Aging and Lifestyle have more impact on health than menopause.

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While menopause may trigger important changes in heart and bone activity, your health may be impacted most by the onset of middle age. Fortunately, menopause provides a benchmark and opportunity to revisit your wellness activities.

Experts suggest that any wellness plan begins with regular doctor visits and checkups. Develop a long-term schedule for mammograms, bone density screens and Pap tests, among others. Your doctor also may suggest positive lifestyle changes, including exercise, diet, weight management and stress reduction.

While “an exercise routine” may sound unappealing to some, it offers benefits to variety of mid-life complaints. These include poor sleep, weight gain and negative thoughts (thanks to the production of feel-good brain chemicals called endorphins).

Proper exercise does not mean you have to run a marathon. There are three types of exercise – aerobic, weight-bearing and flexibility – and a variety of ways to engage in all three. These include brisk walks, dancing, tennis, gardening, aerobics, weight training, pilates and yoga.

Small exercise “moments” can add up. Take the stairs instead of the escalator. Or park the car at the end the parking lot – or better yet, walk to the store.

For better or worse, you are what you eat. Many experts consider daily healthy diet essentials to include fruits and vegetables and sufficient water intake. While it may be difficult to totally give-up sweets, flavored drinks or fast foods, following the “everything in moderation” approach to eating can balance their role in your overall diet.

To avoid weight gain, find a balance between exercise and food consumption. Women at mid-life may gain 2 or more pounds yearly due to a slowing metabolism. The most dangerous weight gain for heart health is the waistline and stomach. That said – don’t over-diet or over-exercise. Underweight individuals may be at greater risk of serious bone loss.

Finally, reduce stress whenever possible. Exercise, massage and mediation –even a warm bath -- can help. Women need to put themselves first, perhaps for the first time in their lives.

References

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Menopause RX

Minkin, et al (1997), What Every Woman Needs to Know about Menopause

National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF)

North American Menopause Society (NAMS) Various Publications

Our Bodies, Ourselves: Menopause (2006)

U.S. National Institute on Aging (NIA)

U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH)

U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)

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