Your 30s are normally the time when you’re living life to the max – travelling the world, excelling in your career, maybe buying a house, or starting a family. At the age of 30, the thought of menopause may not have even hit your horizon yet.
The thing is, during menopause, there’s an increased risk for certain health conditions – like osteoporosis¹, breast cancer² (learn how to check yourself for breast cancer), and heart disease³. So, it’s important to proactively stay ahead of the game in terms of managing your health to limit the health risks as you approach the menopause transition.
The better you physically and mentally prepare yourself early in life, the better you’ll cope with menopause when it arrives. You’ll be aware of the symptoms to look out for and be in a position to seek help and treatment early. Trust us, an easier transition phase is exactly what you’ll be praying for when menopause comes to town.
So, let’s learn the ways how you can prepare for menopause starting in your 30s (or earlier if you’re super keen)
But first, what is menopause?
As women age, they go through a natural process called menopause. This is the time when the ovaries stop producing eggs, and the body stops producing the hormone estrogen. Estrogen is responsible for regulating the menstrual cycle. When estrogen levels drop, periods become irregular and eventually stop altogether, marking the end of a woman’s reproductive years.
When does menopause happen?
The average age of menopause for Australian women is 51 years; however, menopause can occur anytime between the ages of 45 and 55⁴. In fact, it can even happen earlier or later. The exact timing of menopause is highly variable and can be influenced by a number of factors, including genetics, lifestyle, and overall health.
Early menopause and premature menopause
Many young women reach menopause symptoms earlier than expected. Depending on their age, these menopausal conditions are referred to as early menopause and premature menopause.
Early menopause signals a woman’s final menstrual period between the ages of 40 and 45 years, whereas premature menopause is when a woman’s final menstrual period occurs before she hits 40 years of age. The prevalence of early or premature menopause in Australian women is not well defined, but some studies suggest that it is relatively common⁵.
Menopause symptoms to look out for
As natural menopause approaches, women experience initial symptoms during a period called perimenopause. This time can be a difficult transition for women as they learn to cope with physical and emotional symptoms due to the massive hormonal changes in the lead-up to their final menstrual cycle.
Menopause can cause a variety of physical and emotional symptoms, and knowing what to expect can help you manage the symptoms and stay as comfortable as possible.
The most common symptoms of menopause
- Hot flashes and night sweats
- Vaginal dryness
- Impaired sexual function and discomfort during sex
- Irregular periods (learn more about missed periods)
- Sleep disturbances
- Low mood or depression
- Mood swings (often worse than premenstrual syndrome)
- Problems with memory and concentration
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Dry skin
- Weakened hair follicles
How to prepare for menopausal symptoms starting in your 30s
Eat healthy foods and stay hydrated
A healthy diet equals a healthy weight, so incorporating healthy foods into your diet from a young age is a no-brainer. This will also help ease your transition into menopause and maintain your health during this time and post-menopause.
There are a few things to keep in mind when planning your diet as you approach menopause:
Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants that can help protect your body against the effects of menopause and ageing.
Include healthy fats in your diet
Good sources of healthy fats include avocados, nuts, and oily fish. These foods can help reduce hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms.
Avoid processed foods and sugary drinks
High-sugar and processed foods can trigger hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms.
Drink plenty of water
Water accounts for 50-80% of the human body’s composition. So, hitting your daily H2o quota of 8 to 10 cups is essential for your body to stay hydrated and functioning properly when you’re in your 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond.
Maintain a healthy body weight
Obesity is a risk factor for several health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, stroke, and type-2 diabetes. Research also shows that weight gain after menopause increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer, whereas losing weight post-menopause can reduce the risk of breast cancer⁶.
Weight gain can also worsen menopause symptoms when your time arrives. So, it makes sense that losing weight can help to reduce your risk of these conditions and make menopause symptoms more manageable.
In addition to eating a balanced diet, there are a few other things you can do to manage your weight or lose weight in your 30s and as you approach menopause:
- avoid crash diets or fad diets that promise quick results
- eat smaller meals more often throughout the day
- choose foods that are high in fibre and low in calories
By following these tips, you can help keep your weight under control and prepare for healthy menopause.
Embrace regular exercise
There are several ways in which exercise can help prepare you for a better quality of life as you enter perimenopause and menopause. Research suggests that postmenopausal women who keep a regular exercise routine benefit by maintaining a healthy body, stronger bone density levels, and good mental health⁷.
Other women’s health benefits associated with exercise include:
Increased cardiorespiratory function
When exercise is performed regularly, it can reduce the metabolic risks associated with declining estrogen levels and gift women with a reduced risk of high blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes⁸.
