Women past a certain age will experience menopause. Menopause is defined as having no menstrual period for one year. The age you experience it can vary, but it typically occurs in your late 40s or early 50s.
Menopause can cause many changes in your body. The symptoms are the result of a decreased production of estrogen and progesterone in your ovaries. Symptoms may include hot flashes, weight gain, or vaginal dryness. Vaginal atrophy contributes to vagina dryness. With this, there can be inflammation and thinning of the vaginal tissues which adds to uncomfortable intercourse.
Menopause can also increase your risk for certain conditions like osteoporosis. You may find that getting through menopause requires little medical attention. Or you may decide you need to discuss symptoms and treatment options with a doctor.
Keep reading to learn about the 8 things every woman should know about menopause.
1. Your walk through the change will not be the same as everyone else’s:
Sometimes we make the mistake of talking to friends and family members and comparing menopausal symptoms. The experience of perimenopause and menopause is very personal and some women can cruise into this change of life with very little discomfort while others are very burdened by physical, emotional and mental symptoms.
2. You might still struggle with PMS:
Many women anticipate that PMS will be a thing of the past once they reach menopause. Truth is, the absence of a period does not always guarantee this to be the case. Shifting hormones can make menopause like one big “pre-period week” that repeats itself over and over. Talk to your family and those close to you and explain what you are experiencing – this will help them better understand how to help you cope with your swinging moods. Take plenty of time for yourself and learn what helps you deflate and do it often.
3. What symptoms are caused by the reduced levels of estrogen in my body?
About 75 percent of women experience hot flashes during menopause, making them the most common symptom experienced by menopausal women. Hot flashes can occur during the day or at night. Some women may also experience muscle and joint pain, known as arthralgia, or mood swings.
It may be difficult to determine whether these symptoms are caused by shifts in your hormones, life circumstances, or the aging process itself.
4.How does menopause affect my bone health?
A decline in estrogen production affects the amount of calcium in your bones, which can decrease bone density, leading to osteoporosis. It can also make you more susceptible to hip, spine, and other bone fractures.
So to keep your bones healthy, try eating foods rich in calcium, such as dairy products or dark leafy greens, take vitamin D supplements and exercise regularly.
You can also try to reduce alcohol and smoking in your habits, and of course consult your doctor.
5. Is heart disease linked to menopause?
Some women’s arteries become less flexible during the menopause, which affects blood flow, so they might experience heart conditions such as dizziness or cardiac palpitations.
Just continue doing all the common sense things like watching your weight and what you eat, exercising, and not smoking to reduce chances of developing heart conditions.
6.Are there nonhormonal options for the management of menopausal symptoms?
Hormone therapy may not be the right choice for you. Some medical conditions may prevent you from safely being able to use hormone therapy or you may choose not to use that form of treatment for your own personal reasons. Changes to your lifestyle may help you relieve many of your symptoms without need for hormonal intervention.
Lifestyle changes may include:
- weight loss
- room temperature reductions
- avoidance of foods that aggravate symptoms
- dressing in light cotton clothing and wearing layers
Other treatments such as herbal therapies, self-hypnosis, acupuncture, certain low-dose antidepressants, and other medications may be helpful in decreasing hot flashes.
Several FDA-approved medications can be used for prevention of bone loss. These may include:
- bisphosphonates, such as risedronate (Actonel, Atelvia) and zoledronic acid (Reclast)
- selective estrogen receptor modulators like raloxifene (Evista)
- calcitonin (Fortical, Miacalcin)
- denosumab (Prolia, Xgeva)
- parathyroid hormone, such as teriparatide (Forteo)
- certain estrogen products
You may find over-the-counter lubricants, estrogen creams, or other products help with vaginal dryness.
7. Getting enough sleep can be hard:
Almost 60% of women in perimenopause and menopause report disturbed sleep. This is mainly due to a decline in progesterone. To help with sleep try these things:
- Put down all electronics including phones and computer at least an hour before bed and keep your bedroom free from electronics
- Turn the thermostat down in your bedroom
- Take a warm bath with lavender essential oil and Epsom salt before bed
- Sip chamomile tea before bed
- Try melatonin (a natural sleep aid)
- Try valerian (a natural root)
- Try to go to bed and get up at the same time each day
8. You may experience hot flashes:
Hot flashes seem to be the most talked about symptom of menopause. Although not all women experience hot flashes, it is reported that more than two-thirds of North American women experience this uncomfortable symptom. A hot flash is a sudden feeling of heat that overcomes the body and is generally accompanied by a red and flushed face as well as sweating.
Although it is not known exactly why hot flashes occur, it is thought that it is due to changes in circulation. A hot flash starts when blood vessels near the skin’s surface widen to cool off, causing you to sweat. Some women even experience a rapid heart rate and chills with a hot flash.
Hot flash triggers: the following are triggers that could be causing hot flashes:
- Drinking alcohol
- Consuming caffeine
- Being in a hot room
- Feeling anxious or stressed
- Wearing tight clothing
- Eating spicy foods
- Bending over
To understand your triggers, keep a journal of when you have a hot flash and write down what you were eating, drinking, doing, feeling and wearing when the hot flash started. Keep the journal for several weeks and you may see a pattern that will help you avoid certain triggers.
Preventing hot flashes: Once you figure out your triggers, you may find great relief from your hot flashes. It is hard to avoid them all together and no treatment is guaranteed but here are a few natural things you can do to reduce their number and severity.
- Dress in layers – this way you can take things off when you experience a hot flash
- Sip on ice water
- Drink licorice tea
- Wear cotton night clothes
- Use cotton sheets
- Keep a cold pack by your bedside
- Use a fan in your bedroom
- Try herbal supplements – ask your doctor about herbal supplements that may be right for you
- Eat more organic soy
- Try acupuncture
- Eat a well balanced, organic diet with plenty of healthy fat and veggies
- Exercise daily – try yoga, many women report this helps a great deal
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