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'We either take care of ourselves or suffer': Menopause can be an opportunity for women to change their (bad) habits and reinvent themselves

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Menopause is a period of major physical and mental transformation for women. Internist Minnie Freudenthal and psychologist Filipa Jardim explain how to prepare and make the most of this stage of life

Menopause “can be a smooth ride on clear waters or it can be a storm,” the internist says. Mini Freudenthal. Of course, every woman is different, and the symptoms are different, but it is also important that a woman prepares for this journey and takes control (or at least tries to control it), says the doctor, who calls for a systematic approach at this stage of life. Menopause is a physical change, but it is also psychological and emotional.

“It is with the whole body, always, and it is not just menopause,” highlights Minnie Freudenthal to CNN Portugal. “We treat the disease as if it were fireworks. We ignore the symptoms that are, in essence, opportunities to understand what is happening under our body,” she warns. Like an iceberg, the symptoms are just the visible part of something deeper and should not be ignored. However, most of the time, we still prefer a reactive approach rather than a preventive one, and this has costs – for our health, but also financial, pharmaceutical and environmental, because we end up having to resort to medications that could have been curative. This expert explains.

“Menopause is the (last) stage of the hormonal revolution” in a woman’s life, which means it is a period of great vulnerability but also of resilience, said Minnie Freudenthal in her speech at the conference “It’s Not Bad to Talk About Menopause”, which on Wednesday filled the audience at the Tivoli Theater in Lisbon. The changes are many. “The relationship between the ovaries and the brain changes, the body stops focusing on fertility and starts focusing on longevity,” she explains. “But only through biotherapy can we prolong life, we don’t guarantee quality. So, we have to do more. We are all active agents in our own maintenance, we cannot interrupt ourselves,” encourages the doctor.

Dr. Minnie Freudenthal at the Menopause Conference (DR/Wells)

From a physical standpoint, Minnie Freudenthal highlights the importance of estrogen receptors, a protein found in several cells and activated by estrogen, which helps the body in a series of important functions, such as contributing to the proper functioning of the reproductive system, regulating bone metabolism and maintaining bone density. Bones, contribute to healthy blood vessels and heart function, and are involved in protecting nervous functions and regulating mood. Low estrogen is one of the biggest changes that occurs in the body.

But that's not all, says psychologist Filipa Jardim: “The hormonal fluctuations that occur in the perimenopause and menopause, especially the decrease in estrogen and progesterone levels, can contribute to significant changes in sleep, energy, libido, eating behavior, memory and the ability to concentrate, leading to a greater accumulation of fat in the abdominal area, as well as causing increased irritability, more severe mood swings and increased anxiety,” explains the clinical director of Colletivo to CNN Portugal. To transform.

Moreover, “perimenopause often raises a set of existential questions that confront a woman with the time she has already lived versus the time she imagines she still has to live, and which she confronts with changes in the mirror, because no matter how much a woman takes… It is normal for wrinkles to appear, and for your skin to become less firm and less radiant. All these changes in a society that glorifies eternal youth and perfect beauty created by artificial intelligence, are natural challenges that have an emotional cost for women.

“These changes in mood and anxiety can generate insecurity in women, as if at a certain point they no longer recognize themselves in this fragility, as if their body and brain no longer respond to it, as if they lose their skills. All this experience is inherently destabilizing and can therefore be considered a window of vulnerability for the emergence of psychological illnesses, such as depression,” describes Filipa Jardim, another speaker at the conference, saying: “It is not good to talk about menopause.”

Psychologist Filipa Jardim and sexologist Marta Crawford at the Menopause Conference (DR/Wells)

“Fortunately, we have more knowledge today than we did 20 years ago, when I went through this,” says Dr. Minnie Freudenthal, who turns 70 this year. “Women can rely on treatment and nutritional supplements that can help the body be healthy to face this stage. For most women, perimenopause is the period when you feel the most discomfort and least satisfied with life, and then it gets better,” she added. He emphasizes, as if she were resting. Interlocutors. But to do this, you have to act, not just wait for it to pass.

Filipa Jardim agrees. “Taking care of ourselves and our well-being should be inclusive of all ages. To be healthy, I need to take care of my body and mind, and if this is true at any age, then it is all the more so during perimenopause and menopause. Either we take care of ourselves or we suffer.”

