Women's Health

Self Assessment: Menopause

Menopause is one of the natural cycles of a woman’s reproductive life that is defined as the cessation of menstruation and usually occurs when a woman is over age 40. Menopause is the ideal time to take stock of your health. Now is a good time to make an appointment with your doctor and have a physical exam. Be sure to have a yearly Pap smear, mammogram, and breast exam, and do monthly breast self-examinations. Check your weight, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and assess your physical condition. Discuss your family history with your doctor, including if you have any relatives with heart disease, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, and other conditions, and ask about your own risk for those diseases.

Change your diet by reducing your fat intake and increasing your consumption of fruits and vegetables. Also, it is advisable to begin a program of moderate exercise, such as walking for 30 minutes at a moderate pace, three to five times a week. If you enjoy exercise, add other types to your regimen -- yoga is great for stretching; swimming, bicycling, dancing, and cross-country skiing are good for aerobic exercise; you might even want to join a gym.

Menopause is also the time when you may wish to consider hormone replacement therapy (ERT/HRT) for relief of symptoms and long-term benefits on your bones and heart. You should discuss advantages and risks of hormone replacement with your doctor. Your doctor may also suggest other health measures that will help you feel better and live longer. 

General Good Health Practices At Menopause

  • Stop smoking
  • Yearly physical exam
  • Pap smear, mammogram, breast exam, chest x-ray if you smoke
  • Blood pressure, weight
  • Blood cholesterol
  • Monthly breast self-exam
  • Low-fat diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in red meat consumption
  • Moderate exercise (30 minutes of vigorous walking three times a week)
  • Calcium 1000-1500 mg/day plus vitamin D 400 IU/day or 5-10 minutes of daily sunshine
  • No more than 1-2 drinks of alcohol per day
  • Discuss ERT/HRT with your doctor

With a longer life expectancy, women are living well into their 80s. By paying attention to your health in your 40s and 50s, you can help make the years beyond menopause "the quality years." 

Menopausal symptoms: Do you have any of the following symptoms?

  • Hot flashes
  • Irregular menstrual periods
  • Night sweats
  • Vaginal dryness, painful intercourse
  • Mood swings, irritability

If you have any of these symptoms, you may want to discuss them with your doctor. 

Menopausal status?

  • Perimenopausal (around the time of the menopause; irregular periods, change in menstrual bleeding patterns; some of the menopausal signs or symptoms listed above)
  • Menopausal (no menstrual periods for at least 6 months; some of the signs and symptoms listed above)
  • I don’t know which category I am in 

If you don’t know whether you are premenopausal, perimenopausal, or menopausal, discuss this matter with your doctor.

  •     American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) Phone: 202-638-5577
  •     North American Menopause Society (NAMS) Phone:  216-844-8748
  •     National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) Toll-free number 1-800-223-9994
  •     American Heart Association Toll-free number: 1-800-242-8721
  •     American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Phone: 202-434-2277
  •     National Women's Health Network Phone: 202-347-1140
  •     Older Women's League (OWL) Phone: 202-783-6686