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Q&A: How can I stay healthy after menopause?

Q: How can I stay healthy after menopause?

A: Post-menopause is an opportune time for women to make lifestyle changes that can help make the most of the next phase of their lives. In addition to exercising regularly and working toward a healthy weight, there's even more you can do to avoid certain health conditions that are more common after menopause.

1. Practice good nutrition. As you grow older, you need fewer calories for energy, but just as many nutrients. Therefore, look for foods that are nutrient-rich and high in fiber. Don't forget your water.

2. Manage your stress. Stress can make it harder to stay focused on your health and overall well-being. Identify the times when you feel overwhelmed so you can try to keep those situations to a minimum. Exercise is a good way to reduce the effects of stress on the body. When appropriate, seek professional help to manage stress in your life.

3. Practice preventive health care. When the menstrual cycle ends, many women tend to think they no longer need to check in with their gynecologist. But that's not true. During this natural transition in life, get an annual exam to test your lymph nodes for enlargements, the cervix for abnormalities, the breasts for lumps, and the pelvis for pain or abnormalities. Breast self-exams are still encouraged by many practitioners.

4. Protect your heart. Work with your doctor to set up a plan to lower your risk of heart disease. For example, being physically active at least 30 minutes almost every day will help lower your risk of heart disease.

5. Practice safe sex. Some women may think they need not worry about sexually transmitted diseases after menopause. Regardless of your age, if you are not in a long-term relationship with a faithful partner, you are still at risk for contracting sexually transmitted diseases and should have an annual exam.

This natural phase of life is the time to expand your horizons and learn something new. Talk to your doctor to find a health regimen that is right for you.

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