Surprising menopause symptoms and What can you do for hot flashes?

‘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

If you’ve always been the classic pear shape carrying weight around your hips and thighs you may notice more weight now collects around your midriff.”A slower metabolism and lower oestrogen levels at menopause can lead to weight gain and a redistribution of body fat around the middle,” says Wendy Green, author of 50 Things You Can Do Today to Manage the Menopause. “To help beat middle-aged spread eat a healthy diet and take regular exercise. Watch your portion sizes and don’t overdo the carbs – as these are stored as fat if you don’t burn them off.”

Your cholesterol levels may go up

Your levels of total cholesterol and ‘bad’ LDL-cholesterol rise during the menopause because of falling oestrogen levels.”The loss of oestrogen at the menopause leads to increased cardiovascular risk, partly due to the increased cholesterol level,” says Dr Heather Currie, gynaecologist and founder of Menopause Matters website.

“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

It may be that you’ve found a new love interest, that’s still definitely on the agenda during the menopause, but in this case you may experience palpitations because of the result of hormonal changes that happen around the time of the menopause.It’s basically being more aware of your heart fluttering, pounding or even skipping a beat. They usually go away after a few seconds or minutes.

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

Your hormonal changes may mean less hair where you want it and more where you don’t!”The menopause can bring an alteration in hair growth,” says Matthew Gass from the British Association of Dermatologists. “This change can manifest as acceleration of both hair thinning, and paradoxically increased hair growth in areas like the upper lip and chin.”

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’

Some women prefer a night in with a good book to going out gallivanting when they are in the menopause.”Many women do report feeling less sociable, often due to tiredness, embarrassment about flushes and sweats, weight gain or lack of confidence,” says Dr Heather Currie, gynaecologist and expert on menopause.

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

Your skin may feel drier than before. If you have oily skin this may be a blessing but if not you may need to make-over your skin regime.”Oestrogen is involved in skin cell metabolism, hence lower levels at menopause lead to a loss of collagen and elastin, which leads to a loss of elasticity and moisture,” says Wendy.

“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.

“Cosmetic science is constantly advanced by teams of industry scientists working with academia to increase biological understanding. This enhances our knowledge of how our skin ages and new products are created that have been developed specifically to tackle key issues,” says Dr Emma Meredith, Director of Science at the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association.

No need to give up exercise

You’re not off the hook yet. A stroll around the garden centre won’t cut it!Just because you hit the menopause doesn’t mean you have to give up exercise. It’ll not only help keep your weight in check but will strengthen your bone density.

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

You may actually fancy more sex. As your hormones go up and down during menopause there may well be times when you’re raring to go sexually. On the flip side you may have times when you really don’t fancy it, perhaps due to vaginal dryness.”A woman’s libido will depend on many factors during the menopause, such as the quality of her relationship and her stress levels. However, the lower levels of oestrogen make the vagina walls thinner and drier, which can make sex uncomfortable and raises the risk of developing cystitis,” says Wendy.

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

The menopause can sometimes leave you feeling exhausted. Take a leaf out of a cat’s book and have a nap whenever you can.”In a recent survey 8 out of 10 menopausal women said they suffered from disturbed sleep. Most blamed night sweats for their insomnia,” says Wendy. “If you’re sleeping for just a few hours a night a daily nap will help you to cope. Practice deep breathing, muscle relaxation or meditation techniques to help you drop off.”

If you are in the grip of night sweats, keep your bedroom cool and have a glass of water by the bed.

WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

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?

A hot flush is a sudden feeling of heat in the upper body.Hot flushes may start on the face, neck or chest before spreading. The cause of hot flushes is not known, but may be related to changes in circulation.

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?

The severity and duration of hot flushes varies among women going through the menopause. Some women have hot flushes for a very short time during the menopause; other women may have hot flushes – at least to some degree – for life. Generally, hot flushes become less severe as time passes.

Can I prevent hot flushes?

While it may be impossible to completely avoid hot flushes during the menopause, there are certain triggers that may bring them on more frequently or cause them to be more severe. To help prevent hot flushes, consider avoiding these triggers:Stress.
Spicy foods.
Tight clothing.
Cigarette smoke.
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:

Vitamin B complex.
Vitamin E.
Prescription treatments include:Clonidine, a blood pressure medication
Oral contraceptives

Are there complementary therapies to relieve hot flushes?

Although some alternative therapies like botanical and herbal therapies have shown promise for relieving menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, more research is needed to determine the benefits and risks of these complementary therapies.Because botanicals and herbs may have adverse side effects or have harmful interactions with other medications, it is important to consult with your doctor before taking any of these products. Botanicals and herbs that may help relieve hot flushes include:

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.

Source: webmd

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