How to Live More Comfortably in Your Later Years
This article will explore what menopause is, common symptoms you might experience, self-care tips and treatment options like Duavee and Premarin, which are both medications used in hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for women, primarily to manage symptoms associated with menopause.
17 Early Signs of Menopause
As mentioned above, perimenopause can last anywhere from 5 to 14 years and can include symptoms such as:
- Changes in your period.
- Heavy bleeding.
- More frequent periods.
- Periods that last longer than a week.
- Spotting between periods.
- It’s always worth checking with your doctor if any of these symptoms become debilitating.
- Hot flashes and night sweats.
- Vaginal dryness.
- Issues with bladder control (incontinence).
- Insomnia or trouble sleeping.
- Painful sex.
- Irritability or moodiness.
- Physical changes to your body.
- Weight gain around the midsection.
- Thinning skin.
- Muscle loss and fat gain.
Since many of these symptoms can be related to individual hormone levels, it’s impossible to predict who will experience what symptoms. Some people may breeze through this phase largely symptom-free, while others may experience many symptoms throughout this transitional phase. Regardless of which camp you fall into, it’s worth learning some self-care strategies to help make this life phase as comfortable as possible.
What is Menopause?
An important thing to understand about menopause is that it is not a disease or a disorder, but a natural, normal part of the aging process. While the symptoms can be frustrating, it does not need to be pathologized. Menopause is the day you have gone 12 months without your monthly period. We often think that menopause is the time leading up to and after this one day, but those phases are called the menopausal transition/perimenopause and post-menopausal phases. During this phase, the ovaries begin decreasing the amount of estrogen they produce until your cycles stop and the adrenal glands take over the production of estrogen. This shift leads to an overall reduction in estrogen and other hormonal shifts that can cause the symptoms often associated with menopause.
Perimenopause can start as early as your mid-thirties and last up until the day you have been period-free for 12 months. Some people may start their transition later and only experience perimenopause for five years or so, while others may be in this transitional phase for up to 14 years.
Postmenopause is the phase that occurs in the time after you have not had a period for 12 months. Those in this life phase are more vulnerable to osteoporosis and heart disease. To support healthy bones, start incorporating weight-based strength training into your life to improve bone density. Eat a healthy diet full of whole grains, healthy fats, lots of plants, high-quality protein sources and fiber to support heart health and prevent muscle loss that can be associated with aging after menopause.
Self-Care Tips for Menopause
To help you thrive during menopause transition and perimenopause, try incorporating these self-care strategies into your daily life. Whether you’re in the thick of hormonal fluctuations or edging closer to that phase, these self-care tips can help set you up for long-term success.
1. Incorporate Strength Training Into Your Routine
No matter where you are in your menopause journey, incorporating exercise into your life is a great way to take care of yourself. Not only will strength training help to increase bone density, which can start to decrease after menopause, but it also helps maintain your muscle mass. After menopause, we can start to lose muscle and gain fat, so building muscle tone can help prevent sarcopenia, a muscle-wasting condition common in the aging population.
Since weight gain is another common symptom of menopause, a strength-based approach to fitness can help you maintain a healthy weight. Your exercise style should focus on strength building and less on chronic cardio (cardio that lasts more than 45-60 minutes), as this type of exercise can increase cortisol and lead to more abdominal weight gain.
As a bonus, regular exercise can help improve sleep quality and boost your mood, thanks to endorphins. If you don’t know where to start with strength training, search for trainers who specialize in perimenopausal or menopausal exercise routines.
2. Practice Mindfulness or Meditation
Menopause is not only a big psychological adjustment as you enter a new life phase, it can also cause moodiness and depression, which impacts your mental health. Incorporating meditation is one way to help calm your nervous system and regulate your mood. You can do anything from guided meditations to breathing exercises to yoga or walking meditations. If you are struggling with your mental health, it’s worth talking to your doctor, as medications may support this time in your life.
3. Stay Cool and Hydrated
Hot flashes are one of the most common symptoms of menopause, and they can be super uncomfortable. Keep some frozen facecloths in your freezer and place them on the back of your neck when you feel a hot flash coming on. Bring cold water with you when you’re out, and invest in a portable fan. You can also wear loose, lightweight clothing to help you stay cool.
4. Try Acupressure
There is some evidence that acupressure can help reduce night sweats, hot flashes and anxiety in menopausal people better than a placebo. If these symptoms are high on your list and you’re not experiencing any relief, acupressure could be a great modality to test out!
5. Visit your Gynecologist
If you are experiencing vaginal dryness or pain during sex, then you must make time to visit your gynecologist. They can give you specific suggestions for your unique needs and may recommend lubrication or medications so that you can still enjoy a healthy sex life postmenopause!
Menopause is a natural transition time in the lives of those who menstruate, but oftentimes the symptoms of hormonal fluctuations can negatively impact daily life. Luckily, by understanding what causes many of these symptoms and incorporating self-care strategies, you can enjoy this phase of life to the fullest.