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The importance of lifestyle

Lifestyle is very important in helping women cope with perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms. Midlife is also a good time to reassess your lifestyle to improve your long-term physical and mental health.

HEALTHY EATING AND OBESITY

  • Being overweight can increase your risk of certain cancers, diabetes, heart disease and stroke as well as increasing hot flushes and night sweats.
  • Ideally your BMI should be between 18.5 and 24.9 but any reduction in BMI will still have health benefits – initially aim for a 5 – 10% reduction in weight.
  • Dietary advice can be confusing and different people respond to different approaches. However, we know that going on a strict diet rarely leads to long-term weight loss but small, sustainable changes do work.
  • I recommend the books by Dr Rangan Chatterjee ‘The 4 Pillar Plan’ and ‘Feel Great Lose Weight’
  • For patients with Type 2 diabetes, the books by Dr Michael Mosley can be helpful eg ‘The 8-week blood sugar diet’.

PHYSICAL ACTIVITY

  • This has numerous health benefits including helping to maintain a healthy weight, reducing the risk of breast and colon cancer, reducing the risk of breast cancer recurrence, reducing joint problems, reducing the risk of other chronic diseases and helping with our mental health.
  • Walking is a fantastic form of exercise that most people can fit into their daily lives. It’s free, gets us out into the fresh air and can be sociable too.
  • We need to incorporate some strength training and aerobic exercise every week. Start slowly with something you enjoy, gradually building up to the national recommendations.
  • National recommendations for aerobic exercise in under 65 year olds is 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous physical activity. These sessions can be split into 10 minute bursts and still be effective.
  • National recommendations for strength training in under 65 year olds is doing some form of this on at least 2 days a week.
  • National recommendations  as we get older is also to do some form of balance activity on at least 2 days per week, ideally 10 – 30 minutes daily.

SLEEP

Sleep is often disturbed by the menopause, either by night flushes or sweats disturbing sleep, or by waking up in the middle of the night and then being unable to get back to sleep for a few hours. A good sleep routine can help.

  • Aim to go to bed and get up at the same time every day of the week, with no more than a one hours difference at the weekend.
  • Use the bedroom for sleep and sex only.
  • Minimise bedroom noise and light as much as possible. Avoid blue light exposure from phones, computer, TV screens, fluorescent and halogen lights for at least one hour before sleep time
  • Increasing the amount of natural light in the day time can help promote good sleep at night. Try to get outside every morning to exercise or at least sit outside.
  • A warm bath or shower before bed can help induce sleepiness.
  • Avoid alcohol within 3 hours of bedtime
  • Avoid caffeine after midday

Consider cognitive behavioural therapy if you are still having sleep problems. This can help you get back to sleep more easily. Good apps are sleepio.com and sleepstation.co.uk – in some areas these are available on the NHS.

MENTAL WELLBEING

Menopause can cause many psychological symptoms. Here are some tips:

  • Aim to have some daily downtime away from your computer/phone by doing something you enjoy eg yoga, meditation, listening to music.
  • Aim to get outside for a walk most mornings.
  • Increase your physical activity as above, it has been shown to improve mood and reduce anxiety.
  • Connect with and develop healthy relationships with others.

MINIMISE HARMFUL SUBSTANCES

  • Stopping smoking will reduce your risk of many diseases, including breast cancer.
  • keep your alcohol intake to no more than 14 units a week, spread over at least 3 days.