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Menopause is a natural part of growing older. It’s the point in a woman’s life when she has not had a menstrual period for over a year. At that time her childbearing years are over and a new phase of life begins.
For many women that phase can be one of far greater freedom, a chance to explore new interests and revisit old favorites. Whether you’re just beginning the “change of life” or have been there for a while, it’s a good idea to learn all you can about menopause. And when it comes to managing bothersome symptoms, you can turn to a specialist at MultiCare for menopause support and expert guidance on your treatment options.
As you age you begin to ovulate less often. As ovulation slows, your hormone levels fluctuate, causing changes in your periods and other, sometimes troubling, symptoms. For most women, menopause begins in their mid 40s. However some medical treatments, such as having your ovaries removed, radiation or chemotherapy, can cause your periods to stop before age 40.
The symptoms of menopause vary and can include:
- Irregular periods, ranging from light to heavy bleeding
- Hot flashes
- Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
- Heart palpitations
- Inability to think clearly or remember things
- Vaginal dryness
Menopause is a natural part of getting older, but if the symptoms of menopause are troubling or uncomfortable, you don’t have to suffer through them. There are a variety of things you can do to manage your symptoms. The first step is to have a healthy lifestyle. Not only can this help you reduce your symptoms, it can lower your risk of heart disease and other chronic health problems related to aging.
Here’s what to do:
- Eat a heart-healthy diet that is low in saturated fat and includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, high-fiber grains and lean protein, such as fish.
- Keep your bones strong with plenty of calcium: up to 1200 mg a day after age 50, plus 800 to 1000 IU of vitamin D to help your body use the calcium. Low- or no-fat milk is a great source of calcium.
- Work out regularly—including aerobic, weight-bearing, balance and stretching exercises— to help you manage your weight, keep your heart healthy, strengthen your bones and lift your spirits.
- Limit caffeine, alcohol and stress—this will help you sleep better.
- If you smoke, stop.
If your lifestyle changes aren’t enough to relieve your symptoms, you can also try:
- Meditative breathing exercises to reduce hot flashes and emotional ups and downs.
- Black cohosh, an herb that may prevent or reduce symptoms. Do not use this if you are or may become pregnant. Talk to your doctor about how to take it safely.
- Soy (isoflavones). Some women experience a reduction in symptoms by eating lots of soy.
- Yoga or biofeedback for stress reduction. Stress can make symptoms worse.
If you have severe menopausal symptoms, you may want to ask your doctor about treatment with prescription medications, including:
- Low-dose birth control pills, before the onset of menopause
- Low-dose hormone replacement therapy (HRT) after menopause
- Clondine (a medicine used for high-blood pressure)
There are complex issues surrounding medical treatment for menopause. At MultiCare, our board-certified obstetrician-gynecologists can guide you through them and help determine the treatment most appropriate for you.
For more information about menopause support, contact a MultiCare GYN Provider at any of our convenient locations.