To coincide with International Menopause Day, the International Menopause Society publish a report that suggests taking certain actions at the time of the menopause may be important for avoiding chronic diseases in later life.

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“Menopause provides women with an opportunity to review their health and lifestyle and to make changes which will benefit their future well-being,” says Dr. Lobo

In developed countries, the natural age of menopause is between 50 and 52 years, though in less developed countries menopause occurs sooner – in the late 40s.

Following menopause, women become more vulnerable to heart disease, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.

Because of this increased susceptibility to chronic disease in the decades that follow menopause, the report describes how the early post-menopause years are an important time for preventative action.

In particular, the International Menopause Society (IMS) say that lifestyle measures – such as healthy diet and physical activity – prevention of weight gain and engaging in mentally stimulating activities are “simple but effective” steps that women can take to benefit their future health.

“Do a little more exercise, eat a little less,” suggests lead author Dr. Roger Lobo, “if you consume alcohol, do so in moderation.”

“Menopause provides women with an opportunity to review their health and lifestyle and to make changes which will benefit their future well-being,” he adds.

The report also recommends that, following menopause, women should undergo regular health checks for chronic conditions such as cancer and heart disease – which kills more women than any other condition.

The use of estrogen and some menopausal hormone therapies (MHT, otherwise known hormone replacement therapy) within 10 years of menopause – or under the age of 60 – has been shown to reduce the incidence of heart disease and deaths from all causes among postmenopausal women.

The report also notes that new evidence suggests that some medications commonly used to prevent heart disease – such as statins and aspirin – work well in men but not in women, “so MHT may be the best treatment to help fend off coronary artery disease in women.”

However, MHT is not right for all women, as Dr. Lobo explains:

A consensus has developed that, in the right population, the benefits of MHT outweigh the risks. For women who have had a hysterectomy – around one third of women in developed countries – the effects of MHT are mostly positive. For the rest of menopausal women – that is women who are within 10 years of menopause, or under the age of 60 and who have not had a hysterectomy – the risks are generally few in comparison to the future health benefits.”

“The concerns regarding MHT have become more tempered over the last decade,” summarizes IMS President Rod Baber, “the consensus is that it helps most women both with menopausal symptoms, and with their future health, but needs to be targeted. You need to see your doctor and decide what’s right for you. Like all medicine, really”.

A separate International Menopause Day-related report by the UK-based not-for-profit health care provider Nuffield Health, meanwhile, finds that women feel they have little support, advice or treatment for menopause symptoms and hormonal changes.

Nuffield Health questioned 3,275 women in the UK between the ages of 40 and 65, of which 62% said they were going through hormonal changes or menopause symptoms that have a detrimental effect on their lives.

Overall, 1 in 4 women said they were struggling to cope with aspects of life due to their symptoms. Almost half (47%) of women with symptoms said they felt depressed, with more than a third (37%) suffering from anxiety.

More than two thirds (67%) of the women in the study said there was a general lack of support or advice for women going through menopause.