Women undergo multiple changes in their lifetime. Some transitions take a toll on the body while others have no side effects, but almost all women experience menopause. Linda Witham, nurse practitioner at Indiana University Health Physicians Women’s Health, offers advice for managing menopause symptoms and when to consult an expert.
“Menopause is diagnosed after a woman has gone at least 12 months without a menstrual cycle,” Witham says. “Symptoms of menopause may start to appear in a woman’s 40s or 50s. During the transitional years leading up to menopause, the ovaries produce different amounts of hormones than normal.”
Leading up to menopause, women may experience unpredictable periods, hot flashes, vaginal and urinary problems, hormonal and mood changes, and sleep disturbances.
To cope with the symptoms, Witham suggests the following:
- Be prepared. Always be prepared for the onset of symptoms. Dress in layers and carry a bottle of water with you. When spells occur, take slow, easy breaths.
- Pinpoint the triggers. Some women find that hot flashes occur with hot beverages, drinks containing caffeine or alcohol, spicy foods or stress. Knowing what leads to the onset of symptoms can help you stay prepared.
- Communicate with your doctor. For questions or concerns about how your body is changing, including irregular periods or hot flashes, talk with your OB/GYN or women’s health specialist. Keep up with regular wellness visits and ask your primary care doctor about recommended health screening tests. Always seek medical attention if you notice bleeding after menopause.
“Regular fitness activity during menopause can be really beneficial, too,” Witham says. “Movements like aerobic activity, strength training, and stretching can help you relax and keep your mind occupied. Although exercise isn’t proven to reduce menopause symptoms, it can help you maintain a healthy weight, relieve stress and improve quality of life.”
The only way to master menopause is to adapt to your new and changing body, and staying healthy while doing so will make your journey a little bit easier.