You’ve reached midlife — you’ve waited years for this glorious time when you take back your life! It is time to get to all of those things you’ve been dreaming of while working, raising kids, and taking care of a family. You are there! Except, you are exhausted and feel terrible. Ah, menopause. The dreaded “M” word has arrived just in time to foil the best-laid plans. Because let’s be real, the common symptoms associated with the menopausal years are not enjoyable. No one can say that night sweats, hot flashes, unwanted weight gain, and anxiety are a good time. We have been told that these are to be anticipated and that it is just part of getting older. However, while these symptoms are common, they are not a requirement for transitioning into menopause. And there are, in fact, ways to head into midlife and beyond looking and feeling your best. So get ready to take on the world!
Perimenopause vs. Menopause
While the term menopause is usually used to describe the period of time that actually leads up to it, this is actually perimenopause. In perimenopause, women still experience a cycle, but this is when hormone levels begin to change. Perimenopause can begin 8 to 10 years before menopause. During this time, both estrogen and progesterone start to decline and these typical symptoms may appear.
Symptoms of Perimenopause
These symptoms can include (but are not limited to):
- Night sweats
- Hot flashes
- Irregular periods
- Decreased libido
- Thinning skin/hair
- Weight gain
- Vaginal dryness
- Increased UTIs
- Mood changes
- Changes in bone density
- Joint pain
Menopause is actually reached when a woman has been an entire year without a period. Generally speaking, this usually occurs in a woman’s late 40s to early 50s. At this point, a woman’s ovaries have stopped releasing eggs and producing most of their estrogen. After the twelve months are up, and menopause is reached, a woman is considered postmenopausal.
Help! Can Anything Be Done To Help Minimize Symptoms?
For many, the symptoms that define perimenopause decline once menopause is reached. This isn’t the case for everyone and symptoms may persist for years after. You can blame those pesky hormones for that. If you have reached menopause and still suffer from any of the unwelcome symptoms, it is wise to speak with your healthcare provider about available options, such as hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT), to determine if either is right for you.
There are also diet and lifestyle modifications to consider and it is never too early to start incorporating them into your daily routine. Sometimes the simplest actions can have the most profound results. Things like prioritizing sleep, eating a nutrient-dense, whole foods diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods, taking targeted supplements, and incorporating stress-relieving activities into your daily life can go a long way towards creating a smoother transition and supporting sustained health and well being.
In this new series, we will explore the various strategies that women can employ on their own to guide this beautiful and normal transition into menopause and beyond. From addressing common symptoms of menopause and perimenopause, through managing stress, to learning how your diet impacts hormonal changes, we’re covering it all. So, stay tuned to learn how to be proactive about your hormonal transition and thrive in midlife.