Don’t Sweat Menopause: You are in Control
Dealing with the stress of midlife changes can be challenging enough, but for women there’s an additional irritant called menopause.
Menopause is the permanent end of menstruation and fertility, defined as occurring 12 months after your last menstrual cycle. It’s is a natural biological process caused by a decline in reproductive hormone levels, estrogen and progesterone.
Women generally start experiencing signs of menopause in their forties and the average age for women in the United States to “hit” menopause, is 51 years.
It used to be that women just had to deal with the symptoms (vaginal dryness, hot flashes, irregular periods, mood swings, low libido, etc…) but times have changed. Here are a few ways menopausal women can get relief:
75% of women experience hot flashes according to the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology. They are caused by a drop in estrogen levels. Symptoms can occur at any time of the day or night and last from a few seconds to a half an hour or more.
Women may experience hot flashes for months or up to a decade. Help is available in several forms. The most effective yet controversial method is Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). The National Institute of Health abruptly ended an HRT trial back in 2002 when it found higher risks of cancer, stroke and heart attacks in women using estrogen and progesterone. But the World Congress on Menopause stands behind HRT if administered properly, taken in the lowest doses for a short period of time.
Other remedies include low doses of anti depressants with gabapentin, resulting in a 70% success rate in reduced hot flashes. For those looking for a more natural method, try meditation, yoga, hypnosis and and/or acupuncture. Also, simple dietary changes such as elimination of caffeine and alcohol.
Vaginal Dryness and Low Libido
Almost 50% of women with declining estrogen levels have a reduced sex drive. HRT is shown to be the most effective treatment, however for those not wanting to take oral hormones, just try more sex. An active sex life keeps the blood flowing and you’ll find that if your sex life improves so does your libido. You can also try water soluble lubricants or a local estrogen treatment in the form of a cream or gel.
Although incontinence is not a symptom of menopause it seems to get worse during menopause. It’s caused by a thinning in the urethra’s lining caused by lower estrogen levels. A simple sneeze, cough or laugh can cause an embarrassing moment. The best thing you can do to treat this problem is to lose weight and exercise, refer to section on midlife weight loss and fitness for more details. Both activities reduce the pressure on your bladder. It also helps to do Kegel exercises to strengthen the muscles you use when you start and stop urination.
Lastly, lower estrogen levels lead to bone loss, along with your family history. The best remedies are exercise and increasing your calcium and vitamin D intake. A daily dose of 1000IU of vitamin D is generally recommended.
Get ahead of your menopause symptoms with a healthy diet and exercise, including an active healthy sex life and a few supplements. When you take control of your body as it transforms through menopause, you are better prepared to deal with the more emotional aspects of midlife like aging parents, career changes, relationships and empty nest syndrome.