Complications

Osteoporosis

Bone density may be lost at a fast rate for the first few years after menopause because estrogen plays a role in building new bone. The risk of fractures to the hip, wrist, and spine are especially pronounced in postmenopausal women. Studies show that half of U.S. women over 50 years old are likely to experience a bone break or fracture due to osteoporosisLearn more about osteoporosis.

You're at a higher risk for developing osteoporosis if:

  • there is a family history of osetoporosis
  • you've broken a bone as an adult
  • you had surgery to remove both ovaries before natural menopause
  • you experienced early menopause
  • you were calcium insufficient throughout your life
  • you've had extended bed rest
  • you smoke
  • you are prone to heavy drinking
  • you have a thin or small body frame

To combat this risk, be sure to get calcium and vitamin D daily. Exercise, especially strength training, is also important to keep bones strong as is eating a healthy diet

Heart Disease

Cardiovascular disease is known to increase when estrogen levels decline. Recent studies also show that women who experience early menopause are almost twice as likely as the general population to have a heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular disease later in life. While it remains unclear whether early menopause is a predictor of heart disease, of if heart disease is a predictor of risk for early menopause, it is apparent that there is some connection.

Although heart disease is the leading cause of death in women, there are steps you can take to lower your risk. These include keeping your cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure within normal, healthy levels. Also, quit smoking, exercise regularly, and eat a well-balanced diet that's low in saturated fat.  Learn more about how to prevent heart disease.

Weight Gain

Because many women gain weight during the transitional period of menopause, it may help to eat 200 to 400 fewer calories each day and exercise more frequently during this time.

Urinary Incontinence

This often occurs as you age because the tissues in your vagina and urethra lose their elasticity. There are several types of incontinence:

  • Urge incontinence — You may experience a strong urge to urinate followed by an involuntary loss of urine.
  • Stress incontinence — This type of incontinence is marked by a loss of urine while coughing, laughing, or lifting.
  • Overflow incontinence — You may have problems with emptying your bladder, so leaks may occur because the bladder is often full.
  • Functional incontinence — This type occurs when you can't get to the toilet fast enough because your physical condition keeps you from moving quickly.

Alzheimer's Disease

Recent studies suggest that there is a connection between the age of onset of menopause and the age at which Alzheimer's disease is diagnosed. Scientists are still unsure whether early-onset menopause is a predictor of early-onset Alzheimer's or if the relationship is the reverse: that problems in the brain lead to an earlier menopause.