Menopause is a word that strikes fear into the hearts of many women. The association with hot flushes, loss of libido, and mood swings paints a pretty miserable picture. But it’s not all bad – far from it! Whilst every woman’s journey is different, there is a lot you can do to make this time of change far more comfortable, even enjoyable.

I know there will be women out there reading this, chortling at the very idea of a marvellous menopause, and thinking “what does she know?” but I can assure you that it’s about time we reclaimed our ‘mid-life’ years!

One of the biggest problems today’s women face is that more and more of us are entering into the menopause already depleted. We’re chronically stressed, not sleeping enough, addicted to our phones, drinking more booze, and not moving as much as we should. We need to focus on nourishing ourselves in order to enter this time of our lives feeling good.

Without wanting to begin all doom and gloom, it’s important to state the facts: The risk of cardiovascular disease increases after menopause. Partly because oestrogen is cardio-protective (and of course oestrogen levels decline during menopause) and quite possibly because women tend to have different signs and symptoms of heart attack, compared with the standard male symptoms.
There are, however, lots of very quick wins when it comes to IMPROVING heart health. Here are my top three:

1. EXERCISE

How do we make our hearts healthier? We exercise, of course! Obvious, but somehow often overlooked during mid-life. Ladies – movement is crucial during the peri- to post-menopause phase; possibly more so than ever. Gone are the days of thinking that 50+ exercise is just chairobics and aquacise. This is a time when we need to do the work. So what should you be doing?

– Impact for bone and pelvic floor strength (incontinence symptoms are not uncommon post-menopause).
– Something that increases your heart rate. I love barre for women in their late 40s and 50s (and for everyone, but especially menopausal women). It’s low impact but weight bearing, and great cardiovascular fitness.
– Complex movements to challenge the brain! We want to stave off cognitive decline, so exercises that work the brain (think complex movement patterns, crossing the body, balance) are excellent for this population.
– Consider the time and intensity of your workouts. This is specific to the individual, but remember we need to guard against adding extra stress and overwhelm. So attempting a hardcore workout at the end of a long working day, might leave you feeling exhausted rather than replenished.


2. NUTRITION

This is a massive topic but let’s just focus on a couple of the biggies:

– Constipation! Yup, it’s a risk factor for post-menopausal women and certainly one to bear in mind with regards to heart health. Increasing dietary fibre is a simple way to manage (or hopefully prevent) constipation. Think plenty of fruit and veg, chia seeds, pulses, oats, and good hydration.
– Move towards a plant-based diet. Not only is it good for the planet, it’s beneficial for hormone balance. Healthy bowel habits are crucial for the excretion of excess oestrogen.
– Beet it! Beetroot is fantastic for brain health, as well as lowering blood pressure, and aiding recovery from exercise. Get some in your diet!


3. SLEEP HEALTH

Key to a healthy heart and a happy menopause is good sleep. But that’s not always easy if you’re suffering from hot flushes or menopause insomnia. A few things that might help:

– A bed-time snack (e.g. oatcakes with almond butter).
– Keep your bedroom cool and well ventilated.
– Journal any worries before bed.
– Avoid lights in the room (LEDs on TV, phone, alarm clock). Any light will stimulate the pineal gland and disrupt your sleep.