Dealing with the long-term effects of the menopause

An early menopause can increase your risk of bone thinning (osteoporosis) and heart disease. There are ways of reducing these risks.


Oestrogen helps maintain bone calcium levels and bone density, so the risk of osteoporosis increases after the menopause. Regular weight-bearing exercises such as walking, dancing, hiking and gentle weight-lifting will help maintain bone density. Swimming isn’t as helpful, because your bones aren’t supporting your weight while you swim. If you already have osteoporosis, avoid exercises that put strain on your bones, such as jogging.

It’s important to make sure that you get enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet. Dairy products are the best source of calcium, but if you prefer not to eat them you can get calcium from eggs, green leafy vegetables, nuts, and whole fish such as whitebait, sardines and pilchards.

Vitamin D helps the body use calcium effectively.

A well-balanced diet will normally give you all the calcium and vitamin D you need, but calcium and vitamin D supplements may also be helpful. Your specialist can advise you on this.

Smoking and drinking alcohol can reduce your calcium levels. Stick to sensible drinking guidelines, and don’t smoke.

Let your doctor know if other people in your family have had osteoporosis. The National Osteoporosis Society can give you more information about prevention of osteoporosis and helpful treatments.

Heart disease

The risk of heart disease in women increases after the menopause, so you need to follow the well-established advice on reducing your risks:

  • If you smoke, stopping smoking is the healthiest decision you can make.
  • Eat less animal fat (especially red meat), choose low-fat dairy products and eat more fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • Take regular physical activity that improves your heart health.

If there’s heart disease in your family, you may wish to talk to your cancer specialist or GP about using medicines to try to prevent it.