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The ABC’s of Menopause

Now that you're in the "power surge" chapter of your life, it's time not only to reassess your commitment to a healthy diet and daily exercise, but also to review the adequacy of your vitamin intake, both through food and supplements. As we age our health risks increase, and there's no reason to play Russian roulette.

Fortunately, there are simple steps you can take that can help make the menopausal experience less bothersome and intrusive. Let's take a moment to look at some of the vitamins that can help get you through this transitional stage of life and beyond.

Calcium & Vitamin D
MenopauseAmong the most common increased risks women face during and after menopause are cardiovascular-related disease and osteoporosis, the gradual bone loss that leaves you vulnerable to brittle bones. Calcium, along with weight-bearing exercise, is absolutely necessary to restore and maintain bone density. Even if you include calcium-rich dairy products such as low- or nonfat milk, cheeses, and yogurt in your diet, a calcium supplement is still recommended.

The daily calcium dosage for women 51 and older is 1200 mg, taken with food and not all at once. If you decide to take calcium, you should also take vitamin D, as this vitamin helps the body absorb calcium. Vitamin D has also been known to help the body guard against cancer, depression, and heart disease. In addition, vitamin D has been shown to help the body make better use of insulin, which in turn helps with the prevention of diabetes.

The recommendation for vitamin D is 600 IU (international units) per day. You can find over-the-counter products that supply 600 mg of calcium and 300 IU of vitamin D per tablet, with the daily dose being two tablets. Do not think that more is better—an overdose can cause problems.

In the case of women who have already been diagnosed with bone loss, doctors will likely prescribe a prescription medication.

Other Vitamins
Different vitamins address different symptoms. Vitamin B-3 has been known to help menopausal women who have trouble sleeping through the night. Women who are having issues with vaginal dryness might try vitamin C. This vitamin has also been known to promote healthy skin and help with hot flashes in some women. Vitamin K promotes strong bones as well, and is a good way to help prevent osteoporosis. It also protects against the hardening of the arteries.

There are many vitamins that have benefits but carry certain risks as well. For example, while some women have found that taking vitamin E has helped ease their hot flashes, the Mayo Clinic warns against taking over 400 IU of vitamin E per day. Some women have even found inserting vitamin E softgels in the vagina helpful for vaginal dryness.

Iron is also a mineral that must be taken with care. Iron is very important, especially for women still in perimenopause because they lose iron every time they menstruate. Too much iron, however, carries its own set of problems, such as hemochromatosis, also known as iron overload. Foods rich in iron, such as red meat, egg yolks, beans, and dark, leafy greens, are usually adequate to meet your needs unless you're anemic and need a supplement.

Before embarking on any vitamin plan, it's important to speak with your doctor first. Every woman and every situation is different, and your health care provider can tell you which vitamins and dosages are safe and beneficial for your specific situation. ♀

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