The Four Pillars of a Healthy Life

In the view of these two experts, the four pillars of a healthy life are: sleep, nutrition, movement and emotion – to which is added the essential but often forgotten thing: breathing.

Sleeps. During menopause, sleep undergoes dramatic changes “and we know what cognitive and metabolic changes these changes have,” explains Minnie Freudenthal. “If the change in sleep is due to hormonal changes, it’s a great indicator of hormone replacement,” he says. To achieve this, it’s important to have good “sleep hygiene,” that is, prepare your brain for going to sleep. “We can’t just switch off from one moment to the next like we flip a switch, we have to prepare our brains, turn off the computer and other devices, dim the lights, reduce our movements” – all of which are important for us to get “refreshing sleep.”

a movement. Filipa Jardim points out that bodybuilding and regular physical activity are essential “to protect muscle mass and also interfere with energy levels and overall well-being”. Minnie Freudenthal advises that each person choose the type of exercise that pleases them most, trying to stimulate strength and flexibility, the important thing is not to neglect your body.

feed. Psychologist Filipa Jardim points to the need for a varied, low-inflammatory diet along with supplementation strategies that are appropriate for each woman. The basics are to avoid highly processed foods, says Mini Freudenthal. To this we add:

  • Proteins – “Protein is structural, it performs thousands of functions in the body, and it can be of animal or plant origin – don't forget legumes, they are very rich”;
  • Green leafy vegetables – “Others of course, but especially leafy greens, which contribute so much to the richness and diversity of the microbiome”;
  • Quality hydrate
  • water (water);
  • isoflavones, because they “facilitate hormonal balance” (found in soybeans; there are also nutritional supplements);
  • Watch for homocysteine, a marker of metabolic cycle and increasingly elevated. “High B vitamins can be supplemented.”

Feelings. “Emotional regulation” is important, “preferably with the support of a clinical psychologist, training good attention and conscious breathing,” says Filipa Jardim, highlighting that “daily life promotes enjoyment, engagement, continuous learning and social quality.” Interactions” are always a good contribution to physical and psychological well-being. Minnie Freudenthal believes that “training the mind is physiological” and essential to maintain memory, imagination and calm.

An opportunity for women to reinvent themselves

During menopause, the body goes through countless changes, and with them the mind changes as well. “We have moved from a phase of intense focus on oneself – on career and family goals, on achieving set goals – to entering a phase of us – where women are more available, more open to society. Perspectives and priorities are changing. It is a time to reinvent ourselves.” “, points out Minnie Freudenthal, who outlines a four-step process for leveraging the change we want to achieve:

  • speech– Evaluating our existence at every stage of life, and understanding what we think;
  • Imagine“We ask, ‘Who do we want to be? ’ or ‘Who do we want to be in 20 years? ’. Setting goals is important. “The energy for change comes from the value we give to it, without value there is no change,” says the doctor;
  • embodiment” – Putting knowledge into action. It is not enough to know what we need to do, we need to actually act. “Making changes in our bodies, our home, our teams, and everything that surrounds us”;
  • reflection – Evaluate the process, understand what we are doing well and poorly, and improve it.
  • In short, this is a good opportunity for women to stop, reflect on their lives and change. “We continue to normalize discomfort, forgetting that human beings tend towards balance and well-being. At the same time, Western culture glorifies exhaustion and being very busy, which does not necessarily mean being productive and successful. We do a lot of things at the same time, but then there are no minutes left in the day to feel and feel,” warns psychologist Filipa Jardim. “In addition, women, in particular, continue to accumulate tasks and roles in today's society, sometimes believing that they can become superheroes, which naturally leads them to make great sacrifices as caregivers, devaluing their care and well-being. These factors increase resignation and symptoms of distress, some of which are linked to menopause, delaying the adoption of a healthy lifestyle and the search for specialized help by women, who are more reactive than preventive when it comes to your health.

    Dr. Minnie Freudenthal asserts that “almost all modern diseases are the result of our habits.” “If we have healthy emotional intelligence, we will give importance to other things. We have no mental training, and we are not taught it either in our family or in school. Thus, we allow ourselves to be carried away. But if we have healthy emotional intelligence, we give importance to other things.” We do not do anything, the collapse will come anyway. We have to know how to say no to what hurts us and have confidence in our ability to change.”

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