(BlackDoctor.org) — African American women are living long lives — there’s a good chance you have more than a third of your life ahead of you after menopause. And it’s more important than ever to take an active role in protecting your health post-menopause, especially since some conditions, like cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis, are more likely to occur during this time.
A drop in levels of estrogen and other hormones during menopause, unhealthy lifestyle habits, and mid-life stress can all add up to an increased risk of disease in women post-menopause. And since menopause is a life transition, it’s an excellent time to take stock of your overall health. Making smart lifestyle decisions can help prevent or delay the onset of many of these problems, including complications due to cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.
Smoking greatly increases your risk of lung cancer, heart disease, and stroke. Compared with nonsmokers, women who smoke experience menopause about 2 years sooner and have a much greater risk of developing blood clots when taking estrogens. Smokers are urged to quit before starting on hormone therapy. Ask your health care professional about modern tools to help you quit smoking.
Regular exercise benefits the heart and bones, helps you maintain a healthy weight, and may help promote weight loss in women who are overweight or obese. Walking is one of the best forms of exercise.
Eating wisely also helps maintain good postmenopausal health. Eating a variety of foods from the major food groups provides most of the nutrients you need to stay healthy. Foods rich in calcium and vitamin D help you maintain strong bones. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, the recommended daily intake of calcium is 1200 to 1500 mg/day, to be accompanied by the daily intake of 600 to 1000 IU of Vitamin D. Limiting fat, sugar, and alcohol consumption can contribute to postmenopausal weight loss or help you maintain a healthy weight as well. Your health care professional can check your cholesterol level and advise you about dietary changes that could curb heart disease. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water.
Practice safe sex
Many pregnancies in women over 40 are not planned. It’s dangerous to assume that you won’t get pregnant until you’ve gone at least a year without a period. And menopause does not protect you against sexually transmitted diseases. If you don’t use male or female condoms, you are not protected from disease.
See your health care professional regularly
Your health care professional performs routine screening tests, such as checking for high blood pressure or cholesterol, examining your breasts for breast cancer, and performing a Pap smear to check for cervical cancer. After age 50, you should also be checked for colon cancer. You can work with your health care professional to prevent or manage diseases.
Staying physically and mentally active is good for your overall postmenopausal health and well-being. Regular physical activity like exercise offers women many benefits such as the ability to handle stress more effectively and maintain a healthy weight. Staying mentally active also offers many benefits to postmenopausal women. Engaging in regular mental activity such as reading or taking classes can help build new neural connections in the brain and could potentially stimulate brain cell growth, which may help keep you mentally sharp and reduce memory loss. Use this new stage of your life to explore new opportunities, indulge in your hobbies, and enjoy yourself!