When menopause occurs, the ovaries stop producing eggs, marking the end of the menstrual cycle, or periods, and reproductive years. Women typically enter menopause from ages 45-60, but the average age to reach menopause is 52. If you have not had a period in one full year, then you are considered to be in menopause.
Menopause generally does not require medical treatment, but to manage the physical and emotional changes that come with it, there are simple steps to ease symptoms and navigate the journey.
Exercise is Key
Doctors say that exercise is a great way to achieve a healthy body and peace of mind. However, it is also a great way to reduce hot flashes and mood changes – common symptoms of menopause. Exercise can also protect against heart disease and slow bone density loss after menopause. Moving the body is key and does not have to be an intense weightlifting routine. An activity as simple as walking around the neighborhood with your dog can help reduce symptoms.
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Sleep can be a significant factor in managing symptoms of menopause. To have a great night’s sleep, avoid large meals, coffee, alcohol, smoking, and working out right before bedtime. Have a cup of tea or drink something warm and make sure to keep your room dark, quiet, and cool. Maintain a consistent bedtime routine and limit TV, phone or computer use before falling asleep.
To get relief from hot flashes or night sweats, keep the bedroom cool and dress in layers to better regulate your temperature by taking off or putting on more clothes. Women who smoke or are obese have a higher risk for getting hot flashes during menopause. Quit smoking and lose weight to lower your risk of hot flashes. Carry a portable fan around to help cool down whenever you get flushed.
Better Eating Habits
Cholesterol and weight changes can be symptoms during this change of life. Women are more likely to gain weight during this time, especially in the midsections. Eat more fruits, vegetables and organic, low-fat proteins like chicken and fish to control cholesterol levels. Drink lots of water and avoid processed foods to also help with weight management. Avoid alcohol and spicy foods, which can make menopause symptoms worse.
Find a Supportive Community
Menopause, historically, has been ignored and stigmatized for women. You are not alone. Simply talking to other women who have gone through the change of life experience can make a difference. Ask your doctor about menopausal support groups, or form your own support group with friends. And if you feel sad, isolated, anxious, or depressed, don’t hesitate to talk with your doctor or a therapist to find a treatment to help you through this journey.
While other women in your life may have had a different experience with menopause or had great results with a specific treatment, it is important to find an approach that works best for you. Focus on addressing the area or symptom that is affecting you the most. Talk to your doctor about all of your symptoms, the impact on your life, what options you have, to create a plan to more easily navigate this natural part of the aging process.