peri-menopausalMenopause is the permanent cessation of ovarian function. The word “menopause” literally means the “end of monthly menstruation”. This also signals the end of the fertile phase of a woman’s life.

Technically, menopause is the day after which a woman’s period has stopped for one year. Before that time, as her menses is irregular, a woman is peri-menopausal. After a woman’s period has stopped for more than a year, she becomes post-menopausal.

This transition from a reproductive phase to a non-reproductive phase involves a major hormonal change which is not usually sudden and abrupt, but is spread over a number of years.

Some researchers have averaged the starting age for menopause among Ghanaian women at 48 years.

In some women, this change-over occurs without requiring any medical intervention, and is not difficult.

However, for a number of women, the accompanying signs and effects that can occur during the menopause transition years can significantly disrupt their daily activities and their sense of well-being.

Symptoms

Tiredness, sleeplessness, palpitations, weight gain, hot flushes, irritability, anxiety and headache are the major symptoms reported among Ghanaian women at menopause. Menopause can also come along with complications such as heart disease and osteoporosis.

People are ready to do whatever they can just to have some relief from the uncomfortable effects of menopause. While some put their faith in mega vitamin tablets, others rely on medicinal creams and others still try to turn the biological clock by taking hormone replacement therapies.

While many of these treatments offer answers to some of the numerous questions posed by menopause, there are much simpler ways to deal with the associated discomforts.

Following a simple, well-balanced diet can go a long way to reduce menopause symptoms and our mothers? chances for developing many of the complications that go along with menopause.

A balanced diet is key

Very vital to having a manageable menopause is to keep your diet as balanced as much as possible.

When a woman eats a balanced diet all the time and is in very good nutritional status, the symptoms of menopause are better tolerated.

Having nutrients from all the six groups (carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals and water) in the right proportion is important. Including fruits and vegetables in your diet on a regular basis will ensure the supply of vitamins and minerals.

Care should be taken in avoiding certain foods that cause various degrees of discomfort. It is better to choose healthier alternatives than to eliminate those foods entirely.

Eat at least three meals a day, with some healthy snacks in between, to keep you energised.? Also eat a variety of foods to ensure an adequate supply of nutrients and energy.

Managing the symptoms

Hot flashes and menopause night sweats can be the bane of a woman’s existence once she reaches menopause. Waking up at night all sweaty is not a fun thing.

Hot flashes make working uncomfortable, sleeping impossible, and can just generally drive you crazy. Try reducing your intake of coffee, tea, alcohol, colas, and spicy foods. Many women find these to be triggers for hot flashes.

Refined sugars also tend to increase the number of hot flashes women suffer, so try to avoid corn syrup and other sugars found in highly-processed foods.

Drinking enough water (up to two litres a day) is also helpful. Include foods such as beans, legumes, yams, apples, potatoes, soy and carrots that contain phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are plant estrogens that can bind to estrogen receptors in the body, relieving you of many of your symptoms.

Mood swings often occur during menopause because of the fluctuation of hormones in the body. One minute you may be feeling great, but the next minute you could find yourself feeling pretty depressed.

A lowered level of serotonin, a chemical in the brain, is often associated with depression. Eating foods rich in carbohydrates can help to raise your levels of serotonin, thereby alleviating that depression.

Luckily enough, one can hardly have a meal in Ghana without having something carbohydrate in there. Ensure that you do not over-consume recommended daily intakes for carbohydrate foods.

Weight gain and menopause often go hand in hand. As estrogen levels decrease in the body, fat redistributes itself around the stomach and is lost around the hips and breasts. Muscle mass decreases, slowing the rate of metabolism, often ending up in unwanted weight gain. Some researchers have found out that overweight post-menopausal women are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer.

Consuming a low fat diet, a low sugar and a low caloric diet can be helpful. These, however, need expert calculations before engaging. Rather than frying your foods, try boiling or grilling them.

Add a physical activity regimen to your normal daily lifestyle; choose to use the staircase instead of using the lift to your office all the time.

Get up and pick most of the items you need at home instead of sending your grand children. Of more benefit would be a physical exercise routine on a daily basis; walking briskly for thirty minutes daily can work all the magic.

Preventing the complications

Lowered estrogen levels put menopausal women at a higher risk for heart disease and stroke. Heart disease, including high cholesterol, clogged arteries, heart attack, and stroke, are more likely to hit a woman after menopause.

Reducing the amounts of saturated fats in your diet is very helpful as they can clog your arteries and increase your cholesterol levels.

A simple habit of skipping breakfast alone can cause a distortion in blood lipids and increase cholesterol levels. Adding salt to food at table is not a healthy practice and so should be stopped. When you cook your stew, make sure there is no visible oil on top of it.

Menopausal women also tend to lose bone mass at a higher rate than other women, increasing their risk for osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a disease of bones that leads to an increased risk of fracture.

Osteoporosis is most common in women after menopause, when it is called postmenopausal osteoporosis. It is important to include sources of calcium in your diet to guard against osteoporosis.

Adding low fat yogurt, milk, or soy milk is a good way of meeting this target. Other foods that are rich in calcium include cheese, sardines and salmon (with bones), and leafy green vegetables.

Avoid taking in too much caffeine, as caffeine causes the body to not absorb calcium properly.

Source The Mirror

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