For many middle-aged, menopausal women, personal health takes a backseat to pretty much every other demand in their lives. As we turn over the calendar, make it a point to prioritize your health in the new year and beyond. You deserve to get the same love and care you show towards other people! Here are seven suggestions for ways that menopausal women can prioritize their health in the new year:
Schedule your annual screenings
As you get older, your risk of developing health conditions goes up. This risk can’t be avoided, but regular screenings can significantly increase your chances of detecting these conditions early and getting prompt treatment. If you have been putting off regular screenings, then make it a New Year’s resolution to schedule your annual physical, mammogram, colon cancer screening, skin cancer screening, and whatever else you have been putting off. Many tests only have to be done once every few years, so if you get them all checked off the list at once, you’ll earn yourself a bit of a reprieve after this year.
Eat a healthy diet
Your gut health actually plays a major role in your menopause experience. That’s because a subset of your microbiome, called your estrobolome, regulates how your body processes excess estrogen. The number 1 contributor to a healthy estrobolome is the food that you eat, which is why it’s so important to consume a healthy, balanced diet. Prioritize lean proteins, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats while monitoring your intake of refined sugars, refined carbohydrates, and unhealthy fats. It’s okay to indulge a little bit every once in a while (life is too short not to eat chocolate and drink wine!), but don’t make a regular habit of it and you will be fine.
Start an exercise routine
It’s never too late to start an exercise routine, no matter how old you are, and working out can actually help mitigate some of your menopause symptoms. For example, exercises for a menopausal belly can help stave off weight gain and build your core, while pelvic floor exercises can help strengthen the muscles that contribute to bladder leakage. Strength training will also help you reduce your chances of age-related bone and muscle loss, while cardio will keep your heart and lungs strong as you age. Experiment around with different types of workouts to see which ones you enjoy the most. There are literally dozens of exercises out there, so you are sure to find at least one that you like!
Check in about your mental health
Physical health often gets all the attention, especially as we age and new problems crop up — but your mental health also deserves to be prioritized as well. Watch out for signs of common mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, and know if you have a family history of one or more conditions. If you do suspect that you have a mental health condition, many possible avenues are available for treatment, including medication and talk therapy with a trained psychologist. Also note that some of the other lifestyle changes on this list, such as spending time with friends and exercising regularly, have also been shown to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Spend time with friends
Many menopausal women find their entire lives revolving around their families. Between partners who work full-time, school-age children, and aging parents, they often have to focus most (if not all) of their energy on their family members, which can often cause their social lives to fall by the wayside. If this sounds like you, then make a resolution to spend more time with your friends outside of your family in the new year. At least once a month, try to go out for dinner or a book club or some sort of social event where you won’t be interrupted and don’t have to think about caring for anyone else. Positive social time isn’t just fun — it’s good for both your physical and mental health!
Follow good sleep hygiene
Inadequate sleep can make menopause symptoms worse and increase your stress, which is why it’s so ironic that hot flashes and other menopause symptoms often keep you awake in the middle of the night. Make sure that you are turning down the bedroom temperature at night so that you won’t overheat. Run a fan at night if you have to. Wear cotton pajamas and choose cotton sheets so that your skin can breathe while you sleep. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends, so that your body gets used to falling asleep on a schedule. Put away screens at least an hour before bed. The light will keep you up and make it difficult to fall asleep. By being proactive about your sleep, you can beat menopause fatigue and get the rest you need at night.
Manage your stress
We know this is easier said than done, but managing your stress really is the most important thing that you can do for your physical and mental health, including your menopause symptoms. Stress is a known contributor to menopause and can increase the severity and frequency of everything from hot flashes to mood changes. To manage your stress, identify your main stressors and evaluate ways that you can eliminate or mitigate them. For instance, maybe you can delegate particularly stressful chores to your partner or older children, or get groceries delivered to your house instead of going out and shopping for them.
We hope these suggestions gave you some ideas as to how you can prioritize your health in the new year! Let this new year be the time you invest in your health and menopause relief. Start making changes now and they will pay off in the long run!