Staying Healthy After Menopause
Staying healthy after menopause may mean making some changes in the way you live, according to the experts at the National Institute on Aging (NIA). Here, the NIA offers some tips for navigating menopause and keeping healthy:
Don’t smoke. If you do use any type of tobacco, stop—it’s never too late to benefit from quitting smoking.
Eat a healthy diet, low in fat, high in fiber, with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain foods, as well as all the important vitamins and minerals.
Make sure you get enough calcium and vitamin D—in your diet or with vitamin/mineral supplements if recommended by your doctor.
Learn what your healthy weight is, and try to stay there.
Do weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, jogging, or dancing, at least three days each week for healthy bones. But try to be physically active in other ways for your general health.
Other things to remember:
Take medicine if your doctor prescribes it for you, especially if it is for health problems you cannot see or feel—for example, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or osteoporosis.
Use a water-based vaginal lubricant (not petroleum jelly) or a vaginal estrogen cream or tablet to help with vaginal discomfort.
Get regular pelvic and breast exams, Pap tests, and mammograms. You should also be checked for colon and rectal cancer and for skin cancer. Contact your doctor right away if you notice a lump in your breast or a mole that has changed.
What About Those Lost Hormones?
These days you hear a lot about whether or not you should use hormones to help relieve some menopause symptoms. It’s hard to know what to do, although there is some information to help you.
During perimenopause, some doctors suggest birth control pills to help with very heavy, frequent, or unpredictable menstrual periods. These pills might also help with symptoms like hot flashes, as well as prevent pregnancy.
If you are bothered by symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, or vaginal dryness, your doctor might suggest taking estrogen (as well as progesterone, if you still have a uterus). This is known as menopausal hormone therapy (MHT). Some people still call it hormone replacement therapy or HRT. Taking these hormones will probably help with menopause symptoms. It also can prevent the bone loss that can happen at menopause.
Menopausal hormone therapy has risks. That is why the U.S. Food and Drug Administration suggests that women who want to try MHT to manage their hot flashes or vaginal dryness use the lowest dose that works for the shortest time it’s needed.
Right now, there is a lot still to learn about taking hormones. Click here to find out how to get a copy of NIA’s free, more detailed tip sheet, Hormones and Menopause. It has the most current information on menopausal hormone therapy.
Reprinted courtesy of the National Institute on Aging. To visit the agency’s website, click here.