As hormone levels change through the menopause this puts you at higher risk of some common health conditions. Food scientist and nutritional therapist Susie Debice explains the importance of regular medical testing to assess your vitamin D status, bone density, blood pressure, cholesterol and thyroid health.
Vitamin D levels
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient for the normal function of the immune system which is why it is currently gaining a lot of press. There is currently a global concern regarding vitamin D deficiencies and the impact this can have on health and wellbeing. Since vitamin D is made by your skin cells when exposed to sunshine it’s well-known that people living in high latitude or cold temperate countries with limited hours of daylight during several months of the year, are at much higher risk of a vitamin D deficiency. In fact, statistics gathered from many national surveys reveal that as many as 60% of Europeans have inadequate levels of vitamin D. But why is this sunshine vitamin so important for menopausal women?
As you go through the menopause you may notice a drop in muscle tone and muscle strength and vitamin D is important for maintaining normal muscle function. One of the biggest concerns of the menopause is the impact that falling oestrogen and progesterone levels have on your bone density. This is a time of life when vitamin D is a real health hero as it helps regulate blood calcium levels and is phenomenally important for supporting the maintenance of normal bones and teeth.
Getting your vitamin D levels tested is easy. You can either request a test from your GP or you can simply order a finger prick test over the internet or buy a test kit from your local pharmacy, all reasonably priced. If your levels are low then simply supplement with a vitamin D3, the most absorbable and effective form of vitamin D.
Bone Density Scan
Osteoporosis has been labelled the ‘silent killer’ because you can’t see or feel your bones getting weaker. It’s not until you have a fall or a fracture, much later on in your life, that you may start to question or take steps to investigate the state of your bone health. Rather than wait until it is potentially too late to make a difference to your bone density, it’s advisable to have a bone density scan as soon as your menopause is coming to an end. This gives you a baseline reality check about your bone density from which you can assess the rate of bone loss every few years with regular scans to gain a clearer picture about how factors such as diet, weight bearing exercise and bone supporting nutritional supplements are impacting on your bone density and then make any necessary adjustments.
Ready for your first bone scan? Then book an appointment with your GP and get the ball rolling and if the waiting list is too long then you could consider a private scan with a private healthcare provider such as The Nuffield Health.
Cholesterol and Blood Pressure
Many post-menopausal women experience issues with blood pressure and higher than normal cholesterol levels. Falling hormones tend to impact the flexibility of artery walls and alter the way the body regulates the amounts and types of fats circulating in the blood. It’s important to nip this in the bud, so your well-woman check-ups with your GP are really important as these should highlight any escalating issues. Headaches, feeling dizzy, blurry vision and feeling faint when standing up or when climbing the stairs are all tell-tale signs that would lead you to get your blood pressure checked.
Your thyroid controls your metabolic rate which determines how fast your cells burn calories for energy. Before the menopause oestrogen and progesterone help to support optimal thyroid function. As these two hormones drop with the menopause you may find that your thyroid activity also drops which could impact your weight, energy levels, mood and body shape. Sound familiar? If so, then ask your GP for a thyroid screen (blood test) to include ALL these factors:
- T4 and Free T4
- T3, Free T3 and Reverse T3
- Autoimmune factors
Your GP may suggest a course of thyroxine if your TSH and T4 are out of range, but it’s worth taking your results to a nutritional therapist, particularly if you have out of range results for free T4, free T3, reverse T3 and autoimmune factors for a more comprehensive thyroid nutritional approach to finding a solution.
Menopausal Health Checks
As you come to the end of your menopause, don’t wait until you feel unwell to get checked out, instead remember that your thyroid, bone density and cardiovascular system are now more of a risk, so check in with your GP for the health tests detailed above so you can catch any imbalances and take necessary steps to regain optimal post-menopausal health.