For many women, menopause is a time to take care of yourself by making healthier lifestyle choices. While some factors cannot be changed there are certain ways you can create a heart-healthy life for yourself moving forward. Below are some lifestyle changes proven to help your menopausal and postmeopausal years.
If you are a smoker, stop smoking. According to the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), “during and after menopause, your risk of other health conditions rises, and smoking increases that risk even more, including: Heart disease, stroke, breast cancer, and diabetes.”
Put aside some time to exercise daily. Not only will this help you lose some excess weight, but this will help you to reduce stress, reduce inflammation, help with mood swings, and widen your thermoregulatory zone in your brain. The thermoregulatory zone controls temperature fluctuations, so the severity of your hot flashes will decrease. In addition, maintaining your strength and balance is important during the aging process.
Wear Layered Clothes
Many women find that wearing lighter layers and stretchy clothing helps when it comes to hot flashes. Layering your options with drawstring pants/joggers, tunic tops, or loose dresses tend to be more comfortable and can help you cope with any physical symptoms.
Check Your Vitamin D Level
Vitamin D plays an important role during this process and is at the top of the list for many women during menopause. Studies have linked vitamin D levels to preventing weight gain, osteoporosis, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. Increasing your levels may help reduce night sweats, hot flashes, insomnia, concentration, and your mood.
Practice Stress Relief Daily
Menopause can cause stress both physically and emotionally. Here are some lifestyle changes to help with stress relief:
- Get regular exercise
- Eat well
- Practice yoga
- Practice meditation
- Get enough sleep
- Get a massage
- Discard and organize your space
- Immerse yourself into a creative outlet
Control Your Blood Pressure
Menopause will most likely change your blood pressure, for the worse. This unwanted change can occur for many reasons. According to Henry Ford’s Health System, here are the top three ways menopause will affect your blood pressure:
- You’re getting older. The average age women go through menopause is 52. As we get older, our bodies naturally begin to decline – our metabolism slows, our arteries stiffen and we become less active. All of these factors can contribute to high blood pressure (also known as hypertension), especially those we can control like our activity level and weight.
- You’re losing estrogen. During menopause, the level of estrogen in a woman’s body naturally decreases. Remember those stiffened arteries I mentioned above? Nitric oxide, a compound in our bodies, works to expand blood vessels for better blood flow. The kicker: Nitric oxide is heavily dependent on estrogen production, and when estrogen levels decrease, our arteries don’t fully dilate and our blood needs to pump harder to circulate the body, which can help lead to increases in blood pressure.
- You’re becoming more salt sensitive. Studies have shown that post-menopausal women are more salt-sensitive than their pre-menopausal peers. So what does this mean for your blood pressure? In straightforward terms, it means you have to watch your sodium intake. Sensitivity can lead to excess salt in the bloodstream, which causes increased water retention and pressure on the blood vessels.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Women will find that the hardest time to lose weight is during menopause. This officially starts when a woman hasn’t had a menstrual cycle for 12 months. The best way to maintain a healthy weight during menopause is to keep your body moving. Here are several steps that may help you maintain a healthy weight during this time:
- Studies have shown that a low carb diet helps reduce abdominal fat.
- A Mediterranean diet is known to help reduce the risk of heart disease and also improve your overall weight.
- Vegan and Vegetarian diets also help in weight loss.
- As we’ve stated above, exercise is key during and after menopause.
- Drink green tea. The caffeine and EGCG can help burn fat. This will increase when paired with resistance training.
- Eat protein. Eating clean, hormone-free protein can help reduce muscle loss and increase your metabolic rate.
Certain hormones in animal products may trigger hot flashes in women. Decreasing your portion sizes and the frequency of products that contain these hormones is recommended. If possible aim for no more than 4 ounces daily and avoid store-bought processed products.
Eating whole-foods such as vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and higher quality meats may help reduce some menopause symptoms. Decreasing your amount of sugar, spicy foods, sodium, or processed carbs may help as well.
Visit Your Doctor
Dr. Karen Clark of Chapel Hill Gynecology is a certified menopause practitioner, experienced in helping patients as they transition to menopause. She can give you guidance on practices that promote healthy aging. She is also an expert in hormone replacement therapy if you are dealing with the effects of menopause or another hormonal imbalance.
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Clark, call (919) 960-2720. Chapel Hill Gynecology is open for office visits (using recommended protocols for preventing COVID-19 exposure) as well as telemedicine visits.