What can I do to help me experience a better menopause?

You do not have to wait for your menopausal symptoms to start before taking action to try and improve them. There are many lifestyle interventions that can improve your experience of the menopause, and the sooner you start, the better!

The biggest factor to consider is your cardiovascular health – essentially your heart and blood vessels. These are protected by the circulating oestrogen in your body when you are pre-menopausal. However this hormone level significantly drops after the menopause and you lose that protective element. Improving your cardiovascular health before that happens is vital – and makes you less likely to get significant hot flushes!

Your bone density is also important – the drop in oestrogen associated with menopause results in a reduction in your bone mass which puts you at risk of fracture. As you get older, complications of fractures, such as fracture of the hip, can have serious consequences.

So what can you do to help?

Firstly – don’t smoke! If you do, then really try and stop. Post-menopuasal women who smoke 20/day are 6 times more likely to have a heart attack than a woman who has never smoked. But if you stop, that risk is halved within 1 year! And think of all the money you’ll save!

Secondly – exercise! Currently WHO advice recommends 150 minutes of moderate physical exercise each week. Its also important to include strengthening exercise with things such as yoga – this is to keep your body supple and improve balance and strength. This will help keep your bone density high reducing the risk of future fractures.

Thirdly – eat and drink healthily! Ensure you have a balanced diet with plenty of vegetables and fruit, and avoid drinking too much alcohol. Protein-rich foods are important for peri-menopausal women to help maintain muscle strength – foods such as fish, eggs, beans, and lean meat. Calcium and vitamin D are needed to maintain bone mass – oily fish, eggs and dairy are great for this. And foods high in fibre (such as wholegrains) and omega-3 fatty acids (oily fish) are excellent for your cardivascular health.

Soy products can be of particular benefit to women as they contain phyto-oestrogens – natural products found in plants that have mild oestrogen-like properties. This is felt to be why Asian women often experience the menopause much better (and why, until recently, there was no Japanese word for ‘menopause’!)

So, although none of this advice is likely to be new to you, you can clearly see how our lifestyle choices can impact on how we might experience menopause when it happens.

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