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Menopause: Facts you ought to know

Ever since the ‘70s sitcom “Maude” broached the topic on the air, talking about menopause no longer is taboo. In fact, you may have heard so much about it that you’re likely to tune out whenever the topic comes up. Nevertheless, it’s important to sort fact from fiction when it comes to coping with the unsettling changes that may accompany menopause. Here, then, is all you need to know to keep your body symptom-free when your ovaries slowly stop producing estrogen and releasing an egg each month, the events—in addition to the cessation of menstruation—that signal menopause.

What happens:

Bones begin to thin and weaken, which puts women at risk for osteoporosis.

What you can do:

  1. Exercise regularly. Choose weight-bearing exercises, such as walking and weight lifting.
  2. Eat a balanced diet with adequate calcium and vitamin D. If you’re postmenopausal, you need 1,200 mg of calcium each day. The recommended daily allowance of vitamin D is 400 IU.
  3. Quit smoking. It speeds bone loss by hampering the absorption of calcium.
  4. Reduce your alcohol intake. More than two drinks a day can decrease calcium absorption.

What happens:

Arteries are more likely to develop atherosclerosis, a narrowing of the arteries that can cause a heart attack.

What you can do:

  1. Have your blood pressure checked regularly, and get treatment if necessary.
  2. Have your cholesterol tested and reduce your intake of saturated fats and cholesterol.
  3. Quit smoking. Smoking causes the platelets (clotting agents) in the blood to cluster, making blood thicker.
  4. Get active. Exercise helps cleanse the blood of fats than can block arteries.

What happens:

Muscle tone in the bladder and urethra are reduced, which can lead to mild urinary incontinence.

What you can do:

  1. Do Kegel exercises. Strengthen the pelvic-floor muscles by alternately contracting and relaxing them (as if you were trying to stop the flow of urine).

What happens:

Vaginal tissues thin and lubrication decreases, which can make intercourse painful and vaginal infections more common.

What you can do:

  1. Stay sexually active. Sexual activity helps prevent or slow down vaginal changes by increasing blood flow to the area.
  2. Use lubricating jellies or suppositories to reduce discomfort during intercourse.
  3. Consider estrogen creams. Estrogen is the most effective cure for vaginal discomfort caused by menopause.

What happens:

Hot flashes occur as the body adjusts to hormonal changes.

What you can do:

  1. 1. Stay active. Studies have shown that women who exercise are less likely to experience hot flashes.
  2. Quit smoking. It can aggravate hot flashes, as can alcohol (especially red wine), caffeine and stress.

Does menopause have to threaten your health or your lifestyle? Absolutely not! Furthermore, you can reduce the side effects of “the change” by eating right, exercising and stopping smoking.