Sorry ladies, it is going to happen to all of us.....the menopause!! Some of you will come to it through medical reasons like chemo-induced early menopause or from problems with your ovaries. It will descend on the rest of you at around the ripe-old age of 51 (according to statistics). Dr Google is always there to look up symptoms and see what to expect, or your mum or Aunty Flo, but sometimes there are confusing messages about what is true and what is not. Here are 5 common truths and myths surrounding the menopause.
Myth No 1 - Menopause is the end of life as you know it.
Truth - OK so life may be different, but it certainly doesn't mark the beginning of the end! At this stage of your life, things are actually running in your favour: the children may have left home so you have more time on your hands (and probably more cash!) You may have the opportunity to change career and do something you actually want to do, not do something you have to do to pay the bills. You may have more free time and can launch yourself into a new interest or hobby. So no, it certainly isn't the end of things - more like the beginning of an exciting new chapter!
Myth No 2 - You will gain weight
Truth - The main reason woman tend to gain weight at this time is simply the fact that as we get older, because of our slowed metabolism, things like disturbed sleep and loss of muscle mass, we tend to easily pile on the pounds. Any weight that is gained tends to go straight to the tummy area and this is associated with an increased risk of some health problems like Cancer, Heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, High Blood Pressure and Arthritis.
But there is something you can do - by establishing healthy lifestyle habits regarding diet and exercise - you can help prevent the dreaded 'middle-age spread'
Myth No 3 - The brain-fog that can be experienced during menopause is a sign of dementia.
Truth - Poor sleep - caused by hot flashes. night sweats and stress are more likely to give you the brain-fog feeling, nothing more sinister,
Myth No 4 - You cannot prevent loss of bone density after menopause
Truth - Whilst age and the menopause can bring about a decline in bone density, there are things you can do to halt this. The low estrogen levels you experience at this time contribute to possible weaker bones because your bone tissue is lost quicker than the body can replace it. In the first few years of menopause, there is an increase in loss of calcium and as we age vitamin D production also decreases. What can you do to help?
Establish a regular exercise programme - I know most of us hate exercise but by doing weight-bearing exercises like walking, jogging, dancing or playing tennis at least three times a week, you can help make your bones and muscles stronger, also helping you to stay active and mobile.
Eat plenty of dark green leafy vegetables, such as kale, cabbage and broccoli, calcium-fortified orange juice, breads and cereals made with calcium-fortified flour.
To absorb calcium your body uses vitamin D. 20 minutes of sun a day (difficult in the UK I will admit!) helps most people's bodies make enough vitamin D. Cereals and plant milks are often fortified with vitamin D and there are supplements but always refer to your GP before taking these as too much can harm your kidneys and actually lower bone mass. *
* Please note there are other foods available which contain calcium and vitamin D but I am coming at this from a plant-based angle, so I have not included these.
Myth No 5 - There are only a few symptoms of menopause like night sweats, hot flashes and mood swings.
Truth - Did you know there are actually a whopping 34 symptoms of menopause but as we are all different not everyone will experience them. Symptoms like:
Change in body odour
Metal taste in your mouth
...to name but 6!
It is never too early to adopt healthy lifestyle behaviours, by doing so you will make your menopause journey a lot easier and help with the symptoms.
Following a plant-based diet has been associated with an easier menopause experience, even reducing things like hot flashes.
Regular exercise has been shown to improve sleep, your mental health and the overall quality of your life, particularly as you reach this stage of your life.
So, buckle up, get out there and embrace this time - face it head-on and celebrate the fantastic second-half of your life!
More soon xx