Some women pretty much breeze through menopause while others have to deal with hot flashes, night sweats, memory lapses, and other pesky symptoms. Yet no matter which camp you fall into, “the change” truly does change you. According to women’s health expert Marie Savard, M.D., Medical Contributor to Good Morning America and the author most recently of “Ask Dr. Marie,” your body alters in six significant ways by the time you’ve had your last period ever. Read on to get acquainted with the new you and learn how to stay sexy, slim, strong, and disease-free.
You’re More Prone To Packing On Belly Fat
You used to gain weight mostly in your hips and thighs but now any excess pounds give you a muffin top — and with it a higher risk for metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. The solution? Don’t put on those extra pounds to begin with or make every effort to pare them off if your waist is already bigger than it once was. Tip: Building muscle mass with exercise is the best way to shrink your waist, but a diet high in fiber and low in simple carbohydrates is important, too.
You Need A Little Help Getting Ready For Lovemaking
Your vulvar tissues have atrophied, so you’re dryer “down there” than you used to be, even if you’re totally in the mood. Dr. Marie suggests that you try a water-soluble over-the-counter vaginal lubricant. She warns against petroleum-based products that can trap bacteria and cause infections. If your lubricant makes sex comfortable and satisfying enough for you, then you’re all set. If not, ask your doctor about topical estrogen.
Your Risk Of Heart Disease Has Increased
Before menopause, estrogen was your secret weapon against the cardiac problems that typically plague men. Now that you’ve lost that edge, make sure you lead a heart-healthy lifestyle by keeping your weight is the normal range and getting cardio-vascular exercise at least three times a week. You don’t need an expensive gym membership or a lot of time to achieve that. Walking briskly for fifteen minutes to a half an hour is all you need to do. Dr. Marie also recommends omega-3 supplements. “I take two to four capsules daily,” she says. “The evidence is mounting that omega-3s are important for keeping your heart in optimal shape.” Dr. Marie is also a proponent of bioidentical hormones including a transdermal (through the skin) estrogen patch and oral microinonized progesterone for many women. Talk to your doctor to find out what could be best for you.
Your Blood Pressure Is Higher Than It Used To Be
After menopause, many women have moderate to severe hypertension and that ups the risk of strokes. This happens even if you’ve always had low blood pressure and you aren’t overweight or sedentary. Good life style choices are important but you will probably also need prescription medication. Tip: Buy a good home monitor and check your pressure at least once a week.
Your Metabolism Has Slowed Down
Does it seem as though you’re not burning calories at the rate you did a few years ago? That’s not in your imagination. As you age, you tend to lose fat-burning muscle mass. The good news: Strength training with weights can build up your muscles to almost-youthful status and speed up your metabolism again.
Your Bones Are Not As Dense As They Used To Be
Just about every post-menopausal woman has some degree of osteopoenia, or bone loss. Dr. Marie says that current research points to Vitamin D supplements rather than calcium as a good protective measure. Weight-bearing exercise is also effective in staving off osteoporosis, a serious condition that can lead to fractures and a “dowager’s hump.” Whether or not you were a Double Dutch champ in your salad days, why not start jumping rope now? Other excellent options: jogging, speed walking, dance classes, and step aerobics. A final note: Fosamax, once the gold standard of medication for osteoporosis, has been implicated in rare cases of femur fractures and thinning of the jawbone. If your doctor prescribes this or any other medication, be sure to ask about the possible side effects.
Sondra Forsyth, a National Magazine Award winner, writes for major magazines and is the author or co-author of eleven books. She was Executive Editor at Ladies’ Home Journal, Features Editor at Cosmopolitan, and Articles Editor at Bride’s. A former ballerina, she is the Artistic Director of Ballet Ambassadors, an arts-in-education company in New York City.