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Menopause and Your Health

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Changes in your body in the years around menopause increase your chances of having certain health problems. Lower levels of estrogen and other changes related to aging (such as possibly gaining weight) increase women’s risk for heart disease, stroke and osteoporosis.

There are many important steps you can take to build your health in the years around menopause:

Eat well. Keep some key points in mind…

  • Older people need just as many nutrients but tend to need fewer calories for energy. Make sure you have a balanced diet.
  • Women over age 50 need 2.4 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin B-12 and 1.5 milligrams of vitamin B6 each day. Ask your doctor if you need a vitamin supplement.
  • After menopause, a woman’s calcium needs go up to maintain bone health. Women age 51 and older should get 1,200 milligrams (mg) of calcium each day. Vitamin D also is important to bone health. Women age 51 to 70 should get 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D each day. Women age 71 and older need 800 IU of vitamin D each day.
  • Women past menopause who are still having vaginal bleeding because they are using menopausal hormone therapy might need extra iron.

Be active. Exercise can help your bones, heart, mood and more. Ask your doctor about what activities are right for you. Aim to do…

  • At least two hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate aerobic physical activity…or 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity…or some combination of the two.
  • Exercises that build muscle strength on two days each week.

Quit smoking. Smoking hurts your health in many ways, including by damaging your bones. Stay away from secondhand smoke, and get help quitting if you need it.

Take care of your gynecological health. You will still need certain tests such as a pelvic exam after menopause. Most women need a Pap test every three years. Depending on your health history, you may need a Pap test more often, so check with your doctor. Also, remember to ask how often you need mammograms (breast X-rays). In addition to gynecologists, your internist or family physician can do many gynecological screenings. You also may need to see a specialist for some specific problems, such as a urogynecologist for urinary incontinence.

Ask your doctor about immunizations and screenings. Discuss blood pressure, bone density and other tests. Find out about flu and other shots.

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