Ok, we’re just going to come right out and say it… Here at MeMeMe, some of us are ‘at that age’ or getting very close to it. So it’s no wonder that the menopause features in a lot of conversations at the MeMeMe water cooler.
Most women start their menopause in their late 40s and early 50s although some do start earlier. To be accurate, the time leading up to the cessation of our periods is called the peri-menopause and a whole raft of signs and symptoms of the peri-menopause affect all of us differently.
Some women sail through the perimenopause and menopause easily; their periods just fade away or stop and they enter another phase of their life with equanimity.
Most of us experience some symptoms caused by the dropping of hormone levels such as headaches, hot flushes and a thickening of the waist. Mood swings can be common as can a reduction in sex drive and sexual pleasure can be hampered by drying and thinning vagina walls. Perfect!
Advice on how to deal with the symptoms and changes of menopause differs depending on who you are talking to. A doctor might recommend HRT whilst a herbalist could suggest Black Cohosh and a therapist might offer to share stress reduction techniques.
So we set out to discover the simple, stress free things to do that all experts agree could make a positive impact on the symptoms and changes that menopause causes. Here’s what we discovered:
Top tips to stay fit and healthy through the menopause
Exercise – Three simple rules
Doing half an hour of exercise daily seems to be the expert consensus, try alternating between the three types of exercise suggested below or whip them all into one mad half hour!
- Do weight-bearing exercises to maintain bone density and keep muscles toned.
You don’t have to go the gym for this, carrying shopping, lifting children, mowing lawns or lifting sacks of compost are all weight bearing exercises. You could try using kettlebells or hand weights at home, or use your own body weight for resistance by standing on one leg for about 30 seconds and then repeating the exercise on the other side. And don’t forget about the fun! Playing wheelbarrows with your children or grandchildren will help to strengthen your wrists and arms.
- Do aerobic exercise – maintaining a healthy weight becomes more and more important as we age; you could skip, run, climb stairs, dance, play tennis, swim or join a Zumba class (all of which are also weight bearing). Walk the dog faster, insist on vigorous sex (!), dance to 80’s tracks around your kitchen and hoola hoop in your back yard. Anything which raises your heart rate and makes you sweat is aerobic.
- Develop and maintain your flexibility to make sure your muscles and joints don’t seize up. Keep your body supple with yoga or pilates, both of which are also great for weight bearing and core stability. If you’re experiencing mood swings, yoga will help you to feel more positive about the changes your body is experiencing, a study by A study by Boston University found that that practicing yoga just three times a week helped combat anxiety and depression by raising levels of the ‘happy’ brain chemical GABA.
Of course, when you have a full schedule and all of the hormonal changes in your body mean you’re feeling a bit down in the dumps, we know, the sofa begins to look rather appealing! Rather than seeing exercise as a drag, use it as a chance to learn something new; you’re never too late to take dance classes or to re-discover netball (aerobic and weight bearing). Make exercise fun and make part of your life and you are much more likely to keep it up.
Diet – 10 simple rules
With the menopause making us prone to piling on weight around the waist, it makes sense to adopt healthy eating habits; a little bit of what you fancy does no harm, but a whole packet of jaffa cakes at this age really isn’t the best idea.
- Starchy foods should make up just over a third of your diet. Eat potatoes with the skins on and choose whole wheat pasta, rice and bread over white varieties.
- Eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables each day, preferably two fruit and three vegetables. This could be one apple, banana, pear or similar-sized fruit, a large slice of pineapple or melon, a handful of blueberries, or three heaped tablespoons of cooked vegetables. Make your own juices or smoothies from fresh fruit and vegetables.
- Eat calcium to maintain bone health. Calcium can be found in milk and dairy products, such as cheese and yoghurt.
- Eat more protein such as beans, fish, eggs and meat. Nuts are also high in fibre and protein but are high in fat so best eaten in moderation, stick to one small handful a day.
- Eat more fish, especially oily fish such as sardines, herring, anchovies, salmon, trout, tuna and mackerel.
- Eat little and often to keep your blood sugar levels steady and avoid highs and lows in energy.
- Avoid sugary foods, junk food and highly processed food, all of which can lead to weight gain and blood sugar instability.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Liquid stimulants such as alcohol, coffee and tea should be drunk with moderation.
- Eat a good breakfast. Skipping food early in the morning can play havoc with your blood sugar levels later in the day.
Many women struggle with the psychological reality of aging and no longer being fertile. Extra inches around the waist and hips can add to a lowered self-esteem so diet and exercise can be a simple way of making sure we help ourselves to feel better and look as good as we can no matter what our hormones are up to.
So that’s it. Simple. Exercise like you did when you were seven (skipping, jumping, bending and stretching) and eat like your mother told you (meat, veg, potatoes with fruit for pudding) and you’re already taking simple steps to a healthier menopause.