Discomfort. Fear. Relief. Loss. Possibility. A lot of things may come to mind when you hear the word “menopause.”
Today, much more attention is given to women’s health care through this natural change. This makes sense; most women will spend at least one-third of their lives post-menopause. But because there is no one pattern that all women will experience, supportive care must be flexible and personal. Such care should include not just symptom control, but lifestyle adjustments to support health and wellness for years to come.
Knowing what to expect and being proactive can make this transformative time easier to weather and help you live your best life after menopause.
The Truth About Menopause Symptoms
Menopause often occurs when women are at their peak, both personally and professionally. So when symptoms begin to emerge, the impact can be profound, affecting everything from your most intimate relationships to your career. Indeed, a 2021 survey of menopausal women in the workplace revealed that 83% of respondents felt their work was negatively impacted by menopause, and 62% cited the “stress of juggling work with the effect of bodily changes” as the most challenging aspect of working during menopause.
The prevalence of disruptive symptoms should not come as a surprise. According to Yuliya Dobrydneva, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Laboratory Sciences at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, 70-80% of women will experience menopause symptoms, sometimes for years after menopause has begun. But despite their potentially disruptive nature, only about 25% of those women typically seek out treatment. This means many women needlessly put up with discomfort and disruption, including:
- Hot flashes
- Vaginal dryness
- Mood swings
- Cognitive changes
- Sleep disruption
These symptoms are outward signs that your body is changing. But there are other changes that may not be as obvious; women in the postmenopause years are at increased risk of serious health concerns like osteoporosis, heart disease, mood disorders, and metabolic syndrome. Making smart choices and seeking treatment can not only help you find relief from immediate discomfort, but may protect you from long-term health complications.
7 Tips to Live Your Best Life After Menopause
Menopause may be inevitable, but there are many ways you can influence your experience. Taking a holistic approach can help you live the life you want after menopause.
1. Communicate Your Needs
Menopause can change the way you feel and what you need to feel your best. Communication is essential to ensuring your loved ones understand what you are going through. You may find that opening up a dialogue with other women allows you to find camaraderie and the comfort of knowing you are not alone. But it’s also important to communicate with the people in your life who haven’t experienced menopause and don’t know where to begin. By sharing your thoughts and feelings openly, you can help them support you in the best way possible.
If you need additional support, consider talking to a therapist. Seeking out a therapist with expertise in supporting women through the menopause transition allows you to explore your experiences in a safe and confidential space.
2. Emphasize Mindfulness and Relaxation
Stress can take a heavy toll at any time, but it can be particularly taxing during and after menopause, when it can trigger hot flashes and exacerbate mood symptoms. Mindful activities like yoga or meditation can be invaluable for minimizing stress, regulating your mood, and alleviating anxiety.
3. Focus on Your Diet
Though a nourishing diet supports healthy living at every stage of life, it is especially important at midlife. In the years preceding menopause, shifting hormones may cause a change in body composition and make it harder to maintain a healthy weight. You may also find that where your weight is distributed changes and you may experience an increase in abdominal fat, which is associated with heart disease and metabolic syndrome. Evaluating your diet during the period leading up to the menopause transition could be a worthwhile preventive measure.
Eating a variety of macro- and micronutrients can help to counteract menopause symptoms, prevent unwanted weight gain, and support healthy muscles and bones.
- Lean protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs should form the foundation of your diet.
- Many plant-based foods contain phytoestrogens, hormone-like compounds that may help to reduce menopausal symptoms and offer some protection against osteoporosis, heart disease, and metabolic disease.
- Maintaining healthy levels of vitamins C, D, and K, calcium, and magnesium is essential for protecting bone strength. Supplementation is an effective way to get adequate amounts if they are lacking in your diet.
Focusing on your diet is one of the most powerful actions you can take as you approach menopause.
4. Find Time to Exercise
Like a healthy diet, physical activity is a must for maintaining your weight and supporting strong bones and muscles. Research also shows that regular physical activity can have a big impact on your cardiovascular health, mood, and even your sexual desire. And it doesn’t take much; studies have found that three 10-minute exercise sessions spaced throughout the day had a greater impact on lowering systolic blood pressure than one 30-minute session. That option provides an easy alternative to finding a larger block of time in your day.
The most important thing to remember is to stick with it. Finding a physical activity you enjoy and enlisting a partner can motivate you to keep going.
5. Support Healthy Skin
Protecting yourself from the sun and drinking plenty of water supports skin as you age. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, a woman’s skin loses about 30% of its collagen during the first five years of menopause, which can result in wrinkles and sagging. Skin also becomes thinner and loses some of its capacity to hold moisture. Taking precautions to protect your skin and seeing your dermatologist for product recommendations can help keep you look and feel your best.
6. Drop Unhealthy Habits
Certain habits and lifestyle choices can aggravate menopause symptoms or compound risk factors for illness. Avoid smoking and excessive caffeine, sugar, and alcohol use as these may trigger hot flashes. Keep night sweats under control and make restful sleep a priority by establishing a nighttime routine that includes dressing lightly and keeping your bedroom cool. Focusing on doing positive things for yourself can help you to manage symptoms and find greater comfort.
Some habits, of course, can be hard to break—but you don’t have to do it alone. Peer support groups and smoking cessation programs can help you set yourself up for success.
7. Consider Hormone Replacement Therapy
When uncomfortable symptoms remain despite your best efforts, it is best to tackle them head on rather than suffering needlessly or waiting for them to go away. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can address symptoms at the root and may offer protection from many of the long-term health conditions that become common in life after menopause. In fact, HRT is widely considered the most effective treatment option available for symptoms like hot flashes and vaginal dryness, and it has been found to reduce the risk of health conditions like postmenopausal osteoporosis. Research also suggests that HRT can have valuable benefits for mood and cognition.
While there are many hormone medications available, a growing number of women prefer bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT). This treatment option uses plant-based hormones formulated to match those your body produces naturally. Prescribed by hormone health experts and prepared by compounding pharmacies according to your needs, custom BHRT offers truly personalized treatment.
Find the Right Supports
When it comes to life after menopause, it’s smart to be proactive. But opening up about something as personal as menopause symptoms may be a challenge. Connecting with a doctor who specializes in guiding women through this time of change is key.
A hormone health practitioner can be your best resource when it comes to addressing the physical and emotional effects of menopause. With expertise and compassion, they can assess your hormonal needs, recommend lifestyle adjustments, and create a custom treatment plan that includes hormone replacement therapy to help you find lasting relief.
When you have the right supports in place, you can live your best life after menopause.