Posted by kathryn on February 29, 2012
Millions of women are unsure how to recognise the first signs of menopause. It can be a frightening time. By taking steps earlier on, you can avoid problems later.
When does it happen? Around the age of 40.
• The first stage is ‘peri-menopause, when you may start to notice changes in your menstrual cycle along with other symptoms.
• ‘Menopause’ means final menses, the last menstrual period; this happens around the age of 51.
• At post-menopause and beyond some women still experience symptoms.
• The ‘journey’ can last up to 20 years. The worst time is two to three years before ‘menopause’; experiencing a ‘tsunami’ that can be overwhelming, creating feelings of inability to cope on a daily basis.
What are the symptoms? It’s quite common to feel ‘foggy’ in the mornings, like a hangover. Migraine may begin or increase in frequency and intensity. Missed periods; occasional hot flushes and night sweats can increase. Don’t be embarrassed by vaginal dryness and stress incontinence, they’re very common and easily resolved. Talk to your doctor or Practice Nurse.
Why? At puberty, hormones are just developing, creating havoc in the home – Remember? At menopause, they’re winding down for compulsory redundancy.
Hormones are messengers. The brain controls the activity of the body and sends messengers to do their job. Some of the messengers are already redundant and others are on over-drive; the messages get confused, resulting in symptoms that can be quite debilitating.
“I wasn’t to know, but I was about to experience the worst ten years of my life. After years of silence and denial I reached breaking point. I was physically and emotionally exhausted and worryingly close to divorcing the love of my life.” KC, Sussex
What are my choices? Natural or pharmaceutical? Taking steps to review your health at, say 40, can promote a smoother journey. Good nutrition, a regular exercise regime and stress reduction are at the heart of eliminating menopausal symptoms. Multi-tasking should not become a ‘badge of honour’.
HRT and Bio-identical hormones – If you are ‘climbing the walls’, these can help. HRT is available on the NHS. Bio-identical hormone therapy; phyto (plant) based hormones are said to be more effective because of individualised prescription, whereas HRT is generic in form. You can get bio-available from some private doctors.1 Homeopathy/naturopathy can also help. In all cases your medical history will be discussed to establish the best course of action.
What to avoid? Your doctor may recommend anti-depressants. These do NOT prevent hot flushes. Your own doctor may be struggling with lack of knowledge. Ask to see someone else if your own doctor is unhelpful.
The risks? All things are relative and as with any prescribed medication, there can be additional risks (less so with the natural bio-identical hormones and homeopathy) and should be discussed thoroughly with your medical practitioner.
‘I went through menopause symptom free!’ On reaching 54, most women are considered post-menopausal. Some women will start experiencing symptoms now. Your body is going through a metamorphosis and reviewing your lifestyle is a must. The right nutrition, exercise and stress reduction, all improve health.
What happens if I do nothing? Processed foods, fizzy drinks, alcohol and smoking not only create health problems, in the short term, they will shorten your life.
Cardio vascular disease is the biggest killer in women (greater than all the cancers) and Type 2 Diabetes is affecting people at a much younger age.
The minimum recommendation is to review your lifestyle; improve nutrition, exercise and reduce stress; you know the drill, it’s well publicised. Start small and build on this, make a commitment and you will become healthier, fitter, reduce debilitating symptoms and live longer.
Kathryn Colas is founder and author of www.simplyhormones.com, an independent privately funded website, providing specialist advice and support for women at all stages of menopause. She has appeared in women’s magazines and is a regular speaker on radio; Kathryn also gives talks to women’s groups and medical groups. Subscription to her website is a one-off £20.
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