Most women start to experience symptoms associated with perimenopause or menopause while they are in their thirties or forties - symptoms that may continue into their fifties and sixties. Those who don't notice menopausal symptoms either went through early menopause when they were young or are, well, dead. So, if you take a serious look at your alternatives with regard to menopause, you'll see that even though you're noticing some uncomfortable symptoms, you're actually quite fortunate. Menopause is only natural and is not at all an indication of the end of being young, sexual, energetic, healthy and beautiful. You can still have it all.
Now that you have a different perspective on the subject of menopause we can continue on and focus on menopause symptoms, treatments, lifestyle and diet to help you get through this transition with ease, confidence and overall good health. Menopause symptoms include:
Weight Gain - Often one of the first signs of menopause that women notice, weight gain is associated with declining hormone levels. It's not unusual to gain an average of about five pounds in the area of your mid-section or abdomen.
Hot Flashes - As your levels of estrogen drop, there's a good possibility that your blood vessels may expand, causing your skin temperature to rise. You'll notice a feeling of warmth moving from your chest, up toward your shoulders, neck and head. Hot flashes can occur several times each day or only occasionally. As with all menopausal symptoms, hot flashes will vary from woman to woman.
Irregular Periods - Your periods may become heavier or lighter than normal and may not be as predictable as they once were (i.e. every 28 days or so).
Irregular Sleep Patterns - You may suddenly wake up in the middle of the night soaking with sweat due to night sweats, and then have a difficult time falling back to sleep. It's also quite common for women to suddenly wake up during the night for no reason at all. No matter how you're awakened, a lack of sleep is likely to affect your mood and can also have an impact on your overall health.
Emotional Changes - Many women find that they're more irritable and moody as they approach menopause. Also, it's not uncommon to feel fatigued, have a decreased memory and experience difficulty concentrating. These symptoms may or may not be attributed to menopause. Yes, fluctuations in your hormone levels can result in some emotional changes, but it's important to factor in life events, as well - perhaps problems with your grown children or caring for an elderly parent.
While there are several symptoms of menopause, there are even more solutions to reduce or eliminate menopausal discomforts. Many women choose to make lifestyle changes that have been proven to effectively reduce the severity of symptoms associated with menopause. For instance, it's a good idea to avoid triggers that have been known to cause hot flashes, such as hot beverages, spicy foods, alcohol, not weather and warm rooms.
Obviously, if sleep is a problem you'll want to avoid foods and beverages that contain caffeine. Also, try reading or taking a hot bath right before bed so that you're relaxed and more likely to fall into a nice sound sleep.
Eating a healthy and well balanced diet can do wonders to help ease the symptoms of menopause. Include fruits, vegetables and whole grains in your diet, and avoid saturated fats, oils and sugars. You'll want to consume approximately 1,500 milligrams of calcium, plus 400 to 800 international units of vitamin D each day. You may need supplements to reach these amounts. If necessary, discuss this with your doctor.
You'll be amazed by what a regular exercise program can do to reduce and even eliminate many menopause symptoms. If performed correctly, exercise will protect you from many conditions that are common as you get older, such as heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis. Exercise and fitness will also eliminate the weight gain associated with menopause, give you more energy and reduce the occurrence of hot flashes.
I'm sure you've heard the term "hormone therapy" (HT), which can help to reduce and eliminate many symptoms experienced by women. Unfortunately, recent studies have shown that the risks of hormone therapy, which include heart attack, stroke and breast cancer, may outweigh the benefits. While these studies may have changed the course of hormone therapy, estrogen therapy remains the most effective treatment for many menopausal symptoms. If you'd like to learn more about estrogen therapy, talk with your doctor to find out of a very low dose will provide you symptom relief.
There are also several prescription drugs that have been proven to decrease the occurrence of hot flashes. These include some antidepressants related to the class of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as Effexor, Prozac, Sarafem, Paxil, Celaxa and Zoloft. Another drug that has been shown to reduce hot flashes is Neurontin, which is approved to treat seizures. Neurontin is also commonly used to manage chronic nerve-related pain. Additionally, Catapres, which is typically used to treat high blood pressure, may also significantly reduce the frequency of hot flashes. Of course, some of these drugs may cause side effects, which include dizziness, drowsiness, nausea, sexual dysfunction and other symptoms. If, however, your hot flashes are severe and natural remedies haven't seemed to help, discuss these options with your doctor.
Finally, it's so very important for you to understand that menopause is very natural. As you experience these symptoms remind yourself that your body is acting and reacting just as it was meant to act and react. While there may be periods of discomfort, remember that you're a healthy woman and, as such, menopause is simply inevitable. As stated earlier, this transition does not mark the end of your youth and all that comes with it. With a healthy lifestyle, this can be a very active and beautiful new beginning.
Susan Megge is the founder of http://www.40isbeautiful.com, a website designed to assist mature women as they approach and experience menopause. She is a grandmother, who started experiencing symptoms of menopause several years ago and researched various avenues to deal with these symptoms naturally. This led to her discovery of the significant role that exercise plays in making menopause a very manageable, and even wonderful time in a woman's life. Susan Megge is the author of "Being Beautiful Beyond 40," a book dedicated to helping women to be inspired, confident and beautiful as they approach menopause.
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