Lifestyle changes following early menopause: Health Practitioners’ perspectives

The health practitioners we interviewed discussed the benefits of a healthy diet and exercise to manage early menopause (EM) symptoms (see Symptoms of early menopause). Lifestyle changes, in addition to Hormone Replacement Therapy or other medications depending on the cause of EM (see Non-hormone based medications for early menopause symptoms after oestrogen-sensitive cancers), may help alleviate EM symptoms and can also help prevent osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease (see Long-term health effects of early menopause).

Dr Goeltom, a general practitioner, shared her views on the importance of lifestyle changes for the health of women experiencing EM.

Identifying triggers for EM symptoms, in particular hot flushes, was seen as important by health practitioners. Knowing, for example, what foods may bring on hot flushes can help women deal with their symptoms; as breast surgeon Dr Baker said: ‘you can look at your diet. There’ll be things that will set you off. … So, try and be aware and do some linkages and self-manage in that regard.’ She added that it was important to ‘reassure people that [symptoms] get better with time.’

Clinical psychologist Dr G shared her experience of speaking to women about lifestyle changes to deal with EM symptoms, in particular hot flushes.

Some health practitioners commented that while lifestyle changes such as personalised exercise programs, Pilates and seeing an exercise physiologist, may be helpful for managing EM symptoms and protecting against long-term health impacts, these services can be expensive. Dr D, an endocrinologist, noted that she often refers women who are interested in seeing an exercise physiologist, however ‘the cost [is] an issue.’

Urogenital symptoms

Non-medical measures to alleviate urogenital symptoms of EM, for example vaginal dryness and dyspareunia, were mentioned as potentially helpful by some health professionals.

Dr Baker, a breast surgeon, described how she advises women on lifestyle changes for urogenital symptoms of EM.

Protecting bone health

Health practitioners emphasised the importance of getting enough calcium for bone health and regular screening to monitor bone density. For endocrinologist Dr D, ‘lifestyle measures, general health, and symptom control are the mainstay, and then trying to prevent and screen for bone density et cetera along the way so that future health consequences are hopefully minimised’ (see Long-term health effects of early menopause).

Dr Barker, a general practitioner based in a regional area, discussed how exercises, such as Pilates, can help maintain good balance and reduce the risk of injury from falls.

Lifestyle changes after cancer diagnosis and treatment

Exercise was seen as beneficial for women experiencing EM symptoms after cancer treatment, in particular, those who cannot take HRT, who want fewer pharmacological therapies (see Hormone-based medications for early menopause), or who are experiencing the impacts of cancer treatment as well as EM. Breast surgeon Dr Baker commented: ‘for the arthralgia [joint pain] , exercise is really quite important as well, so you know there are community-based exercise classes that you can tap into that are either run out of the community health centres or run out of the council, run out of BCNA.’

Dr S, a medical oncologist, shared her experience of encouraging women experiencing EM symptoms following cancer treatment to take up exercise and a healthy diet.

Breast care nurse Ms Lewis spoke of the supports that women who have undergone cancer treatment can access.

Further information

Talking Points (Health Practitioners)

Talking Points (Women)

Other resources