Menopause

How to stay healthy during menopause

January 18, 2024

Written by Maeve Ginsberg

Medically reviewed by Rita Faycurry, RD

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women's health
Contents
Contents

Key Points

  • Menopause can come with additional challenges like high blood pressure, thyroid disorder, weight gain, and more.
  • There are plenty of lifestyle and medical steps you can take to manage your health throughout menopause.
  • Focusing on your diet and partnering with a trusted registered dietitian can make a huge difference in maintaining your wellbeing during menopause.

The menopausal transition comes with its fair share of challenges among the many symptoms. As you age, your risk factors change and it can be difficult to keep track of the best ways to take care of yourself. How can you manage a healthy lifestyle during menopause and continue to enjoy your life? Here are some tips for how to stay healthy during menopause.

Health concerns during menopause

Dealing with cholesterol, blood pressure, and heart disease in menopause

Menopause can be associated with higher cholesterol levels as well as high blood pressure. Both can be related to weight gain and BMI and both are risk factors for heart disease. It’s important to check your cholesterol levels and blood pressure regularly to ensure your numbers are in a normal, healthy range.

Among other healthy behaviors, sleeping well and quitting smoking are both crucial to balance cholesterol and blood pressure. You should have regular screenings for your cholesterol and blood pressure to ensure you’re not at increased risk for heart disease or any other dangerous conditions.

Arthritis and osteoporosis

Menopause speeds up bone loss. In fact, up to 20% of bone loss can happen during and after menopause. This greatly increases your risk of osteoporosis. To prevent bone density loss, it’s crucial to up your intake of calcium and vitamin D. Calcium is necessary for bone health, while vitamin D is necessary for the absorption of calcium. You can get these nutrients through food, but additional supplementation might help. Talk to your doctor about what supplements might be right for you.

Another step to take to support your bone health is regular exercise. You should aim for 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week, or 75 minutes of intense aerobic activity (or a combination of the two). Weight-bearing exercise is vital for bone health and maintaining muscle mass, as well as managing body aches and staying functional, while cardiovascular training is important for heart health.

Weight gain during menopause

Many women find it difficult to maintain a healthy weight during menopause. This is less related to hormonal changes than lifestyle changes and age factors. Your metabolism slows down as you age, and lower estrogen levels mean that fat redistributes and collects more around the stomach rather than the hips and thighs. However, visceral fat and obesity come with their own additional risk factors, so it’s advisable to keep the weight gain to a minimum.

Working with your healthcare provider as well as a registered dietitian can be immensely helpful in understanding your body’s new needs and finding a sustainable, healthy diet for perimenopause and beyond. This can be particularly useful if you follow a particular diet, like eating vegan or vegetarian, and want to find ways to continue following that diet while improving your overall health.

Overactive or underactive thyroid

Thyroid disorder is common in both pre- and post-menopausal women. The disorder is not necessarily correlated with menopause – that is still being researched. But it is common for women in this time of life to have either hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism. Because hypothyroidism and menopause share overlapping symptoms – low energy, fatigue, and slow metabolism – thyroid disorder can be underdiagnosed in menopausal women. As such, it’s important to have your thyroid levels checked regularly. Both diet and medication can help with thyroid disorder.

How can I sustain exercise habits in menopause?

It can be difficult to maintain sufficient activity levels in menopause. There are plenty of lifestyle changes that come with this time of life, and combined with difficult menopause symptoms, it can be challenging to find the time and motivation to keep up your exercise regimen. Or, perhaps you haven’t been that active in your life but are now compelled to increase your physical activity.

The best way to create a sustainable exercise habit is to start slowly and focus on what you enjoy. While it’s important to have a mix of strength and cardio in your workout routine, there are so many options for what kind of exercise you can do to get the benefits you need. You can get cardio from running, biking, swimming, and other sports, while you can gain strength through lifting weights, Pilates, and some exercise classes.

