Health After Menopause
Menopause is a normal part of aging for women. It is not a disease or disorder. Women reach menopause when they have not had their period for 12 months in a row.
At this point, the ovaries stop producing the hormones estrogen and progesterone. The years leading up to menopause are called menopausal transition or perimenopause.
According to the National Institutes of Health, some women don’t experience symptoms during this transition.
However, other women may experience hot flashes, trouble sleeping, pain during sex, irritability and depression or a combination of these.
This transition usually lasts about seven years and often happens between the ages of 45 and 55.
Nutrition After Menopause
As you age, your nutritional needs change. Before menopause, you should have about 1,000 mg of calcium daily. After menopause, you should up it to 1,200 mg of calcium per day. Vitamin D is also very important for calcium absorption and bone formation. Vitamin D can greatly cut your risk of spinal fractures. But too much calcium or Vitamin D can cause kidney stones, constipation, or abdominal pain, especially if you have kidney problems.
Exercise & Weight
Many women gain weight after menopause. This may be because of declining estrogen levels. Raising your activity level will help avoid this. Regular exercise benefits the heart and bones, helps control weight, and can improve your mood.
Women who are not physically active are more likely to have heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and osteoporosis. Sedentary women may also have chronic back pain, insomnia, poor circulation, weak muscles and depression. Aerobic activities, such as walking, jogging, swimming, biking and dancing, help prevent some of these problems. They also help raise HDL cholesterol levels, the “good” cholesterol.
Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking and running, as well as moderate weight training, help increase bone mass. In postmenopausal women, moderate exercise helps preserve bone mass in the spine and prevents fractures.
Exercise also helps improve mood. Hormones, called endorphins, are released in the brain. Improved mood lasts for several hours. It also helps the body fight stress.
Always check with your doctor before starting an exercise program, particularly if you have been sedentary. Your health care provider can recommend the best exercise program for you.
Sex After Menopause
Some women lose interest in sex during and after menopause. The symptoms of menopause, such as drier genital tissues and lower estrogen levels, may add to less interest in sex. However, estrogen creams and estrogen pills can restore elasticity and secretions in the genital area. Personal lubricants may also help make sex more pleasurable.
Women who still have sporadic periods during perimenopause need to continue using birth control. Check with your provider about which form of birth control may be best for you.
More Ways to Stay Healthy
These tips will help you live a healthy life after menopause:
- If you are thinking about hormone replacement therapy, discuss the risks and benefits with your provider first.
- Do not smoke. Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease.
- Exercise regularly. Even moderate exercise, such as walking for 30 minutes three times a week, is beneficial.
- Maintain a healthy weight through a balanced, low-sugar diet.
- Control high blood pressure with medicine or lifestyle changes. This will help cut your risk for heart disease.
- Reduce stress in your life through relaxation methods or regular exercise.
Talk to your health care provider for more information.