Sorry ladies, there’s just no way around menopause. In fact, it’s a natural part of a woman’s life cycle. Menopause is when your periods stop permanently, and you can no longer get pregnant.
A woman is believed to reach the menopause stage only after it has been a full year since her last period. This means there is no incidence of any bleeding, including spotting, for 12 consecutive months.
The average age for menopause in the United States is 52, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (1). However, women can stop having periods somewhere between ages 45 and 55.
Once you reach menopause, your ovaries make very low levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. The low hormone levels cause several changes in the body.
Some common symptoms of menopause include hot flashes, night sweats, fatigue, moodiness, anxiety, vaginal dryness, weight gain, insomnia, changes in sleep quality, dry hair, thinning hair, changes in the breasts, foggy brain and headaches.
Menopause also increases the risk of certain other age-related diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, dementia and osteoporosis.
Menopause is not an illness, so there is no cure. While menopause symptoms can be hard to handle and take a toll on your mental and physical health, it is not something that cannot be managed.
Here are the top 10 tips to deal with menopause and avoid complications.
1. Lose Weight
The hormonal changes that occur during menopause can make you gain weight, especially around the abdomen.
Apart from hormonal changes, weight gain during this time can be related to aging, as well as lifestyle and genetic factors.
A 2012 study published in Climacteric reports that hormonal changes throughout the perimenopause stage substantially contribute to increased abdominal obesity, which leads to additional physical and psychological morbidity (2).
Another study published in the Australian Family Physician in 2017 states that women may gain an average of 5 pounds during menopause. Women who are already overweight are more likely to gain weight during this period in their life (3).
As increased belly fat is associated with increased risk of heart disease and other life-threatening diseases, it is important to take necessary steps to lose weight.
Focus on a healthy lifestyle to manage your weight. Eating a healthy and balanced diet and exercising regularly can help a lot in maintaining a healthy body weight.
2. Exercise Regularly
Exercise is important for everyone, including women who are finding it difficult to handle menopause symptoms.
Regular exercise can help relieve hot flashes, regulate your mood, improve sleep quality and manage your weight.
It can also help manage several risk factors associated with menopause complications, including heart disease, high inflammation, bone loss or muscle wasting, and chronic stress.
A 2014 study published in Menopause provides strong evidence that 12 weeks of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise does not alleviate vasomotor symptoms like hot flashes but may result in small improvements in sleep quality, insomnia and depression in midlife sedentary women (4).
Another study published in Menopause Review in 2016 reports that controlled and regular exercise for 12 weeks significantly correlated with a positive change in vitality and mental health.
Sedentary women should consider modifying their lifestyle to include physical activity, as it leads to improved quality of life (5).
For most healthy adults up to age 65, at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week is recommended.
3. Reduce and Manage Stress
Many women experience increased levels of stress, anxiety, moodiness and even episodes of depression during the menopause stage.
A 2010 study published in the Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health found that higher perceived stress and a more negative attitude toward aging can have a direct impact on menopausal symptom experience (6).
A 2016 study published in the Annals of Medical & Health Sciences Research reported that a large number of factors were associated with experiencing menopausal and psycho-social problems.
The study also reports that depression, anxiety and stress should be considered as important risk factors for osteoporosis (7).
Too much stress and anxiety in life can have a negative impact on your mental and physical health, thus it becomes more important to manage your stress level.
Different stress-reducing techniques work for different people. Some effective ways to relieve stress include exercise, meditation, aromatherapy, spending time in nature, listening to music, fostering close relationships, investing time on a hobby, volunteering and dedicating time to spiritual practices.
4. Sleep Well
Experiencing poor sleep quality is a common symptom of menopause. Changes in your hormone levels can lead to hot flashes and fatigue, which can affect sleep.
A 2017 study published in the International Journal of Reproduction, Contraception, Obstetrics and Gynecology reports that sleep disorders are common, with a prevalence of 29.5 percent in menopausal women. It significantly causes psychosocial problems in women, and it needs to be treated promptly (8).
