A positive attitude and a little preparation can help women deal with menopause, according to an expert.
Women should start preparing when they experience perimenopause, the stage before menopause. Perimenopause typically begins in the 40s, but can start as early as the 30s, according to Dr Karen Deighan, chair of obstetrics/gynecology at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, Loyola University Health System.
"I give my perimenopausal patients a pep talk so they don't get down on themselves," she said. "I tell them that they shouldn't just let this transition happen. Women can be proactive about their health and take steps to minimise the side effects of menopause before it occurs."
Deighan offered the following tips:
- Start exercising in order to prevent the weight gain typical of menopause. Fluctuations in hormones can contribute to this weight gain. It's more difficult to prevent or lose those extra pounds if you wait until menopause to begin an exercise programme.
- Begin pelvic-floor-strengthening exercises such as kegels. Proper kegel exercises contract the pelvic-floor muscles, not the abdomen, thighs or buttocks.
- Do weight-bearing exercises to keep bones strong and reduce the risk of fractures.
- Challenge your brain with memory exercises and crosswords and other types of word puzzles - it may help lower the risk of memory loss during menopause.
- Develop and maintain good sleep habits in order to counter potential sleep problems caused by dips in oestrogen levels.
- Try to get enough sleep - lack of sleep in itself can contribute to mental fogginess and lower libido, which are often associated with menopause.
- Consider oestrogen suppositories to help treat vaginal dryness. Regular intercourse also improves sex drive and increases lubrication.
- Get your recommended annual tests, including checks of blood glucose, cholesterol, vitamin D and calcium levels, as well as mammograms and pelvic exams. The results of a colonoscopy at age 50 will determine the frequency of future colonoscopies.
- Don't neglect your teeth - brush twice a day and floss daily to help prevent gum disease, which can affect your cardiovascular health.
- Eat a diet rich in leafy greens and healthy fats such as salmon, avocado and olive oil in order to keep hair and skin healthy. Limit consumption of processed foods.
- Premenopausal women should consume 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams of calcium daily (experts recommend taking the calcium in two to three smaller doses), and postmenopausal women should take 1,500 mg of calcium in 500 mg doses with magnesium and vitamin D for maximum absorption.
- Hormone therapy should not be used by women at risk for breast cancer, blood clots or heart disease.
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