THE BLOG
10/18/2013 10:01 am ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Life After 50: Two Preventable & Treatable Menopause Symptoms Women Choose To Ignore

Stop burying your head in the sand
Sometimes we bury our heads in the sand, hoping that if we stay there long enough . . . the problem we're confronting will just . . . go away.

This much I can tell you after having lived almost 57 years: it usually doesn't.

In fact, sometimes the problem gets even worse, and that's definitely true of two common complaints the majority of women experience as a direct result of menopause.

Stop being embarrassed
Even though these two symptoms impact two very different parts of our bodies, they share a few similar characteristics:

  • occur because we lose estrogen after menopause
  • can have a negative impact on our self-esteem
  • are emotionally and culturally tied to the concept of getting old
    • can negatively affect our quality of life
    • get worse if not dealt with
  • most women don't want to talk about these issues--even with their doctors--because they're too embarrassed

What are they?

The Treatable Symptom: Vaginal Dryness

Women's sense of self-esteem and power are tightly woven into our sexuality. In this youth-crazy society in which we live, admitting that our vaginas are changing -- even to our friends -- is like carrying a poster that states: "Ignore me. I'm over the hill." We rationalize that anyone can have dry eyes or hair, but a dry vagina? No, only if you're totally decrepit (not true). And, it's so easy to think you're the only one who has the problem.

That couldn't be farther from the truth.

According to the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), vaginal dryness affects 3 out of 4 postmenopausal women . . . a whopping 75 percent! And most suffer in silence. What's more, this common condition can have a negative impact on the relationship she has with her partner. And why not? If something hurts . . . you're not going to want to do it, right? So, many women just slam the door shut, and throw away the key, sometimes for good.

Sadly, while research shows that many women are simply too embarrassed to talk about the issue with their health care providers, doctors are just as reticent to bring it up. Result? Women are left dangling in limbo: wanting to fix it, but not sure how. And, unlike hot flashes or night sweats, if left untreated vaginal dryness only gets worse, potentially putting your vagina at risk for infections and incontinence.

What to do? Start by acknowledging that vaginal dryness is a natural, common, normal condition that happens to almost all of us. It doesn't mean you're over the hill. It just means you might be over menopause. And here's the best news: it's treatable. Talk with your doctor about the symptoms, and together you'll come up with a treatment plan that's right for you. Want to do a self-evaluation of your symptoms and get more info? Visit vaginaldiscomfort.com.

The Preventable Symptom: Low Bone Density

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, about 52 million Americans have osteoporosis and low bone mass, placing them at risk for breaking a bone. In fact, half of all postmenopausal women will break a bone due to osteoporosis.

But, just like vaginal dryness, women don't want to talk about their aging bones, because they associate osteoporosis with little old ladies, like their grandmothers. So, they bury their heads in the sand, don't focus on all the simple things they can do to prevent bone loss from happening as a direct result of the loss of estrogen in our bodies after menopause . . . and hope for the best.

We are smarter than that.

If you continue to ignore the health of your bones as you get older, your risk for developing osteoporosis and breaking a bone as a result increases dramatically. In women over 45 years of age, osteoporosis accounts for more days spent in the hospital than many other diseases, including diabetes, heart attack or breast cancer. The good news is that by knowing their risk early, women can take action to prevent and control osteoporosis.

Broken bones are not part of normal aging, and there's a lot we can do to prevent our bones from getting thin and weak. Now is the time to take action.

What to do?
Start by visiting the National Osteoporosis Foundation website to get more information about risks, prevention, and other essential knowledge. Check out my web series for the AARP YouTube Channel which features short videos on building stronger bones by eating the right foods and doing specific exercises. Think about getting a DEXA test to get a clear view of your risks, and definitely have a talk with your doctor.

But here's the best advice of all: Embrace your age and own your body. And remember this: We can't control getting older . . . but . . . we can control how we do it!

Here's a quick look at some of the best foods we can eat to build better bones, starting today!

For more tips on living your best life after 50 (or 60, or 70...) check out www.bestofeverythingafter50.com. Keep me posted on how you're doing by subscribing to me on Facebook and "tweeting" me on Twitter at @BGrufferman. Check out my web video series-The Best of Everything with Barbara Hannah Grufferman-on the AARP YouTube Channel!

2013-10-17-TheBestofEverythingAfter50logo.jpg

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

PHOTO GALLERIES
Menopause Treatment: 10 Natural Remedies