can also help you maintain muscle mass, which keeps your body burning calories more efficiently.11
Changes to your skin, hair and nails
Research suggests your skin loses around 30% of its collagen – the substance that keeps it ‘elastic’ – in the first five years after menopause, and then it drops dramatically.
You may notice your skin becomes much drier or spot the appearance of deeper wrinkles, too.
At the same time, lack of oestrogen causes the hair on your head to thin, and/or it may appear elsewhere (hello, stubborn chin hairs).12
What you can do:
- Up your intake of vitamin C, iron, zinc and biotin - You can get all these beauty-boosting nutrients through a diet packed with varied fruit and veg, or consider taking a supplement.
- Switch up your skincare routine - perhaps to milder cleansers and richer moisturisers.13
These changes to the skin on your face can also affect the skin on your body – including your vagina.
A lack of oestrogen and falling collagen levels can trigger vaginal thinning,14 which can impact your sex life and also lead to bladder problems.
Discover the tips and tricks to help improve your sex life post-menopause.
Need more in-depth advice about post-menopause life? Why not book an online consultation with one of our Women's Health experts?
Last updated: 8 June 2022