Your Long-Term Health

Disclaimer: Here we are briefly outlining the major health concerns precipitated by an early menopause that we think you should be aware of. This information is not intended to replace the advice of your medical professional and we strongly suggest you discuss your options with them.

Premature Ovarian Failure/Early Menopause has an impact on your long-term health, primarily due to the fact that your ovaries are no longer producing enough oestrogen. Heart disease and osteoporosis are the two big concerns, but women with spontaneous Premature Ovarian Failure also have a few extra health issues to be aware of.

Heart Disease | Osteoporosis | Special Health Considerations of Spontaneous Premature Ovarian Failure

Heart Disease

A woman’s risk for heart disease increases after menopause, whatever her age. Women who experience premature menopause, spontaneous or induced, may have an even greater risk for heart disease.

Risk factors:

  • Diabetes
  • Family history of heart disease
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Being overweight
  • Smoking
  • Little exercise

Preventative measures:

  • Stop smoking
  • Reduce drinking
  • Lose excess weight
  • Minimise stress
  • Manage high blood pressure
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Increase physical activity

HRT is not recommended to prevent heart disease but there is ongoing debate that younger women may see heart benefits from treatment. You should discuss your situation with your doctor.

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Osteoporosis

Low oestrogen levels are the major cause for osteoporosis (weak bones) and soon after your diagnosis, your doctor should measure your Bone Mineral Density (BMD) to evaluate your bone strength and predict your fracture risk. Getting the first scan done early gives you an idea of how healthy your bones are, and enables you and your doctor to track the success of your treatment plan. DEXA testing exposes you to only a very low dose of radiation, and is recommended every 3-5 years.

Risk factors:

  • Light skin
  • Small build/low weight
  • Family history of osteoporosis
  • Smoking
  • Heavy drinking
  • High caffeine/soft drink consumption
  • Some medications
  • Little exercise

Preventative measures:

  • Maintaining a healthy lifestyle – including not smoking, regular weight-bearing exercise (walking, running, tennis etc.)
  • Ensure an adequate intake of calcium and vitamin D from diet &/or supplements.
  • Falls cause fractures, so improve your balance and clear clutter from around you.
  • If HRT is right for you, it will protect your bones by boosting your oestrogen levels back to where they should be for a woman your age.
  • Ask your dentist to pass on to your doctor any changes she/he observes in your regular checkups as not only does gum disease increase your risk for heart disease, but tooth loss can be a sign of underlying bone disease, including osteoporosis.

Treatment suggestions:

  • Oestrogen therapy is recommended as it slows down the rate of bone loss.
  • There are several types of prescription “bone drugs” available.
  • The above preventative measures will also enhance the positive effects of prescription therapies.

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Spontaneous Premature Ovarian Failure – Special Health Considerations

Spontaneous Premature Ovarian Failure (POF) is when the ovaries seem to simply stop working. Not as a result of any medical intervention, but for some other reason. Women with spontaneous POF are at increased risk for a number of other conditions and your specialist will most likely regularly test to see if you are affected by any of the following three:

Hypothyroidism (Low Thyroid Function)

Low thyroid hormone levels slow the metabolism leading to mental and physical sluggishness.

For more, please visit the Family Doctor website.

Addison’s Disease

In Addison’s disease, the immune system attacks the adrenal glands. This can be life threatening because the body can’t respond properly to stressful events, such as severe illness, injury or surgery.

For more, please visit the NZ Addison’s Network.

Fragile X Syndrome

Fragile X Syndrome is a genetic condition that leads to learning disabilities. If you carry the gene, there’s a risk you could pass it on to your children.

For more, please visit the Fragile X Trust.

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