1. Make sure you schedule annual appointments with your GP,
your gynaecologist, your eye doctor, otologist (ear doctor),
dermatologist and dentist.
• Ask your gynaecologist for a blood test to analyse your
hormone levels. Once you know where you are in your
transition to menopause, you can make some decisions
about the best way to deal with the symptoms you may
be experiencing now, and the way you want to approach
your health in future.
• Get a bone density scan to fi nd out your risk of
osteoporosis (thinning of the bones). Our bones become
weaker without oestrogen to protect them, and apart
from exercising to keep them strong, you may need some
supplemental vitamins and hormone treatment to ensure
that they maintain their health. You will also need to focus
on a diet that gives you the nutrients your bones need to
• Get a mammogram at least once every two years, and
request an ultrasound if you have breasts with a lot of fi broid
tissue, which often obscures cancer in mammograms.
Also remember to examine your breasts at home. Half of
all cases of breast cancer occur between the ages of 50
and 69, with 25 per cent occurring over the age of 70. Be
• Look after your skin. When you check your breasts for
lumps, check yourself for any changes on your skin, such
as new moles or moles that have changed colour or size,
especially if you are fair-skinned.
• Look after your eyes. Eye changes are common as a
result of lower oestrogen levels. Dry eyes, having difficulty
reading and UV damage all come with the territory. Eat
lots of vegetables containing vitamin A, and the bright
orange and yellow foods that contain carotenoids. Finally,
don’t forget your sunglasses. Apart from being one of
the greatest fashion accessories known to womankind,
sunglasses can help to stave off eye disease.
• Get your hearing checked. What did you say? Most
people experience some degree of hearing loss as they
age. Of course, if you were cranking up the stereo to 120
decibels to listen to The Who, you probably damaged
some of the cells in your inner ear when you were
young. If you are hard of hearing, there are many more
options available today. Many companies now off er ‘fully
digital programmable hearing aids’. These are like little
mini computers you can wear in your ears, capable of
monitoring different audiological environments.
2. Quit smoking. It exacerbates every symptom of menopause
and increases your chances of serious illnesses in the
second half of your life.
3. Get into a good sleep routine that works for you. Lack of
sleep can magnify everything that’s negative about your
life. It is linked to conditions such as high blood pressure,
stroke, diabetes, obesity and alcohol and drug abuse. When
we don’t get enough sleep we eat more, become tired and
irritable, find it difficult to motivate ourselves to exercise
and seek out new passions and interests, and also struggle
to concentrate. You can encourage good sleep by eating
foods rich in the amino acid tryptophan (found in milk,
bananas and turkey, for example), and also by developing
a good sleep routine – going to bed at a regular time,
avoiding falling asleep in front of the television, cutting
down on caffeine and reducing your alcohol intake. Keep
your bedroom cool at night. Turn the heat off and open your
4. Include phytoestrogens in your daily diet. These are a group
of chemicals found in plants that can act like the hormone
oestrogen. They are particularly useful for menopausal
women, not only because they can help to ease symptoms
If you struggle to fall asleep, awaken frequently in the
night, or feel groggy and under the weather, try this. Every
night for the next two weeks, unplug all of your electrics
(including your toaster, kettle, hairdryer, microwave,
washing machine and computer), and make sure everyone
in the house turns off their mobile phones and any wireless
connections for broadband. Turn off everything. There is a
growing body of evidence to suggest that electro-pollution
can damage health. My husband and I are both sensitive
to electro-pollution and making this small change to our
lives has led to a big improvement in the way we sleep and
feel on every level.
of menopause, but because they can help to protect your
bones and lower cholesterol. Soya beans and soy products,
such as tofu, are by far the best sources, but other good
sources include wholegrains, beans, nuts, seeds, seed oils,
berries, fruits, vegetables and roots
5. Watch your weight. Being overweight can play havoc
with the hormonal activity in your body, partly because fat
cells can manufacture hormones as well as store them,
which upsets the balance you’re after. Furthermore, being
overweight can affect your health on every level and lead to
many health problems, including heart disease, stroke and
diabetes. Keep an eye on your BMI (body mass index), which
will give you an idea whether your weight is right for your
height, or whether it is creeping into obesity territory, where
your health is at risk.
To calculate your BMI, measure your height in metres and
multiply that figure by itself, then divide it by your weight in
For example, if you are 1.6 metres tall and weigh
65 kg, you would have the following calculation:
1.6 x 1.6 = 2.56
65 ÷ 2.56 + 25.39
This means your BMI is 25.
A BMI of 18.5–24.9 is normal; 25–29.9 is overweight;
and 30 and above is obese.
Of course you can just Google
‘calculate my BMI’ and 390,000 websites will pop up and do
the calculations for you. An easy-to-use site is http://www.
Even more important than your weight is your shape.
Apple shaped women carry weight around their midriff , which is
considered the unhealthiest place for weight to accumulate.
Why? Because this type of fat (known as intra-abdominal
fat, or IAF) is closely associated with type 2 diabetes, as
well as an increased risk of female cancers (i.e. breast
cancer). It’s worth pointing out that as oestrogen supplies
dwindle, most women do start storing more fat around their
abdomen, which makes it increasingly important to keep it
off . Pear shapes have a smaller waist than they do hips, and
are less likely to suff er from health disorders. A simple way
to check this is to measure your waist. In women, apples
have a waist circumference of about 90 cm (35+ inches).
6. Work out if your depression is something more than just
Depression can become a bigger problem during
and after menopause. The loss of a spouse, our parents,
siblings or close friends becomes more likely during this
period. Health and fi nancial worries can increase. You may
lose your sex drive. Changes in your physical appearance
and the loss of some of the roles that gave your life meaning
can all join the list of things you worry about, as can taking
on additional responsibility for ageing parents. If symptoms
of lethargy, exhaustion, hopelessness, short temper or lack
of motivation occur for longer than two weeks, consult your
doctor. Depression is a disease that needs to be treated.
Women are twice as vulnerable to depression as men.
7. Stay connected to others: family, friends and your community.
Take the time to be helpful, show gratitude when someone
is kind to you or has gone out of their way to help you, and
do not harbour grudges. Forgiveness of others and yourself
is important because ultimately the only person you are
hurting is yourself. Forgiveness is a simple concept but, as
we all know, simple isn’t always easy.
8. Keep your mind active.
Cultivating a passion and having a
purpose means you will be surrounding yourself with people
who inspire and motivate you. See Chapters 6 and 7 for the
best ways to do this.
9. Exercise regularly.
I can’t stress this enough. My own personal
experience has shown that this is the single best way to feel
great after menopause and live a healthy, fulfi lling life. And
it does enhance health on every level. The mind and body
connection is not something to be laughed at. We’ll look at
the benefi ts of exercise for menopausal women in the next
chapter, but for now make sure you factor it into your life
10. Look after your heart.
Heart disease is the number one
cause of death in post-menopausal women, mainly because
the drop in oestrogen and progesterone causes the blood
vessels to become less elastic and more constricted. Eat
well, exercise regularly, cut down on alcohol and establish
a healthy weight to give your heart the best chance of
survival. And if you have a family history of heart disease,
tell your doctor, who can arrange for tests to see how you