Women and Menopause

MENOPAUSE. All women will experience it, but when and how is different for everyone. A woman has reached menopause when she goes one full year without a period. This usually happens around the age of 50, but it can range from 40 to 60 years of age. Perimenopause is the transitional time when estrogen levels are declining, periods become irregular, and menopausal symptoms, such as hot  ashes and night sweats, appear.

Perimenopause can cause a number of symptoms, but hot  flashes are probably the worst. They affect about 70 percent of women and range from being a mild inconvenience to being extremely disruptive. A full-blown hot  flash—rising body heat,  ushing, sweating, anxiety—leaves a woman feeling sticky, exhausted and frustrated.

Here are some strategies to follow when the heat rises:
✔ Avoid common triggers such as alcohol, caffeine, hot drinks, spicy foods, stress and, of course, heat.
✔ Dress in layers that are easily removed. Lightweight cotton fabrics are best.
✔ Carry a collapsible fan in your purse and keep it handy for the car, the of ce or home.
✔ Exercise regularly.
✔ Develop a de-stressing routine: relaxing music, candles, meditation, walking in the woods or a park.
✔ Sleep in a cool room with layers of cotton blankets you can remove as needed.
✔ Cool pillowcases in a plastic bag in the freezer.
✔ Partially freeze water in a water bottle. Keep one by your bed at night.
✔ Keep a bottle of body spray in a calming fragrance, such as lavender or jasmine, in the fridge and spritz yourself when a hot flash comes on.
✔ Rediscover frozen treats; buy or make your own fruit juice ice pops.
✔ Consider acupuncture; evidence suggests it is helpful for both hot  ashes and night sweats.

If you continue having severe hot flashes, talk to your healthcare provider about other options, including dietary supplements, medications and hormone therapy. Some medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and gabapentin, have been found to be helpful in relieving hot flashes. Whether to use hormone therapy is an individual decision each woman has to make based on her symptoms and risk profile.

You will get through this. During those times when it seems as if the hot flashes will never end and you would trade everything you own for a good night’s sleep, remember, there is a whole new life ahead of you on the other side of menopause. Many women find postmenopause to be the best years: a time of increased freedom and possibilities.

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