Just as you had finally come to that grips with being in your 30s, if you can remember what most moms always let say that; You’re now the same age she was when she first started experiencing perimenopause symptoms a time in her life she describes as being “brutal” and “unpleasant,” thanks, she believes, to the unhealthy choices she made when she was younger.
In as much as the heads up are been appreciated, I began to feel like I was waiting for the apocalypse especially since healthy habits aren’t my forte, either. And it turns out that the way we treat our body in our 30s and early 40s can definitely affect how we eventually experience menopause. But really, that’s a good thing: Even though we can’t control when menopause will start, we can control the choices we make that play a role in the severity of our future symptoms, no matter how late we are to the party.
Here are common mistakes you may be making now that can influence menopause later and how to turn things around.
Your fiber intake needs work.
During menopause, low estrogen in the vagina causes lower levels of healthy bacteria, a higher pH, and decreased blood flow and skin integrity, leading to more frequent UTIs and bacterial infections, says Bitner. Add to the mix a constant contamination stream from loose stools, and it can make the situation (and frequency of infections) even worse. Do your vagina a favor by scoring the recommended daily intake of fiber (25 g, according to the Mayo Clinic). “If these habits are in place long before menopause, maintaining them during will be a no-brainer,” says Bitner. Phew.
Your exercise routine is hit or miss.
Over time, an all or nothing approach to physical fitness can do a serious number on your endocrine system, the hormone producing glands throughout your body that regulate things like metabolism, mood, and body temperature. Wild fluctuations in your routine can accelerate and eventually burn out your adrenal glands, which help you respond to stress, says Brandon Mentore, a Philadelphia strength and conditioning coach. And once one hormone reserve is depleted, it can influence how your entire endocrine system operates, upping the odds that your hormones will be out of whack by the time menopause strikes. “Find a workout pace that you can stick to, even when you don’t feel like it,” He also said. “Menopause is a complex process governed by the endocrine system, and the better it functions, the less symptomatic the process is going to be.”
You don’t drink enough water.
According to Bitner, “Dehydration can increase hot flash intensity and frequency, as well as cause daytime fatigue, muscle exercise intolerance, and nighttime leg cramps that interfere with sleep.” No matter how busy you are, try guzzling a glass of water three to four times per day, and one more cup of water for each serving of caffeine and alcohol, she says.
Your stress management skills are MIA.
“Menopause changes our sleep patterns and can affect our brain chemicals (namely, serotonin levels), therefore derailing our ability to stay out of fight-or-flight mode,” says Diana Bitner, MD, medical director of Midlife & Menopause Health Services at Spectrum Health Medical Group in Grand Rapids. Adding a few stress management tricks to your daily repertoire (such as meditation or journaling) can help lessen the intensity of your body’s reaction to stress and will really come in handy once you’ve joined team menopause.
Your go-to snacks always involve simple carbs.
It’s no secret that snacking mindlessly on junky carbs is bad news for your waistline and the older you get, the harder it will be to ditch those extra inches. As women age, muscle mass tends to decrease while fat storage increases, and lower estrogen levels may influence where fat is distributed in the body, according to the Mayo Clinic. Translation: You’ll be more prone to belly fat. And “having more fat can worsen hot flashes and night sweats during menopause,” says Bitner, who recommends regulating simple carbs (white bread, bagels, rice, and anything that’s processed) the same as you would straight-up desserts.
You skimp on strength training.
Lean muscle mass is a key determinant to being able to maintain a healthy body weight, says Bitner, and strength training can help you keep future muscle loss to a minimum. However, it’s something you have to commit to over the long haul to truly reap the benefits, with three to four times per week being the ideal, says Mentore. “It’s important to remember that the goal of strength training is to get stronger,” he adds. “Many people show up to strength train, only to do the same moves using the same amount of resistance, which is not a good system for improvement.”
You sit too much.
A study published in the journal Menopause found that sedentary middle aged women had significantly worse menopause symptoms than active women. To top it off, the sedentary women were more likely to score higher on the depression, anxiety, and insomnia scales. Adding more movement to your day stretching or walking every hour at work, working out during your favorite TV shows, even doing Kegels on your commute will get you in the habit of moving your body, helping you steer clear of the same fate, says Mentore.
You’re the queen of yo-yo dieting.
The same goes for inconsistent eating habits: The whole binge and restrict trap can destabilize your biology and burn your engine out long before you need it most. “Women who have longstanding unhealthy habits in their younger years can make changes in their daily routine to avoid creating permanent hormonal imbalances that affect the onset of menopause,” says Sheryl Ross, MD, ob-gyn and women’s health expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA. “The sooner you develop healthy and consistent eating habits, the more long-term health benefits you will experience.”