It is just a fact of life that as we get older, much of what we had taken for granted regarding our bodies when we were younger begin to show signs of changes and discomfort. For women, particularly around the age of 50, signs of changes to our bodies become even clearer. This change being menopause, we are all very familiar with the symptoms that come with it. Anxiety, mood swings, depression, insomnia, hot flashes, night sweats, and so on, are all part of this stage in a woman’s life. Added to this are serious medical issues that might arise, such as osteoporosis, cardiovascular diseases, and dementia after menopause. However, resigning ourselves to any of such conditions is no way to live and thrive. So here are some notes on menopause self-care that women can do to better manage their health.
1. Recognizing Menopause
Menopause is a natural physical process that every woman has to go through, while the symptoms vary from person to person. When classic symptoms begin to show up, such as hot flashes, night sweats, upset moods, and insomnia, schedule a health screening with your family doctor to get personalized advice on self-care. Most women go through this period of their life not needing any treatments, but it helps to ensure that you’re getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night, and ideally an afternoon nap each day for about 15-20 minutes.
2. Put Together a Proper Diet
As a woman entering menopause, take care to properly decrease the consumption of carbohydrates and monitor daily calorie intake. The proper diet at this stage should be low in calories, fat, salt, and sugar.
Menopause is a transition period from middle age to old age. As body functions begin to slow, so too does a woman’s activity level and metabolism, thus requiring fewer calories. The average woman, between the ages of 50 to 65, doing light manual labor should consume 1,750 kcal each day. Those over 65 should further decrease their intake to 1,700 kcal.
How might this reduced calorie diet look like on a daily basis? For starch foods, limit intake to roughly between 8-14oz, vegetables 11-18oz, and fruits 7-14oz. Meanwhile, pay attention to the intake of dietary fiber, which should be roughly 1oz per day. Having meals incorporate approximately 1.7-3.5oz of whole grains, such as brown rice and oats, and beans, such as mung beans or chickpeas, 5 to 7 times a week will suffice. Sure, there are some fiber-rich foods that may be hard to consume and digest, such as red beans or corn, but these same foods can also be consumed in powder form.
The dietary fiber in vegetables and fruits helps promote gastrointestinal motility; in other words, an easier time when going to the bathroom, and reduces the accumulation of toxic wastes in your body. Additionally, intake of fiber swells the stomach, making people feel full and reducing the intake of calories.
When controlling the intake of calories, make sure you are still getting a sufficient supply of protein as well. Protein is the material basis for the maintenance and repair of body tissues. With the declination of your ovaries and drop in hormones, the functions of some organs can deteriorate as well. To alleviate that and help maintain their proper functioning, sufficient intake of protein is a must. Meat, fish, eggs, and milk are all good sources of protein.
Paying close attention to the intake of vitamins, such as vitamin C, E, B complex, and D plays a significant role in skin health, bone health, and helps delay aging.
3. Add Some Minerals (and put away that salt shaker)
Osteoporosis is a real risk for women during and after menopause. Decreases in the level of estrogen and production metabolism of bone tissues is what drives this risk. At the same time, with a drop in estrogen levels, emotions become unstable. Levels of calcium in your body is a tremendous factor in this regard. If your body suffers from calcium insufficiency, it may lead to mood swings, as well as an increase in neurological and physical pain. To remedy these risks, make sure to consume high-calcium foods such as milk, soy products, and seaweed. Developing a habit of drinking a cup of milk (or dairy substitute for the lactose intolerant) every day will help in preventing of osteoporosis during menopause.
After menopause, it is recommended that women consume 1000 mg of calcium as part of their daily diet. Depending on your actual intake of calcium through foods, calculate the difference between your intake and the recommended dose, and close the gap with calcium supplements. For example, 11oz of milk contains 324 mg of calcium, 3.5oz of tofu has 100 mg of calcium, 1.8oz of eggs (roughly 1 egg) contains 50 mg of calcium, 8.9oz of bok choy 270 mg of calcium, and 3.5oz of fish 79 mg of calcium. In total, that is 823 mg of calcium. With 200 mg of calcium supplements, you can meet the daily standard amount of calcium. At the same time, studies suggest that vitamin D can independently reduce the risk of fracture from falling in the elderly. The recommended intake of vitamin D for women in menopause is 800 IU per day. However, the precise amount of vitamin D supplements needed varies from person to person. In this regard, consult your family doctor for the best advice.
For women with inconsistent periods and menstruation flows, these symptoms may lead to risk of anemia. If these symptoms apply to you, make sure to consume foods rich in protein, iron, and vitamin C to prevent anemia caused by lack of vital proteins and nutrients. The following is a list of some foods rich in protein, calcium, and many of the vitamins and minerals mentioned:
① Staples and beans: wheat, oat, millet, fava beans, peas, and black beans
② Meat, egg, milk: Beef, chicken, fish, shrimp, and egg
③ Vegetables: lotus root, tomato, spinach, celery, luffa, eggplant, kelp, bamboo shoot, lettuce, Chinese spinach, taro
④ Fruits: bananas, apples, Korean pears, citrus fruits, loquat, Indian jujube
4. Weight-Loss Target
Controlling your weight can do a world of good in alleviating symptoms of vasodilation, such as hot flashes and night sweats. Vasodilation is when blood vessels widen to increase blood flow to areas of the body lacking oxygen or nutrients. Whether through exercise, dieting, or a combination of both, weight loss and weight control is the goal. For those who are mildly obese, target losing roughly 1-2lbs a month. For those with moderate to severe obesity, the target should be 1-2lbs a week. Start by cutting calories in your diet. By gradually cutting 125-250 kcal each day, you can effectively bring your calorie intake under control. For best results, consult your family doctor for personalized advice.