By Cheshire Que, RND, RN, RD
Menopause is a natural passage in a woman’s life cycle, which inevitably happens at around the age of 50. This period is marked by the decline in hormone production, specifically estrogen and progesterone. These hormones are responsible for a woman’s monthly visit from Aunt Flow and sexual reproduction.
Perimenopausal period begins as a woman gradually produces less hormones at around her mid-40s. This may last somewhere between five to six years until the period of menopause kicks in. Menopause is official when there is no menstrual flow 12 months after the last period occurred. Post menopause follows at the age of 51, on the average.
Cessation of menstrual flow has its advantages and disadvantages. For one, all of the discomfort associated with a woman’s monthly period is now gone. A woman’s need for iron decreases, too. A woman may experience undesirable symptoms during the course of menopause such as hot flashes, insomnia, and mood swings. It is important for a woman to come to terms with these changes even before the onset of menopause. It will help them cope better. This period is transient and will eventually improve after menopause.
The real struggle comes post menopausal. Weight gain typically occurs due to slower metabolism, plus the fact that women at this stage are mostly not as physically active anymore. Sedentary lifestyle is a precursor to unhealthy weight and many chronic illnesses. A woman’s risk of developing cardiovascular diseases increases after menopause as compared to the male population of the same age.
Here are some tips on how to successfully deal with menopause
- Be physically active all day every day. If you have been sedentary all your life, this is the time to have a serious workout plan. Whether under the guidance of a personal trainer, a video exercise program or simply start with committing to brisk walking at least 30 minutes a day. Exercise promotes cardiovascular health, improves the function of the lungs, and helps produce the happy hormone serotonin, which then gets converted into the sleep hormone melatonin. The benefits of exercise and an active lifestyle are limitless. It is recommended that you consult your doctor before starting any exercise program.
- Keep your blood pressure at bay. Get quality sleep, manage stress, choose to dwell on the positive things in life, let go of anything that burns you out. Your emotions impact your blood pressure. And so do your genes. If you have been prescribed with antihypertensive meds, make sure that you take them religiously. Sodium largely found in salt may influence blood pressure increase when taken in excessive amounts. Avoid adding table salt and sodium-containing condiments on the table. It is also beneficial to eat foods that are high in potassium such as bananas, oranges, and green leafy vegetables.
- Keep yourself cool. Combat hot flashes by wearing clothes made of fabric that will make your skin breathe. Stay in cool places and keep yourself well hydrated throughout the day. Do not wait until your throat gets parched. That would mean that you are already dehydrated. Avoid spicy food and caffeine containing foods and beverages.
- Eat mindfully and smartly. Eat a variety of food, mostly fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, lean meat, fish, chicken, low fat dairy, healthy fats from nuts, seeds. Avoid foods that are highly processed, high in refined sugars and saturated fats, as well as, deep fried. If you have to choose between a cream based soup and a clear soup, choose the latter one at once. Be mindful about of your appetite and listen to hunger cues. If you are not hungry, you are not supposed to eat even if tempting delectable treats are served in front of you. Having a healthy eating pattern is the most important aspect of weight management.
- Pay attention to your nutritional needs. Requirements for calcium and vitamin D increase not only because of declining bone health at this stage but because these two play important roles in maintaining health and preventing chronic illnesses. Vitamin D works like a hormone in the body. It is related to diabetes, heart diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, and even cancer. Consult your doctor or dietitian to know the right dosage of supplements.
Embrace this stage with all your heart and might. Menopause is not something women should fear. It is something that we all need to go through and courageously overcome.
Tags: active lifestyle, blood pressure, chronic illnesses, Dealing with Menopause, exercise program, HEALTHY EVER AFTER, hormone production, hot flashes, menopause, menstrual flow, monthly period, onset of menopause, Perimenopausal period, Post menopause