Growing Old Gracefully: Preparing for Menopause
Women somehow fear growing old. We all have heard about the struggles of those before us, our mothers, aunts, older sisters, friends of friends. We begin to dread the wrinkles, the bad skin, the body aches, the emotional highs and lows, the hot flashes, the night sweats, the low sex drive, the headaches etc.
Just what exactly happens during menopause? What happens to a woman’s body during this stage in her life? Perhaps gaining some understanding now will help us avoid many of the discomforts associated with menopause. It has been said, we fear what we do not understand.
What to Expect
Menopause doesn’t happen overnight. According to experts, when a full year has passed since a woman’s last menstruation, she has officially entered this important milestone in her life.
Yes, it is a milestone. Like many milestones we can prepare for it long before we get there instead of dreading its arrival, and perhaps not “suffer” as much as we expect to.
So what are we preparing for? Following is a list of the common symptoms women experience during perimenopause and menopause.
- Belly fat – decreasing estrogen levels affect where fat is deposited in the body as we age.
- Hair loss – diminishing estrogen and progesterone levels are again implicated in hair loss during menopause, along with other hormonal imbalances and stress.
- Hot flashes and night sweats – sudden feeling of heat in the face, neck or chest which spreads upwards or downwards. The skin in these areas may redden and become patchy, and the sweating begins.
- Irregular periods– menstrual cycle changes; what used to be a 23 to 28-day cycle becomes more or less frequent. Some women get it twice in a month while others get it every few months.
- Lower fertility- estrogen levels decline, lowering a woman’s chances of becoming pregnant
- Mood swings- this often goes hand-in-hand with sleep disturbance. Experts say that most mood disturbances are triggered by poor sleep.
- Difficulty concentrating/memory loss- short-term memory problems are common among menopausal women, as well as difficulty concentrating
- Sleep disorders- sleeping problems develop as a result of the other symptoms like the night sweats.
- Urinary problems- women become more prone to urinary tract infections, such as
- Vaginal dryness– usually includes itching and/or discomfort. Some women experience dyspareunia (painful intercourse). Some 30% of women suffer from vaginal atrophy because of the thinning and shrinking of the tissues. The lack of estrogen also causes decreased lubrication.
How to Prepare Your Body for Menopause
The earlier we think about taking better care of ourselves while preparing for the inevitable, the easier it will be when we get there. We will grow old, no question about it, but we can do it with as much grace as we can or be miserable every step of the way. It really is our choice.
- Physical Readiness – Get in Shape
Each woman’s experience with menopause is unique. Everybody responds differently to declining hormone levels depending on how physically fit they are. Getting “in shape” for menopause begins with restoring and maintaining the body’s metabolic balance.
The primary causes of metabolic imbalance are:
- Poor lifestyle choices – unhealthy diet, no exercise, poor sleeping habits, repeated/prolonged stress, excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, substance abuse etc.
- Loss of any hormone system – The loss of any of the hormone-producing glands (i.e. thyroid, parathyroid, adrenal glands, pancreas etc) causes metabolic imbalance.
All of these factors are interconnected and getting caught in a web of hormonal imbalances due to any of these said factors is like getting caught in vicious cycle that will ultimately spiral out of control if not addressed early on.
Menopause is the permanent loss of a woman’s sex hormone system, which in itself causes metabolic imbalance. If a woman’s metabolic balance is already compromised because of the above-mentioned factors, the onset of menopause will further undermine the body’s metabolic health.
Remember, the key is to make sure your body’s internal messaging system has the right levels of messengers (hormones) so that everything else will know how to function.
How do we do this?
Getting tested for any hormone imbalance will be a good first step. We can do a simple online hormone test. Now this will require us to carefully examine what symptoms we are experiencing. We should be prepared to do some research as well. NO, IT’S NOT A LOT OF WORK. Again remember, we are preparing to wage a war against menopause, and we have to be armed with enough of the right information in order to come out of it with beautiful skin, glowing hair and youthful energy!
After this online hormone test, we can order the recommended tests via Direct Access Testing (DAT) (if it is allowed in our state). We can also see our doctor, discuss our concerns, show him the hormone test results, see what he recommends and proceed from there.
It would be a good idea to do this regularly, just to see if our metabolic health is improving after making changes to our lifestyle.
- Emotional and Mental Readiness
Aging gracefully isn’t easy. It is a stage in our lives that will most likely be littered with emotional landmines.7 It would help to develop the right kind of ATTITUDE towards aging now while we haven’t yet “fallen captive to the evil clutches of time”. ACCEPTANCE is another good concept.
Hormone loss during menopause can make women emotionally fragile. We may suffer from low self esteem, become confused and sad, weepy and angry all the time. Knowing all of these possibilities now, we can “train” ourselves to indulge in varying pursuits and find one or two that we will truly enjoy doing on top of our regular activities, no matter how old we get. Get into painting, photography, travel, blogging, writing, gardening, etc. Learn new things, embrace life and become involved in meaningful social and recreational activities. Developing new habits now can only be beneficial later on in life. Leave no room for wallowing in misery.
By paying more attention to our hormone systems before/during perimenopause and way before menopause, we will lessen the metabolic impact of losing our sex hormone system later on in life.
It is never too early to get our body in shape. The earlier we recognize the need for maintaining our metabolic health, the better prepared we will be for our golden years.
Categories: Health & Wellness
Tags: Direct Access Testing, estrogen levels, hair loss, hormonal imbalances, hormone imbalance, hormone levels, hot flashes, irregular periods, low sex drive, menopause, metabolic balance, night sweats, online hormone test, perimenopause, progesterone levels, vaginal dryness
Growing Old Gracefully: Preparing for Menopause
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