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Taking care of yourself during menopause

Menopause is a normal part of aging. It occurs when your menstrual cycle has stopped for 12 consecutive months — usually between the ages of 45 and 55. As levels of estrogen fall, your periods become irregular and your cholesterol and blood pressure may become higher. Other symptoms may include hot flushes, night sweats, irritability, poor concentration, weight gain and a decline in mental health. Ultimately this can be a time of significant change, so it’s important to prioritize taking care of yourself during the transition. Here are some changes to be aware plus suggestions for thriving through them:


1. Mental health

 

What happens:

Menopause often causes mood swings but may also coincide with increased stress, anxiety, and feelings of fear. Worries about physical changes, aging and children leaving home are common, but it’s important to seek support and recognize signs of depression if they occur.


What you can do:

  • Start a virtual consult with a healthcare practitioner on your Akira by TELUS Health app, or speak with your doctor if you notice unusual feelings like ongoing irritability, angry outbursts, guilt or worthlessness, loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy, trouble concentrating or making decisions, or lapses in memory.
  • Practice relaxation techniques like meditation, deep breathing and mindfulness practices. The apps Calm, Headspace and Waking Up all have a free version for meditation.
  • Seek support from friends, family members or colleagues who may be experiencing similar changes, or locate a virtual support group.
  • Exercise. Regular physical activity can help relieve stress and improve energy and mood. Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise, five days a week. Click here to download our free Bodyweight exercise guide.
  • Quit smoking. Research suggests that menopausal women who smoke are at greater risk of developing depression, compared to nonsmokers.
  • Remember that this chapter of life is temporary.

 

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2. Bone health


What happens:

Decreased estrogen levels leads to lower bone mineral density. This results in increased risk of fractures.


What you can do:

  • Make sure there are sources of calcium in your diet. Choose leafy greens like turnip/mustard greens, collards, kale and bok choy, tofu, beans and fortified beverages for calcium. Yogurt, cheese and milk are good sources too.
  • Aim for 2000 IU of vitamin D3 and 1000 - 1200mg of calcium/day. If taking a supplement, limit dosage to 500mg at a time. Try to get the calcium you need from food if possible.
  • Vitamin K2 optimizes calcium absorption in the bones and decreases calcification in the arteries. Aim for 120 mcg/day from a supplement. Take with vitamin D for best absorption.
  • Exercise regularly including weight bearing and resistance training.


3. Cardiovascular health


What happens:

Estrogen helps keep blood vessels relaxed and open. Without estrogen, cholesterol may build up and hardening of the artery walls occurs. This affects cholesterol and blood pressure and increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.


What you can do:

  • Eat foods rich in dietary fibre like whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes like beans and lentils.
  • Include unsaturated fats like nuts/seeds, omega 3 fatty fish or vegetarian sources like tofu, EVOO, avocado, flaxseed.
  • Maintain a physically active lifestyle.

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4. Sleep


What happens:

Hot flashes, insomnia and migraines are common sleep hindering symptoms experienced by menopausal women.


What you can do:

  • Be aware of what triggers hot flashes, like caffeine, alcohol, cigarette smoke and stress.
  • Magnesium supplements may improve sleep. Magnesium glycinate is best absorbed but you can also try magnesium malate or citrate. To help with sleep, try 100 – 200 mg before bed.
  • Make sleep a priority. Try to get 7 – 9 hours. Click here to download our ultimate sleep guide.
  • Evidence of using herbs and supplements, like black cohosh, evening primrose oil, red clover and maca to
    manage hot flashes and mood swings show mixed results. These supplements may work for some woman, but not others. Be sure to let your doctor know as they can interfere with other medications.


5. Weight gain


What happens:

Weight gain is common through menopause due to normal age related biological and lifestyle changes. Hormonal changes in menopause may be associated with greater waist-hip ratio too. These hormonal changes increase the rate at which women store visceral fat, which surrounds the vital organs deep within the abdomen. This expands the stomach area which many women feel around their waist.


What you can do:

  • Try to balance your plate with 1/2 vegetables, 3/4 whole grains and 1/4 protein. This supports your nutrient needs.
  • Include a protein source like meat, fish, tofu, nuts or hummus with meals and snacks as this will help with satiety.
  • Foods with added sugar like granola bars, cookies and sugary beverages are often low in nutrients. When cravings occur, try to select whole foods like fresh fruit or dates.
  • Be mindful of why you are hungry for a snack. Is it physical, emotional or a craving?
  • Aim to minimize alcohol by drinking 0 to 1.5 drinks/day.
  • Stay physically active.
  • Maintain a regular sleep routine.
  • Take time for self care. Honour your body and mind in a way that works best for you. It could be exercise, meditation or reading a book. This helps with managing stress, eating well and feeling good.

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The period of menopause can be a challenging time in your life, both physically and emotionally. However, with age comes experience and wisdom. Try to embrace these years, accept who you are and enjoy your life. Do you have questions about menopause symptoms? Get instant answers from a live health practitioner by logging on  to Akira by TELUS Health, our 24/7 virtual care platform.