Reducing Your Risk of Complications Associated With Menopause
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Reducing Your Risk of Complications Associated With Menopause

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Because menopause is a natural biological event in every woman’s life, there is no way to prevent it from occurring. It will happen.

You can, however, take measures designed to reduce your risk of diseases associated with estrogen loss, including osteoporosis and heart disease. These include:

Increase Your Intake of Phytoestrogens

A substantially high intake of phytoestrogens (isoflavones and lignans) may help reduce your menopausal symptoms. They may also reduce your risk for diseases associated with estrogen loss. Phytoestrogens occur naturally in certain foods:

Isoflavones: soybeans, chickpeas, and legumes

Lignans: flaxseeds, whole grains, and some fruits and vegetables

Eat a Healthful Diet

A healthful diet during menopause can improve your sense of well-being. It may also reduce the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, and certain cancers. Your diet should be low in saturated fat and high in fruits, vegetables, and grains. An adequate intake of calcium (1200-1500 mg per day) can help lower your risk of osteoporosis. You can increase the calcium in your diet by eating more calcium-rich dairy foods (low-fat or nonfat preferred), leafy green vegetables, and calcium-fortified foods and juices. Vitamin D, found in sunlight and certain foods (fortified milk, liver, and tuna), helps your body absorb calcium. Recent evidence supports dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil capsules, salmon, tuna).

Limit Caffeine and Alcohol

Cutting back on caffeine and alcohol may reduce symptoms of anxiety and insomnia. It may also reduce the loss of calcium from your body and reduce your risk of other health problems.

Quit Smoking

Smoking is the number one preventable cause of premature death. Giving up smoking can reduce your risk of early menopause, heart disease, osteoporosis, and many types of cancer, including lung and cervical cancer. Many women quit smoking successfully, often after several attempts. Your healthcare provider may offer medication that can help, such as the antidepressant Zyban (bupropion) and other smoking cessation aids, such as nicotine patches and gums. Support groups and smoking cessation classes can also help. The most successful smoking cessation programs involve a combination of behavior modification techniques and drug therapy.

Exercise Regularly

Regular exercise is a great remedy for many symptoms of menopause. It helps promote better sleep, stimulates brain chemicals that can reduce negative feelings and depression, and may reduce hot flashes. Weight-bearing exercises such as walking, climbing stairs, and resistance exercises such as lifting weights help to strengthen your bones and decrease your risk of osteoporosis.

Manage Stress

During menopause you may be facing many stressors, such as raising children or having children leave home, caring for elderly parents, and juggling a number of responsibilities. You can reduce stress by taking care of your whole self. This means eating a healthful diet, getting plenty of sleep, exercising regularly, and having enough time for rest and recreation. A variety of relaxation techniques can also help you to cope more effectively with stress. Examples include meditation, deep breathing, progressive relaxation, yoga, and biofeedback.

References:

North American Menopause Society website. Available at: http://www.menopause.org/default.htm . Accessed February 14, 2006.



Last reviewed February 2007 by Jeff Andrews, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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