We know we’ll all go through menopause someday, but timing remains a big question mark. Scientists agree that genetics play a large role in determining when a woman may go through it, but is there a way to delay menopause for at least a few more years?
A number of factors contribute to when a woman sees symptoms, but there are also lifestyle changes that can delay it and also lessen the most noticeable symptoms once the process begins. Here are eight tactics to consider.
Try the Mediterranean diet.
There’s a reason why so many doctors and scientists alike swear by the Mediterranean diet: it works! In fact, one well-cited 2018 Harvard study concluded that when women ate more legumes, beans, and fish, they entered menopause an average of 3.3 years later than those who ate diets full of refined pasta and rice.
Not only does it reduce inflammation and improve blood circulation, but it also keeps your mind sharp and your blood sugar levels in check, all of which keep your body regulated as you get older.
Get adequate sun exposure.
Bone health is an important factor as you age, and that’s where good ol’ vitamin D comes in handy. Research has found that women who were exposed to low levels of sunlight over the course of their lives tended to enter menopause earlier than those who received more sunlight over time.
While too much UV radiation from the sun can also cause health problems, experts say that spending 10 to 30 minutes out in the sun a few times per week is all the vitamin D you need. Just make sure you lather on some sunscreen first!
Watch your alcohol consumption.
Heavy ongoing alcohol consumption is shown to speed up the onset of menopause. But interestingly one study showed that “moderate” drinkers — i.e. women who consume one to three drinks per week total — see a later onset of menopause than those who don’t drink alcohol at all. (Weird, right?)
That said, the difference between non-drinkers and moderate drinkers was minimal. Avoid heavy drinking, but don’t feel stressed about having a few drinks — or a tipsier night out — here and there.
If you’re a smoker, it may be time to cut down or ideally stop entirely. Researchers in Hong Kong found that women who are smokers tend to enter menopause an average of one year earlier than than non-smokers. Additionally, smoking further exacerbates your health post-menopause, including increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease, making you more likely to suffer from insomnia, and more.
Cut down on caffeine.
Caffeine is part of a category called “trigger foods,” which also includes things like foods with refined sugar, that can set off some of the more noticeable symptoms of menopause.
Research shows that heavier caffeine consumption is more likely to trigger hot flashes and similar issues related to temperature regulation.
Eat foods rich in calcium.
Similar to vitamin D, calcium is critical for strong bone health as we get older, so it’s great to consistently eat calcium-rich foods like cheese, yogurt, beans, lentils, almonds, and dark, leafy greens like spinach and kale.
Have sex regularly.
This is a fun one! A 2020 University College London study concluded that women who have sex more than once a month enter menopause later than women who have sex less often. Researchers are still sorting through the link between sex and menopause, but hey, why not put their results to good use?
Maintain a healthy weight.
Achieving and managing a healthy weight is important for keeping so many of your body’s processes in working order and also delaying and then reducing or lessening menopausal symptoms down the line.
If you’re interested in hearing more about how specific factors in your own life could affect the onset or delay of menopause, it may be the perfect time to talk to your doctor!