1. Cooling off those hot flashes without hormone therapy
Try dressing in light layers that can be taken off when a hot flash starts; using a hand-held fan (battery operated or manual); and taking a tepid or cool shower before bedtime. For some women, alcohol or caffeine can trigger hot flashes, so it may help to avoid these substances. If stress brings on hot flashes, try relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and meditation.
2. Weight gain at menopause common but not inevitable
Most women gain weight, especially in their midsection, around menopause. This midlife weight gain is partly because of hormonal changes associated with menopause. However, weight gain is also associated with inadequate physical activity, and women tend to be less physically active as they grow older. To avoid weight gain, reduce calorie intake and make exercise a priority. In fact, you may need to eat less and exercise more than you did when you were younger to lose weight or to maintain a healthy weight because your metabolism naturally slows as you age.
3. Calcium, vitamin D key to bone health, overall health
Adequate calcium intake—in the presence of adequate levels of vitamin D—plays a major role in reducing the incidence of osteoporosis, a bone-thinning disease that can lead to fractures. In addition, calcium also appears to have beneficial effects in several non-skeletal disorders, such as high blood pressure, colorectal cancer, obesity and kidney stones. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, women aged 19 through 49 should get 1,000 mg of elemental calcium, and, to ensure adequate calcium absorption, 400 to 800 IU per day of vitamin D. Women 50 years of age and older should get 1,200 mg of calcium and 800 to 1,000 IU of vitamin D per day. Calcium is best absorbed from whole foods, or in supplement doses of 500 mg or less at a time, so split your 1,000 to 1,200 mg into two or three doses.
4. Vaginal dryness easily conquered
As estrogen levels drop at menopause, the vagina's natural lubricants decline, resulting in dryness and itching that can make intercourse painful. The paradox is that regular sexual activity that leads to orgasm can help keep the vagina moist. Before intercourse, try inserting a nonprescription water-soluble lubricant around the opening and a small amount into the vagina. You may also try long-lasting vaginal moisturizers. If nonprescription remedies don't help, talk to your health care professional about estrogen vaginal cream or another form of estrogen therapy.