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Many women entering midlife don’t have the critical information they need to ensure their overall health during their transition into perimenopause and menopause.
Dr. Tara Allmen, author of “Menopause Confidential: A doctor reveals the secrets to thriving through midlife,” joins Know Your Value’s Mika Brzezinski to explain that women don’t have to feel anxious about this stage but can embrace their journey with the right preparation.
“We’re the group of 40 until death do us part, and no one gives us a lecture,” Dr. Allmen says.
“Our OB-GYNs are so busy with the next, younger group of women that we get pushed over here. [I]t is up to us … to get really good information on what happens when you’re not expecting.”
She explains that perimenopause, the stage before menopause, typically begins in a woman’s 40s. “Really what women need to know is you’re not going to feel well,” she says. “Our menstrual cycles start to change, and with that come a lot of symptoms like [hot] flashes and sweats and mood and weight gain and sleep.”
Menopause begins when a woman has her final menstrual period, which is confirmed after 12 consecutive months without a subsequent period. But Dr. Allmen notes that even after a woman stops having menstrual cycles, menopause never completely ends. “When women say to me, ‘I’m all done with that menopause,’ really what they’re saying is, ‘Maybe I’m done with hot flashes.’”
Take steps to improve your bone, brain and heart health
Dr. Allmen says that midlife women should be concerned about their health “from hair to toenail.” But they should pay special attention to their bone, brain and heart health as their bodies change. She recommends that midlife women devote 30 minutes per day, at least 5 days a week, to aerobic exercise.
“[Doing this] will reduce the risk of heart disease – the no. 1 killer of women in this country,” she says. “What’s good for the heart is good for the brain – if you want to reduce your risk of dementia, you do aerobic exercise.”
She also stresses the importance of developing targeted exercise routines to maintain bone health in midlife: “We have to start strength training, and even more importantly, balance training.”
Be prepared for emotional changes
Dr. Allmen explains that aside from the physical changes a woman experiences in midlife, there’s a very real mood component that plays a part in that shift as well. “As our menstrual cycles change, our moods change, and not for the better,” she says. “That journey through perimenopause is fraught with peril in terms of mood; it settles out a little bit after menopause, but we still feel blue.”
She emphasizes that midlife women should consult with their physicians during this time, and recommends the following resource for anyone seeking more information on menopause:
The North American Menopause Society, www.menopause.org