Menopause happens when your ovaries start working less and then eventually stop working altogether. One of the main functions of the ovaries is to produce hormones in particularly oestrogen. You always will have some levels of circulating oestrogens even when menopause has occurred but it will be less then what you used to have.
This is the clue of the problem as oestrogens have a lot of beneficial effects on your body and not having them anymore causes all the symptoms and problems I will discuss when we talk about symptoms. Changes in periods will normally happen in the time leading up to menopause and they eventually will stop. While this very important menstrual change is a clear menopause sign you really need not to stop at this but look at the bigger picture.
Hot flashes and night sweats? You all know about those. What I would like in these blogs is to inform on the things that you might not know about menopause.
Many women experience other symptoms that they find quite difficult to identify.
For example, they might find themselves much more irritable or moody. Some women suddenly find hard to cope with tasks or family life problems that were not an issue before. The problem is that these changes very often happen before the classical symptoms and therefore are very often misdiagnosed for something else like normal depression.
On top of that many women and doctors at times might rely on a blood test to see if what they are experiencing is due to menopause or not. The blood test comes back invariably normal because as I explained to you before the blood level of FSh will change usually after your periods have stopped.
The conclusion usually is that you get labelled with depression or anxiety disorders and you get prescribed with medication. The correct answer is that you are not going crazy and that menopausal changes can be responsible for the way you feel. Many other women have had the same and unfortunately, women in Ireland are not very keen in sharing this type of experience.
So talk to your friends about it and maybe consider menopause as a diagnosis and menopause treatment as a solution.
The vast majority of women worries about breast cancer after age 50. While it is important to continue awareness in relation to this disease, it is also important to realise that mortality associated with breast cancer is low and it is not the leading cause of death for women.
The leading cause of death for women is heart disease so if you want to live longer you need to worry more about your heart.
The first thing to do is to assess your risk and doing this is very simple:
- check your family history. Do you have any close relatives in particular your parents who had high blood pressure, diabetes or suffered heart disease?
- check your BMI. Measure your height and your weight and input them in one of the many calculators that you can download from the internet. Your number should be below 25 but you are in more serious trouble if it is over 30.
- check your waist circumference. Using a tape measurement check the circumference around your belly button area. Your number should be below 88 cm.
- check your blood pressure. Many pharmacies offer this check as a free service.
This process is very simple but it is enough to make a good judgement on your situation.If you don’t score well in any of these three things you should make a plan on how to change them and talk to your gp to add a few more tests like sugar and cholesterol levels.
There are some menopause classical consequences that women are not always aware of.
The main one would be changes in your vagina and bladder. The vaginal mucosa is a primary target organ for oestrogens. Once the oestrogens are not there anymore the mucosa will thin and change. This physiological change will manifest with discomfort in having sex and often symptoms that women label as recurrent thrush.
This is a symptom that will happen to all women at some stage, unlike hot flashes and night sweats that can vary form woman to woman. You need to decide if this is an important issue or not for you when you are looking at treatment options.This symptom will usually manifest itself in your late 50’s and by then is too late for women who have decided not take hrt to change their mind. There are effective treatments available which your doctor will be able to discuss with you and I will give you more information on this in the treatment section of the website.
The main thing for now is that you understand that this change WILL HAPPEN and if your sex life is important for you, you need to make a plan.
If you have a lot of weight to loose and you have not managed to solve this problem by menopause age you need to come up with an effective solution.
For many women time passes by while we tell ourselves:
“I should eat more healthily”
“I should exercise more”
The bottom line is that no changes happen and you find yourself stuck in the same place.
The first thing for a plan to be effective is to write it down. Decide what you are going to change (usually I suggest to start with diet rather than exercise) and write down a reasonable plan that you are going to review after 30 days.Whatever plan you decide to follow you need accountability and that is why the review in 30 days is essential. Telling yourself that you are doing well is useless if there is no measurable progress.I will write more in future on what I think is the best way to loose weight but you need to start somewhere so make your own choice but set a goal for 30 days later and then reconsider your plan.
After 30 days you need to ask yourself:
Has it worked?
Have you achieved any improvement?
If you haven’t then the diet plan you have picked is not for you. Was it too hard to follow? Was it too vague on quantities and calories?
Whatever the problem was you need to change it. You might at this stage need some expert advice and there are plenty of professional offers out there. Don’t be shy. Very few people can do this alone.
Once you have changed your diet you can start looking at exercise. Feel free to do diet changes and exercise together if you can manage. Unfortunately this does not always work for people. It all depends on where are you starting from but if you are starting from a bad diet and no exercise then you are going to fail if you change too much in one go. Remember your 30 days plan?
It has to be reasonable and doable. Many people find hard enough to get organised in eating properly without having to start a new exercise routine. You need to do proper food shopping and cooking and you might not have the time. Once your diet is working then you can concentrate on something new and you can pick your exercise. Again it should be something suitable for your lifestyle. Do not make commitments you cannot follow. Again you need to make a resonable plan that you can follow for 30 days and then review the situation.
Was it feasible for you?
Did you enjoy doing it?
All these things are very important if you want to continue otherwise you will stop very soon.There are some form of exercise that are more effective for weight loss and I will discuss this more in other blogs but basically weights are far better then any form of aerobic exercise. There are other specific advantages for women in menopause who decide to opt for weight training and again I will discuss this more in future but it is far better for your bone health. So look at it as an option. It takes far less time then walking or running and it will give you quicker results as well.