Menopause is a natural occurring phenomenon that affects all women once their ovarian follicles start to deplete. This causes the hormones estrogen and progesterone to fall low, while causing the follicle stimulating hormones and luteinizing hormones to increase as a result. This leads to erratic menstruation periods, which lead up to its complete cessation. On top of this main symptom, menopause also causes a number of secondary effects, which begin prior to the final menopausal stage.
Menopausal symptoms are generally caused by low estrogen levels in the body, and can vary among women. Some women may not experience any other symptoms at all, except for a halt in their periods. Others, on the other hand, may be completely debilitated by these symptoms, which include the following:
Menstrual irregularity: Irregular menstrual cycle may last up to four years, and may be manifested by long cycles that reach up to many months or short cycles that last just about two to three weeks. Around 10% of women do not experience irregularity but experience an abrupt cessation instead.
Sweats and hot flushes: These are common symptoms that affect majority of women. Hot flushes generally affect the face, neck and chest and usually lasts for a few minutes. These symptoms can last for about four years for many women, but may continue on for as long as twelve years as seen in 10% of women.
Urogenital symptoms: These symptoms include vaginal discomfort, dryness and recurrent urinary tract infection. Urinary incontinence may also be common among these women. These symptoms do not usually occur right away but often five to ten years after menopause.
Sleep disturbance: A common symptom often reported by women, and may lead to irritability, mood swings, poor concentration and depression.
Mood swings: Changes in mood include anxiety, depression, irritability, memory loss and poor concentration.
Loss of libido: Caused by hormonal changes, particularly the decrease of estrogen and testosterone, and may also be brought about by vaginal dryness
How to Manage Menopause With These Lifestyle Changes
While menopause is a normal period in a woman’s physiological adaptation, it can be disturbing for many. Medication is not necessarily needed, especially if the symptoms are not severe. Most women are able to ease their symptoms by making several changes in their lifestyle and diet, which include the following:
- Making diet changes: During menopause, the amount of calcium in the bones will decrease, mostly because of the reduction of estrogen hormones. Women who do not use hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may be at risk for developing osteoporosis. Following a balanced diet will help keep bones healthy by providing a good supply of calcium to the body. A good diet should include food from all food groups, including plenty of fruit and vegetables and a reasonable amount of low-fat dairy.
- Exercise: Exercise, along with a healthy diet, plays a crucial role in making sure that one remains healthy before, during and after menopause. Menopausal women tend to lose muscle mass and bone strength, which can be circumvented by aerobic and strength exercises. Exercise may also help when dealing with mood swings and sleep related problems.
- Dealing with hot flashes and night sweats: Hot flushes and night sweats can be eased by keeping bedroom temperature cool, especially at night, wearing light clothing and getting regular exercise. Stress can also cause hot flashes, so it helps to reduce stress levels and avoid potential triggers like caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and spicy food.
Managing Menopause With Medical Treatment
For symptoms that cannot be alleviated by lifestyle changes like diet and exercise, hormone replacement therapy may be considered. Hormone replacement therapy is an effective way to control menopausal symptoms, especially hot flushes, night sweats, mood swings and vaginal symptoms. HRT is usually recommended by a doctor whenever lifestyle changes and modifications do not take effect, and can be done in conjunction with diet and exercise for best results.
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