Below are 17 lifestyle changes proven healthful for the menopausal and postmenopausal years. Menopause is a normal (albeit uncomfortable) life transition, which WILL come to an end! Once you have gone an entire year without any period you have arrived at post-menopause, which is a wonderful time in life.
- If you smoke, stop smoking.
- Exercise daily to lift mood, reduce stress and inflammation, lose excess weight (particularly weight around the middle), and widen your thermoregulatory zone in your brain, which makes body temperature fluctuations more comfortable, thereby decreasing the severity of hot flashes. For bone health, include weight-bearing activities like walking, running, calisthenics, and/or dancing, as well as resistance training such as weights, bands, and/or isometrics. Resistance training also helps to slim stubborn belly fat as well as maintain strength and balance, which naturally decline during the aging process.
- Avoid hot flash triggers such as alcohol. More than four drinks per week can also increase your breast cancer risk, even if you have NO family history.
- Wear layered clothes to help decrease exposure to heat.
- Lose weight and trim abdominal circumference (measured at belly button). Aim for a body mass index (BMI) less than 25 and an abdominal circumference less than 35 inches, preferably less than 33 inches. Body composition should be less than 32% fat, and optimally less than 25% fat. Remember: Our body fat makes steroids like animal estrogen, which may increase our cancer risk, so losing fat not only decreases body warmth, it also decreases our future risk of disease.
- Decrease frequency/portion size of animal products (aim for no more than 4 ounces daily) and, if possible, avoid restaurant or store-bought animal products that contain animal steroid hormones. These hormones may trigger hot flashes in some women.
- Follow a healthy diet plan that is low in total fat and saturated fat, moderate in omega-3 fatty acids, low in sodium, and rich in healthful, nutrient-dense, fiber-filled foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans.
- Consider supplementing with multivitamins and extra calcium as indicated by your specific blood and bone tests.
- Check your vitamin D level biannually (at summer’s end in September and winter’s end in March) with an optimal level of 50 to 60 for cancer prevention, and bone and immune health. Experts suggest that most of us need at least 2000 IUs of nonprescripton vitamin D-3 per day for our best health.
- Get bone mineral density tests at least every 2 years, and annually if considering medication.
- Control your blood pressure with a goal of <120/< 80. Maintaining a healthy blood pressure may decrease your risk of memory loss as well as heart, brain, eye, and kidney disease.
- Monitor your cycle and correlate symptoms to increase your sense of control, reduce stress, and help you make appropriate lifestyle and/or medication adjustments.
- Practice healthy stress relief daily, such as enjoyable activity, yoga/tai chi, stretching, quiet time, deep breathing, prayer, meditation, and writing in a journal, all of which have significant health benefits in menopause and beyond.
- Visit your doctor regularly to monitor your cardiovascular risk factors. Follow your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, thyroid and CRP.
- Continue routine screenings such as monthly self-breast exams, annual doctor-administered breast exams, and mammogram and or ultrasounds, colonoscopy exams periodically, and annual pap smears and pelvic exams. Even if you have had a hysterectomy or oophorectomy, it is wise to check the health of this area at least every two years. Also recommended is a full body skin examination by a dermatologist for skin cancer prevention as well as regular sunscreen use.
- Remember that medication is often just a stepping stone to decrease your risk of long-term tissue damage while you are learning to maintain a healthy lifestyle changes to reverse your condition or disease.
- Finally, always keep in mind that menopause is not a disease but a normal life transition. Once you have had an entire year without any period, you have arrived at postmenopause, which is a wonderful time in life. If you experience any postmenopausal bleeding, notify your doctor as this is not normal and needs further evaluation promptly. If you continue to experience other bothersome symptoms involving sleep, concentration, mood, hot flashes, urinary concerns, or decreased libido, please discuss them with your physician as there may be other conditions that need to be addressed.