First of all, educate yourself about the changes your body will go through and what can work to help you make those transitions easily. There are no guarantees, but studies show that building peak bone mass in your younger years by eating calcium-rich foods and exercising can help protect your bones from osteoporosis later in life. (Chapter 8 covers questions about osteoporosis.) So it’s never too soon to begin enjoying a low-fat, high-fiber diet and to incorporate the three kinds of exercise you need flexibility exercise, weight-bearing exercise, and aerobic exercise into your life. The exercise you choose should be varied enough to hold your interest and you should engage in it for a minimum of twenty to thirty minutes three times a week, once you are in shape. These matters and their effect upon you, your heart, and your bones are discussed in Chapter 13. Furthermore, if you smoke, quit! Smoking is harmful to all of your body’s systems. Some theories suggest that nicotine creates metabolic changes that may affect the ovary; others that cigarette smoke causes the liver to destroy estrogen. In either instance smoking’s effect on the ovaries can lead to an earlier menopause. It also may cause thinning of bone by decreasing estrogen production, which may block calcium absorption. Smoking also is a well-researched culprit in heart disease and certain forms of cancer. Finally, keep yourcaffeineconsumptiontoa minimum no more than two cups (or less) per day and alcohol intake to just one cocktail or one glass of wine or beer daily.
Another good idea would be to discuss menopause with your mother and your grandmother, if they are still living. Find out how menopause affected them, how early its onset was, and what they did, if anything, to offset their symptoms.