I’m exhausted and have no energy during menopause

Diet can play a significant role in energy levels. Your nutrient needs change during menopause. These are some of the best foods to eat during menopause:

  • Protein to minimize muscle loss and support bone health
  • Whole grains to boost fiber and reduce risk of heart disease and cancer
  • Phytoestrogens like legumes to alleviate uncomfortable symptoms of menopause like hot flashes and night sweats
  • Calcium and vitamin D for bone health

If your diet is lacking in certain areas, it can really drag your energy levels down and contribute to worse mood swings, particularly if your blood sugar is imbalanced. It’s also important to reduce or eliminate certain foods, like alcohol, processed food, added sugar, and spicy foods. Read more about the best menopause diet here.

Dealing with inflammation

Many menopausal women report increased inflammation, which is likely due to increased proinflammatory cytokines. Inflammation can affect your bones, joints, and cognition. This can lead to increased aches and pains, as well as trouble with memory or attention. The inflammation is likely driven by decreasing estrogen. Hormone replacement therapy combined with an anti-inflammatory diet can help mitigate these symptoms.

Healthy habits for menopausal women

Here are some key steps to stay healthy during menopause:

  • Regular exercise: Maintaining high enough activity levels through the menopausal transition is crucial for your heart, bones, joints, muscles, and overall wellbeing. To meet the aforementioned 150 minutes of weekly activity, you can partake in any exercise that gets your heart rate up high enough and that you find enjoyable. A mix of weight-bearing exercise and cardio is ideal to maintain both strength and heart health.
  • Sleep hygiene: Hot flashes and night sweats can make sleep difficult, but sleep well is crucial. You can improve your sleep hygiene by creating a consistent routine (that includes a regular bedtime and wake-up time), avoiding heavy evening meals or eating too close to bedtime, reducing light and noise in your bedroom, ensuring your room is cool enough, and avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine.
  • Vaginal dryness: Vaginal dryness is common during and after menopause due to hormonal changes. There are vaginal moisturizers and lubricants available both over-the-counter and with a prescription that can help with this.
  • Hormone replacement therapy: Supplementing extra estrogen or combination estrogen/progesterone can help ease menopause symptoms. Talk to your healthcare provider about HRT if you haven’t seen any improvement in your symptoms after trying lifestyle changes.
  • Nutrition: A healthy diet is the backbone of wellness throughout menopause. If you’re confused about how to eat right during menopause or feel you would benefit from additional guidance, working with a registered dietitian can be a great option. Many RDs specialize in women’s health and can help guide you to ease symptoms and feel better.

Find a qualified registered dietitian to help with menopause symptoms with Fay Nutrition. Fay connects you with board-certified RDs covered by your health insurance. This means you can pay as little as $0 per session while receiving top-quality nutrition counseling. Click here to get started.



The views expressed by authors and contributors of such content are not endorsed or approved by Fay and are intended for informational purposes only. The content is reviewed by Fay only to confirm educational value and audience interest. You are encouraged to discuss any questions that you may have about your health with a healthcare provider.


Sources
  • Mayo Clinic - Menopause and high blood pressure: What's the connection?
  • Endocrine Society - Menopause and Bone Loss
  • Journal of Mid-Life Health - Exercise beyond menopause: Dos and Don’ts
  • Cureus - Frequency of Thyroid Disorder in Pre- and Postmenopausal Women and Its Association With Menopausal Symptoms
  • Menopause Review/Przegląd Menopauzalny - Proinflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokine changes related to menopause
  • Journal of Neuroinflammation - The peri-menopause in a woman’s life: a systemic inflammatory phase that enables later neurodegenerative disease
  • The North American Menopause Society - Staying Healthy at Menopause and Beyond


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Maeve Ginsberg

Written by Maeve Ginsberg

Maeve Ginsberg is a health and wellness writer with a personal passion for fitness. As an ACE Certified Personal Trainer and former powerlifter, she loves combining her interests in health with her writing. Maeve has a Bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University. 

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Rita Faycurry, RD

Medically Reviewed by Rita Faycurry, RD

Rita Faycurry, RD is a board-certified Registered Dietitian Nutritionist specializing in clinical nutrition for chronic conditions. Her approach to health is centered around the idea that the mind and body are intimately connected, and that true healing requires an evidence-based and integrative approach that addresses the root cause of disease. In her books and articles, Rita offers practical tips and insights on how to care for your body, mind, and spirit to achieve optimal health and wellness.

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