Earlier, a 2005 study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine reported that menopausal sleep disruption can exacerbate other pre-existing sleep disorders, including restless legs syndrome and circadian disorders (9).
During menopause, it’s very important to practice good sleep habits so you can get enough high-quality sleep at night.
Adults should get 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. Exercising during the day, avoiding caffeine in the evening and following a regular sleep schedule may help you fall and stay asleep more easily.
To prevent hot flashes from disturbing your sleep, try to sleep in a cool room, dress in layers and keep a glass of cold water nearby.
5. Take Care of Your Bones
Estrogen plays a key role in building new bone. As your estrogen level drops during menopause, it can have a negative effect on bone density.
In fact, bone density often drops at a fast rate during the first few years of menopause, leading to an increased risk of bone fractures.
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism in 2008 reports that bone loss accelerates substantially in the late perimenopause stage and continues at a similar pace in the first postmenopausal years.
Researchers found that body weight is a major determinant of the rate of menopausal bone mineral density loss (10).
To keep an eye on your bone strength, consider getting a bone density test done. In the meantime to maintain the strength of your bones, eat more foods that are rich in calcium and vitamin D, do strength-training exercises and take necessary measures to prevent falls.
6. Get Acupuncture
Acupuncture, an ancient Chinese medicinal practice, can offer therapeutic benefits and may reduce the symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, night sweats, and aches and pains.
A 2009 study published in the British Medical Journal concludes that use of acupuncture in addition to self-care can contribute to a clinically relevant reduction of hot flashes and increased health-related quality of life among women going through menopause (11).
Another study published in Menopause in 2016 found that a course of acupuncture treatments was associated with significant reduction in vasomotor symptoms and several quality-of-life measures compared with no acupuncture, and the clinical benefit persisted for at least six months beyond the end of treatment (12).
As acupuncture has very few side effects, it is safe for most women. But it is important to get it done by a physician who is trained in acupuncture. Treatment duration will vary from one person to another.
7. Watch What You Eat and Drink
A well-balanced diet is important for good health. In fact, the food you eat can have a direct impact on how well you are managing your menopause symptoms.
- Eat fruits, vegetables and whole-grain cereal products, especially those high in vitamin C and carotene like oranges, grapefruit, carrots, winter squash, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower and green leafy vegetables.
- Eating more foods rich in dietary fiber will help maintain bowel mobility. Some of the best sources of fiber include nuts, seeds, legumes/beans, whole grains, avocados, vegetables and fruit. However, keep in mind that when increasing your fiber intake, you also increase your water intake to avoid abdominal discomforts.
- Foods rich in omega-3 fats will help protect the heart, promote smooth skin and counteract inflammation.
- Eat probiotic foods to improve your production and regulation of key hormones like insulin, ghrelin and leptin.
- Aim to drink 8 to 10 glasses of water daily to help replace fluid lost from hot flashes and to decrease bloating.
- Avoid coffee, tea or soft drinks that contain caffeine.
- Limit your intake of salt-cured and smoked foods, such as sausage, smoked fish and ham, bacon, bologna and hot dogs.
- Avoid spicy food, along with food and drinks containing processed sugar.
8. Consider Taking a Vitamin E Supplement
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that can help manage symptoms of menopause. This antioxidant helps fight cell-damaging free radicals and reduces inflammation in the body.
Taking an adequate amount of vitamin E can reduce the risk of depression, heart disease and weight gain.
Plus, vitamin E has estrogen and can effectively eliminate or reduce the severity of hot flashes in menopausal women. It also replaces necessary electrolytes that the body loses through sweating.
A 2007 study published in Gynecologic and Obstetric Investigation concludes that vitamin E is effective for the treatment of hot flashes (13).
- A daily dose of 400 IUs of vitamin E capsules can help reduce hot flashes. Take one 200 IU capsule twice a day with meals. Always consult your doctor before taking supplements.
- Also, include vitamin E-rich foods in your diet like nuts, seeds, leafy greens and avocado.
Note: Vitamin E may take three to six weeks before you notice a difference.
