In the early stages of peri-menopause, high estrogen levels can lead to tender, swollen breasts and increased pre-menstrual symptoms such as moodiness or cramps: i.e., PMS. Women frustrated by these erratic symptoms may find few options available from their doctors. However, there are several science-based lifestyle interventions that can buffer these early symptoms.  Here are the top expert tips to successfully navigate menopause:

1. Keep hormones balanced

Hormones change throughout the menopause transition. As menopause approaches, falling estrogen levels trigger disruptive flashes and sweats. Non-hormonal and herbal therapies such as extracts of black cohosh, rhubarb, soy, and red clover can mitigate symptoms and be used in conjunction with prescription therapy. Bioidentical hormones have the same lock-and-key fit with the receptor as our own versions. Hormone therapy is the most effective way to combat hot flashes and offers preventative health benefits for your bones, brain, and heart. A qualified menopause medical expert will discuss if hormonal therapy is right for you based on your symptoms and risk profile, as well as your goals and preferences.

2. Consume foods to enhance estrogen metabolism

A breast healthy diet is a plant-based whole food diet rich in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, kale, and Napa cabbage. These foods contain anti-inflammatory sulfurophanes, indole-3-carbimol, and phytonutrients that enhance estrogen metabolism helping the body inactivate and eliminate the hormone. Herbs like curcumin and rosemary — plus omega-3 rich foods like salmon, sardines, and flax seed — can help inactivate estrogens and detoxify estrogen metabolites.

3. Maintain a healthy body weight

Weight gain after menopause is the most significant lifestyle risk factor for the development of breast cancer. Gaining 15-pounds after menopause increases your lifetime chance of developing breast cancer by 50 percent. Managing midlife weight gain is crucial to a successful menopause.

4. Stay active

Sitting is the new smoking. A sedentary lifestyle can increase body fat and estrogen levels. On the other hand, moderate intensity aerobic exercise has been shown to benefit menopausal women as an effective intervention to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.

5.  Stay Calm and meditate

Women who perceive high levels of stress report earlier onset, more severe and longer lasting symptoms. In women who experience an early menopause, we find the cycle may have been disrupted by stress. Stress reducing techniques such as yoga, tai chi, acupuncture, deep breathing, and meditation have been shown to be effective in reducing depressive symptoms and hot flashes.

6. Seek help

From herbs to hormones, menopause requires a highly individualized assessment that considers each woman’s unique set of symptoms, risks, goals, and preferences. When prescribed in the right form, dose and route by a well-qualified medical expert, hormone therapy can be an integral part of navigating midlife aging successfully.

A personalized lifestyle plan and in some cases bioidentical hormone therapy are two important cornerstones to successfully navigating menopause. For many women, starting this proactive approach in early peri-menopause can reduce symptoms and emerging health risks. For all women, the discussion of hormone therapy is important and should be conducted with a health professional who is qualified in its use. With so many options, it is indeed now possible to expertly navigate menopause.