Most women today will live more than a third of their lives in their postmenopausal years; 80% to 90% of American Women will experience uncomfortable symptoms such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, mood swings, and possibly a heightened risk of heart disease and osteoporosis during menopause. The majority of these women will experience the dreaded sweats up to two years and a few will endure them up to five years or more.
Fortunately, there are now many ways to minimize the ill effects of menopause.
Undoubtedly, there are three very important ingredients for health before, during and after menopause are:
1). Proper Diet. Diet can do a great deal to prevent age-related ailments like heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis; Proper, meaning mostly fruits, vegetables, grains, and minimal fat, salt and sugar. If your eating habits are not perfect, and who's are? Take a daily multivitamin.
To reduce your risk of osteoporosis, start taking a calcium supplement in your early thirties, then increase your consumption of calcium to 1,500 mg a day when you start menopause. And be sure to get at least 400 international units of vitamin D from dairy products, vitamin supplements and/or sun exposure. The skin makes vitamin D when exposed to the sun.
2). Vitamin D boosts the body's absorption of calcium. One cup of milk contains about 300 mg of calcium and 100 IU of vitamin D.
3). Exercise. Besides staving off heart disease and osteoporosis, regular workouts improve mood and overall well-being. Try: Aerobic activities like walking, dancing, running and cross-country skiing if you live in a place where it snows or you are able and willing to travel to where it does. Also combine along with weight lifting. Try to fit in at least three 20 minute sessions a week. Develop Good Habits and Get Rid of Bad Ones. Hot flashes can often be controlled by stopping smoking, limiting your intake of alcohol, caffeine and spicy foods.
Alternatives to Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) If you choose not to go on hormone replacement therapy due to the side effects of it, there are other options for relieving problems associated with menopause.
Alendronate (Fosamax), When approved by the FDA, this drug was the first no hormone remedy for osteoporosis. In two large studies, Alendronate was given in conjunction with daily calcium supplements. Results: Bone density increased by 8% at the hip and spine. The rate of fractures fell by 63%.
Calcitonin-Salmon (Miacalcin). This nasal spray is another option for osteoporosis. It is good for women who are more than five years past menopause and who have low bone mass. Two year studies have proven that the drug quickly increases bone mineral density in the spine, more slowly in the forearm or hip. For maximum effectiveness, it must be taken with at least 1,000 mg calcium and 400 IU of vitamin D a day.
Progestin. If your only problem is hot flashes, oral Progestin (without estrogen) may help. But it will not help other menopause symptoms, and it may boost your risk of heart disease.
Relaxation. Biofeedback, deep breathing, yoga and meditation can all be used to reduce the intensity of hot flashes. Vaginal Lubricants. If you experience vaginal discomfort during intercourse, Replens or K-Y Jelly can help. Also helpful: Having sex on a regular basis.
A Treatment with Promise. The combination of twice-daily slow release fluoride tablet and 400 mg of calcium has been shown to reduce spinal fractures by 70% among women suffering from osteoporosis, and build bone mass in the hip and spine at the rate of 2% to 6% a year.
UNPROVEN REMEDIES Some doctors believe that mega doses of vitamins E and C reduce menopause symptoms and cut the risk of heart disease and cancer. Vitamin E may also relieve hot flashes and vaginal dryness. However, their role in treating menopause symptoms remains unproven, especially when taken in supplement form. Doctors do not recommend them.