One advantage of being older is not having to cope with menopausal problems such hot flashes, disturbed sleep and mood swings anymore! But what can be done to manage symptoms if they’re bothering you? Simple lifestyle changes can help, although some symptoms will go away on their own. Distressing hot flashes may be triggered by spicy foods, alcohol, caffeine, stress, or hot environment. So avoid when possible, dress in layers you can remove and take slow, deep breaths when you feel a flash starting.
Help sleeping problems by cutting out caffeine after lunchtime. Don’t smoke, avoid large meals and stop working on your computer several hours before your bedtime. Be more physically active in the daytime but not just before bedtime, because exercise isn’t conducive to sleep. Keep your bedtimes regular and avoid napping during the day. Sleep in a dark, quiet, cool bedroom and use it for sleep and sex only. If you can’t get to sleep read until you’re tired.
Getting a good night’s sleep and being physically active helps avoid mood swings, but if they really trouble you consider seeing a therapist or joining a support group. Talk to your doctor if you are depressed or are experiencing memory problems, like forgetfulness. HRT can be effective in helping regulate hot flashes, mood swings and other menopausal symptoms. HRT is not suitable for everyone, but your doctor may prescribe medications used for other conditions like epilepsy, depression, and high blood pressure, that may help with symptoms. If you still have periods, low-dose oral contraceptives (birth control pills) may help. If vaginal dryness is your problem a water-based, over-the-counter vaginal lubricant like K-Y Jelly can help make sex more comfortable.
Be aware that lower oestrogen levels brought about by the menopause lead to bone loss, and weak bones break easily. To keep your bones strong and to avoid osteoporosis (fragile bone disease) do weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, climbing stairs, or using weights. For bone health eat foods rich in calcium and vitamin D, or consider taking calcium and vitamin D supplements. After the menopause with changes in oestrogen levels plus ageing and possibly gaining weight or developing other health problems, there can be an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). If possible have your cholesterol and blood pressure levels checked. Not smoking, getting regular exercise and following a healthy diet are paramount to keeping you healthy and active in your postmenopausal years.