Sleep patterns may be disturbed even without the flushes. Mood may alter. Some people experience forgetfulness. You may find yourself weeping at the smallest provocation or feeling miserable and hopeless, all part of that hormonal swing.
By Mary Wilson
The first symptom for many may be disturbances in menstrual patterns. Flow may diminish or increase or become sporadic.
For others, it may be sudden rushes of heat, hot flushes that can be simply uncomfortable or can leave you bathed in perspiration, especially in the middle of the night. While people make jokes about this, it can be extremely debilitating and humiliating when it happens during the day (usually at times of stress) and more serious when it disturbs sleep.
Indeed, sleep patterns may be disturbed even without the flushes. Mood may alter. Some people experience forgetfulness. You may find yourself weeping at the smallest provocation or feeling miserable and hopeless, all part of that hormonal swing. You may experience nausea and dizziness, anxiety or palpitations of the heart.
Some women are bothered by vaginal dryness; some notice changes in their weight or in their skin.
This stage is called peri-menopause and it can go on for years. Nor do you have to be 50 to enter this stage of your life. While it normally occurs between 40 and 61, some women enter menopause earlier due to health or other issues. Other women may start at a much later age. Some women continue to have night sweats into their 70s.
Is hormone therapy safe?
Recent reports of increases in breast cancer and stroke risk among women who take hormonal therapy (HT) can frighten many women away from this remedy, but you really should consult your doctor before making this decision. The increase in overall risk is lower than it sounds because of the way the risks are characterized. Each woman is different and the global numbers being quoted may not apply to you.
There is less risk for those who have had their uterus removed and take estrogens alone, but most HT involves both estrogens and progestin. Progestin is the part of the therapy most associated with increased risk.
This still seems to be an area of controversy and the National Heart and Blood Institute in the United States, as late as this February, issued a warning not to rely on HT to prevent dementia, osteoporosis or heart disease. “Estrogen plus progestin also increases the risk for blood clots, stroke, and breast cancer” proclaimed their release.
However, Women’s College Research Institute in Ontario says that “the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada advises that HT is a safe and effective option for the treatment of moderate to severe menopausal symptoms when taken for up to five years.”
Your doctor will be able to advise you on the right course for your particular circumstances.
Other ways to help cope
For those wishing to avoid medication, try using a combination of exercise (at least 20 minutes a session three times a week); yoga and breathing exercises; eating a diet that includes legumes, whole grains, fruits (especially berries) and vegetables.
To promote sleep, eat a light snack before bed containing mostly carbs and a small amount of protein that is high in tryptophans, such as milk or soy, lentils and seeds.
Some physicians are now prescribing SSRIs (anti-depressants) to help women cope, although they are not as effective as HT and come with their own list of side effects.
Post menopausal is defined as the time after your periods have stopped for 12 to 24 months.
Weight gain is an issue for about two-thirds of women. This is due to hormonal fluctuations that directly affect your metabolism, appetite and fat storage. Now, insulin resistance changes and you are apt to store more calories over burning them than you used to. And the weight usually collects around the middle.
You will want to reduce your calorie intake by about 15 per cent and increase activity. Since osteoporosis now becomes a danger as the body begins to lose bone mass, weight-bearing activities will help in prevention of the worst bone damage. Exercise also relieves anxiety. It helps to prevent heart disease as well.
Some women encounter a renewed sense of energy, an added zest that can make these very happy years. Stay busy and fit and enjoy your maturity and with it, the calmer outlook that now pervades your life.