9 Ways to Manage Menopause
Posted 2/22/2015 by UHBlog
If you think menopause is like flipping a switch and poof, your menstrual cycle ends, you obviously haven't lived through it.
Menopause is a time of transition for most women that consists of three parts – perimenopause, menopause and post-menopause. Menopause symptoms can last years, says reproductive endocrinologist and gynecologic surgeon James Liu, MD.
"Menopause itself is defined as a shutdown of estrogen from the ovaries," Dr. Liu says. After a full year without your menstrual period, you're through menopause. For most women, the average age is 51.
Some women breeze through menopause while others suffer:
- Physical symptoms, such as headaches, night sweats and hot flashes
- Psychological symptoms, such as mood swings and difficulty concentrating
- Sexual symptoms, such as vaginal dryness and changes in sexual desire
"The most bothersome part of menopause is the impact on the brain from the decline in estrogen levels," Dr. Liu says. For example, hot flashes are centered in the central nervous system and many women complain of short-term memory loss.
If you're dealing with the change of life, try these nine ways to manage menopause:
- Birth control pills can help bring predictability if your periods occur more frequently than 28 to 30 days or if they're heavier than usual. Birth control pills will also keep you from getting pregnant because you are still ovulating.
- Lifestyle changes are things you can do to make hot flashes less bothersome. For instance, dress in layers so clothing can be added or removed when you're sweating. Also, avoid foods and beverages that may cause hot flashes, such as spicy foods, alcohol, coffee, tea and other hot beverages.
- Diet modifications are important during this stage of life because not only would you like to fit into your jeans, but you want to avoid developing either of the two most common health problems affecting postmenopausal women: osteoporosis and heart disease.
- Exercise helps control the moodiness and PMS-like symptoms a lot of women experience. "Diet and exercise are the kinds of things you can do naturally," Dr. Liu says. "Exercise is also a good way to sleep better."
- Good sleep practices can help you cope with sleep disturbances, such as night sweats and trouble with falling or staying asleep, and the subsequent "brain fog" from sleepless nights. Some strategies include keeping a thermos of ice water or an ice pack next to your bed during the night and using cotton sheets, lingerie and clothing that allow your skin to breathe.
- Journaling can help you keep track of when hot flashes happen. You may discover what triggers your flashes and then avoid those triggers.
- Over-the-counter lubricants are solutions for the vaginal dryness that can occur during menopause. Or see your doctor for a vaginal estrogen cream or tablet to help with vaginal discomfort.
- Hormone replacement therapies (HRT) can help offset the levels of female hormones that go up and down, Dr. Liu says. "There is a lot of outdated misinformation on hormone therapy on the Internet," he says. "The recommendations have changed over time." HRTs are prescribed by your doctor, who can also cover their benefits and risks.
- Alternative therapies have helped some women get through menopause. For instance, yoga and herbal supplements are among the strategies used. One technique that women use to combat hot flashes is slow-paced breathing, says Dr. Liu.
James Liu, MD is a reproductive endocrinologist and gynecologic surgeon at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, and chairman of the obstetrics and gynecology department. You can request an appointment with Dr. Liu or any other doctor online.