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Thriving in Menopause

Updated: Feb 4

Menopause is the time in a woman’s life when menstruation ends. It's diagnosed after having gone 12 months without a menstrual period.

 

Estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone levels plummet in menopause, and this leads to a host of physical symptoms, including hot flashes, night sweats, sleep disturbances, fatigue, changes in mood, anxiety, vaginal dryness, discomfort, changes in urination, brain fog and joint aches and weight gain.

 

The reduction in estrogen levels affect the distribution of fat deposits in the body, moving more fat predominately to the belly area. The reduction in estrogen levels also lessens our ability to cope with stress. 


Some women experience more severe symptoms than others. Menopause can happen in your 40s or 50s, but the average age is 51 in the United States.


There’s not much we can do about our hormones. Menopause is a natural biological process. However, there are a host of other things that are in our control that we can do that can greatly affect the way we feel and our ability to transition into this time - so we can thrive. Those things involve the following:


  1. Exercise. The average person loses 3-8 percent of their muscle mass every decade at age 30. This leads to a loss of strength, a loss of function, and a slowdown in metabolism. One can combat this muscle loss with strength training. Make strength training a priority 2-3 days a week working every major muscle group in the body. Supplement with cardio and interval training a couple of days a week.  Yoga is also great to add to the mix for flexibility, mobility, and balance training.  It’s also a great way to reduce stress with an emphasis on the mind-body connection.

  2. Eat healthy. Emphasize protein. Women need more protein as they age. Aim for 20-30 grams at every meal and 15 grams at every snack to get the ideal amount into your day. Also, add whole grains, lots of fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats. Eat whole foods and eliminate processed foods as much as possible.

  3. Practice stress reduction techniques. As estrogen levels drop, cortisol levels increase, which can lessen our ability to cope with stress. It’s important to practice stress-reducing techniques such as yoga and meditation and have a supportive family and friends network. 

  4. Make sleep a priority. Insomnia and sleep disturbances are common in menopause. Some ways to help improve your sleep include following a regular sleep schedule, avoiding napping, developing a bedtime routine, turning off all devices an hour before bed, keeping your bedroom at a comfortable temperature, and eliminating caffeine 12 hours before bedtime.  You can also try melatonin and tart cherry juice, which are both effective sleep aids, according to Dr. Matthew Wallker, professor of Neurobiology and Psychology at the University of California at Berkeley.

  5. Reduce or eliminate alcohol. Anxiety, brain fog, and mood changes are symptoms of menopause, and when you add alcohol to the mix, it makes them worse.  Instead, opting for non-alcoholic drinks can go a long way toward improving one’s mood and ability to think clearly. There’s a wide range of non-alcoholic drinks on the market these days to give you the feeling of drinking without the hangover and other negative side effects. 



Sources:

Mayo Clinic

Menopocyalypse, How I Learned to Thrive During Menopause and How You Can Too, Amanda Thebe

Huberman Lab Podcast, Stanford, Dr. Matthew Walker, The Science and Practice of Perfecting Your Sleep



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