‘The Change’ makes the menopause sound scary but it’s just a natural life stage all women go through. If you know what to expect and how to deal with any symptoms you’ll be better placed to take things in your stride.
Some women have hardly any symptoms, others have a few and some experience quite a lot – it is all a bit of a lottery. There are the classic hot flushes and mood swings which most of us are aware of but there are other symptoms you may not have heard about, and may be surprised by.
Your body shape may change
Your cholesterol levels may go up
“Many British women have no idea that they are at greater risk of raised cholesterol and in turn heart disease once they’ve been through the menopause,” says Helen Bond from the British Dietetic Association. “As life expectancy continues to increase, women will spend a larger proportion of their lives in the postmenopausal state so it is vitally important that they look after their heart health.”
Your heart may flutter
Don’t just dismiss them as menopause symptoms, particularly if you also feel faint or short of breath. Get checked out by your GP.
Bad hair days are more common
You may just have to be more vigilant with the tweezers and buy hair products for mature hair that strengthen and thicken.
You may want more ‘me time’
It may have nothing to do with your hormones it may just coincide with a stage in your life when you have teenage children, elderly parents and work pressures.
There’s nothing wrong with spending time in your own company but talking to friends who may be experiencing the same changes may help.
You may need to change your moisturiser
“Issues associated with the menopause include wrinkling, dryness of the skin, thinning skin, skin laxity, irregularities in pigmentation and poor wound healing,” according to Matthew.
Regular exfoliation and daily cleansing and moisturizing can help to keep wrinkles at bay. Try a heavier moisturizer for mature skin and perhaps a facial oil as by layering products you can achieve a more dewy look.
The cosmetic industry advises picking a product for your life stage and type of skin.
No need to give up exercise
According to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists research suggests that regular aerobic exercise can help relieve the symptoms of the menopause.
Instead of doing all intense cardio or pounding the streets try to fit in some resistance training and weight bearing exercises to increase your bone density which reduces as we age.
Pilates and yoga are great for core stability and abdominal muscles.
Your sex life doesn’t have to fizzle out
She says use a lubricant or a vaginal moisturizer to help relieve any discomfort and to help lessen the risk of urinary infections.
You may need daily naps
If you are in the grip of night sweats, keep your bedroom cool and have a glass of water by the bed.
The menopause and hot flushes
Hot flushes are one of the most common symptoms a woman experiences during the menopause.
What is a hot flush?
Hot flushes occur when the blood vessels near the skin’s surface dilate to cool. This produces the red, flushed look to the face. A woman may also perspire to cool down her body. In addition, some women experience a rapid heart rate or chills.
Hot flushes accompanied with sweating can also occur at night. These are called night sweats and may interfere with sleep.
How long will I have hot flushes?
Can I prevent hot flushes?
Other things you can do to reduce hot flushes include:
Stay cool. Keep your bedroom cool at night. Use fans during the day. Wear light layers of clothes with natural fibres such as cotton.
Try deep, slow abdominal breathing (six to eight breaths per minute). Practise deep breathing for 15 minutes in the morning, 15 minutes in the evening, and at the onset of hot flushes.
Exercise daily. Walking, swimming, dancing, and cycling are all good choices.
Chill your pillows; cooler pillows at night might be helpful.
Talk to your doctor about taking short-term (less than five years) hormone replacement therapy (HRT). This treatment prevents hot flushes in many women. In addition, it can help other symptoms of menopause, including vaginal dryness and mood disorders. If HRT is not right for you, there are other treatments that may offer relief. These include both over-the-counter and prescription therapies. It is important check with your GP before you start any new medications (including over-the-counter ones).
Non-prescription treatments include:
Prescription treatments include:Clonidine, a blood pressure medication
Are there complementary therapies to relieve hot flushes?
Soya products. Plant oestrogens, such as isoflavones, found in soya products, are thought to have weak oestrogen-like effects that may reduce hot flushes. Soya foods, not supplements, are recommended. However, the NHS says about soya beans and other herbal supplements: “There is no clear evidence that any of these are effective. Little is known about their long-term effects.”
Black cohosh. Some studies suggest that black cohosh may be helpful in the very short term (six months or less) for treating hot flushes and night sweats. Black cohosh is registered for sale in the UK as a traditional herbal medicine for the relief of symptoms associated with the menopause, such as hot flushes, night sweats, poor sleep, temporary mood changes, irritability, slightly low mood and mild anxiety. However, unlike licensing for mainstream medicines, registration doesn’t mean a herbal remedy has been tested and proven to actually work. Side effects include gastrointestinal upset or liver damage.
Evening primrose oil is another botanical that is often used to treat hot flushes. Some women claim it helps, although there is little scientific evidence to support this. One 2002 review of randomised trials of complementary medicine for menopause symptoms, found that black cohosh and foods that contain phytoestrogens “show promise” but clinical trials did not support the use of other therapies such as evening primrose oil. Side effects include nausea and diarrhoea. Women taking certain medications, such as blood thinning drugs, should not take evening primrose oil.
Linseed. Linseed is thought to decrease the incidence of hot flushes. One 2007 pilot study of linseed oil and hot flushes concluded: “This study suggests that dietary therapy decreases hot flush activity in women not taking oestrogen therapy. This reduction is greater than what would be expected with placebo.” Also known as flaxseed, linseed is available in both whole seed and seed oil forms.
Talk to your doctor before you take any medications to relieve hot flushes. Also, keep in mind that hot flushes are temporary. You may be able to manage without any treatment.