Besides pregnancy, it’s hard to think of another time women’s bodies are going through more changes than during perimenopause. Menopause—which marks when a woman has stopped menstruating for more than one year—gets a lot of attention, but it’s actually perimenopause—the three to five years before menopause—that symptoms begin. During this transition, a woman’s ovaries stop producing hormones as they once did, which can lead to irregular periods, hot flashes, and night sweats, among other things.
“The ovaries are still working, but it’s very inconsistent,” says Sheila Chhutani, M.D., a board-certified doctor of obstetrics and gynecology at Gyn/Ob Associates in Dallas, Texas. “So symptoms may come and then go away. It kind of ebbs and flows.”
Perimenopause, which for most women starts in the mid to late forties (the average age of menopause is 51, says Chhutani), is a natural and normal part of aging. But that doesn’t make dealing with the symptoms any easier. Below, a handful of ways your Fitbit tracker can help you track changes and accomplish expert-approved recommendations.
6 Ways to Stay on Top of Perimenopause Symptoms
Currently in perimenopause or approaching that time? Be proactive in your pursuit of sustained health and wellbeing with these Fitbit tracker tips.
Keep an eye on your heart rate.
Depending on how many how flashes you experience, you may notice more heart rate fluctuations that usual. “Hot flashes can last from 30 seconds to a couple of minutes,” says Chhutani. “Basically what happens is the veins are opening up, and you’ve got this rush of heat to the skin. That’s why you feel very hot and may start sweating. When those vessels dilate, your heart may speed up a little bit in order to continue the blood flowing.”
Fitbit Alta HR, Charge HR, Charge 2, Blaze, and Surge come with heart rate tracking capabilities. To see daily heart rate data, click on the heart rate tile on your Fitbit dashboard and then click on any day. [For more information read What should I know about my heart rate data?]
Monitor your sleep.
“Depending on how often a woman has symptoms, she may be waking up anywhere between one to five times a night because of hot flashes, or because she’s gotten sweaty then cold and feels the need to change her clothes,” says Chhutani. “You probably won’t get as much deep sleep, which then causes some mood changes and irritability during the day, because you’re not getting adequate rest.” [If you own a Fitbit Alta HR, Fitbit Charge 2, or Fitbit Blaze you have access to Sleep Stages, a new feature that tracks how long you spend awake or in light, deep, and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. For more information see REM, Light, Deep: How Much of Each Stage of Sleep Are You Getting?]
If you’re waking up frequently and feeling fatigued, napping can help, says Chhutani. But to really solve the problem, you’ll have to address the symptoms. Chhutani suggests taking your sleep concerns to your doctor to discuss whether something like hormone replacement therapy might be right for you.
Set an exercise goal.
Following the CDC’s physical activity guidelines becomes even more important as you age—especially the center’s recommendation to do strength-training on two or more days of the week. There are two big reasons why.
“A woman’s bone mass peaks in her mid thirties, and then it’s a slow decline until she gets to menopause,” says Chhutani. “Menopausal women are more at risk for osteoporosis and thinning bones, so number one, that’s where the weight training comes in—having strong muscles that support weaker bones is beneficial.”
Along with bone loss, perimenopausal and menopausal women also lose some muscle tone, which then decreases their metabolism, says Chhutani. “You can eat the same amount of food and start to feel like you’re gaining weight even if you haven’t changed a whole lot,” she says. “In addition to cardio, I really recommend some weight training to keep your muscle mass up.”
Not sure where to start? Check out the Guidance tab in your Fitbit app. There you’ll find Fitstar workout recommendations based on your activity history. Clicking on one will take you to the Fitstar Personal Trainer App, which has bodyweight workouts—like Body Balance and Fit in Sixteen—for every fitness level. Own a Fitbit Blaze? You can view these videos directly on your device.
Maintain your motivation
Knowing exercise is important is one thing. Actually doing it is another—especially during perimenopause, when waning motivation can be common. “Especially if you are having more symptoms at night, you’re more irritable, you’re tired, more fatigued, and so you’re not going to feel like exercising,” says Chhutani.
What can help? Other people. Chhutani recommends signing up for an exercise class or meeting up with a workout buddy. “It’s an accountability thing,” says Chhutani. “It’s ‘Hey, I’m going to see you tomorrow,’ rather than when you’re doing something on your own, and you’re like, ‘To heck with it. I’m not going to do that today.’”
Log your food.
Keeping track of what and how much you eat can help in a couple of ways. First, if you’re one of those women who gains weight during perimenopause, decreasing your daily calorie intake can help you keep your weight in check. [For more information on figuring out your personal calorie needs, see How Many Calories Do You Really Need?] If your best efforts prove unsuccessful, Chhutani urges you to see your doctor. Women are more prone to thyroid disease, which is a common cause of weight gain.
Another reason to track your food is to make sure you’re getting enough essential nutrients. “As you get older, your calcium needs are going to increase a little bit,” says Chhutani. “And it’s better to get it through your diet as opposed to a supplement.” Dark leafy green vegetables are a great source—check out these 6 Tips for Tastier Greens.
Chhutani also recommends making sure your vitamin D levels are normal. Salmon and other fatty fishes are a good source of vitamin D, but you should also soak up about 10 minutes of sun each day—sunscreen free. “Getting more calcium and vitamin D is going to help decrease bone loss,” says Chhutani. [For more information on food logging, see How to track your food with Fitbit.]
With perimenopause can come an additional hydration challenge. “You want to make sure that you’re replacing the fluid that you’re losing not only from exercise, but also from the night sweats or hot flashes that you’re having,” says Chhutani. “When you’re thirsty, you may already be dehydrated, so you want to make it a routine to drink water throughout the day.”
You can set a daily hydration goal and track your progress right from the water tile on your Fitbit dashboard. [For more information read How to set a water consumption goal and log your intake.] “I tell women that you know you’re hydrated when your urine is light yellow to clear in color,” says Chhutani. “If it’s dark or if you notice more of an odor to it than usual, then you’re probably not hydrated enough.”
This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.