Menopause

You might be a bit anxious about going through menopause. We've all heard the stories of hot flashes, mood swings and night sweats. Let us ease your mind, and those symptoms. A Spectrum Health midlife and menopause specialist can tell you what to expect and offer options to keep you feeling your best. Whether your symptoms are mild or severe, you don't have to suffer.

For most women, menopause happens sometime after age 45. Menopause is when the ovaries stop producing estrogen and progesterone. This process means your periods will stop. The severity and duration of menopausal symptoms varies greatly.

Treatments for Menopause

Every menopause journey is unique. We already know that fluctuating estrogen levels cause some symptoms, but other, lesser known, hormones, such as inhibin, can also cause discomfort. Unless you're the rare woman who breezes through it, it's worth tackling symptoms sooner.

Whatever the case, you can share what's happening with your menopausal symptoms freely. That's the best way for us to make you feel your best. Start here to see what possible treatments might help you, then let's talk.

Diet and Nutrition Support
Menopausal symptoms can sometimes be improved if you can limit the caffeine, sugar, alcohol and saturated fat in your diet.

Exercise and Meditation
Regular exercise will help you better manage menopause. For many women, five minutes of daily meditation or deep breathing can mean fewer symptoms.

Hormone Replacement Therapy
Hormone supplementation can be very effective in low doses. Your health care provider will often change the dosage, depending on your changing needs.

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What Is Menopause?

Menopause is the time in a woman’s life when menstrual periods have stopped for at least 1 year. It is often called the change of life. Menopause is not an illness.

Periods become irregular and stop because ovaries stop producing hormones, and hormone levels change. Hormones are chemicals in the body that control certain body functions. The hormone estrogen in women helps control the menstrual cycle. As a woman ages, the amount of estrogen decreases.

Most women go through menopause at about age 50 or 51. Sometimes menopause happens earlier (early forties), and sometimes later (mid fifties).

What Are the Symptoms of Menopause?

The most common symptoms are hot flashes and end of periods. Hot flashes can be very mild (feeling a little warmth in the face) to very severe (becoming red in the face and sweating excessively). A hot flash only lasts a few minutes. Hot flashes can disturb sleep, so women may feel very tired during the day.

Other symptoms include vaginal dryness, vaginal sensitivity, pain during intercourse, bladder control problems, weight gain, loss of sex drive (libido), and mood swings.

How Is Menopause Diagnosed?

Hot flashes and the end of periods for about 6 months mean that menopause is occurring.

Blood tests for follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) levels can be done to find out whether ovaries are slowing down or no longer working.

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How Is Menopause Treated?

Treatment of mild symptoms with drugs is unnecessary.

The most effective treatment for severe symptoms is hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Women with a uterus need estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen relieves symptoms of menopause very well. Progesterone reduces the risk of developing uterine cancer while taking estrogen. Women without a uterus do not take progesterone. Because taking hormones may slightly increase the risk of developing breast cancer, HRT should be prescribed as needed for each woman and only at the lowest effective dose. Vaginal creams or lubricants may help dryness and pain during intercourse.

During menopause, metabolism slows down, muscle mass decreases, and body fat percentage tends to increase. It becomes more important to eat healthy, low-fat and low-carbohydrate foods and to exercise. Exercise helps burn calories and keep up bone strength and muscle mass. Exercise also increases the body’s metabolism, which helps weight loss.

DOs and DON’Ts in Managing Menopause:
  • DO follow a healthy diet. Eating and drinking products that contain chemicals called plant estrogens may help. Such foods include fennel, soy, nuts, whole grains, and apples.
  • DO take care of your health. Exercise. Women who have gone through menopause may be more likely to develop certain diseases, including heart disease and osteoporosis.
  • DO get regular checkups.
  • DO tell your health care provider if you don’t feel well while using HRT. Estrogen sometimes has side effects.
  • DO use simple exercises called Kegel exercises to improve bladder control if you have problems with it.
  • DON’T drink beverages containing caffeine.
  • DON’T drink alcohol in excess.
  • DON’T eat hot spicy foods. These may make hot flashes worse.
FOR MORE INFORMATION

Contact the following sources:

  • National Women’s Health Resource Center
    Tel: (877) 986-9472
    Website: http://www.healthywomen.org
  • American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Tel: (202) 638-5577
    Website: http://www.acog.org

Copyright © 2016 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc.

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