Menopause is a transition that happens to every woman. But just because it’s normal doesn’t mean it’s easy. There are three stages of menopause:
This is also referred to as the “menopausal transition.” Length of this stage varies, but perimenopause can start anywhere from 7-14 years before menopause. During this time, some women will start to experience symptoms like hot flashes, menstrual changes, difficulty sleeping, or weight gain.
When you’ve gone a full year without a period, you’ve reached menopause. Perimenopause symptoms typically carry over into menopause.
Postmenopause This is the final stage of menopause. It starts 2-3 years after your last menstrual cycle and lasts the rest of your life. During this time, many women start to experience relief from menopause symptoms.
It can be a long journey, so make sure you’re equipped with these tips to help you successfully (and comfortably) make it through.
1. Keep your bones strong.
Estrogen isn’t just responsible for regulating your menstrual cycle and supporting reproductive health – it also plays a huge part in protecting your bones and keeping them strong. But as you get closer to menopause, estrogen naturally decreases, putting your bones at risk.
If you’re approaching menopause, it’s time to take an active role in your bone health. Adequate calcium and vitamin D as part of a healthful diet, along with physical activity, may reduce the risk of osteoporosis in later life.
Choose calcium-rich foods like milk, yogurt, cheese, fortified breakfast cereals, and fortified orange juice. Kale, broccoli, and Bok choy are great plant-based sources of calcium. Spend some time in the sun (safely – protect yourself if you’re outside for more than a few minutes), and include foods like salmon, tuna, liver, and egg yolks for your daily dose of vitamin D.
If you have trouble getting enough of these nutrients on a daily basis, talk with your healthcare provider to find out if you could benefit from a high-quality calcium and vitamin D supplement.
2. Beat the heat.
Hot flashes are one of the most common symptoms of menopause. They can strike at any time, day or night, and women who experience them earlier in life may struggle with them for a longer period of time. Arm yourself with lifestyle tips to beat the heat:
- Dress in layers. Shed them as needed when a hot flash starts.
- Limit alcohol, spicy foods, and caffeine. These can trigger hot flashes for some women.
- Practice mindfulness. Try self-calming techniques like deep breathing or meditation at the onset of hot flashes.
- Give soy a shot. Soy isoflavones, a powerful plant compound in soy products, may help reduce the frequency and severity of menopausal hot flashes. Reinforce your daily diet with soy foods like soybeans, tofu, and soymilk. If these foods don’t make a regular appearance in your pantry or fridge, talk with your healthcare provider to find out if a high-quality soy isoflavone supplement could benefit you.
3. Get some shut-eye.
Hormonal and physical changes that come with menopause can rob you of quality sleep. Sleep ties to so much more than your energy levels – it helps support healthy brain function, mental health, and even a healthy weight.
Practice good sleep hygiene with these tips:
- Follow a regular sleep schedule. Wake up and go to bed around the same time each day.
- Develop a bedtime routine. Try meditation, reading, or a relaxing bath to help you wind down.
- Cool down. Sleep in lightweight pajamas, opt for cotton or other cool bedding materials, set your thermostat to a comfortable temperature, and keep a fan next to your bed to help combat night sweats.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol. These can disrupt your sleep.
If you’re still struggling with sleep, talk with your healthcare provider to find out if a high-quality melatonin supplement could help you achieve healthy sleep patterns.
4. Work in a workout.
Aging, hormonal changes around menopause and diet and lifestyle factors can all contribute to weight gain.
While you can’t stop time or reverse menopause, you do have control over your diet and lifestyle. In addition to a healthy, balanced diet, try to find time for physical activity that you enjoy. Regular exercise can help support a healthy weight, bone and muscle strength, heart health, and may even help combat symptoms of menopause.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week and muscle-strengthening activity at least two days per week.
5. Keep your heart healthy.
If you were shocked to learn that estrogen helps support bone health, hold on tight and buckle your seatbelt. Estrogen actually affects almost every tissue and organ system, including the heart and cardiovascular system.
If you haven’t already adopted a heart-healthy lifestyle, now is the time to put it into practice. Avoid smoking, include regular exercise, and focus on a diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
Need a little more nutrition guidance? Here are a few tips:
- Limit saturated fats. Saturated fats are found mostly in animal products – think fatty meats, butter, full-fat dairy products, baked goods, and fried foods. Instead, opt for lean meats like poultry or fish, cook with olive or canola oil instead of butter, and limit pastries and other fried foods to special occasions. Packaged and processed foods can also sneak in saturated fats, so make sure you read the food label.
- Boost your fiber intake. Fiber-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, such as brown rice, whole wheat bread, or quinoa, can help support healthy cholesterol levels and overall heart health. Top whole-grain cereal with berries, add a side of broccoli to your dinner, or blend up a smoothie with frozen fruit and fresh greens.
- Watch out for sneaky sodium. Most of the sodium you eat in a day is already in the foods that you’re eating – bacon, sausage, deli meat, cheese, and soups are all guilty of sneaky sodium. Pay attention to the food label and try to choose foods that are less than 5-10% of your daily value for sodium. When you cook at home, opt for salt-free seasoning options like garlic powder, onion powder, red chili flakes, or lemon pepper.
Menopause is a normal phase of life for women. No matter what stage you’re in, there’s a good chance that someone you know shares a similar experience. Lean on your support system, seek out online resources, and adopt these healthy diet and lifestyle tips to help you thrive through menopause and beyond.