Menopause Survival Guide:
The Help You Need Before, During and After Menopause
Sometime between the ages of 45 and 55, most women begin their journey to menopause (although for some women it can start even in their 30s). For each woman, the journey is unique. Some will notice no symptoms whatsoever, other than the absence of their monthly period, but for many (upwards of 75 percent of women or more), symptoms ranging from hot flashes and weight gain to mood swings and depression surface.
Ironically, by definition menopause lasts only one day. The term refers to the day you haven’t had a period for 12 months in a row. The rest of the time you’ve been treading through night sweats, irritability and the myriad of other menopause symptoms is actually perimenopause, which refers to the time leading up to menopause along with the year after.
What are the Signs of Perimenopause?
In the time leading up to menopause, you may experience one or more of the following symptoms (and they may change or come and go), according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:
Changes in pattern of periods (shorter or longer, lighter or heavier, more or less time between periods)
Hot flashes (sudden rush of heat in upper body)
Night sweats (hot flashes that happen while you sleep), often followed by a chill
Trouble sleeping through the night (with or without night sweats)
Mood changes, feeling crabby (probably because of lack of sleep)
Trouble focusing, feeling mixed-up or confused, forgetfulness
Hair loss or thinning on your head, more hair growth on your face
Further, menopause results in lowered estrogen levels (by the time a woman reaches menopause, her estrogen levels may drop 40-60 percent) that impact your body in multiple ways. Because of this, after menopause women are more likely to experience:
Osteoporosis (women lose an average of 25 percent of their bone mass from menopause to age 60)
Poor bladder function
Deterioration in vision
Increased wrinkling of the skin
Poor muscle power and tone
Poor brain function and increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease
You do not, however, have to simply suffer in silence or feel that menopause signals and end to your vim and vigor. On the contrary, many women really come into their greatness after menopause, and there are many strategies at your disposal to help you relieve perimenopausal symptoms and enhance your well-being for many years to come.
Is Hormone Replacement Therapy the Answer?
Prior to 2002, about 30 percent of women took Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), often after being reassured by their doctors that the therapy would not only relieve their menopause symptoms but also help prevent heart disease.
However, this type of therapy is no longer widely recommended as study results came out showing the therapy not only significantly increased the risk of breast cancer, but heart disease, stroke, blood clots and dementia as well.
The dangers of HRT (synthetic estrogen and progestin (synthetic progesterone) first came out due to the government-funded Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study. Launched in 1991, the study was intended to test the effects of postmenopausal hormone therapy on the risk of diseases, however it was stopped early when the serious risks came to light.
Compared to women taking a placebo, those who took estrogen plus progestin HRT had an:
Increased risk of breast cancer
Increased risk of heart attack
Increased risk of stroke
Increased risk of blood clots
Increased risk of dementia
The findings were widely publicized and word spread fast to many women currently taking the synthetic hormones. Even the FDA released a statement pointing out that the risks of HRT exceeded the benefits:
“On May 31, 2002, the WHI study of conjugated estrogens 0.625 mg/day, plus medroxyprogesterone acetate 2.5 mg/day in postmenopausal women was stopped after a mean of 5.2 years of follow-up because the test statistic for invasive breast cancer exceeded the stopping boundary for this adverse effect and the global index statistic supported risks exceeding benefits.”
Fortunately, the number of women using HRT dropped by half when the study results came out, and in 2003, just one year after millions of women stopped HRT, breast cancer rates had already fallen by 7 percent -- which amounted to about 14,000 fewer cases of breast cancer that year alone!
Natural Bioidentical Hormones: What You Need to Know
Many experts recommend natural, bioidentical hormones such as estriol as a safe alternative to synthetic varieties. Chemically identical to the hormones produced in your body, bioidentical hormones are typically produced by a compounding pharmacist.
They received widespread media attention in 2009, when Oprah Winfrey announced they had made a big improvement in her menopause symptoms. Although no adverse affects are currently on the market, long-term studies on the use of bioidentical hormone therapy have yet to be conducted.
For this reason, you may want to consider bioidentical hormones as a “last resort” to use only after lifestyle changes.
Lifestyle Changes can Make Dramatic Impact on Menopausal Symptoms
A healthy lifestyle has been proven to help lessen the severity of menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes, mood swings, sleeplessness and more. These strategies should be your first line of defense and can be put into action long before your first symptoms begin.
A healthy diet that focuses on fresh, whole foods, including raw foods, fruits and vegetables and avoiding sugar and trans fats, will keep your body well nourished through menopause. Be sure you’re also getting plenty of vitamin D during this time.
Putting too much on your plate can lead to increased feelings of "forgetfulness" and will also certainly make you more tired and moody. Make stress-relief a priority in your life by:
"Exercise compensates nicely for declining levels of estrogen," said Wolfgang Kemmler, PhD, who led a study on the topic. The German study of 78 early postmenopausal women found that women who exercised for one hour (with both aerobic and strength training) four days a week experienced fewer:
Bouts of insomnia
... than women who did not exercise. They also had the added benefits of:
On the other hand, women who did not exercise lost 8 percent of their bone mass and had increases in body fat, waist measurements and cholesterol.
