Stay Healthy During Menopause
Simple tips to help you feel at your best
Menopause, the permanent end of a woman’s periods, can have an upside for your overall well-being, experts say. The onset of menopause is a perfect time “to take stock and determine where you’re at in terms of your health,” says Margery Gass, M.D., executive director of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS).
Specifically, women can stave off serious chronic diseases later in life by taking time to assess their heart health, risk of developing osteoporosis and general physical fitness, says Dr. Gass, whose expertise includes menopause, osteoporosis and female sexual function. The good news is that those three concerns can be addressed in concert, she adds. “Cardio and bone health risk factors can relate to a lack of physical activity and weight gain.”
Aerobic exercise is best for your heart, and weight-bearing exercise promotes bone health, experts say. A good rule of thumb: Aim for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most days. “A brisk walking program is ideal,” says Dr. Gass, “and most everybody can do it.”
To eat in a way that will keep your heart at its healthiest, NAMS recommends a diet that includes a variety of fruits and vegetables; whole grains; low- or nonfat dairy products; fish; legumes; and lean proteins, including beans, seeds and nuts. Also, make sure you’re getting enough calcium (1,200 mg daily) and vitamin D (800 to 1,000 IU daily) to help keep your bones strong.
You can also fight some of the symptoms of menopause with lifestyle and home remedies, according to Mayo Clinic experts. Over-the-counter water-based vaginal lubricants can decrease vaginal discomfort, for example. Since smoking may also increase hot flashes, don’t smoke. Other ways to cool hot flashes: Dress in removable layers and avoid triggers—including hot beverages, spicy foods, alcohol, hot weather and even a hot room.
If your hot flashes are severe and disruptive or if you experience heavy and irregular menstrual bleeding, speak to your doctor. Also, consult your clinician about herbal remedies for menopausal symptoms—according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, studies of botanicals have shown mixed results. Check, too, with your doctor about hormone therapy—medications containing female hormones that replace the ones the body stops making after menopause. Your doctor can help you ID the possible benefits of the various options and evaluate your personal risks.