Is it Menopause? Your Questions Answered

If you’re a younger woman, you may have a question or two about menopause. You might be looking forward to never having to deal with periods again. On the other hand, you may be dreading weight gain and being at higher risk for disease as an older person.

Either way, it’s best to be prepared. Here are answers to the menopause questions you may be asking.

What is “menopause” and “menopausal transition”?

Menopause, precisely, is when 12 months have passed since your last period. The time it takes to get there is more accurately termed “menopausal transition.” This transition period takes seven to 14 years, and menopause typically happens between age 45 and 55.

What are signs that you’re in menopausal transition? 

You can tell if you’re in menopausal transition by recognizing certain symptoms. Some women experience the following symptoms more than others; some women have barely any noticeable symptoms at all:

  • Changes in your period: more frequent periods, heavy bleeding or spotting, longer than normal periods, or a period may resume after a year of no bleeding
  • “Hot flashes”
  • Weight gain
  • Insomnia
  • Aches, pains, and headaches
  • Moodiness
  • Decreased (or increased!) libido
  • Heart palpitations

Some of these symptoms may sound intimidating, but don’t worry! Women have been aging successfully since the beginning of time, and over the years, we’ve developed ways to mitigate these symptoms. Stay tuned for options.

What are hot flashes?

A “hot flash” is a sudden feeling of heat in your upper or entire body. You may experience flushing, sweating, shivering, and red blotching. Night sweats can interfere with sleep. Hot flashes can last anywhere from 30 seconds to 10 minutes, and some women may have them more often than others.

You may experience hot flashes for a longer period of time if they start earlier in life. Hot flashes also tend to last longer among African American and Hispanic women.

Can lifestyle changes relieve hot flashes?

Women can manage the negative effects of hot flashes with natural, home remedies. These include avoiding alcohol, caffeine, and spicy foods – substances that may worsen menopausal symptoms. Losing weight if you’re overweight may also help, as may drinking a glass of cold water before bed.

Are there medications to treat hot flashes?

Some women benefit from taking low doses of SSRI antidepressants. Other women undergo hormone therapy to regulate the balance of estrogen and progesterone in their bodies. However, the type of hormones you should take, and whether you should take them, varies from person to person. For example, women who have not undergone a hysterectomy should take estrogen with progesterone.

Physicians recommend trying lifestyle changes first before medication, so talk to your doctor first. If medication is required for your quality of life but you struggle to afford it, consider buying medication online from a reputable international or Canadian pharmacy. You can use a Canadian pharmacy referral service like Rx Connected to connect you with affordable medications. Since menopause may be a significant time period in your life, you may need to take medications long-term.

What diseases will I be more at risk for? 

Being at increased risk for disease is, unfortunately, part of aging for folks of any gender. Things post-menopausal women should watch for in particular are heart disease and osteoporosis. To prevent osteoporosis, make sure you consume enough calcium and vitamin D. Weight-bearing exercises like lifting and hiking can also strengthen your bones. Maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle, quitting smoking, and being wise about your food choices will help protect your heart.

I can’t sleep! 

Sleep can get more difficult with age. For women going through menopausal transition, night sweats may keep you up. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle will help you sleep. Try to:

  • Maintain a regular bedtime and wake-up time, even on weekends
  • Avoid screens close to bedtime
  • Avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol close to bedtime and near the end of the day
  • Regulate your bedroom climate to a comfortable temperature

If sleep becomes an ongoing challenge for you, talk to your doctor. Good sleep is an integral part of health that should not be overlooked.

What other things should I watch out for?

Menopausal women deal with many physical changes, but they shouldn’t neglect their mental health either. This point in life comes with unique challenges. As the “sandwich” generation, you may be doing more to help both your aging parents and newly adult children. You may also be going through changes within your career and relationships. Plus, many menopausal women feel moodier.

You may have more people depending on you, but it’s more important now than ever to prioritize yourself. Make time for you. You can only begin to tend to other people’s needs when you have adequately taken care of your own.

What things should I look forward to?

You may be happy to learn that many things get better with age. According to research:

  • Your ability to empathize with others’ emotions peaks at age 51
  • Life satisfaction peaks at age 23 and again at age 69
  • Your vocabulary is strongest at age 71
  • Body image confidence peaks at age 74
  • General mental health peaks at 82

Surprising? It kind of makes sense, though. You’ll likely be richer when you’re older, and you’ll be richer in time when you retire, allowing you to read all those books you have on the backburner. People also tend to get less self-conscious of what others think of them as they age.

Yes, menopause comes with its range of challenges, but getting closer to your “golden years” is not always a bad thing. There are more good things to come later in life!

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