Understanding Menopause and Menopause Symptoms
There’s the ever-true expression that ‘all good things must come to an end.’ For many women, their reproductive years have allowed them to have the children that are such a positively enriching factor in their lives. As far as that part of it is concerned, their reproductive years have been good to them. When they reach their late 40s or early 50s, however, those years come to an end. Ask any woman about signs of menopause and menopause symptoms and they’ll say that while it’s definitely unpleasant, they sure don’t miss having to deal with monthly PMS symptoms anymore.
If PMS symptoms were unpleasant, then menopause in many ways will feel like trading one unpleasantry for another. The upside course is in the fact that menopause symptoms are NOT something you’ll have to deal with over the course of 3+ decades like you did with PMS during your reproductive years. On average, menopause lasts for 4 years for most women, but the symptoms are usually not pronounced the entire time.
For some, however, perhaps we need to start at the start and answer ‘what is menopause?’ before we move to our more detailed discussion of signs of menopause and symptoms of menopause.
What is Menopause?
Menopause is a condition where a woman hasn’t menstruated for 12 months in a row and this signals the end of her reproductive capacity. As mentioned above, it usually begins between the ages of 45 to 55, but can occur before or after this time frame. It comes with a whole host of symptoms and changes to a woman’s physiology, and it’s progressively lower levels of estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) and LH (luteinizing hormone) that promote the signs of menopause.
It’s also important to make clear here that menopause has a preceding condition that comes before it, perimenopause. This involves a woman’s hormonal balance changing in preparation for menopause, but not every woman experiences perimenopause. Some skip it entirely and move right into menopause. The primary indication of the beginning of perimenopause is that menstruation continues, but the woman’s period becomes irregular – meaning it no longer comes at the same time every month as it has for most of her adult life to that point. This is one of the first definitive signs of menopause beginning
Asides from infrequent menstruation, the other 2 common perimenopause symptoms are:
- Heavier or lighter periods than normally experienced
- Vasomotor symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, and flushing
Most women will have an inkling that their menopause is nearing based on their age, and as such the onset of signs of menopause are often expected. Some women will have more menopause symptoms, and again this is based on individual physiologies
Common menopause symptoms include:
- Vaginal dryness
- Weight gain
- Concentration difficulties
- Lack of libido (sex drive)
- Memory problems
- Dry skin and / or eyes
- Frequent urination urges
- Sore or tender breasts
- Racing heart
- Loss of muscle mass
- Stiff joints
- Thinning hair or increased hair growth on certain parts of the body
In addition the signs of menopause, some women may experience complications related to menopause. These can include reduced metabolic function, cataracts, periodontal disease, urinary incontinence, or osteoporosis. The weakening of bone density that comes with osteoporosis makes it the most concerning one of these complications.
Some women will find that their menopause symptoms are unbearable, and this can be true even of those who’ve toughed out many physical hardships over the course of their lives. So if you’re a woman who’s new to menopause and find your menopause symptoms to be more than you can bear, you’re certainly not the first woman to feel that way.
Speak to your physician about menopausal hormone therapy. This is also called hormone replacement therapy and it’s the leading menopause treatment for women around the world. It needs to begin within 10 years of a woman beginning to experience menopause, and it’s effective for reducing night sweats, hot flashes, flushing, vaginal atrophy, as well as preventing or minimizing osteoporosis.
Other individual symptoms will have their own related menopause treatment options. For example, thinning hair problems can be countered with topical minoxidil (brand name Rogaine) 5% used once daily, or with anti-dandruff shampoos with 2% ketoconazole and 1% zinc pyrithione. Standard SSRI antidepressant medications can help with hot flashes, anxiety, and depression. Ospemifene medication can help with vaginal dryness and painful intercourse. Osteoporosis can be slowed or prevented with medications like denosumab, teriparatide, Evista (raloxifene), and calcitonin.
Lifestyle Changes as a Menopause Treatment
The signs of menopause are unavoidable, they will arrive at a certain point in a woman’s life. Menopause symptoms, on the other hand, might not be avoidable but they certainly can be minimized. The pharmaceutical approaches listed above as primary menopause treatments are definitely the way to go, but most women will also like to know that certain lifestyle changes can also be beneficial.
For starters, menopause symptoms are experienced less strongly by women who have maintained a healthy body weight. Try reducing your caloric intake by 400 to 600 calories a day to move towards a better weight if this is something that’s a problem for you.
Another good recommendation is to ensure that the lines of communication are as open as possible between you and your family members, friends, and others like therapists who you rely on to ‘talk out’ your feelings, and specific ones related to how you feel. This type of discourse therapy is surprisingly effective, and particularly for counteracting depression, irritability, and anxiety symptoms. Relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation are good too.
Last but not least in our smart choices for lowering menopause symptoms is to supplement your diet correctly. Make sure you boost up your intake of calcium, vitamin D, and magnesium to reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis along with the signs of menopause, as well as improve energy levels and sleep better.