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Most women are aware of a period later in life known as “menopause.” It’s often said that “women of a certain age” will experience this stage of life. However, people don’t always speak openly and honestly about it. Menopause can be somewhat shrouded in mystery. These days, more and more women are opening up about the subject. To get you started, here are five things to understand about menopause.
1. Everyone Experiences Menopause Differently
A woman is said to enter menopause after she’s gone an entire year without having a menstrual period. This typically occurs in the late 40s or early 50s; however, some women may begin much earlier. In fact, there’s a period before menopause called “perimenopause” in which certain menopausal symptoms will begin to present themselves. The onset of menopause is often determined by genetics. It can be brought on earlier by such factors as smoking or chemotherapy.
Levels of the hormone, estrogen, begin to decline with age. This loss can cause numerous symptoms. Each woman will experience symptoms differently and to varying extents. Common symptoms of menopause include hot flashes, mood swings, vaginal dryness, irregular periods, and reduced libido.
2. Some Symptoms May Surprise You
Fluctuations in hormone levels can have significant effects in some very unexpected ways. Women experience a number of surprising symptoms during menopause that they may never have considered. Knowing about these issues in advance can help people who are approaching menopause to better manage their symptoms and get the help they need to feel better. Some of these issues can be quite uncomfortable or even painful.
Unexpected symptoms of menopause can include:
- Body odor
- Dry mouth
- Dry, itchy skin
- Thinning hair
- Brain fog
- Difficulty Concentrating
- Memory Problems
The approach of menopause can affect a woman throughout every aspect of her life. It’s definitely not just a matter of hot flashes and mood swings, as women are often led to believe.
3. There Are Various Therapies for Managing Symptoms
As women get older, their risk for issues like cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis may increase. Consulting with professionals such as women’s health specialists can help you to determine and lower your risk for these related conditions. You can also learn about the various types of therapies available for the treatment of menopause symptoms and to learn which might be right for your particular circumstances.
There are hormonal therapies that are approved by the FDA to treat hot flashes and prevent bone loss. These might not be best-suited for every patient. Often, simple lifestyle changes can help to make things better, or at least more bearable. Exercise, avoiding triggering foods, wearing lighter clothing, and lowering room temperature are some examples. Low-dose antidepressants, herbal supplements, estrogen creams, and acupuncture are other therapies many women seek.
4. Weight Gain Can Occur
Hormone fluctuations can contribute to weight gain. Also, normal aging is also a factor that causes women to add pounds, especially around the abdominal area. This extra weight can exacerbate menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes. Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly can truly help you to feel much better. Even taking a few lights walks per week can be a good start.
5. Menopause Can Last Several Years
Unfortunately, menopause something that is over and done quickly. Starting with perimenopause, women begin to experience various symptoms. This lead-up to menopause can take several years, sometimes as many as 10. Issues may exacerbate over time. There may not be a predictable pattern. A woman doesn’t fully enter menopause until she has been without a period for an entire year. Irregular periods are particularly common during perimenopause. Your cycle may get shorter for a time, then lengthen as you near menopause. You may find yourself going for months without a period only for the cycle to reset itself. Meanwhile, all of the physical and mental symptoms you’ve been experiencing are still raging. You’ll want to work with your physician to make a plan for dealing with these issues. It’s also important to take time to help your partner understand menopause so they can support you.
Keep these five things in mind as you near menopause. A proactive approach to your symptoms will make this time easier to manage as you move forward.