- Menopause often includes symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, irritability, fatigue, mood swings, sleep disturbances, headaches, vaginal dryness, and more.
- Exercising regularly, focusing on proper nutrition, and talking to your doctor can help you manage these symptoms and maintain your best health.
As if women didn’t have enough to worry about already, menopause brings a range of new symptoms and potential health concerns. If you’re a woman in her late 40s to early 50s, you may be experiencing— or anticipating — “the change.”
Menopause often includes uncomfortable hot flashes, night sweats, irritability, fatigue, mood swings, sleep disturbances, headaches, vaginal dryness, and fuzzy thinking and forgetfulness (meno-fog). It also can put women at increased risk for developing osteoporosis, obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
The good news is that there are a number of steps you can take to alleviate — and possibly prevent — the unfortunate side effects and increased health risks of menopause. Here’s what you can do to maintain your very best health during, and beyond, this stage of your life.
Research suggests that exercise may decrease hot flashes for some women. Not only that, weight-bearing exercises, like walking or running, are beneficial to maintain bone health and help prevent osteoporosis. Muscle strengthening can also be helpful; this can be done 2-3 times per week using weights, medicine balls, cables, or bands. Stretching and balance training are also recommended forms of physical activity.
Regular exercise also lowers your risk for obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Choose activities that you enjoy and will continue to participate in over time, but don’t be afraid to change up your routine periodically to stay motivated.
Always talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise program.
Mind your diet.
Menopause is a great time to reevaluate and improve your nutrition. In general, woman should focus on heart-healthy food choices like fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, low-fat dairy, and whole grains. Also, be sure to get enough calcium and vitamin D, found in dairy products, certain vegetables, and a variety of fortified foods. If you’re not a fan of dairy, try dairy alternatives that are high in these nutrients. Getting enough omega-3 fats, found in seafood, nuts and seeds, is also key to achieving optimal health.
It has been suggested that eating phytoestrogens, such as soy products, may prevent hot flashes. However, research is inconclusive. Many women find it helpful to avoid common trigger foods for hot flashes like caffeine, alcohol, sugar and spicy foods.
Your body may require fewer calories as your metabolism slows. Because weight gain is a common problem during menopause, it is beneficial to maintain proper nutrition and follow recommended guidelines to healthy weight loss when necessary.
Finally, drink lots of water — and don’t smoke.
As with other transitional stages of life, reducing stress is a good idea. But, because many menopausal women still have kids at home, care for aging relatives, and/or work outside the home, this is easier said than done. Whenever possible, avoid taking on any additional responsibilities in order to create some time for yourself. After all, you are in need of proper self-care including a regular exercise program, proper nutrition, and adequate sleep.
Check out these helpful tips to regulate stress, which include deep breathing, visualization, and meditation. And did you know that certain deep breathing techniques might even reduce hot flashes? Give them a try!
Talk to your doctor.
A wide variety of natural products claim to treat menopause symptoms. In most cases, more evidence is needed about their safety and effectiveness. Discuss risks with your doctor before taking supplements. Products containing estrogen may be of particular concern for some breast cancer patients.
Ask your provider if hormone replacement therapy (HRT) might be a good option for you.
By focusing on a heart-healthy lifestyle that includes exercising, improving nutrition, and reducing stress, you can manage your symptoms and maintain good health as you move beyond menopause and enter your golden years.
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