Tuesday, July 14, 2015
Most women reach the much dreaded stage of their life called the menopause in their early to mid 50s.
For centuries, the menopause was a taboo word. Upon reaching it, a woman was classified as old and past her ‘sell by date’. Thankfully, today this isn’t the case. Despite this, the menopause can still be incredibly daunting for many women.
When going through menopause, there are a number of health concerns a woman may face.
There is a chance of developing osteoporosis (weak and brittle bones), heart disease, poor bladder, bowel function and poor brain function (increased risk of Alzheimer's disease). Later in life, there is also a chance of a woman’s vision deteriorating.
These risks are very real, but as with any health concerns, there is always help available and in this article we will look at how you can deal with the menopause effectively and stop it from being such a taboo word.
So, what exactly is menopause?
As a woman gets older, she will gradually begins to produce less oestrogen and progesterone. This will cause her to enter a stage called perimenopause, this usually takes place during her late 40s but for some women, it can even occur as early as her 30s.
As a woman ages and especially as she gets closer to menopause, her ovaries get smaller. Menopause per se occurs when the woman stops having her periods, on average in her early to mid 50s. Some women however can reach menopause before they are 40, this stage being called premature menopause. On the other hand, some women still have periods well into their late 50s.
Its important to remember, the exact timing of the menopause is different for different women.
The most common symptoms of the menopause are hot flushes, night sweats, mood swings and vaginal dryness. Unfortunately, there still isn’t any definitive medical test for menopause, although a follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) blood test may help to diagnose menopause. Of course, it is very important for a woman to make sure that she is currently going through the menopause and not facing the symptoms of an illness.
Coping with the menopause is not always easy. A few tips about the proper diet, a healthy lifestyle and some appropriate medication can radically change a mature woman’s life and make it a lot less daunting.
To help you with this, below we take a look at some simple tips that can really make this transition easier for you.
1. Keep cool
If you want to avoid hot flushes and night sweats, then wear lighter clothing and try to keep your bedroom as cool as possible at night. Make sure that you have a good night’s sleep maybe by going to bed at about the same time every night.
2. Enjoy exercising
Exercise is important not only for the relief of hot flushes, night sweats and to de-stress; it also protects your body from heart disease and osteoporosis. Exercise will help keep your bones and the muscles that support them strong, preventing bone loss and fractures. It will also increase your flexibility and mobility, which will in turn improve your balance.
Some of the most recommended exercises are: yoga and tai chi, which will help improve your mood. Other helpful activities are aerobics, zumba and brisk walking about three times a week.
Special exercises, called pelvic floor boosters, can tighten the pelvic floor, improving incontinence symptoms and sexual function. Once you’ve built up muscle tone, you don’t need to do the exercises as much to maintain it.
3. Improve your diet
A balanced diet means eating a variety of foods from the five major food groups. Your body needs nutrients and calories to stay healthy. Try to eat foods containing lots of nutrients, protein and vitamins. Omega 3 oils may also help with dry hair and skin, so try to have oily fish twice a week or eat plenty of nuts and seeds. As you grow older, you need fewer calories for energy but just as many nutrients.
4. Seek medical support
Menopause is not an illness, therefore most women don’t need treatment. In some cases though, medication may be recommended if your symptoms are more severe or they are interfering with your day-to-day life. The type of treatment that's suitable for you will depend on your symptoms, medical history and your own preferences.
Treatment options include hormone replacement therapy (HRT), tibolone (similar to HRT), clonidine, vaginal lubricants and antidepressants. Treatment will reduce or eliminate most symptoms, such as flushes and night sweats, high blood pressure, reduced sex drive or vaginal dryness.
HRT in particular, is effective in treating the most common menopausal symptoms and it can also reduce the risk of osteoporosis. HRT is available as a cream, gel, a tablet, a skin patch or an implant.
5. Find a therapy that suits you
Some women also find complementary therapies or herbal remedies such as evening primrose oil, black cohosh, angelica and ginseng help.
However, while they may make you feel better, do check that they don’t interact with other medications and cause side effects. Medical advice is always required. Relaxation therapies like yoga, aromatherapy and reflexology are also highly popular.
Counselling will also help with symptoms of anxiety and depression in menopause. For instance cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is always highly recommended, as this allows you to change the way you think and behave by using talking therapy when faced with anxiety and depression.
Importantly though, don’t worry!
Look at menopause as an opportunity, not a threat. This important stage in your life can be the start of new ventures, as you can stop seeing yourself as old and can look forward to new hopes and new life ambitions.
If you would like to discuss hormone replacement therapy with Dr Webberley, our dedicated GP, please get in touch. She can talk through your medical history, your treatment requirements and discuss with you any lifestyle changes that may be required.