Menopause is a natural process that all women experience as they get older. It marks the end of natural fertility when a woman’s menstrual cycle stops, and she no longer produces the hormones estrogen and progesterone.
The term menopause usually describes the changes that women go through either just before or after the menstrual cycle ends. Here are a few things you may not have known about it.
1- Women can have the symptoms of menopause before they are actually in menopause
In the United States, the average age for menopause is 511. Still, it is common for many women to start having some of the symptoms of menopause for months or even years leading up to menopause. These symptoms may include hot flashes, night sweats, and mood changes. This is known as peri-menopause when a woman is not technically in menopause but has the symptoms.
2- Hormone replacement therapy is still the most commonly used medication during menopause
Although hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has received some negative media attention in the past, it is still the most commonly prescribed medication. Doctors usually recommend HRT because it still has many benefits over other medications. HRT can help improve night sweats, hot flushes, and muscles aches and pains2. It can also help
- vaginal dryness,
- sexual function,
- sleep, and
- improve the quality of life of women that have prolonged and significant symptoms2.
3- If hormone replacement therapy isn’t for you, there are alternatives
For women who are still unsure about hormone replacement therapy or if there are medical reasons you are unable to take it, then there are some alternatives. Specific symptoms like hot flashes or vaginal dryness can be treated with targeted medications. Things like acupressure and acupuncture are some non-medicinal treatments that are sometimes used to help with menopause symptoms. Always talk to your doctor about your options.
4- When going through menopause, diet can make a big difference
It may sound simple but optimizing your diet to make sure that you’re eating healthy well-balanced meals can make a world of difference to your symptoms.
While there is no such thing as a special menopause diet, women should try to stick to healthy eating. Good nutrition can help with symptoms such as feeling tired or having low energy. If you’re not able to get all your daily minerals and vitamins, then consider supplements with things like
- vitamin D, and
- iron –many nutrients that women tend to be low in.
5- Find exercises that you love
Exercise by itself does not stop the symptoms of menopause. Yet, it can have a big impact on your sleep patterns and help improve the quality of sleep2. Women going through menopause may experience chronic sleep disturbance which can have effects throughout the day.
Endurance exercises like
- yoga, or
are great examples of things you can do. For those who think exercise may not be for them, remember that it is never too late to start. The key is to start slow and do things you enjoy like
- gardening, or
- attending group fitness classes.
These are all excellent ways to start getting active, and you can work up from there.
6- Women who smoke go through menopause at an earlier age than nonsmokers
Stop smoking. This is generally good advice to take. But another reason to stop smoking is women who smoke may have an earlier menopause than nonsmokers3.
For many reasons, it’s an excellent idea to give up smoking. Consider that smoking is also a major risk factor for developing osteoporosis4. In addition, menopause causes you lose to estrogen (which provides protection against bone loss)5. For these reasons, quitting smoking is especially important.
If you need a push in the right direction, pay a visit your doctor. They’ll be able to give you some smoking cessation tips and good advice on what steps you can take.
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1- Mayo Clinic. Menopause. January 2015. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/menopause/basics/definition/con-20019726
2- Patient.co.uk. Hormone Replacement Therapy (including Benefits and Risks). Last checked February 2016. http://patient.info/doctor/hormone-replacement-therapy-including-benefits-and-risks
3- Medscape. Meta-analysis Suggests That Smoking is Associated with an Increased Risk of Early Natural Menopause. Sun, Lu MSc; Tan, Lijun PhD; Yang, Fang PhD; Luo, Yi MSc; Li, Xi PhD; Deng, Hong-Wen PhD; Dvornyk, Volodymyr PhD. Menopause. 2012;19(2):126-132. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/757803
4- Wong, P. K., Christie, J. J., & Wark, J. D. (2007). The effects of smoking on bone health. Clinical Science, 113(5), 233-241. http://www.clinsci.org/content/113/5/233.abstract
5- Deroo, B. J., & Korach, K. S. (2006). Estrogen receptors and human disease. The Journal of clinical investigation, 116(3), 561-570. http://www.jci.org/articles/view/27987#sd