Eating a nutrient-rich and varied diet can help you prevent some of the health conditions caused by menopause-related hormonal changes in the body. The diet should include plenty of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and nuts. Fish, chicken, and dairy products are recommended non-vegan sources of protein. For vegans, these can be replaced with legumes, tofu, and quinoa.
Fatty fish is an important source of omega-3 fatty acids vital to heart health. In case you are not a fan of fish, there are omega-3 supplements available.
The diet should provide the body with sufficient amounts of micronutrients. Women in menopause especially need the micronutrients that help keep their bones healthy, such as calcium and vitamin D.
Calcium and vitamin D
The drop in estrogen levels during the menopausal change and later in life causes your body to lose bone mass. That’s why it’s vital to get more calcium to maintain bones, teeth, nails, and hair health. Common food sources of calcium include dairy products, fish with edible bones, and fortified foods.
You also need more vitamin D to help your body absorb calcium. Vitamin D can be found in fatty fish and fortified foods. In addition, your skin synthesizes vitamin D when exposed to the sun. But as the same solar radiation causes skin aging and increases the risk of skin cancer, it’s best to use a sunscreen with UV filters and get vitamin D from food sources and supplements instead.
According to research, women aged 50 years and younger need 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day, and women older than 50 need 1,200 milligrams of calcium per day. As for vitamin D, the recommended intake for women aged 70 and younger is 600 IU per day, and for women older than 70, it’s 800 IU per day.
Vitamin deficiency can also cause symptoms of muscle weakness and fatigue. If this is the case, your doctor can recommend that you check your vitamin D blood level and, if necessary, increase the supplementation dose.
Note that too much calcium and vitamin D can be bad for your health, leading to kidney stones and/or symptoms of fatigue and pain. This is, however, very rare, especially when you use the dosages recommended above.
Exercise can help women in menopause stay healthy and energetic.
- Aerobic exercise balances the weight-gaining effect of declining estrogen levels, helping maintain a healthy body mass index (BMI) while going through the change.
- Mild weight-bearing, strength-training, and balance exercises help improve and maintain bone health.
- Regular exercise improves mood and boosts energy.
Regular exercise has proven to be the most effective preventive measure regarding cardiovascular diseases, malignant diseases, and even mental health problems. It seems to be even more important than healthy food in this regard.
Mood and Cognition
Health is not only physical fitness but also mental fitness, including emotional balance and adaptation to the change. It is important to maintain or develop hobbies and fields of interest in which you learn new things and broaden your thinking and understanding of yourself and the world around you. Good books, music, and art can help you with this.
According to EBCOG’s research, more people today stay sexually active in their middle and late life than 40 years ago. This may be partially due to hormone replacement therapy and topical remedies available today. Hormonal treatment boosts libido and helps reduce or completely eliminate vaginal discomfort associated with the menopausal drop in estrogen levels.
If you want to continue enjoying sex after menopause, consult your doctor about treatment options to reduce vaginal dryness and any other menopausal signs that may affect your sexual life. Note also that despite decreased fertility, you still may need contraception to protect you from unwanted pregnancies. If you have a new partner, it’s also important to check for sexually transmitted infections and use condoms until you’ve both been screened for sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Regular health screenings are important if you want to stay healthy during the change. This usually includes:
- Blood tests for cholesterol (every 4 to 6 years) and sugar (every 1 to 3 years)
- Blood pressure measurement every year, if there aren’t any complaints
- Mammography every 2 years starting at age 50 until age 70 (if there is a family history of breast cancer, screening may start earlier)
- Colonoscopy at age 50, with repeat testing every 10 years until age 75
Your doctor may recommend additional tests tailored to your individual needs.
The bottom line
To stay healthy during the menopausal transition and later in life, first and foremost, leading a healthy lifestyle is a must. This includes eating a varied diet and exercising. Complementing your healthy lifestyle with regular health checkups and possible hormonal replacement therapy can make it possible to fully enjoy all the benefits of middle age and the approaching autumn years, a beautiful time in life for many.
Content created in association with EBCOG, the European Board & College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology
clinical care of midlife women. Menopause 2014; 21: 1038–1062.
Rees M, Lambrinoudaki I, Bitzer J, Mahmood T, et al. Joint Opinion Paper- "Ageing and sexual health'' by the European Board & College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (EBCOG) and the European Menopause and Andropause Society (EMAS). Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 2017 Apr 21. pii: S0301-2115(17)30185.