Simple changes in lifestyle and diet can help control menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes. Avoid hot flash triggers like spicy foods, hot beverages, caffeine, and alcohol. Dress in layers so that clothes can be removed when a hot flash occurs. For vaginal dryness, moisturizers, and non-estrogen lubricants, such as KY Jelly, Replens, and Astroglide are available.
Heart Health Recommendations
When women reach menopause, they are at increased risk for heart disease. A heart-healthy diet and other lifestyle changes are important ways to control cholesterol and blood pressure levels. [For more information, see In-Depth Reports #42: Heart-healthy diet and #03: Coronary artery disease.]
Heart-healthy recommendations include:
- Quit smoking. If a woman smokes, she should quit. Smoking is linked to a decline in estrogen levels. Women who smoke reach menopause about 2 years earlier than nonsmokers. Smoking doubles a woman's odds of developing heart disease and is a major risk factor for osteoporosis.
- Balance calorie intake and physical activity to achieve or maintain a healthy body weight. (Controlling weight, quitting smoking, and exercising regularly are essential companions of any diet program. Try to get at least 30 minutes, and preferably 60 - 90 minutes, of daily exercise.)
- Consume a diet rich in a variety of vegetables and fruits. Vegetables and fruits that are deeply colored (spinach, carrots, peaches, berries) are especially recommended as they have the highest micronutrient content.
- Choose whole-grain, high-fiber foods. These include fruits, vegetables, and legumes (beans). Good whole grain choices include whole wheat, oats/oatmeal, rye, barley, brown rice, buckwheat, bulgur, millet, and quinoa.
- Eat fish, especially oily fish, at least twice a week (about 8 ounces/week). Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines are rich in the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Consumption of these fatty acids is linked to a reduced risk of sudden death and death from coronary artery disease. Women with heart disease may also consider taking a daily dietary supplement of 850 - 1,000 mg of EPA and DHA.
- Limit daily intake of saturated fat (found mostly in animal products) to less than 7% of total calories, trans fat (found in hydrogenated fats, commercially baked products, and many fast foods) to less than 1% of total calories, and cholesterol (found in eggs, dairy products, meat, poultry, fish, shellfish) to less than 300 mg per day. Choose lean meats and vegetable alternatives (such as soy). Select fat-free and low-fat dairy products. Grill, bake, or broil fish, meat, and skinless poultry.
- Use little or no salt in your foods. Reducing salt can lower blood pressure and decrease the risk of heart disease and heart failure.
- Cut down on beverages and foods that contain added sugars (corn syrups, sucrose, glucose, fructose, maltrose, dextrose, concentrated fruit juice, honey).
- If you consume alcohol, do so in moderation. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends limiting alcohol to no more than 1 drink per day for women.
- The AHA does not recommend antioxidant supplements (such as vitamin E, C, or beta carotene) or folic acid supplements for prevention of heart disease.
- For women ages 55 to 79 years who ut are at risk of heart disease, a daily low dose (75 - 81 mg) of aspirin may be helpful for primary prevention, particularly stroke. Women who have coronary artery disease or a previous stroke should take low-dose aspirin for secondary prevention.
Calcium and Vitamin D
Review Date: 07/26/2010
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.