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Friday, October 21, 2022

4 Health Risks that Increase with Menopause

Dr. Robert Wool

Often referred to as “going through the change,” perimenopause, the period leading up to menopause, can last several years. You are officially “in” menopause when you haven’t had a period for 12 consecutive months. While this often comes as a relief, there are several health risks that increase with menopause, thanks to lower estrogen levels. Below, we discuss four common risks—heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis and incontinence—and share steps you can take to reduce them.

Heart Disease & Stroke

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office on Women’s Health, before age 55, women have a lower risk of heart disease than men do. In part, that’s because estrogen helps balance good and bad cholesterol levels and keep blood vessels relaxed and open. By age 70, women have the same risk of heart disease as men.

Similarly, your risk of stroke doubles every decade after age 55 due to the build-up of cholesterol on artery walls leading to the brain.

Reduce your risk:

  • Know your numbers. Get blood pressure and cholesterol screenings on a regular basis. If your numbers increase, talk to your health provider about strategies to lower them.
  • Engage in regular physical activity. Exercise helps to keep your weight down and benefits nearly every system in your body, including heart and vascular. Just a 30-minute walk per day, even if you don’t do it all at once, is beneficial.
  • Eat a healthy diet. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables provides antioxidants, extra hydration and fiber, all of which benefit your heart and vascular system.


More common in women than men, osteoporosis is a condition in which your bones become brittle, weak and more prone to fractures. People naturally lose bone mass over their lifetimes, but when estrogen decreases after menopause, it is lost faster. 

Reduce your risk:

  • Make sure to get enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet. Foods like spinach, kale and okra (especially when eaten raw or lightly steamed) are good sources, as are fish (salmon, sardines, perch) and beans, including soybeans and white beans. Ask your health provider if calcium and vitamin D supplements make sense for you.
  • Schedule a bone density test, which is an accurate estimator of fracture risk. If it’s high, talk to your health provider about a plan to help keep your bones strong.
  • Engage in regular, weight-bearing or resistance exercises to strengthen your bones.

Urinary Incontinence

About half of women in menopause experience urinary incontinence, which is the accidental release of urine when laughing, sneezing, straining, bending or at other times. Women are twice as likely as men to experience this problem due to the strain of pregnancy and childbirth, as well as the decline in estrogen after menopause.

Reduce your risk:

  • Practice Kegel exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. We explained how and why to Kegel in our previous blog.
  • Talk to your health care provider as soon as you start experiencing bladder issues. The earlier treatment is started, the less impact the condition will have on your life.
  • Ask your health provider about treatment options, which can range from biofeedback and medications to non-invasive EMSELLA™ treatment and surgery.

With You for Life

We provide individualized care for our patients throughout their life cycles, including menopause. We encourage you to talk with us about any of your health concerns, so we can recommend screenings, strategies and treatment. If you need an appointment for a particular concern or a routine well-woman checkup, give us a call