There’s no easy way into menopause. It’s a rollercoaster ride of symptoms — from hot flashes to chills to fluctuating moods. While eventually, every woman has to go through it, not everyone has to suffer. There are steps you can take to make the menacing years of menopause much more bearable. Dr Asha Baxi, Senior Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, Motherhood Hospital, Indore tells you how.
What is menopause and when does it start?
Menopause is when the periods permanently stop after estrogen levels go down in the woman’s body. “It’s officially menopause after 12 months since the last cycle of menses,” says Dr Baxi. The median age for menopause is 51.
What are the symptoms of menopause?
When a woman is peri-menopausal (approaching menopause), her hormones fluctuate, causing a range of physical and emotional disorders. “These symptoms can interfere with sleep and mood (at least indirectly). Due to such discomforts, many women turn to medicines, supplements and diet changes,” adds Dr Baxi.
The symptoms of menopause are vasomotor (related to the expansion and contraction of blood vessels), urogenital (related to urinary and genital organs) and psychogenic (related to mood) in nature.
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75% of women face vasomotor symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, palpitations and migraines. They can be worsened by alcohol, eating, emotional stress and exertion.
60% of women experience urogenital symptoms like thinning of the vaginal and urethral lining, low sex drive, vaginal dryness and loss of bladder control.
45% of women also experience a change in mood, including anger, irritability, anxiety, tension, depression, sleep disturbance, loss of concentration and a loss of self-esteem. Read more on menopause here.
These symptoms, says Dr Baxi, can last for more than four to five years.
How to manage menopause
Menopause is inevitable. Luckily, suffering isn’t. Dr Baxi outlines all the ways in which you can make menopause a bit more bearable.
Exercise and strength training
Exercise is the cornerstone of good health. So don’t be surprised when your gynec tells you to break into a good sweat once in a while.
“Being overweight or having a BMI over 30 may be linked to hot flashes. Exercising has been known to reduce. It can also tackle sleep disturbances, relieve stress and improve your quality of life,” adds the doctor.
Since the risk of osteoporosis can increase post-menopause, strength training is a must. “It will help increase muscle and bone strength, burn body fat, and speed up metabolism. At home, choose dumbbells and resistance tubes. In the gym, choose weightlifting equipment or free weights,” says the gynec.
If that’s not your cup of tea, no problem! Dance your heart out.
“Incorporating calorie-burning aerobic exercise into your daily activities. If you don’t like running on a treadmill, consider joining a dance class. Dance can help build muscle and maintain flexibility,” says Dr Baxi.
There’s also a caveat: be regular. “Physical exercise helps maintain a healthy weight, keeps bones strong and energetic, and reduces the risk of heart disease and other age-related complications. So do a small amount of exercise every day,” she says.
Yoga and meditation
Hormonal imbalances are notorious for wreaking havoc on your mood. What you need is some relaxation. “Practice the techniques that suit you best, whether it’s deep breathing, yoga, or meditation. Supportive and restorative yoga poses can provide some relief. These poses can help calm your nerves by concentrating. They can also help relieve symptoms such as hot flashes, irritability, fatigue,” says the doc.
Mind your heart health during menopause. Study says that cardiovascular diseases are more common in menopausal women aged 40-55. One way to keep your heart in ship shape is with aerobics and cardio. “Aerobic exercise that uses large muscle groups while maintaining your heart rate is a good thing. Your aerobic exercise options are limitless. Almost all activities are important, such as walking, jogging, cycling, swimming,” prescribes the doctor.
Get out and get some sun…and a big glass of milk!
Osteoporosis risk post menopause needs to be tackled with calcium and vitamin D. Dr Baxi recommends a diet rich in milk, yoghurt, cheese, fish with bones and fatty fish. ” This is critical for maintaining healthy bones and preventing bone loss after menopause.”
Goes without saying right? “Your risk of heart disease rises after menopause.
Limit consumption of saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol. Substitute them with monosaturated and polyunsaturated fats,” recommends Dr Baxi.