1. Keep your bones strong
Let’s start with bone health. Our bone mass (how dense our bones are) begins to naturally decline from our forties onwards and this may accelerate after reaching menopause . Your level of oestrogen also drops during and after the menopause. This can increase your risk of osteoporosis (thinning of the bones).
The following things can help to protect and strengthen your bone density.
- Include plenty of calcium-rich foods in your diet and vitamin D (10 micrograms per day) for healthy bones.
- Do regular exercise, especially weight-bearing exercises to strengthen your bones.
- Try and lose weight if you need to (see the section on managing weight gain below).
- Give up smoking if you smoke and limit how much alcohol you drink.
- Consider taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to replace your oestrogen and reduce menopause symptoms. This is used to protect your bones and reduce your risk of getting osteoporosis or heart disease. Your GP can discuss the pros and cons of taking HRT.
2. Be active
Simple lifestyle changes, like exercising more regularly, are a great way to keep your brain and body healthy into old age. Being physically active can also really help to boost your mood.
If you’re generally fit and don’t have any mobility problems, aim to do at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week. This can include activities such as walking, golfing, swimming, or cycling every week.
To get the same benefits you could try 75 minutes of more intense aerobic activity each week instead. This could include aerobics, fast swimming, tennis, or jogging. Try these alongside strengthening exercises at least twice a week, to work all your major muscles.
3. Manage weight gain
Some people may gain weight after the menopause This weight gain can be caused by:
- your metabolism slowing down as you go through the menopause
- not being as physically active as when you were younger
- not having a healthy, balanced diet
Being overweight can increase your risk of health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
If you’re overweight, the best way to lose weight safely is to use up more calories than you take in and to maintain a healthy, balanced diet. This means reducing how much you eat and drink and being more active.
4. Sex after menopause
For some people, knowing that they can’t get pregnant after the menopause can feel liberating, especially if they’re in a monogamous relationship (you and your partner have sex only with each other).
But, if you’re in a new relationship there’s still a risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI) if you have unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex. After menopause, your vagina may also be thinner and drier.
This can increase your risk of catching an STI during sex. Vaginal lubricants and moisturisers can help to reduce symptoms like vaginal dryness, itching, and pain during sex. Oestrogen hormone products (topical oestrogens) can also be prescribed to help with these symptoms.
Practice safer sex by using condoms to reduce your chances of catching or passing on STIs. You might also want to consider getting tested for STIs before having sex without a condom.
If you think you have an STI, speak to your GP or visit a sexual health clinic as soon as possible.
5. Look after your sleep
Since the menopause, you may have a poorer quality of sleep. Sleeping well is an important part of looking after your health, both mentally and physically. As well as boosting your emotional wellbeing, it can lower your risk of developing high blood pressure, diabetes, and coronary heart disease.
In general, adults need about 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. There are lots of helpful tips and advice online on how to improve your sleep.
6. Focus on the positives
Reaching the menopause is a time of change for your body, and it’s easy to focus on what is lost. But, if you approach it in a positive way, you can better manage this natural stage in life. Once your mood settles this could be a new chapter in your life when your memory improves again and you feel more self-confident.