Menopause is an inevitable time in a woman's life when her hormones decline. Understanding what is happening with our bodies can help us to find healthy solutions to cope better with the challenges this phase of life brings us.
9 top ways to manage menopause with a healthy lifestyle:
1. Be aware of your diet
A decline in hormone levels can increase our risk of osteoporosis, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and various other health issues. Although we should get most of our nutrients from the foods we eat many women do not. Being aware of our diet and how it can improve our wellbeing is something we as women can do to help ourselves. Calcium, magnesium and vitamin D are important nutrients needed to help prevent osteoporosis (a loss in bone density) which can make our bones weak, leaving us predisposed to fractures.
2. Up calcium intake
After menopause, women should aim to get 1,200 mg of calcium and at least 600 IU of vitamin D a day. Good sources of these can be found in milk, cheese, yoghurt, meat, eggs, oily fish like salmon and tuna, vegetables such as broccoli and kale and fruit such as oranges or black currents.
3. Move more
Exercise is a very good way to slow bone loss. It also helps maintain muscle tone, keeps the cardiovascular system healthy and regulates weight gain. Regular weight bearing exercises such as walking, dancing, playing tennis or golf for approximately 30 minutes at least 3x a week are great ways to improve bone strength. Also by spending time outdoors exercising gives our skin the opportunity to acquire the vitamin D needed by the body to efficiently absorb calcium (remember to be sun smart!). Exercise causes us to breathe more deeply and increases our heart rate, this effect has shown to help with mood swings, hot flushes and sleep as well as improving concentration and energy levels.
4. Watch your weight
It is not unusual for menopause to cause women to gain weight and many of us, despite exercising, struggle to stay within the healthy weight range, aiming for a BMI 20 – 25. Eating fibre rich, low GI foods can help us feel full on less, as well as helping stabilise our oestrogen levels and keeping our blood sugar levels within the optimal range of between 3.0 - 7.8 mmols
5. High fibre diet
It is recommended that we eat approximately 20 grams of fibre a day. A good source can be found in wholegrains, lentils, brown rice, vegetables and fruits such as apples and raspberries.
6. Stress less
Most women experience mood swings at times, but menopause can often cause these to seem worse and more difficult to cope with. Some women may feel anxious and experience memory and concentration loss. As well as getting enough sleep, reducing stress and workloads, a diet rich in vitamin B12 and Omega 3 can help.
A good food source of these are wholegrains, meat, poultry and oily fish like salmon or tuna. Including cottage cheese, oats, legumes and bananas can also help as they contain tryptophan which is needed by the body to make serotonin a brain chemical which regulates our mood.
7. Get more sleep
Getting enough sleep isn't always easy, especially when menopause can cause many women to experience insomnia, often exacerbated by hot flushes and visits to the toilet. Lack of oestrogen can affect the cells in the lining of the vagina, bladder and urethra. This can contribute towards LBL (loss of urine) when a woman coughs or sneezes.
8. Revive your sex drive
As the vaginal skin becomes thinner and more easily irritated, combined with a decline in a woman's natural lubrication, intercourse can become uncomfortable or even painful. Using a water based lubricant can offer some relief. It's believed that phytoestrogens found in plant based foods like alfalfa, celery and rhubarb if eaten regularly may help with declining oestrogen levels. It is important to reassure yourself that menopause is a natural life event and its symptoms can be alleviated.
9. Share with friend
Sharing your thoughts with a partner of friend may help. If you are still struggling, please seek help from your GP or Women's Health Nurse. They will be able to help you gain perspective on your concerns and offer you support and advice on management options.
At Toukley Family Practice we operate a Women's Health Clinic, find out more about the services provided here.
We look forward to seeing you at the practice soon.
Ms Gillian Jarret