Maintaining proper nutrition and a regular exercise routine during menopause can help alleviate the symptoms, as well as the physical changes that commonly occur during this stage of a woman’s life.
Because the risk of developing osteoporosis increases during and after menopause, it is important for women in their mid-life to include plenty of calcium in their diet. A woman’s risk of developing heart disease also increases during and after menopause, therefore women going through this period should be extra mindful of keeping a heart healthy diet, especially avoiding foods high in saturated fat and/or sodium.
Exercise can also help with the symptoms and changes that commonly occur with menopause, as it promotes sleep, helps with mood and stress levels, and builds stronger bones. Women tend to begin gaining weight in their abdomen during and after menopause, which increases risk of heart disease and diabetes. Exercise can also help combat the weight gain that commonly occurs during menopause. Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, playing tennis or aerobics, are essential for building strong bones and decreasing risk of osteoporosis—the earlier in life women begin this form of exercise, the better. Strength training is also important, as people who are physically inactive can lose as much as 3 to 5 percent of their muscle mass per decade after age 30. It is recommended for women to exercise at least 30 minutes each day, incorporating strength-training sessions into their routine at least 2 to 3 times a week.
However, before beginning a new diet or exercise routine to help with the symptoms and changes of menopause, it is important to discuss your condition, and how to safely modify your lifestyle, with a medical professional. Cone Health has a Center of Excellence in Women’s Health, with an exceptional network of women’s health specialists dedicated to educating women in the community about menopause, and providing treatment to help them transition through this period with a high quality of life.
Sarah Perko, RN, is the Cone Health Wellness Nurse at the Spears Family YMCA. Cone Health and the Spears Family YMCA launched this partnership in June 2012, designed to improve the health of “Y” members. Sarah provides a variety of services, including health assessments, counseling, blood pressure monitoring, laboratory screening events, glucose and cholesterol checks, and wellness programs, such as the new ‘Why Not Get Fit’ program beginning this season. Perko earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from East Carolina University in 1997. She earned a Master of Healthcare Administration from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2002, and was awarded an Administrative Fellowship at New Hanover Regional Hospital in Wilmington.