How can I get my body and mind ready for menopause?

I’m 47 and my periods are becoming erratic. Is there any way I can get my body and mind ready for menopause?

Elizabeth Ricanati, M.D.

Elizabeth Ricanati, M.D.

Elizabeth Ricanati, M.D., is the founding medical director of Lifestyle 180, an innovative Cleveland Clinic program aimed at treating and... Read more

There are definitely things you can start doing right now. The average age for menopause, when a woman’s periods stop altogether, is 51. Perimenopause begins eight to 10 years before this. It’s during this time that the ovaries gradually produce less estrogen, which leads to hormonal imbalances. The results are symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings, fatigue, sleep difficulties and vaginal dryness, which can range from mild to severe.

While none of these symptoms is pleasant, thankfully you can do a whole lot to lessen their frequency and intensity:

  • Exercise regularly. Walking 30 minutes a day is enough to make a big difference in reducing symptoms. Any type of exercise will do; just be sure to pick an activity you enjoy and will do regularly. Regular exercise helps manage stress, reduces your risk of developing metabolic syndrome and osteoporosis and boosts your endorphins.
  • If you smoke, quit. Not only will you decrease your risk for lung and throat cancer, but you’ll also ease your symptoms.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Determine your ideal Body Mass Index (BMI) and work with your doctor to achieve or maintain a healthy weight. In addition to reducing your risk for chronic disease, staying at a healthy weight will make you feel better about yourself as you’re transitioning to menopause.
  • Take a multivitamin and/or a calcium supplement. As your body gradually produces less estrogen, it can be harder to absorb calcium. Often, PMS and perimenopause symptoms are exacerbated by low calcium levels. The added calcium will also protect your bones from osteoporosis. Premenopausal women need 1,200 mg of calcium per day; postmenopausal women should get 1,500 mg daily. For optimal absorption, take calcium in equally divided doses twice a day.
  • Increase your H2O intake. Good old-fashioned water can help decrease bloating and keep you hydrated. Aim for at least eight glasses per day.
  • Embrace, rather than resist, this time in your life. For many women, this age is an exciting, transformative time. Children are older, and perhaps you’ve enjoyed a successful career -- or maybe you’re considering a career change or re-entry into the workforce.
  • Find time each day for yourself. Be active, meditate, breathe and make smart nutritional choices.You deserve it!
  • Celebrate your life, your accomplishments and the positive effect you’ve had on the lives of your family, friends and coworkers.