Creation of a calorie deficit
Regular exercise can help create a calorie deficit that’s bound to minimise midlife weight gain.
Increased bone mass
Strength training and impact activities – such as walking or jogging – can help to offset the decline of bone mineral density and prevent postmenopausal osteoporosis.
Practice Kegels for a strong core
As you age, your body experiences a lot of changes. One of the biggest changes is that your hormones start to decline (it is the big drop in estrogen levels that causes most of the menopausal symptoms, after all). And, for many women, menopause means saying goodbye to any pelvic strength they once had.
Kegel exercises can help lessen some of the symptoms of menopause by strengthening the pelvic floor muscles – the muscles that support the bladder and help prevent it from leaking urine. These muscles also help with sexual function.
So, how do you do Kegel exercises?
All you have to do is squeeze the muscles you would use to stop the flow of urine. Hold for a few seconds, then release and repeat 10 times.
You can do Kegel exercises anywhere – while you’re sitting at your desk, watching TV, or even out for a walk. Just be sure not to do them when you’re peeing, as this can lead to more urinary leakage.
Implement healthy sleeping habits
To prepare to cope with the changes that occur during the menopausal transition, such as hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, and fatigue, it’s important to have healthy sleep habits. Getting enough quality sleep can help reduce stress levels, improve concentration and memory, and boost your energy levels during the day.
A few things you can do to help ensure a good night’s sleep include:
- Establishing a regular sleep schedule and sticking to it
- Creating a relaxing bedtime routine, including a 30-minute wind-down before bed
- Minimising light exposure before bedtime
- Keeping your bedroom dark, quiet, and cool
- Avoiding caffeine and alcohol in the evening
- Staying relatively active during the day to keep your energy levels up
With a little effort in your 30s, you can help make menopause a little easier by getting the restful, restorative sleep you need.
Take care of your bones
The best way to look after your bones before, during, and after menopause will vary depending on your individual circumstances.
Some general tips that may help include:
Talking to your doctor about your bone health
This is especially important if you have any risk factors for osteoporosis (a condition in which bones become weak and fragile).
Making sure you’re getting enough calcium and vitamin D
These nutrients are essential for bone health. Good sources of calcium include milk, cheese, and leafy green vegetables. Vitamin D can be found in fatty fish, eggs, and fortified foods such as milk and cereal.
Cardio exercise and strength training both help to keep bones strong.
Quitting smoking and limiting your alcohol intake
Both smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can harm bones.
Know your options when it comes to menopause treatment
Learning the types of menopause treatments in advance will provide a huge benefit in helping you to manage symptoms of perimenopause and menopause when they finally arrive. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution for treating menopause symptoms, the following options can help to provide relief for many women.
Hormone therapy (HT) refers to either estrogen or a combination estrogen and progesterone treatment. These treatments work by replacing the estrogen that a woman’s body stops producing during menopause.
Estrogen therapy is one of the most effective prescription medications used to treat symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, sleep disturbances, and vaginal dryness (vaginal creams are also useful for combatting vaginal dryness).
There are a number of prescription medications that can be used to relieve menopause symptoms. The most commonly prescribed medications are low-dose antidepressants, which can help with mood swings and sleep problems, and anti-anxiety medications, which can help to reduce stress and anxiety levels when women reach menopause.
Birth control pills
There are a few different ways that birth control pills can help to ease menopause symptoms. One way is by helping to regulate hormone levels. As women approach menopause, their bodies start to produce less of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. This can cause a variety of symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, and vaginal dryness. Birth control pills can help to replenish these hormones, which can help to reduce or even eliminate menopause symptoms.
There are a number of lifestyle changes you can make to help treat menopause. Some of these include:
Managing stress: Stress can worsen menopause symptoms, so it’s important to find ways to manage your stress levels. Try relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation, practice mindfulness techniques, or consider talking to a therapist about ways to better cope with stress.
Taking supplements: Certain supplements, such as magnesium, can be helpful in managing menopause symptoms.
Avoiding triggers: If hot flashes are a problem, avoiding triggers such as hot weather, spicy foods, or caffeine can help.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioural therapy is a form of talking therapy that can help menopausal women manage their symptoms. CBT can help you to understand how your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are all connected. It can also help you to change any negative thinking or behaviour that might be making your symptoms worse and find new ways to cope with the stress and anxiety caused by menopause.
CBT is usually delivered by a professional healthcare provider as a short course of weekly sessions, lasting around 6-8 weeks.