John Sklavounos

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Thankfully, many of the signs and symptoms associated with menopause are temporary. Take these steps to help reduce or prevent their effects:

Relieve hot flashes. Dress in layers, have a cold glass of water or go somewhere cooler. Try to find out what is causing your hot flashes. In the case of many women, hot flashes may be caused by hot drinks, caffeine, spicy foods, alcohol or anxiety. Also, hot weather or even a warm room could increase the likelihood of hot flashes in a menopausal woman.

Get enough sleep. Avoid caffeine, which may make it difficult for you to sleep, and excessive alcohol consumption, which can disturb sleep. Exercise is recommended during the day but not before bedtime. If hot flashes disturb your sleep, you may need to find a way to manage them so as to get enough rest.

Practical relaxation techniques. Various such techniques could to some extent help alleviate the symptoms of menopause. You can find a range of books, CDs and online sessions introducing several relaxation exercises.

Strengthening your pelvic floor. Pelvic floor muscle exercises, called Kegels exercises, can improve some forms of urinary incontinence and reduce the likelihood of sagging and prolapse of the genitals.

Make sure you follow a balanced diet. Include a variety of fruit, vegetables and whole grains. Cut down on saturated fats, oils and sugars. If necessary, ask your doctor to prescribe vitamin supplements, calcium or vitamin D supplements that can help you perform your daily tasks.

Do not smoke. Smoking increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, osteoporosis, cancer and a host of other health problems. It may also increase hot flashes and lead to premature menopause.

Exercise regularly. Exercising is important and can protect against heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and other conditions associated with aging.

Many approaches have been promoted as aids in managing menopausal symptoms, but few of them are backed up by scientific evidence.
Complementary and alternative therapies adopted or investigated include:

Plant- derived estrogens (phytoestrogens). These estrogens occur naturally in certain foods. There are two main types of phytoestrogens – isoflavones and lignans. Isoflavones are found in soybeans, chickpeas and other legumes. Lignans are found in flaxseed, whole grains, as well as some fruits and vegetables.

Whether estrogen in these foods can relieve hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms remains to be proven, but most studies have found them to be ineffective. Isoflavones have weak estrogenic activity, so if you have a history of breast cancer, talk to your doctor before using tablets that contain isoflavones.

Consult your doctor before taking any herbs or dietary supplements for menopausal symptoms. Some of these can be dangerous or interact with other medications you are taking, putting your health at risk.