Menopause is an important life event for women.
- In the past Menopause was seen as the threshold of old age . It can now be seen as a new beginning.
- Every woman’s experience of Menopause will be different.
- Menopause can increase the risk of Heart Disease, Breast Cancer and Osteoporosis.
- Simple improvements in lifestyle, at this time, can protect women from serious health problems later in life.
A simple health check for all women around the time of Menopause can assess risk of developing these and other diseases and develop a plan to optimize your health.
What is the menopause?
This is the natural end to your menstruation and fertility. Women’s ovaries stop producing hormones between the ages of 44 -55 years of age. The average age of menopause in Ireland is 52 years. Menopause is considered when a woman (of this age group) has been without a menstrual cycle for 12 months.
Reduced hormone production of progesterone and oestrogen may unfortunately lead to reduction in bone density and thus an increased risk of fracturing bones in later life. It is very important for menopausal women to get their Bone Density reviewed at regular intervals as treatment can greatly alter the onset and progression of Osteoporosis.
Common symptoms of the Menopause?
Symptoms may occur whilst still menstruating – peri-menopausal- or when the menopause commences. The symptoms vary greatly from person to person in terms of frequency and severity and may be quite debilitating.
Common symptoms are as follows.
Changes in the pattern of your cycle e.g. periods heavier, further /closer together
Hot flushes, Night sweats, Mood swings, Vaginal dryness, Thinning of hair
What can I do?
Dietary changes, Exercise, Complimentary therapies , Hormone replacement therapy (HRT), and other recognised medical treatments may all be considered in challenging menopausal symptoms.
Regular Bone DEXA Scans are recommended to avoid osteoporosis and prevent its progression. Thus avoiding disability and fractures as we grow older. DEXA BONE SCAN
- Dietary changes
Avoidance of certain foods and drinks – caffeine, tea, alcohol and spicy foods – which are known to trigger hot flushes may lessen the severity of hot flushes.
Exercise for the menopausal woman helps you to sleep better, aids weight loss, combats stress and tension and generally improves the quality of life . Fast walking or cardiovascular exercise tailored to your specific abilities is the most suitable form of exercise. More gentle forms of exercise such as yoga which teach controlled breathing techniques can be very useful in coping with such symptoms as flushes and sweats.
- Complementary therapies
There is little scientific evidence that complementary therapies are effective in relieving menopausal symptoms. Evening primrose oil ,red clover, soy and dong quai may have some role to play in the short term relief of such symptoms as hot flushes but evidence is lacking. Their safety is yet undetermined and therefore cannot be recommended for patients on certain medications or with a history of breast cancer.
- Medications: When simple measures are ineffective some types of medications may be very helpful used to control vasomotor symptoms of flushing and sweats . These are low doses of SSRI/SNRI . Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
- HRT – yes or no?
The advantages and disadvantages of hormone replacement therapy have long been debated. Select patients may benefit greatly , but they are not recommended for all women. Many studies have shown that HRT medication in excess of 3-5 years duration may slightly increase the risk of breast cancer.
HRT can be extremely effective in the short term control of menopausal symptoms providing the patient fits the criteria required to take HRT safely. The general rule when using HRT is to use as little as possible for the shortest time possible.