Menopause is an unavoidable phase in a woman’s life. It is as natural as losing your baby teeth or growing breasts. Remember being a 12-year-old? If you were like me, you dreaded the day when your period would come. Horror stories from my older sister of bloodstained shorts and gauzy underwear haunted my pre-adolescence. Or, if you were like one of my carefree friends, maybe you looked forward to your first period and dreamed of training bras and wedding rings. Like your first, your last period is a normal part of aging, and menopause should be treated as an exciting new step in your life, not something to dread or try to prevent. Menopause will come whether you like it or not, so it’s important to treat your body well and avoid possible side effects and health risks during this time.
We know that smoking, drinking, poor eating habits, and not dealing with stress are bad for our bodies, minds, and overall health. Yet no matter how many times we hear this, it is often hard to make changes. But as you grow older you must take special care of your body and honor the subtle changes taking place. These vices are not only harmful to our bodies, but they also increase the negative side effects of menopause, making the transition more difficult—and potentially more dangerous. Many of these habits may also predispose you to entering perimenopause at an earlier age.
Smoking is one of the most detrimental vices. Women who smoke tend to enter menopause one to two years earlier than those who don’t. If you are a smoker who has already reached menopause, you might reduce hot flashes and long-term health risks if you quit.
Caffeine, alcohol, and stress may also make symptoms of menopause worse, and should be avoided in order to help you sleep better during this time. Women’s bodies are composed of less water than men’s, causing alcohol to reach a woman’s bloodstream at a more concentrated level. Therefore, women who drink are at risk for developing organ-related damage and should always be careful to avoid excessive alcohol consumption.
During menopause, you are at a higher risk for osteoporosis and heart disease due to hormone decline. A healthy diet is vital to combatting these risks. Calcium-rich foods are fundamental to protecting your bones. Pair calcium with vitamin D to help your body absorb it and prevent bone loss. A diet composed of healthy portions, that is low in fat and high in fiber, with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, will make you feel alert, healthy, and happy.
Fitness & Exercise
Exercise is important for maintaining your waistline, but it also improves your heart, mind, and bones. Lifting weights has been proven to help prevent bone loss and fractures in women who have gone through menopause. It is recommended that women exercise at least 30 minutes most days of the week to reap the benefits of a healthy body. A combination of moderate cardio and strength training will help prevent weight gain, improve your sleep, strengthen your bones, and elevate your mood. Menopausal and post-menopausal women may also be at increased risk for a range of chronic conditions which exercise can help counter.
Stress and Other Mental Health Concerns
Menopause is a difficult time in any woman’s life. Aside from the uncomfortable side effects, there are also weighty psychological issues at play. Stress, anxiety, and depression tend to increase during this transition and make daily tasks and routine aspects of life more difficult. Managing these side effects will safeguard your own happiness as well as that of those around you. Practice stress-reduction techniques regularly to promote relaxation and peace and improve your longevity and overall health. Meditation and yoga are great methods to combat stress and promote a smooth transition past menopause.
We can’t avoid menopause, so instead of dreading this new transition, embrace it. Treat your body and mind well, and they will both thank you for it.