The transition into menopause can be trying for both the body and the mind. How can you get through this phase with serenity and good health?
A brief overview of menopause
Menopause is the result of a natural and inevitable process in a woman’s life. Its onset occurs roughly at the age of 50, sometimes earlier (generally between 45 and 55). The transition into menopause is a time during which menstruation ceases and the ovaries stop producing ova. At the dawn of the last third of their lives, it is very important that women learn to manage this delicate transition phase as smoothly as possible, as it can often be a challenge both physically and psychologically.
Women are considered to be menopausal once menstruation has stopped completely.
Menopause is characterized by the gradual decline of ovary function and hormone production, including oestrogens, and can last a few months to a few years. Manifestations of peri-menopause include irregular menstrual cycles and other typical symptoms (hot flashes, mood swings, excessive sweating, insomnia, etc.).
A classic symptom: hot flashes!
Upwards of 75% of women experience menopausal symptoms. The most common and unpleasant symptom is hot flashes caused by the irregular secretion of estrogens, which interferes with the regulation of body temperature.
Hot flashes can last from a few seconds to a few minutes, up to an hour. They last an average of three to six minutes and are occasionally followed by trembling and shivering.
Various factors can promote hot flashes, such as:
- warm or humid temperatures
- intense physical activity
- emotion (fear, joy, anxiety, excitement, etc.)
- spicy foods
- hot beverages
Other symptoms of menopause
Some women also complain of insomnia, irritability (mood swings), problems with memory, attention or concentration, anxiety, anxiousness and depression. Additionally, certain symptoms such as vaginal dryness and decreased sex drive affect the sexual health of many menopausal women.
Lower estrogen levels speed up the physiological process of bone demineralization, which promotes osteoporosis and can increase the risks of bone and vertebral compression fractures. A lack of estrogen also impacts the heart and blood vessels, the skin’s texture and appearance, body shape, etc.
Health and well-being during menopause
It is estimated that only about 20 to 30% of women seek the advice of a healthcare professional when they experience symptoms or difficulties related to menopause. Yet, there are a number of ways to prevent or ease symptoms and maintain health and well-being.
Nonpharmacological measures and lifestyle changes
Lifestyle changes can be made to reduce the inconveniences of menopause. Here is some advice on the subject.
- Choose a healthy and balanced diet.
- Exercise Focus on stimulating activities you enjoy and that will help to keep you motivated.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Quit smoking.
- Learn to better manage stress. A number of relaxation techniques can be useful.
- Make sure you get enough sleep and rest whenever you feel the need to.
The use of medication may be considered for severe symptoms that affect quality of life or when nonpharmacological measures do not produce the expected results.
Estrogen-based hormone therapy is often a good option to manage menopausal symptoms. The decision to start this type of treatment depends on a number of factors, including a woman’s preferences, the presence of contraindications (a history of breast cancer or heart disease, for example), the intensity of symptoms, side effects, etc. Other non-hormonal treatment options can also be considered.
The risks and benefits of medication must be carefully weighed based on the specific situation of each individual. Don’t hesitate to ask the advice of your doctor or pharmacist.
Over-the-counter products and medications
Certain personal hygiene products can be useful in the case of vaginal dryness. A vaginal lubricant can also be used during intercourse or a long-acting vaginal moisturizer to maximize comfort. There are also over-the-counter medications available to treat vaginal yeast infections.
Speak to your pharmacist first if you are considering the use of an over-the-counter product.
Natural health products
Clinical research evidence suggests that certain natural products may ease menopausal symptoms. For example, isoflavones are a group of phytoestrogens found in plants that have a very similar chemical structure to natural estrogen. Phytoestrogens are found in legumes such as chickpeas, red clover, soy and lentils, as well as in various supplements. Again, you should speak to your pharmacist if you are considering to purchase this type of product.
Don’t hesitate to speak to your pharmacist for additional information about the management of menopausal symptoms.