Although menopause is a natural part of aging for women, many women aren’t happy when they start recognizing the signs. Technically, menopause is when a woman stops menstruating— signaling the end of her ability to develop eggs and reproduce. Emotionally, many women feel the transition is more like a roller coaster ride.
Menopause usually happens between the ages of 45 and 55. Your genetics play a role in when you will experience menopause, as many women start around the same age as their mothers. Other factors that can affect when you start menopause include smoking, cancer treatment, and the surgical removal of the ovaries.
During menopause, your ovaries slow down the production of estrogen and progesterone which result in the following symptoms:
- Bone density loss
- Difficulty sleeping
- Dry skin
- Hair loss
- Hot flashes and night sweats
- Joint pain
- Mood swings, depression, and irritability
- Racing heart
- Skipped and/or irregular periods
- Urinary incontinence
- Vaginal dryness
- Weight gain
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Tips for Relieving Your Menopause Symptoms
There is no way to avoid menopause, although every woman experiences menopause differently. You can survive and thrive during this change and experience menopause on your own terms by learning ways to relieve your symptoms.
- Follow a healthy diet. As your body changes, it is essential to fuel your body properly. Eating more fruits and vegetables, as well as increasing your calcium, can help with maintaining a proper weight, decreasing natural bone loss, and diminishing hot flashes.
- Stabilize blood sugar throughout the day. Studies have shown that variations in blood sugar levels throughout the day can trigger hot flashes and weight gain. Avoid processed foods that spike blood glucose levels. To stabilize blood sugar, eat balanced meals containing a protein, a fat, and a carbohydrate. If you notice hot flashes increase between meals, plan a healthy snack in your day to maintain blood sugar levels. Consistent blood sugar levels can help you with bone quality, healthy weight, and sleep quality.
- Increase vitamin D. As many as half of all adults are deficient in vitamin D. Increase the vitamin D in your diet, take a supplement, or get out in the sun more often, but don’t forget to wear sunscreen. As you enter menopause it plays an important role in helping your absorb calcium which protects you from bone loss. Vitamin D can also help decrease hot flash symptoms and increase mood and cognitive performance.
- Eliminate caffeine, alcohol, and refined sugars. Studies show that caffeine, alcohol, and refined sugars can increase hot flashes, night sweats, racing heart symptoms, and insomnia.
- Drink plenty of water. As you go through menopause, the decreased estrogen can affect collagen and skin elasticity. Drink 8-12 glasses of water a day to help with skin dryness and reduce bloating.
- Exercise regularly. Maintaining a regular exercise routine including strength/weight training can help with maintaining a healthy weight and reducing bone loss. Studies have also shown that regular exercise can decrease stress, elevate your mood, and aid in sleep.
- Try a richer moisturizer. Collagen can drop by as much as 30 percent during menopause, leading to thin and dry skin. Switch your moisturizer to a richer formula to replenish your skin.
- Make sleep a priority. Getting at least seven hours of sleep a night is critical to controlling mood swings and weight gain, and it is beneficial to your overall health. Because the lack of hormones can cause sleep disturbance, it is important you maintain good sleep hygiene including, limiting daytime naps, going to bed at the same time each night, removing electronic devices and televisions from the bedroom, and making the bedroom dark and cool.
- Strengthen pelvic muscles. As your estrogen drops, your collagen and elastin decrease making your skin and muscles sag, leading to urinary incontinence for some women. To help with incontinence, it is important you strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.
- Ask your doctor about vaginal estrogen therapy. If you experience vaginal dryness, you may be a candidate for estrogen therapy. Estrogen is usually in the form of a vaginal cream, tablet, or ring which releases a small amount of estrogen absorbed by the vaginal tissues. It can help relieve vaginal dryness, discomfort with intercourse, and some urinary symptoms.
Going through menopause does not have to affect your overall quality of life. Menopause is just another adjustment a woman needs to make in their lifetime, but you don’t need to go through it alone—talk to your doctor. Discuss all of your menopause symptoms with your doctor so he or she can help find solutions that are just right for you.
Farag Salama, MD, is a board certified OB-GYN and a Fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. SH OB/GYN is located in the Health Innovation Center, 740 High St., Suite 1004, Williamsport. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Salama, call 570-321-3300.
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