Menopause indicates changes in hormonal activities. The years leading up to menopause are marked by a sudden decline in the production of estrogen and progesterone in the ovaries. Menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes disappear after menopause for most women. However, for some, they may recur. When this happens, it could be a cause for concern. In such cases, it is crucial to conduct postmenopause tests at the earliest. “Regular tests and gynecological screenings after menopause help in early diagnosis of any health anomalies,” confirms Dr. Shanthala Thuppanna, laparoscopic surgeon, obstetrician and gynecologist, Cloudnine Hospitals, Bangalore.
Tests that women should do postmenopause
Women’s bodies undergo a host of changes after 40 years of age, points out Dr Sushma Tomar, consultant obstetrician and gynecologist, Fortis Hospital, Kalyan, Mumbai. Women can have abnormal activities in the reproductive system during and after menopause. For example, symptoms like thickening of the endometrium and bleeding, when seen postmenopause, could indicate abnormal hormonal activities. Dr Tomar advises against ignoring these changes.
Blood tests are performed to check the lipid profile and thyroid functioning. Alongside these, experts advise the following regular tests for women postmenopause:
1. Mammography and breast sonography
A digital mammogram is a crucial test for women above 40. It creates a magnified x-ray image of the breast in multiple positions by compressing the breast tissue to investigate precancerous or cancerous lesions. According to the US Preventive Services Task Force, digital mammogram screening needs to be performed annually after a woman turns 40. One should do this alongside the monthly breast self-examination. Moreover, Dr Tomar shares that it is good to combine this test with breast sonography to identify breast cancer risks with greater accuracy.
2. Lipid profile test
This blood test measures the levels of cholesterol and other fats in the blood, which can identify the possible risks of heart disease. “Estrogen has a protective effect on arteries, and the drop in its levels after menopause can increase the risk of high cholesterol,” explains Dr Gayatri Deshpande, senior consultant, obstetrician and gynecologist, Nanavati Max Super Speciality Hospital, Mumbai. After menopause, women must perform this test every 4 to 6 years, says Dr Deshpande. She adds that regular testing helps monitor cardiovascular health.
3. ECG and echo
An electrocardiogram measures the electrical activity of the heart to detect cardiac problems. Women must perform this annually after the age of 35. In a stress echocardiogram (or stress echo), a radioactive substance or tracer is injected into the bloodstream. With the help of an ultrasound, it detects differences in the heart’s chambers and valves, and the rate of the heartbeat during stress or exercise. Women are at higher risk of cardiac issues postmenopause.
4. Pap smear
Pap smear is performed to detect changes in the cervix. It identifies any form of infection or cancer in the cervix or uterus by collecting the cervical cells. Gynecologists recommend that this test be performed annually, especially after menopause.
5. Bone density test
This is an x-ray test that measures bone mineral content and density. Dr Tomar explains, “The low production of estrogen can significantly compromise bone health after menopause. So, menopausal women must do the bone density test ”
Testing bone density annually can help in the early detection of osteoporosis (a condition that creates small holes in the bones) or osteopenia (low bone mineral density) in postmenopausal women, say doctors.
6. Thyroid test
“Thyroid disorders can mimic or aggravate menopausal symptoms,” said Dr Deshpande. Further, she explains, “Hypothyroidism (low levels of thyroid hormone) can cause fatigue, weight gain, and depression, which are also symptoms associated with menopause. Thus, performing this test to ensure thyroid health can help in accurately addressing and managing postmenopausal symptoms, she adds.
The regularity of testing can be based on the symptoms, the gynecologist’s suggestion, and the woman’s health records.
7. Pelvic and abdomen sonography
After menopause, women are advised to opt for sonography of the abdomen and pelvis annually, explains Dr Tomar. These assess signs of cancer in the uterus, cervix and ovaries, she adds. These imaging tests are recommended by gynecologists in the case of postmenopausal bleeding or when abnormalities are detected during a routine ultrasound. “It can effectively help detect polyps, fibroids, or endometrial atrophy (thickening of the uterine lining),” she further shares. This can be performed routinely by menopausal women after 45 years of age.
These tests reduce health complications as they aid in early detection and intervention, say doctors.
What should women do to ensure better health postmenopause?
Doctors suggest that one must follow certain practices from the age of 30 to ensure good health postmenopause. This includes eating calcium-rich food such as milk, yogurt, fish, and green leafy vegetables to maintain bone health. Further, Dr Thuppanna strongly recommends that women practice yoga, breathing exercises and meditation along with regular cardio exercises.