You can't avoid menopause. And in most cases, you can't avoid the symptoms associated with it. But the good news is that there are ways you can minimize—or even prevent—the bothersome side effects of this transition. Healthy lifestyle habits, such as exercise, a balanced diet, and not smoking are the best ways to do so.
You may already practice these healthy habits—and that's great. This article will help you understand the added benefits those habits have on the menopause transition.
Exercise provides a number of benefits specific to women going through menopause. It helps curb menopausal weight gain, as well as protects against heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis. Exercise may reduce moodiness and stress, and may even help relieve hot flashes.
Pick an exercise you enjoy—jogging, swimming, yoga, tennis—whatever you think will keep you active long term. General guidelines suggest that 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week is best. But make sure to talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program.
Exercises that strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, called Kegel exercises, are also particularly useful for women of all different life stages. These exercises strengthen the muscles that impact your bladder, bowel, and uterus, and performing them regularly may help improve urinary incontinence. To do Kegel exercises, focus on your pelvic floor muscles, then simply contract them for a few seconds, and then relax. Aim for 3 sets of 10 each day.
A healthy diet not only significantly reduces your odds of developing cardiovascular disease, but it also curbs the weight gain many women experience during menopause.
Besides filling your meals with plenty of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, don't forget to add extra calcium and vitamin D. These nutrients play a key role in maintaining bone health and preventing osteoporosis during postmenopause. If you're over 50, shoot for at least 1,200 mg of calcium and 800 IUs (international units) of vitamin D daily, according to National Osteoporosis Foundation recommendations.
To learn more about how these nutrients help prevent osteoporosis, read our article about calcium and vitamin D.
Besides the obvious health risks, smoking also presents a number of problems specific to women going through menopause. It increases the odds that you'll develop heart disease and osteoporosis, and it aggravates hot flashes. Smoking can also lead to complications if you choose to take menopause medications, such as hormone therapy.
It's never too late to implement healthy lifestyle habits into your daily routine. These changes will not only make your menopause symptoms more manageable but may also greatly improve your overall quality of life.