Routinely monitoring risk factors for disease and getting early screening tests are important during menopause and beyond. Once menopause begins, it's a good time to ask your doctor or other health care professional which tests are most appropriate for you. To help start the conversation, you can complete the Menopause Health Checklist and make an appointment to discuss it.
Some of the most commonly recommended screenings for postmenopausal women
include the following:
Cholesterol checks every 5 years
Blood pressure screenings every 1 to 2
Osteoporosis screening, known as bone mineral density testing
Annual colorectal cancer screening, after age 50, including either:
Fecal occult blood tests annually, or
Colonoscopy every 5 years
Are There Other Steps to Staying Healthy?
You can do plenty to help keep yourself healthy and strong by developing good health habits.
Maintain a healthy weight. Weight gain is common as women transition into menopause. There's no scientific proof that dwindling estrogen levels are to blame. However, your body generally requires fewer calories after menopause. That means you might eat the same amount as you did before menopause and still gain weight. Improving your diet and boosting your physical activity will help you maintain lean muscle mass and prevent you from gaining extra pounds. Consult your doctor before you initiate any changes in your diet or exercise program.
Eat right. The latest U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend women over age 50 limit the daily calories they eat to between 1,600 (if you're sedentary) and 2,200 (if you're very physically active each day). Emphasize a variety of fresh, whole fruits and vegetables particularly cooked dry beans; leafy greens, like spinach and romaine lettuce; and orange foods, such as sweet potatoes, carrots, oranges, and cantaloupe. Whole-grain breads and cereals are important as are three daily cups of fat-free or low-fat milk. If milk products bother you, opt for calcium-rich alternatives, such as fortified cereals or soy beverages. Also, limit highly processed foods such as frozen meals, cakes, crackers, and cookies which tend to be high in sodium and saturated fat. Talk to your doctor about any dietary or herbal supplements that you may be taking or considering taking.
Exercise regularly to maintain a healthy weight and strong bones and muscles. To reduce your risk for chronic diseases, you should do moderately intense exercise, such as walking, for 30 minutes most days of the week. You can achieve even more health benefits, such as preventing weight gain, during menopause with more vigorous and longer bouts of exercise. Before beginning any exercise program, women should consult their doctors. Aerobic, strengthening, and stretching exercises are all important for good physical fitness.
Quit smoking. The Surgeon General's Office calls this the single best change smokers can make to prevent debilitating diseases. Smoking is a leading cause of heart disease in women, as well as lung cancer, which kills more women than breast, uterine, and cervical cancer combined. Within 24 hours of quitting, the chance of having a heart attack drops, and after 1 year, the risk for heart disease is cut in half. Your doctor can be a terrific source of information about treatment options and support services that make quitting easier.
Only your doctor or other health care professional can decide the best steps for you to follow in order to help maintain your good health. That's why it's so important to talk to your doctor.