Women often need advice on staying healthy during the menopause. Here are some great tips on feeling strong and healthy around the menopause.
What is the menopause?
The menopause is the day after the women’s last period stops. However, the term is commonly used to refer to a period of time when the woman’s body changes gradually, as a result of changing hormone levels of oestrogen and progesterone.
It is widely known as the ‘the change of life’.
Staying positive around the menopause
For many years the menopause has been portrayed as a negative time for a women. More recently women have openly referred to this time positively, embracing the freedom that it represents in a population of women who are usually healthy, strong and more financially secure than they have ever been and can look forward to the future with enthusiasm and jest for life!
This isn’t meant to sound like a TV ad! But let’s face it, it’s going to happen. And it is not all bad. Just like adolescence affected us all differently, and affects our daughters differently again, so too will the menopause. Many women sail through and only just manage to notice that their periods have stopped. However, for some women the change of life is a difficult, challenging and disturbing time.
So what can we do about it?
Why is it important to be healthy during the menopause?
A woman’s body changes during the peri menopause (the time around the menopause) and an awareness of how to continue to feel healthy and strong will undoubtedly help enormously.
It is not unlike any other period of our lives in that the basics still hold true – a healthy diet and plenty exercise will make a huge difference to how you feel. There are certain food groups that will be of benefit, helping the body to adjust to changing hormone levels of oestrogen and progesterone.
An increase in calcium is recommended to maintain health bones – unless a woman is taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Vitamin D enables calcium absorption and is important for healthy bones also. This can also be obtained from the diet and is known as the sunshine vitamin, as it is obtained from sunshine – all the more reason to get outside more, exercising and enjoying the outdoors.
However, vitamin D has been linked with kidney stones and constipation, so please discuss your individual health with your own doctor, before taking any extra supplements.
Consider your diet and check whether you are getting enough of the daily requirements of essential minerals and vitamins. Your doctor or a dietitian can advise you about your personal needs.
As women enter the menopause they are more likely to put on weight around their middle, than on the hips as is typical in many women. Also at this time the cholesterol level of the blood may become higher. This is not because of the menopause per se, but is linked with other typical behaviours at this time, for example:
- Stress, resulting in eating more
- Dietary habits which contain a higher cholesterol level
- Reduced exercise
The importance of exercise cannot be overestimated! It makes you feel great (endorphins released during exercise give you a natural high and reduce stress levels), look great and will much improve your overall health. Three times a week of whatever exercise you choose will be beneficial. There are some great ideas in our article on Women and Exercise – see our link below.
Sex around the time of the menopause can be uncomfortable, due to vaginal dryness. Talk to your partner about this and try using a water based lubricant in the first instance. Oestrogen creams are also available and your doctor will be able to advise you about these.
Please remember that it is still possible to get pregnant if you are having irregular periods, so continue to use contraception until you are sure you have passed the menopause!
How can I help myself during the menopause?
- A calcium rich diet – dairy foods are an excellent source of calcium, as are beans, nuts and seeds and some foods are enriched with calcium
- Ensuring a daily intake of vitamin D through foods such as fortified margarine, oily fish such as tuna and mackerel and egg yolks
- A daily dose of sunshine
- Regular exercise – walking, speed walking, jogging, cycling and swimming are all amazingly beneficial. Arrange to meet a friend to increase motivation, better still join a team or group.
- HRT is beneficial for some women. Discuss your individual circumstances with your doctor, if you think this would be right for you.
- A diet which is low in fat, particularly saturated fats
- A diet rich in fibre (from wholegrain foods) and fruit and vegetables
- A diet rich in salt and sugar, typical of smoked and processed foods – aim for natural ingredients wherever possible.
- Avoid smoking and smoky environments – the increased stress on your lungs and blood vessels from nicotine will reduce your overall health
- Keep within the daily recommended amounts of alcohol – 2-3 drinks per day, with a maximum of 14 per week
- Wear layers of cotton and natural fabrics to help reduce hot flushes. Cotton sheets are a good idea too.
Look after yourself and take some time out of your hectic schedule – for you!
For more factual information on the Menopause and HRT, click here
For tips on Women and Exercise visit our Kiwi Families article