Unravelling Menopause

Menopause

Ask any middle aged woman about what she dreads the most and you are likely to hear the word “ menopause “. So, what exactly is so frightfully about menopause? A lot, actually. There are the symptoms for starters. Mood swings (one moment you are feeling like you can take on the world, the next you’re all mellow and deflated), joint pains, urinary incontinence (the urge to pee has never been more frequent – even efforts to limit your daily intake of fluids won’t help much), vaginal dryness, hot flushes  you name it.

Then, there’s the risk of developing certain health complications. Suffice to say that the idea of suffering from colon cancer, osteoporotic fractures or heart disease isn’t too appealing. But what’s there to do? After all, menopause is an inevitable part of life. Nothing can be done except to put on a brave front and bear with its symptoms. Right?

“Wrong”, with effective management women can actually be relieved of those pesky menopausal symptoms. They can look and feel young once again and be free to live their lives to the full.

Why, then aren’t more women seeking medical advice? That’s because many women have the misconception that since menopause is a natural part of life, they should just accept it instead of seeking treatment when necessary. However, they couldn’t be more mistaken. With so many myths enshrouding this subject, it’s so crucial for women to understand what menopause really is. Only then will they know exactly what to expect and more importantly, when to seek help for their condition.


Menopause: What is it?

Menopause doesn’t just happen suddenly. It is actually a gradual process – a transition of sorts.

Premenopause

Before a woman enters menopause, she goes through the premenopause stage. Premenopause can last up to 5 years, but it can be as shot as several months. During this period, oestrogen (a primary female sex hormone) levels start declining. This is where irregular menses, hot flashes, sleep disturbances and other symptoms set in. During this time, women are still capable of getting pregnant, so contraception is necessary.

Menopause

The word “menopause” literally means the end of all monthly cycles. Women are born with a finite amount of eggs, all of which are stored in the ovaries. Each month, several eggs are released from the ovaries. As time progresses, the number of eggs in the ovaries gradually diminishes. So much so that there comes a time when the ovaries stop releasing eggs. This is known as menopause.

Most women experience menopause between the ages of 45 and 55, averaging around 51. But there are some who enter menopause as early as in their 30′s – a condition called premature menopause. This can be contributed by several factors, including chemotherapy, radiotherapy, chronic infection of the ovaries, surgery, cancer and smoking.

Postmenopause

Postmenopause is the period after menopause. At this point, most symptoms experienced during the premenopause and menopause stages will have eased considerably. But while women may not have to worry about cumbersome symptoms anymore, they’re now at a higher risk of conditions associated with low oestrogen levels like osteoporosis, cancer and heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

Living well postmenopause
Taking into account the numerous postmenopausal related health risks and menopausal symptoms (which can be very severe in some cases). The importance of effective management basically consists of medical treatment and lifestyle modifications.

Women are typically prescribed hormonal replacement therapy (HRT) to help alleviate their menopausal symptoms. But as good as HRT may be, it can come with side effects when used long term like increased risks of stroke and breast cancer. This is where SERM (selective oestrogen receptor modulator) comes in. SERM is a great choice for postmenopausal women as it has been clinically proven to significantly increase bone density and decrease bone loss, while lowering breast cancer risk.

Women should work out regularly, whether it’s jogging or swimming. Also, consume more foods like legumes (particularly soy beans), seeds and wholegrain products as they’re high in phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are effective in overcoming hot flushes, boosting heart health, lowering osteoporosis risk and improving brain function.

A good life awaits
Finally, women need to know that menopause isn’t a death sentence. Instead of suffering in silence, they should seek help when necessary and take appropriate measures to stay healthy. With the right mindset and management strategy, premenopausal and postmenopausal like can be great.

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