Menopause is a period in a woman’s life during which she stops menstruating. Most women experience menopausal symptoms in their 40s or 50s, and the end of menstruation marks the end of a woman’s reproductive period. Signs and symptoms experienced by women during this phase of life include debilitating conditions like fatigue and hot flashes. Studies have shown that some lifestyle choices and behaviors increase menopausal symptoms. Other lifestyle changes can combat symptoms.
Symptoms can include any of the following:
- Night sweats and hot flashes
- Lower sex drive
- Dry vaginal skin
- Irregular menstrual periods
- Drier, thinner skin and hair
- Stiff joints
- Difficulty sleeping
Not every woman will experience all of the above symptoms. Symptoms can also occur in varying degrees. For instance, some women experience mild symptoms, while others find it difficult to cope with their extreme cases, and various life choices can affect the severity of symptoms from some women.
Some medical experts believe certain behaviors speed up menopausal symptoms. For instance, smoking is said to increase a woman’s chances of experiencing symptoms earlier in life (before the age of 40). Smoking also increases the risk of experiencing hot flashes. Drinking coffee, eating spicy food, stress, alcohol and even exposure to hot weather may also bring on hot flashes.
Most physicians promote a healthy lifestyle, which includes eating nutrient-rich foods. Getting the recommended allowance of fruits, vegetables and water can help combat the dry skin and hair often seen in menopausal women. Because menopausal women often lose bone mass, it is recommended that they take vitamin D and calcium supplements.
Exercise builds muscle and helps reduce the risk of fracturing a bone, which is important for women as they age since a loss of estrogen can make bones more brittle. Kegel exercises help strengthen a woman’s pelvic floor, which combats the incontinence often seen in menopausal women. Exercise can improve your overall health, but it can also relieve stress. Some believe stress makes menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes worse.
Ways to Reduce Stress
By reducing stress, you increase your likelihood of reducing the fatigue and hot flashes associated with menopause. Yoga and meditation are good stress-relievers. You should also consider the following:
- Do not deprive yourself of sleep. Most adults need at least six hours nightly in order to focus and function well during the day.
- Keep a journal of all the things that are making you feel stressed. Then, consider what you can do to get rid of at least one of these stressors. For instance, if you’re stressed by early morning traffic, leave home 20 minutes earlier for your morning commute.
- Reduce your intake of caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine can elevate stress levels. Alcohol may affect the quality and amount of sleep you get.
While menopause is a dreaded time for many women, there are ways of managing it naturally. Be sure to exercise, eat healthy and try to eliminate stressors. Most importantly, remember that no one should suffer menopausal symptoms in silence. If you have debilitating menopausal symptoms, consult your doctor for advice on hormone replacement therapy or other medical solutions.