The ultimate guide to taking control of your health and beauty during menopause
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AFTER photo with my daughter
Menopausal Weight Gain: How To Get Your Body Back
- Loss of estrogen may make insulin less effective at lowering glucose, and more effective at storing fat.
- Suffering from menopausal symptoms can affect a woman’s emotional health…weight goes up, self-esteem goes down.
- Normal life and environmental changes, such as children leaving or coming back home, divorce, death, career changes, can be stressful.
- The stress hormone, cortisol, directly affects fat storage and weight gain in stressed individuals. Cortisol is associated with increased appetite, cravings for sugar, and weight gain.
- There's a link between estrogen and body fat storage. Post-menopausal women burn less fat than they did in their pre-menopausal years. Cells not only store more fat but are less willing to part with it.
- Medical conditions such as insulin resistance (when your body becomes resistant to the insulin it produces) or suffering from an underactive thyroid can pack on the pounds.
- Medications that can trigger appetite, slow metabolism, increase fluid retention, and cause muscle cramps decreasing desire to exercise are: antidepressants, antihistamines, beta-blockers, corticosteroids, insulin, statins and tamoxifin.
- Eat Protein: Women naturally have less muscle mass and testosterone than men, so lean proteins such as, chicken, turkey, fish, beans, soybeans and tofu, dairy protein/Greek yogurt, low fat cottage cheese, egg whites, are a woman’s best friend during menopause. Your body expends more energy (calories) to process proteins.
- Consume healthy fats: olive oil, flaxseeds, salmon, halibut, tuna, avocados, almonds, and walnuts.
- Manage blood sugar with low to medium glycemic index foods: beans, apples, oranges, cherries, plain yogurt, sweet potatoes, oatmeal.
- Fiber is your friend keeping you feeling full longer and regular.
- Limit alcohol to 2 or less glasses per day: That totals less than 10 fluid ounces of wine, 24 ounces of beer, or 3 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits. More than two drinks per day may increase the risk of cancer and stroke.
- Don’t smoke.
- Watch salt intake to reduce fluid retention.
- Practice portion control. Using smaller plates can help.
- Keep a food diary and create a food plan. There are many great apps for your mobile that may help.
- Eat every 3-4 hours so you don’t get hungry. Three meals and two snacks per day (three if you wake up early).
- Exercise at least 30 minutes most days of the week to maintain a healthy weight; increase workout time if your goal is to lose weight.
- Make breakfast and lunch your largest meals.
- Nourish healthy emotions: are you happy, are you surrounded by healthy relationships, is your self esteem high?
Will Your Marriage Survive Menopause? By Staness Jonekos
Over 60 percent of divorces are initiated by women in their 40s, 50s or 60s — the menopause years — according to a recent survey conducted by AARP Magazine. Why are women running away from marriage?I wasn’t even married when I slammed into menopause months before my wedding day at the age of 47. Despite being completely in love, I almost ran away and my fiance almost married bridezella! Experts say the number one reason for divorce is lack of communication. My response from the ladies corner, “When everything you know to be normal is being kidnapped by changing hormones, communication may be last on the list. Throw in lifestyle changes, health and aging issues, and you are left in a small evaporating puddle of low self-esteem feeling hopeless.” Many men blame lack of sex as the leading reason for midlife divorce. But is it? AARP poled 1,682 adults ages 45 and older on the importance of sex. Two-thirds of men (66 percent) and about half of women (48 percent) agreed that a satisfying sex life was important to their quality of life. That is only an 18 percent difference. So is it lack of sex, or a breakdown in communication chasing the women away? Navigating a course in uncharted territory can test any relationship emotionally and sexually. It can also bring a couple closer — it did for me. Purchasing midlife marriage insurance can help combat the unforeseen hazards during the menopause transition. How do you qualify for this love insurance? The first step is to understand how menopause can affect your love life. Ladies first. Menopause is a life transition that can affect you physically and emotionally. Your body is experiencing fluctuating hormones that can cause hot flashes, night sweats, itchy skin, migraine headaches, breast tenderness, vaginal dryness and irregular periods. Eighty percent of women will experience uncomfortable symptoms, and the majority struggle with midlife weight gain. Many women feel unattractive going through so many uninvited changes. Some suffer from exhaustion, depression and moodiness leaving them feeling isolated and confused. During menopause a woman’s brain also goes through changes. Dr. Louann Brizendine (author of The Female Brain) says, “The mommy brain unplugs. Menopause means the end of the hormones that have boosted communication circuits, emotion circuits, the drive to tend and care, and the urge to avoid conflict at all costs.” There are additional factors on top of fluctuating hormones that may contribute to a lack of communication and interest in sex. Dr. Wendy Klein, co-author of The Menopause Makeover and leading menopause expert, informed me, “If a woman is taking medications, such as antidepressants, mood stabilizers, contraceptive drugs, antihistamines, sedatives, antihypertensives and/or medications for blood pressure, this can also decrease sexual desire.” Midlife stresses brought on by career change, the loss of a loved one, empty nest syndrome or caring for elderly parents can contribute to a declining libido. Throw in aging issues and the last thing on a menopausal woman’s mind is communicating. This woman is in self-survival mode, and may be in no mood to connect or make whoopi. If she is in an unsupported relationship while managing this collection of changes, leaving the marriage may appear like her only salvation. Gentlemen — your turn. How many factors listed above is your partner experiencing? It is no surprise why men are afraid of menopause. His woman is changing in front of his eyes. Women are not alone suffering from changes. Men also have midlife challenges, both physically and emotionally. Declining testosterone can affect libido, moods and sexual performance. Generally a man’s hormones change gradually compared to the woman’s experience during menopause, so it may not be obvious to the man that he too is changing. Some of these unwelcomed changes may include midlife stress, as well as health and aging issues. If both partners are experiencing change, the relationship may be on an emotional roller coaster. Approximately 47 percent of women experience sexual difficulties with a decrease of sexual desire being the most common, according to the National Health and Social Survey and the Global Study of Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors. It is no surprise that most men associate menopause with having less sex. But, it does not have to be this way. The man can actually help save a shaky midlife marriage with some handy tools to power charge the relationship. Women who have a supportive partner often have a smoother transition through menopause. When she is happy, he is happy. Acquiring midlife marriage insurance takes action to make a difference. Midlife Marriage Insurance For Him 1. Listen to her; don’t criticize or try to fix her. 2. Go with the flow; be prepared for mood swings. 3. Be compassionate, and validate her experience (that means agree with her, don’t try to fix her). 4. Be romantic. Bring her flowers for no reason. Make her dinner. Give her a massage. Make it about HER. 5. Cuddle more. Tell her you love her and that she is beautiful. You may just get lucky. If not, do not take it personally. 6. If YOU are not in the mood, keep her company shopping, she will love the company 7. Support healthy eating and exercise choices. Join her for a walk or go on a hunting expedition at the grocery store to find new healthy foods. 8. Don’t ignore her menopause symptoms. Talk about it. Ask her what she needs to feel better. 9. Offer support if she needs to visit her healthcare provider to discuss menopause symptoms, a low libido or depression. 10. If numbers one through nine fail – disappear for a while. She may be seriously cranky and need space to focus on herself. Success depends on going through this transition as a team! Both partners must contribute to have a successful marriage. Midlife Marriage Insurance For Her 1. Track menopause symptoms and discuss treatment options with your healthcare provider. 2. Make a commitment to a healthy lifestyle. Exercise most days of the week. Eat nutritious meals. Watch portions. 3. Update your beauty regimen. 4. Build a support group. 5. Communicate with your partner. Don’t shut him out – let him know what you need. Understand he may be confused by your changes. 6. If you are not happy in your current relationship, discuss counseling. 7. Be receptive to creative adjustments in lovemaking activities. 8. If your libido is low and/or you are suffering from vaginal dryness, discuss your treatment options with your healthcare practitioner. There are hormone and non-hormone options available. 9. Pamper yourself. 10. Try to stay positive. Communicate, support each other’s needs, get counseling if needed, add romance, adjust lovemaking activities, and your odds increase that your marriage will survive menopause. Being on the same team will nourish a healthy, loving relationship that can last a lifetime. Life is constantly changing, and marriage is no different. Have real expectations, and acknowledge that your relationship goes through transitions. This will help you weather difficult times. Midlife is an opportunity for both men and women. If you are prepared, informed and willing, your marriage can survive menopause. A loving relationship supported with good communication can strengthen your love life at any age. This menopausal bride made it down the aisle of love. Both my partner and I said “I do” to communication and romance during menopause. We are still happily married five years later and ready to leap over the seven-year itch together. References Montenegro, X. The Divorce Experience: A Study of Divorce at Midlife and Beyond. AARP, May 2004. Brizendine, L. The Female Brain. New York: Broadway Books; 2006. Jonekos, S. and W. Klein. The Menopause Makeover. Ontario, Canada: Harlequin Enterprises; 2009.
How to Sleep Through Menopause
Giblin says, “Of the 900 sleep survey participates who suffer from insomnia, 79 percent of menopausal women have trouble staying asleep, and 63 percent struggle just trying to fall to sleep.”I was not alone! Most of us blame night sweats for insomnia, but I was surprised to find out that many menopausal insomniacs don’t suffer from night sweats at all. So what’s keeping us up at night? Empty nest syndrome, caring for aging parents, relationship changes, career adjustments and mid-life stress, bundled together with hormones in flux is a recipe for sleepless nights. Progesterone is our sleep-promoting hormone, so a decrease in this hormone contributes to a night of tossing and turning. Declining estrogen can make you more susceptible to stress, fueling this sleepless potion. I suffered from several of the sleep depriving offenders. It took just one severe night sweat to start the cycle of thrashing around, changing my PJs and laying in bed awake, waiting for a repeat performance. Insomnia during menopause clearly can affect the quality of your life. Women suffering from insomnia live with daily fatigue and irritability, and that can contribute to intimacy issues with her partner.
Giblin says, “62 percent of women ages 40 to 65 said they have not talked to their healthcare provider about insomnia.”I was one of them, because I never considered insomnia an actual symptom worth discussing with my clinician.
A former menopausal insomniac herself, Giblin continues, “Sleeplessness during menopause can compromise your health, both physically and mentally. People who get too little sleep develop poor health and higher percentages of chronic diseases.”Indeed, insomnia can increase your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and problems with your immune system. Getting proper sleep is important to your health! Let’s not forget the recent studies last year that found a lack of sleep contributes to weight gain. When you are sleep-deprived, your metabolism does not function properly. Sleep is also necessary for the nervous system to function properly. Sleeping tips during menopause • Create a sleep schedule, and follow it each night • Do not go to bed until you are tired • Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol right before bed • Enjoy decaf tea • Do not watch the news right before going to bed • Do not watch TV in bed • Take a soothing bath or shower before bedtime • Your bedroom should be a sleeping sanctuary and a place for lovemaking • Avoid daytime naps • Clear your mind before you get under the covers • Make sure your room is dark • Keep your bedroom cool to prevent night sweats, keep a fan nearby • Wear cotton pajamas, and have an extra pair handy • Exercise daily. Vigorous exercise should be done during the morning or afternoon. • Yoga may help promote good sleep • Try aromatherapy for relaxation • Own a comfortable bed • Wear socks to bed to help control core body temperature We are all different and require different amounts of sleep to feel rested during the day. The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) says, “Most adults require 6 to 9 hours of sleep each night.” I was lucky to get 3 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night - what’s a menopausal gal to do? Talk to your healthcare provider about insomnia • Keep a sleep diary • Track a typical night • Document what keeps you up at night. • How long did it take for you to fall asleep? • How long did you sleep in total? • How did you feel the next day? • Talk to your partner and see if he/she has noticed any differences in your sleeping habits. • Discuss any lifestyle changes you’ve made to improve your sleep. • Ask if menopause is affecting your sleep • Are there any current medications that could be contributing to your insomnia • What lifestyle changes do you need to make to get better sleep • Are you experiencing more stress? • Discuss a strategy to manage your insomnia When lifestyle changes fail NAMS recommends consulting a clinician to rule out sleep disorders or breathing problems.
Dr. Wendy Klein, co-author of The Menopause Makeover, says, “It is best to tailor therapy for menopausal insomnia to the needs of the individual woman. Generally, combining medical and non-medical therapies is better than either one alone.”Supplements such as botanical valerian have been found to improve sleep after two weeks of use. Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits before taking over-the-counter products to treat insomnia. If depression is contributing to your sleep problems, your healthcare provider may prescribe an antidepressant or other prescription medications. For some women, prescription sleep medications can help bring relief. The National Institutes of Health states: some medications are meant for short-term use, while others are meant for longer use. Side effects can occur, so talk to your healthcare provider about the risks and benefits of using medicines to treat insomnia. Getting a good night’s rest during menopause benefits your health, both physically and emotionally, and can contribute to a smoother transition.
How To Feel Sexy During Menopause
- Bioadhesive lubricant, such as AstroGlide, can provide immediate relief. Replens, a vaginal moisturizer, may be applied twice a week. Lubrication can offer vaginal protection and both are available over-the-counter.
- If vaginal dryness is your only menopause symptom, you may consider using local estrogen treatment.
- Low dose hormone therapy may bring relief.
- Emotional: Feeling unattractive, being depressed, feeling tired, suffering from lack of sleep, moodiness, feeling isolated, not being happy
- Fluctuating hormones
- Mood stabilizers
- Contraceptive drugs
- Blood pressure medications
- Medical conditions:
- Thyroid disease
- Androgen insufficiency
- Cardiovascular disease
- Neurological disorders
- Cultural issues
- Relationship satisfaction
- Midlife stress: career change, relationships, loss, divorce, caring for parents and financial concerns
- Discuss options with your practitioner. If fluctuating hormones are affecting your libido, there are therapies available.
- Review current medications and medical conditions.
- Talk to your partner
- Consider counseling or sex therapy, or both
- Adjust lovemaking activities: try warm baths before genital sexual activity, extend foreplay, incorporate massages, change your sexual routine, experiment with positions, discuss sexual fantasies
- Use lubrication
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle, exercise most days of the week, and consume alcohol moderately
- Commit to new stress-management practices, like acupuncture, biofeedback, yoga
- Sex burns about 200 calories during 30 minutes of active sex.
- Regular sex promotes circulation and lubrication.
- Having sex three times a week can make you look and feel ten years younger, thus boosting self esteem.
- Sex is the safest sport you’ll ever enjoy.
- Sex releases endorphins into the bloodstream producing a sense of euphoria that can reduce depression.
- Sex is a stress reliever. It is ten times more effective than Valium.
- Sex can relieve headaches by releasing the tension that restricts blood vessels in the brain.
- Sex is a natural antihistamine that can help with asthma and hay fever.
- Sex can lower your cholesterol by tipping the HDL/LSL (good kind/bad kind) cholesterol balance towards the HDL (good) side.
- Regular sex can boost estrogen levels. Estrogen keeps your hair shinny and skin smooth; helps reduce the chances of getting dermatitis, and rashes.
- The actual sex act triggers the release of oxytocin that promotes more good feelings.
- Sex can help you sleep better because the levels of oxytocin, a sleep-inducing hormone, can be five times higher than normal during love making.