Many people still see menopause as a time of hot flashes, night sweats and other irritations. But a growing number of women have discovered that the "change of life" can be nothing less than life-changing—if you adopt the right attitude.
Menopause is defined as the time when a woman has had her final menstrual period (determined after 12 period-less months have passed). But it all begins up to 13 years beforehand, atperimenopause (meaning "around menopause"), when hormone levels begin to change.
Contrary to popular belief, the first hormone that decreases is progesterone, not estrogen, although that, too, eventually begins to ebb (although never going away completely). Once periods end, most menopausal signs dissipate within one to two years.
Memory lapses are among the most annoying difficulties associated with menopause, which can also cause fluctuations in mood. What's more, even as you cope with your own bodily and emotional changes, you may also be facing an empty nest, aging parents and other challenges.
However, you can learn to use emotions such as anger, frustration, insecurity and fear as possible catalysts for positive change.
A Natural Approach to Menopause
Think you're in perimenopause? Start by getting a blood test to confirm your hormone levels. You want to check for hypothyroidism, which may mimic menopause, and to know where you are in the menopausal timeline.
A diet rich inphytohormones(substances found in plants such as soy and lentils) can be helpful. So can foods high in omega-3 fats, such as salmon and ground flax seeds; the second are also rich in fiber. Try a low-glycemic diet—fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and no sugar or processed foods—while steering clear of bad fats, caffeine, alcohol and tobacco.
Stay physically active, and don't forget yoga, tai chi or meditation as ways to promote calm and relaxation. In addition, certain botanicals have a long history of usage in supporting women at midlife; these include black cohosh, chasteberry, dong quai, maca, passionflower and St. John's wort.*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Straightening Out Relationships
For many women, much of the stress they experience during their premenopausal years stems from dysfunctional, energy-sapping relationships.
"Having healthy, meaningful relationships is just as important to your well-being as being at a healthy weight and not smoking," says cardiologist Malissa Wood, MD, chief physician executive of the Lee Health Heart Institute in Florida. "In fact, research shows that the relationship advantage is about the same as the mortality difference between smokers and nonsmokers."
One way to fortify yourself against toxic relationships you can't simply walk away from—an overcritical parent, for example—is to surround yourself with positive, supportive people.
Wood cites a UC San Diego study that found having a generally happy friend who lives nearby raises your chances of being happy by 25%. "I love this study because it proves that your happiness depends on the happiness of others with whom you are connected," she says.
Positive friendships also form a bulwark against loneliness, a significant stressor that leads to such measurable cardiovascular risks as high blood pressure. (Loneliness is not the same as solitude, the quiet alone time that everyone needs to a greater or lesser extent.)
You may have heard that health benefits are associated with marriage. Unfortunately, those advantages can be negated by marital difficulties. According to Wood, problems in a partnered relationship can compromise immune function as well as produce changes that can burden the heart.
Wood says one way to head off relationship problems, especially with a spouse, is to spend time together that isn't taken up with discussions of bills and soccer schedules.
"For any relationship to grow, you need to take time to nurture it," she notes. Many couples set aside a weekly date night so they can reconnect as friends and lovers.
All relationships will hit rocky patches; it's the response to those times that determines whether people pull closer together or push further apart. The key?
"Respect, respect, respect," says Wood. "Treat your partner as you expect to be treated."
What's more, don't forget the power of positive reinforcement, even in small doses.
"Give a boost to any relationship by doing something special for that person. It doesn't have to be huge or expensive," Wood advises.
The Inner Woman Emerges
Of course, the most central relationship in your life is the one you have with yourself. And you should work on that one, too.
Once you’ve taken steps to address the physical issues associated with menopause, “the midlife years can be an enormously positive phase in your life,” says Maryon Stewart, author ofManage Your Menopause Naturally (New World Library), adding that this time can be “the beginning or rebirth of a whole new you.”
The key, according to Stewart, is to “spend some time figuring out what your priorities and values are. Get to know yourself again and find time to laugh.”
Stewart recommends writing down all your accomplishments, large and small. “Making time to review your successes helps you build self-confidence,” she notes.
Stewart believes in the power of positive thinking: “There is lots of evidence to show that those who see life as a glass half full, rather than half empty, stand a much better chance of feeling content and fulfilled as they go into midlife.”
Finally, reach out to other women who are facing the same issues.
Stewart suggests finding a menopause buddy so you can “give each other help and encouragement. You’ll be surprised how much of a buzz it will give you.”
The information in this blog is provided for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for consultation with a doctor or qualified healthcare professional. Consultation with a doctor or qualified healthcare practitioner is strongly advised, before starting any regimen of supplementation, a change in diet or any exercise routine. Individuals who engage in supplementation to promote health, address conditions or support any structure or function of the body assume all risks. Women who are pregnant, especially, should seek the advice of a medical doctor before taking any dietary supplement and before starting any change in diet or lifestyle. Descriptions of herbs, vitamins, nutrients or any ingredients are not recommendations to take our products or those of any other company. We are not doctors or primary-source science researchers. Instead, we defer to the findings of scientific experts who conduct studies, as well as those who compile and publish scientific literature on the potential health benefits of nutrients, herbs, spices, vitamins or minerals. We cannot guarantee that any individual will experience any of the health benefits associated with the nutrients described. Natural Organics will not be held liable for any injuries, damages, hinderances or negative effects resulting from any reliance on the information presented, nor will Natural Organics be held accountable for any inaccuracy, miscalculation or error in the scientific literature upon which the information provided is based.
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**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.