What is menopause?
Menopause is the point in time when a woman’s menstrual periods stop. Menopause happens because the ovaries stop producing the hormones estrogen and progesterone.
Some women worry about menopause, and it can cause uncomfortable symptoms. But there are many ways to treat symptoms and stay active and strong.
• Irregular periods.
• Hot flashes.
• Trouble sleeping.
• Vaginal and urinary problems.
• Mood changes.
• Changing feelings about sex.
• Other changes. You might become forgetful or have trouble focusing. Your waist could become larger. You could lose muscle and gain fat. Your joints and muscles also could feel stiff and achy. Experts do not know if some of these changes are a result of the lower estrogen levels of menopause or are a result of growing older.
There are many important steps you can take to build your health in the years around menopause:
Eat well. Keep some key points in mind:
• Older people need just as many nutrients but tend to need fewer calories for energy. Make sure you have a balanced diet.
• Women over 50 need 2.4 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin B12 and 1.5 milligrams of vitamin B6 each day. Ask your doctor if you need a vitamin supplement.
• After menopause, a woman’s calcium needs go up to maintain bone health. Women 51 and older should get 1,200 milligrams (mg) of calcium each day. Vitamin D also is important to bone health. Women 51 to 70 should get 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D each day. Women ages 71 and older need 800 IU of vitamin D each day.
• Women past menopause who are still having vaginal bleeding because they are using menopausal hormone therapy might need extra iron.
Be active. Exercise can help your bones, heart, mood, and more. Ask your doctor about what activities are right for you. Aim to do:
• At least 2 hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate aerobic physical activity or 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity or some combination of the two
• Exercises that build muscle strength on two days each week
Quit smoking. Smoking hurts your health in many ways, including by damaging your bones. Stay away from secondhand smoke and get help quitting if you need it.
• Take care of your gynecological health. You will still need certain tests like a pelvic exam after menopause. Most women need a Pap test every three years. Depending on your health history, you may need a Pap test more often, so check with your doctor. Also, remember to ask how often you need mammograms (breast x-rays). In addition to gynecologists, your internist or family physician can do many gynecological screenings. You also may need to see a specialist for some specific problems, like a urogynecologist for urinary incontinence.
Ask your doctor about immunizations and screenings. Discuss blood pressure, bone density, and other tests. Find out about flu and other shots