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By Rebecca Prescott

The term post-menopausal sometimes needs a little clarification. It is usually applied to women who have completed the menopause, meaning they have not had a period for over twelve months. This can be due to a natural menopause, or a surgery induced menopause. Women who are taking hormone replacement therapy are not considered to be post menopausal as they may experience symptoms of the menopause when they stop this treatment.

Common post menopausal problems can be experienced any time from the onset of the menopause onwards. After the menopause, women never really stop being post menopausal. Most of the physical and emotional problems that women encounter after the menopause are caused by decreasing hormone levels, particularly estrogen.

Conditions relating to the vagina and bladder are often experienced post menopause because these parts of the body require estrogen to remain healthy. Thinning of the tissue in these areas can cause incontinence, bladder infections, growths or polyps in the uterus, and vaginal dryness, as well as an increased risk of uterine cancer.

Other serious physical conditions linked to post menopausal women are osteoporosis and heart disease. Osteoporosis is common as women begin to lose bone density more rapidly due to reduction in estrogen. Risk of heart disease is increased due to atherosclerosis, or the hardening of their arteries.

Emotionally, post menopausal women may experience depression, fatigue due to insomnia, hot flashes and night sweats, and a reduction in self confidence and libido. Although these emotional responses can be triggered by hormonal changes, they may also be related to other factors. Reaching the menopause, and the changes happening in her body, may make a woman feel old, unattractive and worthless and these feelings can trigger depression and lack of sex drive.

So what can post menopausal women do to limit these common problems? Exercise is one crucial way to control these conditions. While we are not talking about running marathons, some exercise such as walking, gardening and light aerobics can have a wide range of benefits.

Exercise keeps bones, joints and cartilage healthy, guarding against osteoporosis as well as arthritis. It reduces the risk of heart disease by stimulating circulation, controls weight, and enhances emotional wellbeing.

Maintaining a healthy diet is another way for post menopausal women to remain problem free. They may want to think about supplements such as vitamin D and calcium to guard against osteoporosis. Not smoking may not only put off the menopause by a couple of years, it will also reduce the risk of heart disease and osteoporosis. Using progesterone creams may keep the vagina and bladder area healthier, and make intercourse more comfortable and therefore more appealing.

There are many problems associated with post menopausal women, but by exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy lifestyle they don’t have to mean a huge decrease in quality of life.

The information in this article is for educational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice.