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    Kegel Exercises & Menopause: Exercise the Pelvic Floor

    Kegel Exercises & Menopause: Exercise the Pelvic Floor

    Did you know doing Kegel exercises after menopause offers many benefits? Many women’s health care professionals recommend women do these pelvic floor exercises daily to help prevent many common issues during menopause. Talk to our provider about whether Kegel exercises are right for you and how to include them in your lifestyle.

    middle aged woman sitting on porch drinking coffee smiling after talking to a women's health care provider about her health

    Talk to our women’s health care professionals about Kegel exercises. They may help prevent uncomfortable symptoms and conditions during menopause.

    What Are Kegel Exercises? Why Might a Women’s Health Care Provider Recommend Them?

    Never heard of Kegel exercises before? These are essentially exercises to help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. The pelvic floor helps support the organs in your pelvis, such as the uterus, bladder, rectum, and vagina. 

    With age, these muscles can start to become weaker. What’s more, lower estrogen levels during menopause can also contribute to a weak pelvic floor. This puts you at risk for many different issues, such as pain during sex, difficulty controlling your bladder or bowels, or even uterine prolapse. 

    Some other things that might contribute to weak pelvic muscles include:

    • Being overweight
    • Chronic cough
    • Chronic constipation

    Fortunately, Kegel exercises can help make your pelvic floor stronger and are fairly easy to incorporate into your every day routine. 

    Kegel exercises were developed in the 1950s by a gynecologist named Arnold Kegel. He studied the use of pelvic floor exercises for women with urinary incontinence. Today, many women’s health care professionals recommend Kegel exercises for women of all ages because of their many benefits. This is especially true for women during and after menopause who are more likely to experience pelvic floor weakening and related conditions.

    Benefits of Regular Kegel Exercises after Menopause

    So, why might you start doing Kegel exercises after menopause? Since your pelvic floor supports a lot of important organs, it’s important to keep these muscles strong. This can also help with the function of your pelvic organs. 

    Your Women’s Health Care Provider May Recommend Kegels to Help with Urinary Incontinence

    Millions of women experience urinary incontinence (UI), which can take the form of anything from small leaks when you sneeze or even having accidents because you’re unable to reach the restroom in time. Your risk for this condition increases with age and after menopause due to lower estrogen levels.

    Many women with urinary incontinence deal with a reduced quality of life. A lot of those with UI change a lot about their lives due to the condition, like avoiding going places due to fear of leakage. Many also feel embarrassed and isolated socially because of the condition.

    If you have UI, it’s important to talk to our women’s health care provider about causes and treatments. One common recommendation for urinary incontinence is doing Kegel exercises. Stronger pelvic muscles may help you hold your urine in more effectively until you can make it to the bathroom. 

    One study from 2018 even found that regular pelvic floor exercises helped improve quality of life for those with urinary incontinence. So, Kegel exercises may be used both as a preventative measure and a treatment for urinary incontinence. 

    Reducing Your Risk for and Treating Uterine Prolapse

    Uterine prolapse is a somewhat common condition, and your risk for it goes up after menopause. This is where your uterus starts to sag lower than normal, sometimes entering the vagina (a partial prolapse) or even protruding outside of the vagina (complete prolapse).

    Some symptoms of uterine prolapse include:

    • Heaviness or pressure in the pelvis
    • Pelvic pain
    • Abdominal pain
    • Back pain
    • Painful sex
    • Frequent bladder infections
    • Unusual or excessive discharge
    • Constipation
    • Urinary leaks, frequency, and urgency

    These symptoms may also get worse when you’re standing or walking, as gravity can pull on the prolapsed uterus. 

    If you have uterine prolapse, Kegel exercises may be the recommended treatment for mild cases. In other cases, you may need surgery to remove the uterus or put it back in place. 

    However, Kegel exercises may also help reduce your risk for experiencing uterine prolapse. Generally, the reason the uterus slips down from its normal position is due to a weakened pelvic floor. Therefore, keeping these muscles strong may help provide the support needed to prevent uterine prolapse. 

    Improving Intimacy with Kegels

    Another issue Kegel exercises can help with is intimacy after menopause. As your estrogen levels start to fall, you might notice vaginal dryness or pain, especially during sex. Kegel exercises help in a few different ways. 

    First, a common reason you might experience pain during sex is due to tight vaginal muscles. Kegel exercises can help you relax these muscles so they’re not as tight and painful during sex. 

    Also, pelvic floor exercises can help increase circulation to the pelvic floor and vagina. Better blood flow to the area can help improve arousal and lubrication. In some cases, doing Kegel exercises regularly may even help improve orgasms. 

    All this can come together to help improve intimacy after menopause. So, Kegels may even help your sex life!

    How to Do Kegel Exercises

    Did you know about one-third of women who do Kegel exercises are actually doing them wrong? That means they may not get any of the benefits of doing Kegel exercises. Your women’s health clinic can help you determine whether you’re doing Kegel exercises right and offer some tips to help you with Kegels during your next checkup or appointment. However, here are some general tips that may help you learn how to do Kegel exercises.

    Find the Right Muscles

    Remember how we mentioned about a third of women aren’t doing their Kegels right? In many cases, this is because they’re actually flexing other muscles, like the buttocks, abdomen, or legs. Finding the right muscles for Kegel exercises can be a little difficult, but we do have a few tips.

    First, it might help if you lie down while you try to find the right muscles and get used to doing pelvic floor exercises. While you can do them in practically any position, like sitting at a red light, it’s much easier to contract the muscles when you’re lying down. 

    A lot of guides say that the easiest way to find the right muscles is to stop the stream of urine when you’re going to the bathroom. While this can help you find the right muscles, doing this can make it difficult to fully empty the bladder, which can cause other issues like urinary tract infections. Instead, we recommend pretending you’re trying to avoid passing gas, or to tighten your vagina around a tampon. This can help you find the right muscle group. 

    If you’re still having trouble finding the right muscles, lie down and insert a clean finger into your vagina and try to do a Kegel. You should feel the muscles tighten around your finger.

    Also, try placing a hand on your abdomen when doing your Kegel exercises. This can help you feel any unintended muscle contractions in your abdomen. If you’re contracting your abdominal muscles, there’s a good chance you’re doing your Kegel exercises wrong.

    How Often to Do Kegels?

    Once you have the hang of which muscles to contract, you can start doing them regularly to help reap the benefits of a strong pelvic floor. 

    If you’re just starting out, then you may need to work your way up to longer contractions and multiple reps. Generally, one rep is contracting the pelvic floor for three to five seconds and relaxing for three to five seconds. For most women, aim to do about ten reps two or three times a day. Once that becomes easier, you can even try mixing them up by holding for longer, like ten seconds, or even shorter, like two or three second bursts.

    Just keep in mind that doing Kegel exercises too much can make your pelvic floor muscles too tight. This can cause issues like:

    • Constipation
    • Incomplete bowel movements
    • Pelvic pain
    • Lower back pain
    • Painful sex

    If you notice these signs of a tight pelvic floor, then try giving your muscles a break from Kegels for a little while. If your symptoms don’t improve, visit our women’s health care team for help finding underlying causes, like overworking the pelvic floor muscles or even other health conditions.

    Talk to Your Women’s Health Care Providers About Staying Healthy

    At HerKare, we’re a women’s health clinic dedicated to your wellness. Our team is here to help you feel your best at every stage of life. Whether you’re looking for advice on maintaining a healthier lifestyle or need to talk about symptoms you’ve noticed, we take time to listen, understand, and work with you to find personalized health solutions for you. Be proactive about your health. Schedule an appointment at one of our convenient locations today.

    How Long Should I Take Hormone Therapy?

    How Long Should I Take Hormone Therapy?

    Whether you’ve been using hormone therapy for a while or are planning to start for your menopause symptoms, you might wonder how long you should take it. This is all personal to you, but there are a few things to keep in mind.

    three happy women on hormone therapy for menopause symptoms

    Hormone therapy is personalized to you, so treatment may be different for every woman.

    Recommended Timelines for Menopausal Hormone Therapy

    To start, let’s look at some general guidelines and recommendations. One of the most common recommendations is to use HRT at the lowest dose and for the least amount of time needed to help relieve menopause symptoms. This means it’s individualized to you, your symptoms, and treatment goals.

    According to the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), benefits for hormone replacement therapy for menopause generally outweigh the risks for most women. If you’ve dealt with menopause symptoms, you might know what we’re talking about. Hot flashes, sleep disturbances, and more can take a toll on your health and quality of life. 

    In the past, recommendations were to use hormones for less than five years and stop completely before you turn 60. In fact, most women do successfully stop hormone replacement therapy within five years. However, NAMS and most healthcare professionals have updated their guidelines to be more personalized. Now, older women can stay on hormones after 60 if needed for symptom relief. 

    While most women notice their symptoms go away a few months or years after menopause, others have persistent symptoms that can interfere with their lives. For instance, hot flashes can last ten to twenty years after menopause. In these cases, stopping hormones could lead to dealing with symptoms that affect your wellbeing, so you might choose to use hormones for longer or find other treatments to help. 

    If you do choose to take hormones for longer than five years, then you and our provider will talk about benefits and risks to find a solution that suits you. For example, maybe it’s time for a lower dose, or even finding alternative treatments to help with your symptoms, or maybe it makes the most sense to continue with hormone treatments. 

    When to Stop Hormone Therapy: Talk to Your Doctor

    As we’ve mentioned, hormone replacement should be individualized to each woman. That’s why it’s so important to talk to the doctor about your specific situation. Our providers can help you decide the best time to start or stop hormones for menopause symptoms. We tailor your treatment to you and your needs. 

    If you’re thinking about stopping HRT, our providers can help you determine the risks and benefits. We can also help you determine when and how to stop as well as help you along the way. 

    Symptoms May Come Back When Stopping Treatment

    One of the risks of stopping hormone therapy is that your symptoms could return. For example, if you started hormones to help with hot flashes and sleep problems, they might come back after you stop using hormones.

    When stopping HRT, some women don’t have their symptoms return, while some do. In some cases, they may return but be much more manageable than before. In other cases, they may be just as severe as the day you started hormone treatments for your symptoms. 

    Some symptoms you might experience when stopping hormones include:

    • Hot flashes
    • Sleep disturbances
    • Mood changes
    • Depressive symptoms

    If these occur, our providers work with you to find a treatment solution for your needs. For instance, it might mean staying on therapy, gradually weaning off hormones, or even non-hormonal treatments. It’s important to understand that there are treatment options! Finding strategies and treatments to help manage your symptoms may help you successfully stop hormone therapy, or it may not be the right time for you to stop. Whatever the case, our team is here to help you feel your best and take care of your health. 

    Tapering off of HRT

    When you decide to stop hormones, you can stop suddenly or you can taper off of treatment. Once again, there is no right answer for all women who want to stop taking hormones. However, most doctors recommend tapering. 

    Tapering off of HRT involves slowly reducing your dose to nothing over a period of time. You can do this by lowering the dose, taking fewer doses each week, or a combination of both. Our provider will work with you to figure out which option is best for you. 

    Most commonly, tapering involves reducing the number of hormones you take by about 10% each week. This may help your body adjust to the lack of estrogen and progesterone in your bloodstream. 

    Also, if your symptoms return after tapering down to a certain level, we may recommend staying on that dose until your symptoms subside before reducing the dose again. This may help you feel more comfortable and help reduce the risk of lowering your quality of life due to menopause symptoms. 

    Tapering off of hormones can take months or even a year or two, depending on your situation. For example, if your current dose is a little higher, it may take longer than someone who starts tapering at a lower dose. Also, if your symptoms return, we may recommend tapering hormone therapy more slowly than for someone who doesn’t have their symptoms return.

    If you’re planning to stop hormone treatments, our doctors can help personalize your experience to help you continue to feel your best.

    Advanced Healthcare Before, During, and After Menopause

    Even after stopping hormones for menopause, it’s still important to see our providers regularly for checkups. Getting your regular health screenings and talking about your overall health can also help you feel good and keep doing the things you love. We’re here to help with everything you need to take care of your health.

    At HerKare, our clinic is run by women for women. We’re here to help you feel your best at every stage of life. Our team listens and understands to help you find personalized treatment options that suit you and your needs. We’ll even help you understand what’s covered and share financial information to help you make a plan that suits both your lifestyle and your budget. Make an appointment today to experience advanced and caring women’s healthcare solutions from HerKare!

    Staying Healthy After Menopause

    Staying Healthy After Menopause

    Life doesn’t stop after menopause, so make sure you’re getting the women’s health care you need! Staying healthy is important for your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. You’re in control and we’re here to help! Our providers are here to help you understand your health risks and help reduce them with healthy lifestyle changes and quality healthcare services.

    Health Risks After Menopause

    Most women reach menopause around age 51. Around this time, due to normal aging and low estrogen levels, your risks for some health conditions go up. This might mean making some changes and working with your women’s health clinic to reduce your risks. It can also mean getting regular screenings to help with early detection and treatment. Whatever the case, we’re here to help you take control of your health. 

    Around this time, your risks increase for conditions like:

    • Osteoporosis
    • Heart disease
    • Obesity
    • Urinary incontinence
    • Dry skin
    • High blood pressure
    • Cholesterol
    • Diabetes

    This might seem pretty frightening, but the good news is there are many things you can do to help reduce your risks. For example, making healthy lifestyle changes may help lower your risk for most of the conditions on that list. You’re in the driver’s seat and our women’s health care professionals are here to help you design a personalized plan to stay healthy after menopause.

    Maintaining (or Starting) a Healthy Lifestyle

    Around middle age, it’s more important than ever to lead a healthy lifestyle. Like we mentioned, your health risks do go up with age, so the healthier you live, the better. Getting serious about making healthy choices not only helps reduce risks for preventable conditions, but it can also help you feel healthier, stronger, more energetic, and happier. So, it’s time to make a commitment to treat your body the best you can!

    Now, even if you haven’t led the healthiest lifestyle until now, there’s still plenty you can do! It might take a little extra work and you might have to take smaller steps to get there, but you’ve got a women’s health care team on your side. Don’t forget to enlist some daily cheerleaders through friends and family to help you make healthier choices. 

    Diet After Menopause

    Eating healthy is another way you can follow a healthy lifestyle after 50. What you eat has a pretty big impact on a lot of different things, from mood and energy levels to weight gain and cholesterol levels. Making healthy diet choices empowers you to get the fuel and nutrients you need for a healthy, active lifestyle.

    What many women don’t realize is that you need fewer calories after menopause. Most women around this time lose some muscle mass as a part of normal aging. Muscles burn a lot of calories, so with less muscle tissue, you’ll likely need fewer calories.

    How many calories you need depends on a lot of different factors, so talk to our women’s health care provider about your specific needs. However, here’s a general guide:

    • 1,600 calories a day if you get a low amount of activity
    • 1,800 if you get moderate amount of activity 
    • 2,000-2,200 if you get a high amount of activity

    In addition, we recommend eating a balanced diet with foods from all five food groups each day. This can help you get a variety of foods in your diet and help you get the nutrition you need. Nutrition and vitamins after menopause are extremely important for helping reduce your health risks. For example, you need plenty of calcium and vitamin D to help keep your bones strong. This means eating a healthy diet and potentially working with our women’s health care provider to see which vitamin supplements you need. 

    Don’t forget keeping hydrated! Getting enough water each day can help with everything from dry skin to keeping your urinary tract healthy. If water isn’t appealing, you can even try infusing it with berries or other fruits to give it some flavor. 

    Exercise

    Getting plenty of exercise has so many benefits, from reducing the risk for heart disease, improving your mood, keeping your weight in check, and helping bone health. Active adults are also less likely to suffer from depression and cognitive decline! So, getting some physical activity is especially important as we age.

    Aerobic Exercise

    Two women holding bicycles after talking to their women’s health care provider about aerobic exercise after menopause

    Biking is a great way to get aerobic exercise in. Talk to our women’s health care providers about other exercises you can do!

    Most women should shoot for 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise a week. This is about 30 minutes five days a week or 21-22 minutes every day of the week. Some aerobic exercises include:

    • Walking
    • Jogging
    • Dancing
    • Swimming
    • Biking
    • Climbing stairs or hills
    • Tennis

    How do you know if you’re getting moderate intensity aerobic exercise? Talk to someone! If you’re breathing heavily, but can still have a conversation, then you’re getting moderate intensity aerobic exercise. However, if you’re struggling to talk, then you’re getting vigorous aerobic exercise. If you like vigorous exercises more, then do those about 75 minutes a week instead.

    Strength Exercise

    Strength exercises can help keep your bones healthy and help you build muscle tissue, which offers its own benefits like burning more calories. Most women need to do strength exercises twice a week, allowing for rest time in between.

    Exercise all your major muscle groups during these sessions with 10-15 repetitions of the exercise. Some strength exercises include:

    • Lifting weights
    • Body weight exercises  (like squats and pushups)

    Consider also doing exercises that prioritize flexibility and balance. These are also helpful for daily tasks (like picking dropped items off the floor for those of us clumsy folks).

    If you’re just starting out exercising for the first time, don’t panic. Even if you can’t jump right into those recommendations, it’s okay! Make a goal to do just 10 minutes of activity each day and gradually ramp it up as you can.

    Limit Alcohol, Caffeine, Quit Nicotine

    As we age, our bodies handle certain things a little differently. That may mean it’s time to cut back on certain things or quit entirely. Things like alcohol and caffeine may affect you differently than they did before, and too much of either of these can have health impacts. Smoking can also cause serious health issues. So, we’re here to help you take control of your health and limit or quit these things entirely. 

    Drinking too much alcohol can increase your risk for things like osteoporosis, diabetes, high blood pressure, and more.  In some cases, it may make the most sense for you to quit, depending on your risk factors. However, if you still want to enjoy the occasional glass of wine, keep in mind that most health experts recommend drinking less than one drink a day to reduce some of the risks.

    Caffeine can also cause some negative effects for your health, so it may be time to limit your caffeine intake. It can make it hard to stay hydrated, because it’s a diuretic. It can also affect how much stress hormone your body releases, which can increase blood pressure, heart rate, and many other things. Caffeine can also interfere with your sleep schedule and make it hard to get enough sleep at night. So, if you’re having issues with these things, it may be time to cut back. 

    Smoking also has major health effects at any age, increasing your risk for heart disease, lung cancer, and so much more. If you’re a smoker, no time is better than the present for quitting. We can help you come up with strategies to help you quit!

    Regular Women’s Health Care Visits

    In addition to making healthy lifestyle changes, it’s also important to schedule regular appointments at our women’s health clinic. Routine appointments are important for helping with early detection of health conditions, screening for risks, and developing an overall plan to help you stay healthy!

    Screenings You Need 

    Health screenings help us have a conversation about your risks and overall health. Health screenings after menopause might include:

    • Blood Pressure: In most cases we do this every visit. 
    • Breast Cancer: Many women do monthly self-exams to find abnormal signs in their breasts. We also recommend a mammogram every one to two years for most women. 
    • Pap Test: Many women don’t realize they still need pap tests after menopause, but we generally recommend getting one every one to three years to help detect signs of cervical cancer.
    • Cholesterol: For most women, we do a cholesterol test to screen for high cholesterol at least every five years. This may be more frequent if your cholesterol levels are high or you have other risks.
    • Colon Cancer: Health experts recommend colon cancer screenings between ages 50 and 75. There are many different options, ranging from stool tests to colonoscopies. Each type has different benefits and drawbacks, so which you choose depends on your risk factors and preferences. 
    • Blood Sugar: For most women, you’ll need a blood sugar test every three years to test for diabetes. It may be more often if you have certain risks. This is a fasting blood test we perform at our women’s health clinic to look at how much sugar is in your blood. 
    • Bone Density Scans: Bone density scans look for issues with bone density that could lead to osteoporosis or fractures. If you’re over 50 with a history of adult fractures or you’re under 65 with certain risk factors, we may recommend a bone density test. 

    Also, it’s important to talk about vaccines and keep seeing other providers like dentists and eye doctors.

    Quality, Empowering Women’s Health Care at HerKare

    At HerKare, our team is here to help you address your health today! We take time to listen, to understand, and then to help you start feeling better. Whether you want to talk about personalized preventative health strategies or need help getting to the bottom of your symptoms, we’re here to help. Make an appointment today!

    Can COVID-19 Affect Your Menstrual Cycle?

    Can COVID-19 Affect Your Menstrual Cycle?

    Have you noticed something off about your period? Wondering if COVID-19 may be to blame? It’s always a good idea to keep an eye out for changes in your menstrual cycle and talk to your women’s health clinic about anything out of the ordinary. Many women are noticing that their menstrual cycle has changed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. There are some explanations for this, but experts are still researching the effects.

    Women’s Health Clinic - COVID & Menstrual Cycles

    The COVID-19 pandemic may be affecting your menstrual cycle in a few ways, but our women’s health clinic is here to help you find answers for period changes.

    While changes to your menstrual cycle may be nothing to panic about, it  can still help to talk to our women’s health care provider about changes. In some cases, this can signal bigger health issues that may need some extra attention. 

    Talk to Your Women’s Health Clinic if You’ve Noticed Changes with Your Period

    Slight changes in your menstrual cycle can happen for many different reasons. These include things like hormone changes, weight changes, and reproductive conditions like PCOS. Pregnancy may also seem like period changes, as many women experience spotting in their first trimester that could be mistaken for a light period. Perimenopause can also cause changes to your period, like irregular cycles or skipped periods.

    However, because period changes can also signal something more serious going on with your health, it’s usually better to be safe than sorry and talk to our doctor about differences you’ve noticed.

    Some signs you should make an appointment at your women’s health clinic to talk about your period include:

    • Frequently having periods fewer than 24 days apart
    • Consistently bleeding for longer than 7 days
    • Regularly going two or more months between periods
    • Frequent spotting between periods
    • Heavy bleeding (needing to change your pad or tampon every hour or more)
    • Clots larger than the size of a quarter
    • Excessive clots

    Period Changes since the Pandemic Started? Visit your Women’s Health Clinic to Rule Out More Serious Conditions

    Many women are reporting period changes since the COVID-19 outbreak. A lot of these differences vary between women, but a lot of people are connecting the dots between the changes they noticed and the timeframe of the pandemic.

    Women around the country are asking women’s health care professionals whether COVID-19 has anything to do with their period changes. Researchers are still studying the virus and its effects after infection, but there’s a chance that it could. 

    Some of the symptoms women have reported include:

    • Spotting
    • Skipped periods
    • Longer or shorter cycles
    • Unusual clotting
    • Worse PMS symptoms
    • Heavier periods

    This is concerning because many of these symptoms are also on the list of period signs that you want to have checked out at your women’s health clinic. Once again, it’s generally better to be safe than sorry and give us a call to see if our provider recommends an exam or testing for other health issues.

    How can COVID-19 Affect My Period?

    While there’s still much we don’t know about COVID-19, there are a lot of theories as to why your period might change. Even if you haven’t been infected with the coronavirus, there’s still a chance that your menstrual cycle may be affected. 

    Many experts believe that these changes can be due to stress, lifestyle changes during quarantine, or COVID-19 infection. As research continues, there are a few explanations why many doctors believe the pandemic may be affecting some people’s cycle.

    Pandemic Stress can Wreak Havoc on Your Cycle

    Most people would agree that the pandemic has been stressful. A lot of us are worrying about our health and our loved ones’ health. Some have gone through the pains of working from home. Also, we are all dealing with uncertainty of when things will return to normal.

    Needless to say, many of us are dealing with way more stress on our plates than normal.

    Stress can quickly take a toll on our bodies, leaving people feeling drained, irritable, and even leading to things like stomach problems and losing hair. This pandemic stress can also affect our menstrual cycle

    Even before COVID-19, stress has been a common cause in period changes. The problem with feeling stressed is that it initiates our fight or flight response. When we’re stressed, we release the hormone cortisol. Cortisol can delay or stop ovulation and reduce our progesterone levels. This can lead to menstrual changes.

    Also, stress can affect your hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian (HPO) axis. This is basically how your brain communicates with your ovaries using hormones as the messenger. Things like mental stress, physical stress, and even sleep disruptions can all bog down your HPO axis, which affects how much estrogen and progesterone your ovaries produce. This, in turn, can meddle with your cycle. 

    Everyone’s body may react a little differently to the stress of the pandemic and quarantine. Some women may notice shorter, lighter periods and others may notice longer, heavier periods, and others may notice different symptoms or nothing at all. It’s generally a good idea to get a checkup for your symptoms from your women’s health clinic, but if you’ve skipped a period because of stress, it’s generally not a major health concern. However, if you’re sexually active, even if you’re on birth control, a skipped period may warrant a pregnancy test. 

    Lifestyle Changes Make a Big Difference

    Also, many people have had to change a lot of things about their daily life because of COVID-19. These lifestyle changes may also affect your menstrual cycle. For example, your eating, sleeping, and exercise habits may have changed. Weight changes can lead to hormone imbalances which can affect your period. Lack of sleep can also induce a stress response from your body that may affect your periods as well. 

    Another issue many of the providers at our women’s health clinic have noticed during the pandemic is increased alcohol consumption and tobacco use. Smoking and chronic heavy drinking can also take a toll on your menstrual cycle, as well as the rest of your body. 

    The Virus Itself May Change Your Period

    Also, the SARS-CoV-2 virus (the one responsible for COVID-19) may also affect your period if you’ve been infected. Viral infections in general can put your body under stress and take up a lot of your body’s resources. This means that ovulation and menstruation may get put on the back burner as your immune system fights the virus. Many doctors note that period changes during COVID-19 are similar to those of many other illnesses, like the flu or the common cold. Fortunately, many women notice their periods go back to normal as they start to recover and their symptoms improve.

    However, there is also a potential that the virus may also attack the ovaries similar to how it attacks other organs. This could also affect your menstrual cycle.  While this potential has been proposed by some, it hasn’t been studied and is only speculation until we have further research. 

    Visit Our Women’s Health Clinic & Let’s Talk About Your Cycle

    Our providers at HerKare are here to help you address your health. As a women’s health clinic, we’re dedicated to helping you find underlying causes of your symptoms and providing personalized care for your needs. If you’ve noticed changes in your menstrual cycle, or any other symptoms, make an appointment today to talk to our doctors. We help with a wide range of health conditions, from hormone imbalances to diabetes and sleep apnea. Our team is here to help you feel like yourself again. 

    Hormone Replacement Therapy May Help Your Teeth & Gums

    Hormone Replacement Therapy May Help Your Teeth & Gums

    “Nothing you wear is more important than your smile,” according to Connie Stevens. However, did you know that your smile could be in danger after menopause? Post-menopausal women are more susceptible to dental health issues like gum disease and tooth loss. However, recent studies suggest that hormone replacement therapy may help keep your smile healthy.

    Hormone Replacement Therapy - HerKare

    Hormone replacement therapy may help reduce menopause symptoms and even help you protect your teeth and gums.

    During menopause, our hormone levels start to decline. This can lead to a higher risk of many different health issues. Now, you may have heard of the increased risk for heart disease, osteoporosis, and other conditions. However, what many people don’t realize is that your mouth can also become more vulnerable after menopause. Some experts estimate that 1 in 4 women will suffer from tooth loss within five years after menopause. 

    Because the risk for oral health issues goes up after menopause, many researchers are studying the link between hormones and oral health

    After menopause, our risk for several oral health conditions goes up. For example, post-menopausal women are more likely to suffer from:

    • Dry mouth
    • Periodontal (gum) disease
    • Tooth loss
    • Loose teeth
    • Gum inflammation (periodontitis)
    • Gum bleeding
    • Altered taste
    • Tooth decay
    • Bone loss in the jaw
    • Increased oral sensitivity
    • Burning mouth syndrome

    There may be many different reasons for why post-menopausal women are more susceptible to these dental issues. Hormone changes during menopause may play a role in this increased risk. 

    How Does Menopause Affect Dental Health?

    Did you know your mouth contains estrogen receptors? Estrogen and progesterone do a lot of different things in our bodies, so it makes sense that they may also influence our dental health. 

    The two major concerns for women after menopause that may lead to dental issues include the increased risk for dry mouth and the risk for bone mineral density loss. 

    Dry mouth is where you produce an unusually low amount of saliva. This is important because saliva helps keep our teeth and gums moist. It also helps clean the mouth and neutralize acids from plaque. It’s your body’s natural defense against tooth decay and gum disease. Estrogen can affect how much saliva you produce, which means you may have a higher risk of developing dry mouth after estrogen declines during menopause. Some studies have suggested that hormone replacement therapy may help increase the amount of saliva peri- and post-menopausal women produce. 

    Also, many researchers believe that estrogen has natural anti-inflammatory characteristics. When estrogen levels drop during menopause, you may be more susceptible to a condition called periodontitis. This is an inflammation of the gum tissue that causes it to pull away from your teeth, which can increase your risk for cavities and tooth decay. 

    Bone mineral density issues are also a concern after menopause. While you may think of broken arms and hips when you think of low bone density, it’s also important to understand that this can affect your jaw as well. Jaw bone loss can contribute to issues with your gums and teeth. For example, bone loss in your jaw may lead to receding gums, which exposes more of the tooth’s surface. This can increase your risk for tooth decay. 

    How Can Hormone Replacement Therapy Help?

    Many believe that hormones may play a role in why post-menopausal women are more likely to suffer from dental health issues. One recent study published in the North American Menopause Society’s journal, Menopause, suggests that hormone replacement therapy may help reduce the risk for gum disease and, by association, tooth loss. 

    There are a few reasons why estrogen replacement therapy may help reduce your oral health risks after menopause. 

    Hormone Replacement Therapy May Help Reduce Your Risk for Gum Disease

    Gum disease is one of the leading causes of tooth loss. Hormone changes may influence our risk for gum disease. The study looked at 500 women ages 50 to 87 and looked at whether hormone replacement therapy had an effect on dental health. The women in the study were split into two groups. One group received hormone therapy as well as calcium and vitamin D supplements. The other group did not. The research showed some interesting results for the hormone replacement therapy group.

    In the group who received hormones, 44% fewer women had severe gum disease. The researchers looked at several different factors that indicate gum disease. This included how far down the gums attached to the teeth, damage to the structures that support the teeth, and bleeding from the gums. The women in the hormone replacement therapy group noticed significantly fewer issues with these. 

    Also, the study adjusted the information based on common risk factors for gum disease, such as smoking, frequency of dentist visits, and more. The researchers concluded that their study suggested women treated with estrogen may have a lower risk for severe gum disease compared to those who don’t receive hormone replacement therapy. 

    Other studies have found that women who receive hormones for menopause had better dental outcomes and even spent less for dental care. Therefore, hormone treatment after menopause may help reduce the risks of dental issues. This may be due to several factors, such as saliva production, bone mineral density, increased blood flow, and reduced inflammation. While research is ongoing, this is an exciting addition to hormone replacement therapy research. 

    Hormone replacement therapy isn’t right for everyone, so it’s important to talk to our provider about your options. 

    What Else to Do to Keep Your Teeth and Gums Healthy

    Whether you’re a candidate for estrogen replacement therapy or not, there are some other things you can do to help keep your teeth and gums healthy after menopause, including:

    • Avoiding tobacco
    • Avoiding excessive alcohol consumption
    • Brushing your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
    • Reducing the amount of sugary foods and drinks in your diet
    • Eating a balanced diet
    • Flossing at least once a day
    • Getting regular dental checkups

    Let’s Talk about Your Health Today

    At HerKare, we are here to help you address your health at every stage of life. If you’re experiencing menopause symptoms that interrupt your life, like hot flashes, night sweats, or mood changes, bioidentical hormones may help relieve some of your symptoms. Our providers are here to talk about your symptoms and help find personalized treatment solutions to help you feel better. Make an appointment today and let’s talk about your health and symptoms.

    Nutritional Needs During and After Menopause

    Nutritional Needs During and After Menopause

    Did you know your nutritional needs change as you reach menopause? Our women’s health care providers are here to help you make healthy choices for your diet to help you feel your best.

    Women’s Health Care - HerKare

    Talk to our women’s health care providers about your diet and vitamin optimization during menopause.

    As we age, our risk for different conditions goes up. For example, around the time of menopause, there’s a higher likelihood of developing diabetes and osteoporosis. Also, around this time many women start to gain weight and notice more belly fat. However, your diet may help reduce these risks and help you feel great. 

    Talk to your Women’s Health Care Provider About Nutrition

    We all know that each woman is different and unique, and so are our nutritional needs! Some women need more of one vitamin and some the other. Our women’s health care providers are here to help you optimize your vitamins. 

    Generally, we recommend getting most of your vitamins and nutrients from food, and then filling in any gaps with supplements. We start by taking a blood test to look at whether you’re getting enough, or even too much, of a particular vitamin. Then, we help you develop a personalized plan to help you start meeting your nutritional needs. We’ll sit down and work with you to develop a healthy, balanced diet plan and also help with any supplements you need.

    It’s important to remember that our nutritional needs can change with each stage of life, so nutrition should be an ongoing conversation with our women’s health care professionals. Nutrition after menopause will often be different than nutrition in your 20s and 30s. Therefore, it’s important to keep these changes in mind and talk to us about your diet and nutrition.

    Our Women’s Health Care Providers Help Explain Changing Nutritional Needs after Menopause

    One major change that can affect your nutrition is menopause. As estrogen and progesterone go down, and our risk for some health conditions goes up, our bodies may need more or less of different vitamins and nutrients. 

    If you haven’t had a blood test for vitamin optimization from our women’s health clinic yet, it’s still a good thing to keep these general recommendations in mind:

    Fewer Calories

    Around the time of menopause, many women start to gain weight. This can be due to a few different factors. First, with age we start to lose some of our muscle mass. Muscle takes a lot of calories to maintain. So, as we start to lose some of that, our bodies need fewer calories.

    Also, estrogen helps our bodies distribute fat. As estrogen levels decline, you may notice more fat around your midsection. Belly fat, also known as visceral fat, can be particularly dangerous because it’s associated with health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and other life-threatening conditions. 

    Therefore, as you enter middle-age, you may need to start eating fewer calories. After 50, you generally need about 200 fewer calories a day on average, even if you’re as active as you were in your younger years. However, it’s important to discuss changes in diet with our women’s health care provider to help you make sure you’re getting the number of calories you need. 

    Calcium 

    Another major concern after menopause is bone loss. In fact, women can lose up to 20% of bone mass within 5-7 years after menopause. This can lead to conditions like osteopenia and osteoporosis. 

    Calcium is a vitamin that helps keep your bones strong. Your daily needs for calcium go up once you reach 50 years of age. Recommendations for younger women is about 1,000 mg of calcium per day. However, after 50, those recommendations shoot up to about 1,200 mg a day. 

    Many people get a lot of their calcium from dairy products. For example, one cup of milk has about 300 mg of calcium in it. However, your risk of lactose intolerance may go up around this age as well. While you can get lactose-free, calcium rich dairy products, you can also opt for foods like leafy greens as well as some nuts, fish and seeds. 

    Our women’s health care professionals can also help you with calcium supplements to fill in any gaps in your calcium intake. 

    Vitamin D

    Vitamin D helps your body absorb and use calcium, so it’s also an important part of your vitamin needs as your risk for bone density issues goes up. After age 51, the average age of menopause, you need about 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D a day. If you’re 71 or older, you need about 800 IUs. 

    You can get vitamin D from going outside in the sunlight. However, there may be several reasons why you might be avoiding the sun for health reasons. For example, many medications make your skin more sensitive to light.

    There are a few food sources for vitamin D, including egg yolks, fish, and fortified cereals and dairy products. If you’re still struggling with vitamin D deficiency, then our women’s health clinic can help you with supplements to help you get the amount of vitamin D you need each day.

    Vitamin B-6

    Vitamin B-6 helps you make red blood cells and also helps support your immune system and nervous system. Younger women need about 1.3 mg each day of B-6. However, after 50 you need about 1.5 mg each day. You can find this important vitamin in fish, meat, fruit, legumes, and many different vegetables. 

    Protein

    You may also need more protein as you enter menopause. Protein can help with muscle growth, repair, and maintenance. Some health professionals recommend getting about 25-30 grams of protein at each meal to help spread out your protein intake. This is because studies have found that your body may only be able to use a certain amount at a time. 

    One of the main meals you should look at is breakfast. The average American only gets about 10 grams of protein during breakfast. So, you may want to evaluate how much and when you’re getting your protein. 

    Women’s Health Care at Every Stage of Life from HerKare

    If you need menopause treatment or help with vitamin optimization, our providers at HerKare are here for you. We offer advanced women’s health care to help you feel your best at each stage of life. We provide state-of-the-art, compassionate care in a warm, welcoming environment. Our team takes time to listen to you and really understand your health status and concerns. Then, we work with you to create a personalized treatment plan to suit your needs. Book an appointment today and let’s talk about your health needs.