For most women menopause occurs between their early 40’s and late 50’s. It’s not a time that is looked forward to, with negative associations of ageing, and fear of some of the symptoms that go along with menopause.
While symptoms vary from woman to woman, the most common and often embarrassing symptom is hot flushes which are a sudden and intense feeling of warmth and heat. Most flushes last less than 5 minutes, and occur in up to 65% of menopausal women, especially in the later part of the menopause.
For most women the symptoms of menopause, including hot flushes can be managed through being well informed, practicing self care, and a balanced diet and regular exercise. Hormone replacement therapy is also an option for those with less manageable symptoms.
After menopause the risk of developing coronary heart disease (and high blood pressure), and stroke increases as does the risk of osteoporosis.
While these factors are a concern, lifestyle still contributes to these diseases, so the increased risk can be managed through eating a healthy and balanced diet, getting regular exercise, avoiding smoking and a keeping to a moderate alcohol intake.
Many women are concerned with the possible weight gain associated with being post menopausal. The specific hormonal changes of menopause can make you more likely to gain weight around your abdomen, than around your hips and thighs. But overall weight gain is likely to be a by product of ageing, lifestyle changes and genetics, rather than the menopausal hormones alone. This is great news that middle aged spread is not an inevitable part of being an older woman.
One of the risks for post menopausal women is osteoporosis, and a higher intake of vitamin D and calcium can help reduce this risk. Vitamin D is produced by your body when exposed to sunlight and many readily available food sources such as dairy, dark green veggies and boned fish provide us with calcium.
Weight bearing exercise including walking, group exercise classes and resistance training will help strengthen bones, thus preventing the onset and development of osteoporosis. If you have been a regular exerciser in the years leading up to menopause, you have a head start on your health as your bones will be stronger due to the regular weight bearing exercise, and while breast cancer is more prevalent after menopause, regular exercise can reduce the risk for this as well.
Many women find they experience mood changes and symptoms of depression through the time of menopause. The mood elevating benefits of regular exercise can elevate these symptoms. Doing specific pelvic floor exercises can help to reduce incontinence, no matter what any advertisement on television says, there is no need to ‘put up’ with bladder weakness at this age.
When not exercising, making sure that you get enough sleep, and your stress levels are managed, as fatigue and stress can worsen symptoms.