After 40 years of monthly mood swings, chances are you'll be feeling much more happy and relaxed. 'PMS can be very debilitating - and for some women, lasts for the best part of two weeks in every four,' says nutritionist Gaynor Bussell. 'Although vestiges of the monthly cycle often remain immediately after the menopause, they won't be anywhere near as severe and should stay constant throughout the month.' Oh, and you won't have to worry about period pain or paying for sanitary protection either.
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We read a lot about how changing oestrogen levels after the menopause can put you at increased risk of serious conditions, such as breast cancer and osteoporosis. But the flip-side of this is that your chances of developing other illnesses are greatly reduced. An example? 'It's very unusual for irritable bowel syndrome to come on after the age of 50,' points out GP and medical nutritionist Dr Sarah Brewer (www.naturalhealthguru.co.uk). It's also worth noting that regular exercise and a healthy diet can significantly lower your risk of developing a serious illness at any age - so your health is still largely in your control.
Around 60 per cent of women going through the menopause suffer from a temporary decline in memory and learning ability, according to a large-scale 2009 study from the University of California. Note the word 'temporary', though. Researchers found that learning capacity had returned to pre-menopausal levels in post-menopausal women - which could provide all the encouragement you need to sign up for an evening class or try your hand at a new skill.
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The demands of work and family in middle-age often mean our friendships go off the boil because we just don't have time to see one another and keep in touch as we did in our commitment-free teens and early twenties. But because we tend to have fewer pressures in our fifties and beyond, we have more time to rekindle old friendships as well as nurture a few new ones. 'You'll also have more time to yourself at home, so you can catch up with friends and family online,' points out Dr Brewer.
So you no longer have to worry about getting pregnant - but that's just one of the reasons sex can be much better in your fifties and beyond. 'Many women have fabulous sex lives after the menopause,' says Nicci Talbot, author of 'The Menopause: an Essential Guide'. 'They know what they want in bed - and feel more confident about asking for it. Some may have gone through divorce and be exploring sex with a new - and possibly younger - partner. You may even find that you're more orgasmic: we certainly don't lose that ability.'
OK, maybe you're not having non-stop uninhibited sex with a toy-boy lover. Maybe you're simply still intimate with the same partner you've had for years and years. According to recent research from the University of San Diego, more than 60% of older women say they are very satisfied with their sex lives. However, it's not just sex itself that contributes to that contentment: the study found that merely feeling 'emotional and physical closeness' to a partner can be enough to provide sexual satisfaction as we get older.
As menopausal symptoms such as night sweats and hot flushes subside, you'll be more likely to get a good night's rest - meaning you'll feel more alert and energetic during the day. And contrary to what you may think, our sleep quality actually improves as we age, according to a recent survey of 150,000 adults by the University of Pennsylvania. Researchers found that, apart from a blip in middle-age, our sleep patterns improve over time - with the lowest number of complaints coming from the over-70s age group.
OK, it's not true for everyone - but chances are you'll have fewer family responsibilities and demands on your time and finances in your fifties and beyond, which means you can see more of the world. 'If the kids have left home, you're freed up to spend time on yourself and squeeze in more travel,' says Dr Brewer. In fact, older travellers are now giving young backpackers a run for their money. Around 40 per cent of all long-haul trips are taken by 45- to 64-year-olds - and those over 55 are most likely to go on a sightseeing or wildlife holiday, according to a recent study by holiday company Travelsphere.
It could be due to the uninhibited sex or emotional closeness. It could be thanks to all those long-haul holidays you're planning. Or it may be down to all those rekindled friendships and exciting new interests. But whatever the reason, research suggests that fun times are just around the corner: in a study by the Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford, 65% of post-menopausal women said they felt happier and 75% said they were having much more fun than they did before the menopause.
Want some more reasons to be cheerful? 'Fifty is the new 40,' insists Dr Brewer. 'Women are living longer and look and feel younger than previous generations have done. And with more people living to the age of 100 and beyond, you're only halfway through your potential lifespan. But it's important to think positive: people who look on ageing in a positive way tend to live longer than those who view it with negative emotions.' The recent Australian Longitudinal Study on Ageing found that a negative self-perception of ageing increases risk of dying earlier by 12% and risk of heart disease by 34%. So think positive, keep smiling - and get on with making the most of the rest of your life...