It’s no secret menopause changes women’s bodies.
Symptoms of perimenopause like menstrual cycle changes, hot flashes, night sweats, mood changes and fatigue are well known. These symptoms may last more than five years until menopause – the time when a woman experiences a full year without a period. The average age of U.S. women at the time of menopause is 51.
Physical changes that continue after menopause and increase risk for certain health conditions and cancers mean it may be time to make changes to your health routine.
Adapt to physical changes
Weight gain is a common concern after menopause.
“Your metabolism slows down with menopause, so you’ll need to modify your diet and activity,” said Dr. Melissa Emmerich, a Marshfield Clinic obstetrics and gynecology physician. “You’ll need more activity throughout the day and fewer carbohydrates in your diet.”
Generalized skin dryness and loss of flexibility tends to worsen the longer you’ve been menopausal. Use moisturizing body and facial lotions with SPF 30 to combat dry skin. Over-the-counter lubricants and prescription estrogen medication can help with vaginal dryness.
Manage disease risk
Your risk for certain medical conditions increases after menopause and as you age.
Estrogen has a protective effect on bone density. After menopause, your body produces less estrogen and your risk for osteoporosis increases, Emmerich said. Reduce your risk by getting 1,500 milligrams of calcium and 800 IU of vitamin D per day. Use supplements if you don’t get enough of these vitamins and minerals in your diet.
Women have lower heart disease risk than men earlier in life but catch up to men after menopause. Maintain a healthy weight, control diabetes, blood pressure and cholesterol and find healthy ways to cope with stress to reduce your chance of developing heart disease.
Positive side of menopause
Menopause can be a good thing for many women, despite its bad reputation.
“Menopause means relief from menstrual pain and gynecologic disorders women experienced when they were younger,” Emmerich said. “Problems like painful or heavy cycles, endometriosis and fibroids go away.”