The key to staying youthful and active after menopause is good nutrition and regular physical activity.
Nutrition after menopause
As you age, your nutritional needs change. Before menopause, you should have about 1,000 mg of calcium daily. After menopause, you should have up to 1,200 mg of calcium per day.
Vitamin D is also very important for calcium absorption and bone formation. According to the National Institutes of Health, you should have 600 IU of vitamin D per day until age 70. Then it should be increased to 800 IU. Vitamin D can greatly cut your risk of spinal fractures. But too much calcium or vitamin D can cause kidney stones, constipation, or abdominal pain, especially if you have kidney problems.
The importance of exercise after menopause
Many women gain weight after menopause. This may be because of declining estrogen levels. Raising your activity level will help avoid this weight gain. Regular exercise benefits the heart and bones. It also helps control weight, and can improve your mood. Women who are not physically active are more likely to have heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and osteoporosis. Sedentary women may also have chronic back pain, insomnia, poor circulation, weak muscles, and depression.
Aerobic activities, such as walking, jogging, swimming, biking, and dancing, help prevent some of these problems. They also help raise HDL cholesterol levels, the "good" cholesterol. Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking and running, as well as moderate weight training, help increase bone mass. After menopause, moderate exercise helps preserve bone mass in the spine and prevents fractures.
Exercise also helps improve mood. Hormones, called endorphins, are released in the brain. Improved mood lasts for several hours. It also helps the body fight stress.
Always check with your healthcare provider before starting an exercise program, particularly if you have been inactive. Your provider can recommend the best exercise program for you.
Sex after menopause
Some women lose interest in sex during and after menopause. The symptoms of menopause, such as drier genital tissues and lower estrogen levels, may add to less interest in sex. However, estrogen creams and estrogen pills can restore elasticity and secretions in the genital area. Personal lubricants may also help make sex more pleasurable.
Women who still have sporadic periods during perimenopause need to continue using some form of birth control. Check with your provider about which form of birth control may be best for you.