9. Check Your Blood Pressure
Your risk of cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure, increases when your estrogen production reduces during menopause.
A study published in the Netherlands Heart Journal in 2009 reports that with the decline in estrogen levels, risk factors for coronary heart disease become more apparent, especially hypertension. The onset of hypertension can cause a variety of complaints that are often attributed to menopause (14).
Another study published in ARYA Atherosclerosis in 2012 found that similar to hot flashes, the increase in systolic blood pressure may arise from central sympathetic activity (15).
So, after menopause, you should monitor your blood pressure and get it checked regularly by your doctor.
Eat a well-balanced diet, reduce your sodium intake, avoid alcohol drinks, quit smoking, reduce your stress level and exercise regularly to avoid and treat high blood pressure.
10. Keep Cool
Hot flashes or excess sweating is a common symptom of menopause. It is important to control hot flashes, as they can lead to disturbed sleep and more stress. Plus, excess sweating can lead to dehydration.
To deal with hot flashes, dress in layers. You can “take it off” if you feel yourself flushing. Avoid wool, silk and other non-breathable fabrics, which lock in heat and increase body temperature. Instead, wear fibers that allow more air to flow through them, such as cotton.
Some other tips include:
- Stay in a cool, comfortable environment whenever possible.
- If you do not have an air conditioner, sit by an open window or use a portable desk fan.
- Use cooling gels and sprays, which are readily available in the market.
- Practice deep breathing to keep your body temperature cool.
- Drink more water to help regulate your internal temperature.
- Avoid sunbathing or sitting in a sauna if you are prone to hot flashes.
- Don’t eat hot and spicy foods, which may trigger you to sweat more.
- Menopause basics. womenshealth.gov. https://www.womenshealth.gov/menopause/menopause-basics. Published October 20, 2017.
- Understanding weight gain at menopause. Climacteric : the journal of the International Menopause Society. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22978257. Published 2012.
- Obesity and weight management at menopause. RACGP. https://www.racgp.org.au/afp/2017/june/obesity-and-weight-management-at-menopause/.
- Efficacy of exercise for menopausal symptoms: a randomized controlled trial. Menopause (New York, N.Y.). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23899828. Published April 2014.
- Twelve-week exercise training and the quality of life in menopausal women – clinical trial. Przegla̜d Menopauzalny = Menopause Review. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4828504/. Published March 2016.
- The Effects of Perceived Stress and Attitudes Toward Menopause and Aging on Symptoms of Menopause. Journal of midwifery & women’s health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3661682/. Published 2010.
- Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Symptoms in Menopausal Arab Women: Shedding More Light on a Complex Relationship. Annals of Medical and Health Sciences Research. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5405634/. Published 2016.
- Sleep disorders in menopausal women. International Journal of Reproduction, Contraception, Obstetrics and Gynecology. http://www.ijrcog.org/index.php/ijrcog/article/viewFile/2894/2379.
- Menopause Related Sleep Disorders. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. http://jcsm.aasm.org/articles/010312.pdf.
- Bone Mineral Density Changes during the Menopause Transition in a Multiethnic Cohort of Women. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2266953/. Published March 2008.
- The acupuncture treatment for postmenopausal hot flushes (Acuflash) study: traditional Chinese medicine diagnoses and acupuncture points used, and their relation to the treatment. Acupuncture in medicine : journal of the British Medical Acupuncture Society. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19734379. Published September 2009.
- Acupuncture in Menopause (AIM) study: a pragmatic, randomized controlled trial. Menopause (New York, N.Y.). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27023860. Published June 2016.
- The Effect of Vitamin E on Hot Flashes in Menopausal Women. Gynecologic and Obstetric Investigation. https://www.karger.com/Article/Abstract/106491. Published July 30, 2007.
- Women’s health in menopause with a focus on hypertension. Netherlands Heart Journal. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2644382/. Published February 2009.
- The correlation between blood pressure and hot flashes in menopausal women. ARYA Atherosclerosis. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3448399/. Published 2012.