If you’re in the throes of menopause (or know someone who is), here’s some exciting news. There are plenty of things you can do to make the transition easier. And research proves it! Here are some suggestions that can help you not only survive, but thrive during this time.
We all have to eat, right? Why not do it in a way that can help you feel better 24/7? We’ve said before that here at Endurance we’re partial to the Mediterranean diet. Even more so when it comes to eating during menopause. That’s because data shows it can actually ease menopausal symptoms. The proof: Researchers followed a group of over 6,000 Australian women for nine years. They found that those who followed a Mediterranean diet were 20 percent less likely to experience menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes and night sweats, than those who ate a diet higher in sugar and fat.1
A Mediterranean diet consists of plenty of plant-based foods like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and other legumes, and nuts, healthy fats like olive or canola oil over butter or vegetable oils, moderate amounts of fish and poultry rather than red meat and moderate amounts of dairy (particularly cultured products like yogurt, kefir, and cheese). Dairy is extra important at this time of life because calcium along with vitamin D can help keep bones strong. As we age, bone tissue breaks down faster than builds up, so it’s critical to have enough calcium and D to help the rebuilding process. The Mediterranean diet also stresses using fresh herbs over salt to flavor food, and to drink red wine moderately with meals.
You’ve heard the advice time and again, but it really does make a difference. One study found that menopausal women, aged 55 through 72 years, who did a yearlong program of cardio, stretching, strength-training, and relaxation exercises experienced significant improvement in their menopausal symptoms.2 You don’t have to sweat for hours on end at the gym to get great results. Only three hours a week produced these results.
If you’ve never exercised, it’s a good idea to see a doctor, particularly if you have any health conditions such as heart disease or diabetes. Your doctor may have certain tips that can make exercise safer for you when you first get out there.
Remember to start slowly, and choose something that will get your heart rate up that—and this is critical—you enjoy. If you think of exercise as a fun activity instead of a chore, you’ll be more likely to stick with it. Try swimming, bike riding, square dancing, or playing golf (skip the golf cart!).
To improve your health, work up to at least 150 minutes per week of moderately intense aerobic activity. That’s 30 minutes a day on five days of the week of activity that works your heart. On at least two days per week, incorporate activities that strengthen your muscles. Examples include lifting weights, doing push ups, or even raking leaves or digging in the garden.
Easier said than done, sure. But data show that menopausal women who practiced relaxation techniques experienced significant drops in tension, anxiety, even depression.3 Do double duty by practicing a mind/body exercise like yoga, Tai Chi, or mindful walking—focus on your breath, the cadence of your feet, the budding flowers, the fragrant grass, etc. This will get your mind away from stewing about your everyday problems and instead into the beautiful moment that you’re in.
Some other suggestions to tame the tension: Surround yourself with happy, upbeat people who will make you feel better about yourself and the world. Do things you enjoy, and don’t get bogged down in responsibilities. Don’t be afraid to say no to tasks that will suck up too much of your time and energy.
If you’re having trouble getting out of your own head, do some volunteer work, which can help put things in perspective, and even create what’s called the "helper's high"—a profound sense of well-being and optimism.
With just a few changes you can make your changes more bearable!
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1. Herber-Gast GC, Mishra GD. Fruit, Mediterranean-style, and high-fat and -sugar diets are associated with the risk of night sweats and hot flushes in midlife: results from a prospective cohort study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013;97(5):1092-9. PMID: 23553160.
2. Villaverde-Gutiérrez C, Araújo E, Cruz F, Roa JM, Barbosa W, Ruíz-Villaverde G. Quality of life of rural menopausal women in response to a customized exercise programme. J Adv Nurs. 2006;54(1):11-19. PMID: 16553686.
3. Irvin JH, Domar AD, Clark C, Zuttermeister PC, Friedman R. The effects of relaxation response training on menopausal symptoms. J Psychosom Obstet Gynaecol. 1996;17(4):202-7. PMID: 8997686.