There is so much information available about healthy living that it can seem overwhelming. Here are the top tips for healthy living in menopause.
Like most diet advice, it is important to eat enough fruits, vegetables, and fiber. Aim for five servings of fruit and vegetables per day, with more vegetables than fruits. Whole grains, such as whole grains, are great sources of fibre (e.g. Whole grains include wholemeal bread, rice, barley and quinoa. As a woman, it is recommended that you consume at least 25g of fibre per day. However, more is fine.
Menopausal women should be sure to eat protein as well. As we age, our ability to build muscle mass decreases. To ensure that you gain as much muscle mass possible, it is important to optimise the amount of protein you eat. Lean meats, eggs, fish and beans are all good sources of protein. While some red meat is acceptable, it's best to limit your intake of processed meats like bacon and sausages. They are associated with an increased risk of other health problems, such as CVD.
The negative press surrounding sugar and carbohydrate is a big problem right now. Remember to eat everything in moderation. Potatoes, rice, pasta, and potatoes are all high glycemic-index carbohydrates. This means that the body quickly breaks down these carbs and releases a lot of sugar (or glucose). These types of carbs and excessive sugar in your blood increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes or heart disease. These carbs should be replaced with foods that have a lower glycemic index and are slowly broken down. These "low glycemic" carbs are fruits, roots vegetables, beans, and nuts.
Vitamin D and calcium are essential for bone health in menopause. Dairy products are the best source of calcium. Vegetarians and vegans can get calcium from Soya beans or leafy green vegetables - like cabbage, broccoli, and okra. Soy is also a good choice for women who are going through menopause because it contains natural oestrogen's (called phytoestrogens).
Spending time outdoors and in the sunlight is the best way to get enough vitamin-D. Vitamin D can be made by our bodies from sunlight. The UK can get sufficient vitamin D from the sun in the summer, but not enough in winter. It is recommended to take a vitamin D supplement in winter. Fatty fish can also be a good source of vitamin D. They are rich in omega-3s, an essential nutrient. Supplementing omega-3s may be an option if you don't like fish.
A balanced diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables is essential during menopause. Avoid processed foods that are high in unhealthy fats, sugars, and excessive salt.
Regular exercise is good for you, there is no question about that! Regular exercise lowers your chances of developing many types of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Exercise is also good for bone strength, which is often at risk for women who are menopausal.
Even though your weight remains the same throughout menopause you will lose muscle and gain fat. Resistance training can be a great way to target your muscles. Maintaining muscle mass with age is important as it prevents fractures and keeps you mobile.
Exercise can also be beneficial for your mental health, such as anxiety and depression. Even a quick walk can help you feel better. According to the World Health Organisation, 150 minutes of moderate exercise is recommended per week. 75 minutes of vigorous exercise is recommended.
Moderate exercise raises the heart rate and requires some effort. These include:
- Walking at a moderate pace
- General housework.
Vigorous exercise will increase your heart rate and take more effort. These include:
- Cycling is a great way to get around.
- Walking uphill and hiking quickly
Alcohol and smoking
I'm sure this is obvious advice, but you should quit smoking or reduce your intake. A moderate amount of alcohol is acceptable (no more that 2 units per day). There is evidence to suggest that drinking alcohol should be limited if you are concerned about breast cancer risk. Drinking alcohol while on HRT can increase your risk. The Nurses Health Study showed that women who had drank during HRT were twice as likely to develop breast cancer.
Keeping your pelvic floor healthy
The pelvic floor exercises will help you maintain a healthy bladder and uterus, as well as support the entire area. The first thing you should do if you have urinary incontinence is pelvic floor exercises.
Exercises on the pelvic floor can help improve sexual function and prevent prolapse. Pregnancy can weaken the pelvic floor most. It's wise to begin pelvic floor exercises now (and continue them)!
Screening for disease prevention
As you get older, screening programmes become increasingly important. This preventative measure will help you stay healthy and in tune to your body.
- Cardiovascular screening (CVD).
- Screening for cervical cancer
- Screening for breast cancer
- Screening for ovarian cancer
- Colorectal cancer screening
These will be offered by your GP if you are visiting for a routine appointment or have a concern about a particular problem. Ask your GP if you feel you should be offered screening programs.