Demystifying Menopause

I recently attended my 30th high school reunion. It was a fun-filled, 3-day weekend that gave us a chance to party, reconnect with old friends and reminisce about “the good ole days.” What an awesome time!

While we’ve all had unique life experiences over the years, there’s one thing we women have in common and that is the “M” word. That’s right, we’re in our late 40s which means we are at that age where we are either approaching or already going through menopause.

Now maybe the 30 year reunion weekend isn’t the place to talk about menopause but let’s face it, as women, we need to create spaces where we can have this conversation. Too many women in our age group are suffering in silence–some with extremely severe symptoms–because menopause is still taboo.

So today, as a 40+ woman who is noticing changes in my own body I am inspired to educate women and demystify menopause.

We don’t half to suffer in silence any longer! Every woman of a certain age will experience symptoms of menopause. It’s time to talk about it and demystify it. Women going through menopause can experience many symptoms including:

  • hot flashes
  • lack of sleep
  • weight gain
  • irritability
  • sleep disturbances.
  • Vaginal dryness
  • decreased libido

Of course, these things can affect our relationship with our spouse, friends, family and can decrease the quality of our lives.

Menopause is the term we use when a woman has stopped having periods for at least 12 months. The symptoms of menopause occur when the estrogen levels begin to drop as the ovaries make less female hormone, estrogen. Menopause can occur due to surgery (i.e. hysterectomy), medical treatments (i.e. chemotherapy) or naturally as we age. Most people associate menopause with hot flashes but there are other symptoms that come along with this change in a woman’s life. 80% of women have hot flashes. African American women appear to have the longest duration of hot flashes. Hot flashes can last an average of 7 years but can go on as long as 11 years! If you are unlucky enough to have symptoms for 11 years you surely would want to know about all treatments available to you.

Most people think of hormone replacement therapy when they think of a treatment for menopause but there are great non-hormonal options to treat menopause symptoms as well.

Those options include:

  • low-dose antidepressants such Paroxetine and Escitalopram
  • blood pressure medications like Clonidine
  • soy products
  • certain herbal supplements
  • exercise
  • meditation.

Patients with vaginal dryness and can have significant improvement of their symptoms with vaginal estrogen therapy and vaginal moisturizers. Other tips include dressing in layers so you can peel off those layers when the hot flashes come. Staying away from caffeine and alcoholic beverages as well as hot beverages and spicy foods can help decrease
hot flashes as well.

To help with sleep try these simple tips.

  • Eat regular meals
  • Avoid eating late at night.

Again, limiting caffeine helps hot flashes and can improve sleep. Whatever your symptoms are they may be an option that is right for you. Depending upon your medical history, symptoms and personal choice, your doctor can advise you as to your available options. Don’t suffer in silence and think “that’s just the way it is”. There is help available to you!

And don’t forget to speak with your medical provider about medical treatment options.

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