Women of all ages will especially enjoy the life-changing fitness program found at MySheaNetics.com. Taught by Shea Vaughn -- fitness guru and mom to Hollywood celebrity Vince Vaughn -- the program combines the best-of-the-best moves from Yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, Martial Arts, GYROKINESIS®, Dance and MORE -- guiding you through unique sequences of movements that strengthen, sculpt, build core and increase flexibility.
But even more, Shea believes the key to finding well-being in every life stage is to embrace the SheaNetics Five Living Principles in your own life, which is why the program offers such tremendous mind-body benefits you will love!
Further, according to the Mayo Clinic, exercise like yoga, which is integrated into the MySheaNetics.com program, can help to reduce the number of hot flashes in perimenopausal women.
Quality sleep is important for you to feel your best. It may help to create a relaxing bedtime routine, including taking a bath before bed, brushing your teeth, getting into your PJs and turning on some soothing music that will let your mind know it's time for slumber.
Once you are in bed, listen to a relaxation CD like the Sleep Easy CD to help you "shift gears" and relax into sleep.
Natural Remedies to Ease Symptoms
You can also supplement your healthy lifestyle with the following natural remedies that offer menopause symptom relief:
Phytoestrogens: Found in fermented soybeans, flaxseeds, chickpeas, whole grains and more, phytoestrogens produce a weak estrogen-like activity in the body, which may help offset some of the estrogen loss that occurs during menopause.
Renaissance Natural Progesterone Cream is one of the ONLY progesterone creams on the market containing 100 percent pure micronized USP progesterone powder in a topical cream. Only USP progesterone powder is bio-identical to the naturally occurring progesterone in your body.
For Hot Flashes: Regular exercise and eating flaxseeds may help reduce severity and frequency. You should also dress in layers so you can cool off easily, and use moisture-wicking bed linens and clothing to help with night sweats. You may notice certain triggers as well, such as a hot room, spicy foods, alcohol, etc., so do your best to avoid these.
Embrace your life and your body: A positive mental outlook on your life and your physical image will do wonders to keeping you feeling strong and vital at any age. Optimism has been verified as a successful strategy to prevent mental and physical illness, and is a skill you can learn, like riding a bike!
As leading meditation expert, Mary Maddux, creator of the Pure Relaxation CD, wrote, “I think what we'll find is that we can not only do away with some myths about aging which limit our quality of life, but also discover some of the "perks" of aging that we often ignore.
There are lots of role models who have led the way for us. Did you know, for example, that:
Martha Graham danced professionally until she was 76?
Benjamin Franklin invented bifocals at the age of 78?
Georgia O'Keefe continued painting well into her 90s?
Vitality in "later life" is not just for the famous. Undoubtedly everyone knows at least one person who is living a vital, fulfilling life "despite" their age. This is really the way it should be -- life should become better as we age.”
SixWise Says ...
“As I grow in age, I value mature ladies most of all. Here are just a few of the reasons senior men sing the praises of older women:
- An older woman knows how to smile with such brightness and truth, old men stagger.
- An older woman will never ask out of the blue, "What are you thinking?" An older woman doesn't care what you think.
- An older woman has been around long enough to know who she is, what she wants, and from whom. By the age of 50, few women are wishy-washy. About anything. Thank God!
- And yes, once you get past a wrinkle or two, an older woman is far sexier than her younger counterpart!
- Her fear of pregnancy's gone.
- Her appreciation of experienced lovemaking is honed and reciprocal.
- And she's lived long enough to know how to please a man in ways her daughter could never dream of. (Young men, you have something to look forward to!)
- Older women are forthright and honest. They'll tell you right off that you are a jerk if you're acting like one. A young woman will say nothing, fearing that you might think worse of her. An older woman doesn't give a damn.
- An older, single woman usually has had her fill of "meaningful relationships" and "long-term commitments." Can't relate? Can't commit? She could care less. The last thing she needs in her life is another whiny, dependent lover!
- Older women are sublime. They seldom contemplate having a shouting match with you at the opera or in the middle of an expensive dinner. Of course, if you deserve it, they won't hesitate to shoot you if they think they can get away with it.
- Most older women cook well. They care about cleanliness. They're generous with praise, often undeserved.
- An older woman has the self-assurance to introduce you to her women friends. A young woman often snarls with distrust when "her guy" is with other women. Older women couldn't care less.
- Women get psychic as they age. You never have to confess your sins to an older woman. Like your mother, they always know.
Yes, we geezers praise older women for a multitude of reasons. These are but a few.”
--Frank Kaiser, SuddenlySenior.com
Menopause and Memory Loss: New Research Explains Why Menopausal Women Often Feel Forgetful
The Season of Your Birth Influences the Age of Menopause
WebMD.com January 15, 2009
Prevention.com August 3, 2005
Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry December 27, 2006; 54(26): 9852-9857
Cleveland Clinic: Menopause
FDA.gov “Estrogen and Estrogen with Progestin Therapies for Postmenopausal Women”