Around one third of a woman’s life is lived after the menopause. In developing countries, menopause often occurs in the late 40’s but here and in most developed countries, it starts on average between 50 and 52.
The International Menopause Society – and yes, there is such a thing – is marking the day by publishing a report encouraging menopausal women to take action and have a health audit to avoid chronic diseases in later life.
According to their report, in the decade after the menopause, women become vulnerable to chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, cognitive decline (e.g. Alzheimer’s disease), and cancer. This means the early post-menopause years provide the opportunity for women to take preventative steps and start ensuring they have a healthy diet, drink moderately if at all, take exercise, prevent weight gain and stay engaged in mentally stimulating activities.
Women should also undergo regular health checks for chronic conditions including cancer and heart disease – heart disease kills more women than any other condition. Starting the use of estrogen and certain types of MHT (Menopausal Hormone Therapy, also known as Hormone Replacement Therapy) within 10 years of the menopause, or under the age of 60, has been shown to reduce the incidence of heart disease.
Lead author of the report, Dr Roger Lobo said;
“Various studies have confirmed that estrogen and certain types of MHT are beneficial if started soon after the menopause. Interestingly, data is emerging that some medications commonly used to prevent coronary heart disease, such as statins and aspirin, work well in men but not in women – most of the trials have mainly involved men. So MHT may be the best treatment to help fend off coronary artery disease in women. A consensus has developed that, in the right population, the benefits of MHT outweigh the risks. For women who have had a hysterectomy – around one third of women in developed countries -the effects of MHT are mostly positive. For women within 10 years of the menopause or under the age of 60 and who have not had a hysterectomy, the risks are generally few in comparison to the future health benefits.”
READ more in the society’s journal Climacteric here.
And because it’s World Menopause Day, we asked Emily Ruth Baker, Queen of the American website Hot Flash Freedom to give us 5 lesser known menopausal symptoms to look out for:
Everyone is familiar with hot flashes (or hot flushes as we call them this side of the Atlantic) as a sign of menopause but you may also experience chills. When hot flashes strike, they increase your body temperature very quickly. When they pass, your body temperature drops just as quickly. This sudden drop, combined with sweat on the skin, leaves the body feeling a sudden cold chill, having you reaching for blankets that you tossed away in frustration only moments before. Some women also report cold extremities, even during hot flashes.
2. Menstrual Flooding
Sounds horrible, right? Well, it is. Sorry, ladies. While most women expect periods to stop or become less frequent and heavy during menopause, in fact periods may become more frequent, heavier, or can even present as a sudden extreme flow that seems impossible for you to survive. If you are experiencing an extremely heavy surge when you think your period is almost over, then this could be a sign that menopause is imminent.
3. Hair Growth/Loss
Individuals may experience thick hair growth between the breasts, around nipples, on the chin, and down the back, while others may experience hair loss instead. Some may even experience hair loss in genital areas, head and armpits, in addition to an increase in hair on their chin or chest. Hormones are a crazy thing!
Notice that you seem to be tripping over things, bumping into things, or are just not as sure-footed as you used to be? Women who are in the early stages of menopause may find that they have unexplained bruises. This can be quite scary, as there are other medical conditions that list unexplained bruises as a symptom. However, if bruises appear in spots where trauma is likely, such as arms and legs, and progress and fade as a normal bruise should, then it may simply be an indicator that menopause is on the way.
5. Tingling or Burning in the Mouth
While not a common menopause symptom, some women have reported feeling a burning sensation in their tongue, lips, or gums. This is related to the hormone changes that menopause brings. Other women have experienced a difference in the way foods taste, either in addition to, or instead of the tingling sensation.
Visit Hot Flash Freedom for more information and more ideas for how to cope with the menopause.