MAYWOOD, Ill. -- Though many women may worry about menopause, doctors say this transition doesn't have to be difficult. Dr. Karen Deighan, chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Gottlieb Memorial Hospital of Loyola, offers the following tips to help women play an active role in their health and minimize the side effects of menopause.
â€¢ Kick Start Your Workout - Weight is more difficult to lose if a woman puts off exercise until menopause. Get a head start on a fitness regimen to prevent pounds from adding up during this time.
â€¢ Know Your Kegels - A proper kegel engages the pelvic floor muscles and not the abdomen, thighs or buttocks. Women should hold this contraction for 10 seconds and relax for 10 seconds, four or five times in a row for optimal results.
â€¢ Pump Some Iron - When estrogen levels dip, bones become thinner and more fragile. Weight-bearing exercises help to support the bones and reduce the risk of fractures.
â€¢ Flex Your Brain - The muscles aren't the only body part that needs a workout. Building up the brain is just as important. Doing crossword and Sudoku puzzles and trying memory exercises, as with a grocery list, will keep the brain in shape and reduce the risk for memory loss during menopause.
â€¢ Step Up Your Sleep Regimen - Many believe that side effects of menopause are tied to a decrease in estrogen, but many of the symptoms are actually directly linked to a lack of sleep. If women focus on improving their sleep regimen, they may decrease problems such as fogginess, memory loss or low libido.
â€¢ Liven Up Your Libido - Regular intercourse may improve a woman's sex drive and increase lubrication, which can prevent pain during sex. Estrogen suppositories also can treat vaginal dryness.
â€¢ Make Oral Hygiene a Priority - Flossing and brushing at least twice daily may protect a woman's heart as she enters menopause. Bacteria found in plaque can cause blood clots that can lead to heart attacks when they enter the bloodstream. These bacteria also may irritate the arteries much the same way they do the gums.
â€¢ Get Screened - Women should have their cholesterol, vitamin D and calcium levels checked yearly. Annual mammograms and pelvic exams also are important along with a colonoscopy beginning at age 50. The frequency of future colonoscopies will depend on test results.
â€¢ Detox Your Diet - Hair and skin become dry and lose elasticity beginning in perimenopause. Foods with healthy fats such as salmon, avocadoes and olive oil, will make hair and skin softer. Limiting processed foods and stepping up the level of leafy greens in the diet also is helpful. Premenopausal women should consume 1,000- 1,200 mg of calcium daily and postmenopausal women should take 1,500 mg in 500 mg doses with magnesium and vitamin D for optimal absorption.
â€¢ Try Hormone Therapy - Taking a low dose of estrogen for a short amount of time may help to manage menopausal symptoms. Women at risk for breast cancer, blood clots and heart disease should not take hormone therapy. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (888)LUHS-888 at Loyola University Health System or Gottlieb at (708) 450-DOCS.