Menopause might seem like an unnavigable time in any woman’s life but it doesn’t have to be an overwhelming, confusing and scary experience. A few signposts along the way and some helpful guidance could turn menopause into an easily manageable albeit inevitable part of life.
Some of the most frequently encountered signs that women report, may already be familiar to you. Others may surprise you. Hot flashes, irregular bleeding, night sweats, brain fog often occur when women’s bodies are transitioning into menopause.
Chief among them are hot flashes. According to a study published in The Journal of Midlife Health, “More than 80% of women experience hot flashes (HFs) during menopause. Defined by transient sensations of heat, sweating, flushing, anxiety, and chills lasting for 1–5 min, HFs can cause considerable distress especially when severe and frequent.”
Night sweats, another common symptom, can definitely dampen your mood. A night sweat is basically a hot flash that occurs while you are sleeping. Or, at least, while you are trying to sleep. It’s generally accepted that a good night sleep is essential to our overall wellbeing. So, this pesky symptom is more than a nuisance. It can be downright disruptive.
According to The National Institute on Aging, here are a few key things you can do to help alleviate hot flashes and night sweats:
Lower the temperature in the rooms in your home, mainly the bedroom, if night sweats are your biggest bother. Drink small amounts of cold water before bed. Layer your bed linens as well as your clothing, so that you can easily peel them away when needed. Turn on a fan (or carry a handheld one with you) or crack open a window. Try to limit alcohol, spicy food, caffeine, and tobacco consumption. Maintain a healthy weight. Practice mindfulness.
Irregular bleeding can often indicate the onset of perimenopause or menopause, if a woman has been fairly regular throughout her reproductive years. If there is a “noticeable change in menstrual cycle lengths after age 40, defined as a persistent difference in consecutive menstrual cycles of seven or more days, which occurs on average 6-8 years before the FMP (final menstrual period)”, it is usually an indicator of early onset transition into menopause. If you experience 60 days or more of amenorrhea (absence of menstruation), it’s more likely a late onset transition “which occurs on average two years before the FMP.” The best way to stay on top of these changes is to keep a log of your cycle. There are many easy-to-use apps that can help you accurately track your cycle so that you are more aware of changes and can more easily report them to your doctor.
If you’re wondering if your memory lapses and other cognitive hiccups could be down to perimenopause/menopause, the answer is a resounding yes. “Generally, anywhere from one-third to two-thirds of women during this stage of life report forgetfulness and other difficulties that they view as related to poor memory.”
Some habits that could help in this department would be integrating word games such as crosswords, or other mind games like sudoku, into your daily routine. Exercising your brain in a fun manner is an easy way to gain control over this mid-life mist.
A study that looked at the correlation between fatigue and stress, established that “the dynamic relationship between the body’s regulatory relationship between stress and fatigue changes dramatically over the course of the MT (menopausal transition).” Implementing a regular sleep schedule (and sticking to it), as well as healthy bedtime habits, could be highly beneficial in helping to lessen the weight of daily fatigue.
The average age for a woman to hit menopause in America is 51..The window is fairly broad however ranging between 40 and 55.
It’s also widely believed that a daughter will often follow her mother’s menopausal transition age. This indeed seems to be supported by a couple of studies which showed “that a woman’s age at menopause is related to her mother’s age at menopause (and) may be due to genetics or common behaviors, such as tobacco use, dietary intake, and physical activities. A genetic hypothesis is supported by twin studies, which reveal a heritability for age at menopause of 63%.”
Easing the Severity
We’ve already seen that we can be proactive and implement some fairly simple actions and healthful lifestyle changes that will ease this universally experienced transition into this stage of a woman’s life. From quitting smoking, to reducing alcohol and caffeine consumption, little steps can have a beneficial and lasting impact. Other keys to a more manageable menopause include regular exercise, maintaining a healthy body weight and eating healthily. Check out more on menopause here.
Women can feel empowered knowing that they are ultimately their own greatest advocates and can take a hands-on approach when dealing with menopause. No need to take a backseat here. You can direct the way this inevitable path will go. And, who knows, you might even really like where it brings you.