Supporting women through menopause. Menopause symptoms can impact on women’s quality of life

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What is female menopause?

Female Menopause is a point in time 12 months after a woman’s last period. The years leading up to that point, when women may have changes in their monthly cycles, hot flashes, or other symptoms, are called the menopausal transition or perimenopause. The menopausal transition most often begins between age 45 and 55.

Menopause can bring a range of symptoms and body changes. Some of some women find that menopause temporarily worsens. Many symptoms of menopause are treatable. It’s therefore useful to know what happens to your bodies during menopause and how these changes can be managed.

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Menopause is not always spoken about openly. This has left some women unsure what to expect and what help and treatments are available for menopausal symptoms. We hope this guide provides some clarity.

What happens during menopause?

Most women go through menopause in their late 40s or early 50s, although a small proportion have an earlier menopause. MS does not appear to alter the age of menopause.

During menopause, the levels of the reproductive hormones estrogen and progesterone gradually fall. A woman’s menstrual periods eventually stop. After menopause, levels of natural estrogens and progesterone remain low.

Women can have symptoms in the years when their hormone levels are falling (the perimenopause) and afterwards (post menopause). Some women find that menopausal symptoms have a big impact on their life, while others do not.

The more common changes that occur during menopause are:

Less regular periods, Hot flashes, chills and night sweats, A dry vagina (which can be uncomfortable and affect your sex life)

Sleep problems, Mood changes, Memory problems, Weight gain, Thinner hair, drier skin, Loss of breast fullness

When do you know that you having a hot flash

During a hot flash, you’ll likely feel your body temperature rise. Hot flashes affect the top half of your body, and your skin may even turn red in color or become blotchy. This rush of heat could lead to sweating, heart palpitations, and feelings of dizziness. After the hot flash, you may feel cold.

Hot flashes may come on daily or even multiple times a day. You may experience them over the course of a year or even several years.

Avoiding triggers may reduce the number of hot flashes you experience. These can include: consuming alcohol or caffeine, eating spicy food feeling stressed, being somewhere hot, being overweight and smoking may also make hot flashes worse., A few techniques may help reduce your hot flashes and their symptoms: Dress in layers to help with hot flashes, and use a fan in your home or office space. Do breathing exercises during a hot flash to try to minimize it., Medications such as birth control pills, hormone therapy, or even other prescriptions may help you reduce hot flashes. See your doctor if you’re having difficulty managing hot flashes on your own.

Hot flash prevention, avoid triggers like spicy foods, caffeine, or alcohol. Smoking may also make hot flashes worse, dress in layers.

Use a fan at work or in your home to help cool you down. Talk to your doctor about medications that may help reduce your hot flash symptoms.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)

HRT is a safe and effective treatment for most going through menopause and perimenopause. Your GP will discuss any risks with you.

HRT involves using estrogen to replace your body’s own levels around the time of the menopause.

There are different types and doses of HRT. Using the right dose and type usually means your symptoms improve.

Benefits of HRT

The main benefit of HRT is that it can help relieve most menopause and perimenopause symptoms, including hot flushes, brain fog, joint pains, mood swings and vaginal dryness.

Hot flushes or night sweats often improve within a few weeks. Other symptoms like mood changes and vaginal dryness can take a few months to improve.

Taking HRT can also reduce your risk of hormone-related health problems including osteoporosis and heart disease.

Heart disease linked to menopause

Conditions related to your heart may arise during menopause, such as dizziness or cardiac palpitations. Decreased estrogen levels can prevent your body from retaining flexible arteries. This can impact blood flow., Watching your weight, eating a healthy and balanced diet, exercising, and not smoking can reduce your chances of developing heart conditions.

You may experience the same symptoms as my mother, sister

The symptoms of menopause vary from one woman to another, even in the same families. The age and rate of decline of ovary function differ tremendously. This means you’ll need to manage your menopause individually. What worked for your mother or best friend may not work for you., Talk to your doctor or nurse if you have any questions about menopause. They can help you understand your symptoms and find ways to manage them that work with your lifestyle.

Duration of menopause

The menopausal transition can last anywhere from 2 to 14 years but typically lasts around 4 to 7 years in total. The duration of menopause depends on a variety of genetic and behavioral factors.

