Dear Dr. Dave and Dr. Dee,
The past few months I've been experiencing moments of feeling hot and stuffy, so that I need to take off my sweater. But, it doesn't last very long, maybe a few minutes. Then, later, I get the chills and need my sweater back on. My officemate thinks I�m menopausal. I'm only 48 and still have periods, although they are irregular. But, isn't this too early for menopause?
Dear Menopausal symptoms,
Hot flashes followed by chills and irregular periods are common symptoms of menopause. Most women experience menopause between the ages of 48 and 52, although some women can reach menopause in their 30's or as late as 60.
Menopause is a normal part of life where a woman stops having her monthly period for 12 months. The declining levels of estrogen and progesterone hormones cause changes in the menstrual period often making it irregular, lighter, or heavier. But, eventually menstruation will cease.
Estrogen helps keep bones healthy and helps maintain good cholesterol levels in the blood. When the ovaries stop producing estrogen, then women who are post menopausal should increase their intake of calcium in order to prevent osteoporosis (brittle-bone disease). Women who reach menopause are also at a higher risk of heart disease and should maintain a healthy diet and exercise.
Always consult with your physician or health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition.
The Canadian's Women's Health Network at www.cwhn.ca outlines menopause:
WHAT IS MENOPAUSE?
Menopause is the end of menstruation. The word comes from the Greek mens, meaning monthly, and pausis, meaning cessation. Menopause is part of a woman's natural aging process when her ovaries produce lower levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone and when she is no longer able to become pregnant.
Unlike a woman's first menstruation, which starts on a single day, the changes leading up to menopause happen over several years. The average age for menopause is 52. But menopause commonly happens anytime between the ages of 42 and 56.
A woman can say she has begun her menopause when she has not had a period for a full year.
WHAT IS 'PERIMENOPAUSE'?
'Perimenopause' refers to the several years before menopause when a woman may begin experiencing the first signs of her menopausal transition. But many people use the term 'menopause' for both the perimenopausal years as well as the few years following menopause.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF MENOPAUSE?
Menopause is a natural process that happens to every woman as she grows older, and is not a medical problem, disease or illness.
There are many possible signs of menopause and each woman feels them differently. Most women have no or few menopausal symptoms while some women have many moderate or severe symptoms.
The clearest signs of the start of menopause are irregular periods. Other signs may include some of the following: weight gain, hot flashes, insomnia, night sweats, vaginal, dryness, joint pain, fatigue, short-term memory problems, bowel upset, dry eyes, itchy skin, mood swings, and urinary tract infections.
Most of the time, these symptoms will lessen or go away after a woman has finished menopause.
In brief below is the Cleveland Clinic (www.clevelandclinic.org) advice for coping with some common symptoms of menopause
COPING WITH THE SYMPTOMS OF MENOPAUSE
Not all women experience menopause in the same way. For some, menopause can bring on an array of uncomfortable symptoms while others may experience few discomforts.
Relieving Hot Flashes
1. Identify and avoid your hot flash "triggers" such as stress, caffeine, certain foods.
2. Keep the bedroom cool, if necessary use a fan.
3. Try deep, slow abdominal breathing (6 to 8 breaths per minute). Practice deep breathing for 15 minutes in the morning, in the evening, and at the onset of hot flashes.
4. Exercise daily.
5. Try taking vitamin E supplements (400 international units [IUs] twice a day) and ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, Nuprin) at bedtime. Note: Do not take ibuprofen and aspirin together.
6. Add soy protein (40 to 60 mg) to your diet daily.
1. Keep the bedroom cool to prevent night sweats.
2. Avoid using sleeping pills.
3. Exercise daily.
4. Avoid caffeine and alcohol at night.
5. Take a warm bath or shower at bedtime.
6. Eat cereal and milk products at bedtime or during the night. (Avoid products that contain caffeine.)
Coping with Mood Swings, Fears and Depression
1. Find a self-calming skill to practice, such as yoga, meditation or slow, deep breathing.
2. Avoid tranquilizers, if possible.
3. Engage in a creative outlet that fosters a sense of achievement.
4. Stay connected with your family and community.
Relieving Painful Intercourse
Try using a vaginal water-based moisturizing lotion or lubricant during intercourse.
For more information, see www.clevelandclinic.org and www.cwhn.ca