Menopause Facts Every Woman Over 40 Should Know
There are many myths and misconceptions about menopause, but not a lot of solid menopause facts. The most inspiring fact is that women of the new millennium going through menopause are much more youthful than women of the past. The majority of women of menopausal age -- I purposely did not say menopausal women, because it seems a limiting label--are active, employed or in business, energetic, and in top shape; indicating through their personal stories that they are happier and more productive than ever before in their lives.
Women entering their forties want answers to simple questions: What will be different when I am in menopause? How will I know when it starts? The fact is, you might not now when it begins. Other than a change in your periods, you may not feel any different. Each woman experiences it differently. In pre or peri-menopause, you may start to have irregular periods - heavy bleeding or light bleeding one month and then no periods for several months, or a light period every month (or any combination of these).
Then, at some point, you will stop having periods, a menopause fact that is cause for celebration. Free from worry about accidents, free of PMS, free of cramps…what could be better! There are some typical symptoms, however you may have none, some or different symptoms than the typical ones. Some but not all unhappy menopause facts, i.e. symptoms some but not all women experience, are:
- Mood swings and swings from low to high energy, general irritability
- Drop in serotonin in the brain, or feel-good chemicals, which may cause loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities, aka depression
- Hot flashes. Suddenly feeling the need to get outdoors (if it is cool) and get some air, having night sweats. This may or may not be accompanied by irritability.
- Decrease in female hormones leading to a possible change in libido - this is not always the case. Some women even report a greater desire for sex.
- Reduction of vaginal secretions, along with general dryness, thinning and/or loss of elasticity of skin, sometimes causing painful intercourse
Despite menopause being around since women have, there is little definitive information on symptoms and “cures” for troubling or painful effects. However, a healthy diet and exercise can help immensely. There may also be benefit in some medications.
For some women, vaginal changes can be decreased or eliminated with regular use of hormone creams. Hormone pills are prescribed with the expectation that they will counteract some or all symptoms of menopause - this may work for some.
Antidepressant drugs may reduce depression, mood swings and irritability. But a much healthier cure for depression is exercise, proven to stimulate the feel good chemicals in the body. Further, the US Government’s health department suggests that exercise and good nutrition are the best cures for adverse effects of menopause. They recommend the following diet:
Produce - Vegetables: top needs for menopausal women are orange and dark green, such as spinach, Fruit: all types of fruit should be eaten in balanced amounts, avoiding eating one fruit at the exclusion of others. Obtain this balance by eating fruits of each available color.
Grains - These should be whole; oatmeal, whole wheat, brown rice
Dairy - low fat or fat free: cheese, yogurt and milk. Ice cream only occasionally. Dairy free diets - substitute soy, rice or almond milk products. Check that the products qualify for the “low fat” designation, if not fat free.
Beans, nuts, eggs and meat - cook without adding fat and chose lean meat. Include many protein sources, not just meat. Vegetarians and vegans should eat a balanced selection of nuts, beans, and eggs if not vegan.
Fats - eliminate or reduce saturated fat and trans fat, and cholesterol. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats should be consumed in small amounts.
Menopause facts, good and bad, are based on “average” changes women experience as they age. But the biggest fact is that menopause can have little or no effect on some, and uncomfortable symptoms for others. Regardless, there is help for virtually every symptom. Ask your health care provider; if he or she is not helpful, go to a different care provider.