One of the biggest predictors of menopausal duration appears to be age of onset. One study that included 1,145 women found that the median duration of the menopausal transition was more than 4 years shorter Trusted Source for those with the latest age of onset than for those with the earliest age of onset., This study also found that the menopausal transition tended to be longer for Black women than white women, consistent with an earlier age of onset in this.

Time after menopause health risks

After menopause, all women are at increased risk for developing certain health complications due to changes in hormone levels. These may include: heart disease, bone disease (osteoporosis), diabetes, cancer

Early onset of menopause increases Trusted Source the likelihood of developing heart disease later in life. Since Black and Hispanic women tend to enter the menopausal transition at an earlier age than white women, this may increase their risk of postmenopausal heart disease.

The prevalence of metabolic syndrome is also higher Trusted Source among Black and Hispanic women compared with white women. Metabolic syndrome refers to a collection of conditions that increase the likelihood of developing health complications such as heart disease, diabetes, or stroke. These include factors such as: high blood pressure, elevated fasting blood glucose levels, dyslipidemia (unhealthy levels of lipids in the blood)

How does menopause affect women long term?

After menopause, women commonly find that symptoms such as hot flashes, mood changes and memory problems end. However, some effects remain, such as changes to body shape, hair and skin.

Changes to sex drive, thinner hair, drier skin, and loss of breast fullness, weight gain, sleep problems, depression.

Due to lower levels of estrogen and progesterone, post-menopausal women are at higher risk of some health conditions as they get older., difficulty sleeping, mood changes, such as feeling low, anxious or irritable, bladder problems, memory problems, such as being forgetful or struggling to find the right word, changes to sex life.

Although there have been a few studies on this, the results don’t give a clear answer., For most women, menopause doesn’t seem to affect greatly. For some women, hot flashes might temporarily worsen some symptoms.

In surveys, some women say their symptoms and level of disability got worse after menopause. However, it tends to worsen as I get older. With age, both men and women with relapsing remitting have fewer periods of time where their symptoms come and go. As people get older their level of disability is also likely to increase.

How do menopause affect bone health?

Women who have been through menopause are at risk of osteoporosis. This makes bones less dense, more fragile and more likely to fracture if you fall or have an accident.

Menopause increases the chance of osteoporosis. It’s estimated that almost 2 in every 10 women with menopause have osteoporosis. About 4 in every 10 show a smaller amount of bone weakness (called osteopenia).

Osteopenia is a condition in which the bones are less dense than healthy bones, but it is not as bad as osteoporosis. Women with osteopenia might need treatment to reduce their risk of osteoporosis.

Our bones are made of living tissue. At a microscopic level, they’re being replenished and restructured all the time. Menopause increases the risk of osteoporosis because lower levels of estrogen affect the balance between the amount of new bone being made and the amount of old bone being broken down.

Menopause can increase the risk of osteoporosis due to: The effects of some medicines, such as certain steroids and antidepressants, Reduced mobility and weight bearing (meaning the bones are ‘trained’ less)

Tips on managing menopausal symptoms

If you have menopausal symptoms, talk to your doctor or Gynaecologist. Treatments are available to ease many symptoms. Your doctor or nurse can also recommend self-help techniques and guides.

Talk to others. Chatting to other women your age about menopause can be valuable. You can help each other by listening, understanding and sharing tips on what has helped you. Support groups can be useful for getting advice on intimate issues that you may find it harder to discuss with others.

Keep a diary of your symptoms. This will help your doctor, neurologist or Gynaecologist to understand how menopause is affecting you and to distinguish the signs from those of MS, getting older or other health conditions.

Take up invitations for screening tests for osteoporosis. If your screening test shows you have weak bones, this can be treated to reduce your risk of fractures.

Be regularly physically active, including weight-bearing exercises. This can strengthen your bones, balance your mood.

For further information, WHO website, email to [email protected], send text messages only through WhatsApp Dr Azadeh from 3 to 6 week days only on 2207774469.

Dr H. Azadeh, Senior Lecturer at the University of The Gambia, Clinical Director at Medicare Health Services.