Am I in Menopause?
Have you been feeling not like yourself lately? Sometimes you're on top of the world; other times you don't know what to do. Is this menopause? If so, what can you do about it?
Here is a list of the most common menopausal/perimenopausal symptoms, along with some tips on how to cope with them. Some women have many of these symptoms, others have very few. Be sure to discuss your symptoms with your doctor.
About 90% of women experience menstrual cycle changes for about 4-8 years before they reach menopause. These changes include:
- Shorter cycles
- Bleeding may be for fewer or more days than previously
- Changes in flow: heavier, lighter or just spotting
Just before you go through menopause (known as perimenopause), you may even skip periods. These are all signs that you're not producing as much of the two hormones — estrogen and progesterone — that regulate your menstrual cycle.
What to do:
Be prepared. Pack extra tampons and pads and keep them in a number of places like your work, home and car just in case!
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Hot flashes (or their nighttime counterpart, night sweats) happen during menopause when you don't produce enough of the hormones that work with the brain to regulate your temperature. Menopause brings about a drop in estrogen, which confuses your body’s thermostat and alerts your heart, blood vessels and nervous system to work harder, bringing about a feeling of intense heat. Then your body cools down, leaving you chilled. Night sweats can wake you from a sound sleep and make it difficult to have a restful sleep.
What to do:
Dress smart. Dress in layers for easy changes, and choose fabrics that breathe and allow air to circulate.
Practice breathing. Try some long, even breaths. Count to four on the inhale and pause. Exhale to the count of four and pause. Repeat for 10 full breaths.
Drink plenty of water.
Avoid spicy/greasy foods. These types of foods can raise your body temperature.
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Sleeplessness is a condition of waking up and not feeling rested. This condition can lead to other problems, such as daytime drowsiness, depression and difficulty concentrating. Difficulty sleeping is not uncommon when going through menopause as approximately 61% of menopausal women experience occasional sleep problems, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Night sweats, snoring, sleep apnea and anxiety associated with menopausal women make falling asleep or staying asleep more difficult.
What to do:
Talk to your doctor. Next to you, no one knows your health better. Plus, it’s always good to rule out other causes of sleeplessness, such as sleep apnea, depression or anxiety.
No evening eating. Digesting large meals or even salty snacks can disrupt your sleep patterns. Try to eat an evening meal at the same time every night, and give yourself at least three hours before laying down to sleep.
Skip the booze. Avoid alcohol before bedtime. You may think it makes you sleepy, but it actually increases the chances you'll wake up during the night.
Work up a sweat. Exercise during the day to speed up your metabolism and wear yourself out. This way you can fall asleep easier and stay asleep longer.
Cool it down. Meditation or yoga before bed can help reduce stress, a major cause of sleeplessness; it has also been shown to increase production of melatonin, which promotes sleep naturally.
Dress for success. Whether it’s cotton pajamas, a favorite nightgown or a big t-shirt, always wear what makes you feel the most comfortable. But be sure to choose lightweight, natural fibers that "breathe."
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Mood swings are common during menopause, when your body is experiencing a hormonal imbalance. But from hot flashes to night sweats, panic attacks to headaches, the symptoms of menopause can give anyone reason to be irritable and moody. Yet there are no studies that show that menopause leads to depression or anxiety. You may recall that during adolescence — another time of life when your hormones were in flux — you were also moody and irritable at times. And now, just as then, your emotional state can be not so great one day, but excellent the next.
What to do:
Don’t overcommit. Don’t take on more obligations than you can handle.
Count to ten: This will give you time to breathe and get back to being in control of your emotions. But don't be afraid to cry, laugh or do whatever you feel like to let off steam.
Know your options. Psychotherapy, counseling, support groups and social media can also be helpful. Talk with your healthcare provider to discuss the best action plan for you.
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As if the other symptoms of menopause weren’t enough, many women also experience weight changes during menopause or a general change in body shape. During menopause your serotonin levels naturally decline, which can result in feelings of hunger and a less efficient metabolism, which can lead to weight change.
What to do:
Create a diet: Now more than ever, you need a balanced diet that focuses on healthy foods and reduces consumption of alcohol and caffeine.
Hit the gym: Hot flashes and night sweats are less common in active women. Exercise can enhance mood, promote daytime energy and help sleep.
Walk everywhere: Get a smartwatch and see how many miles you can walk each week. Take the stairs instead of the elevator and park a few blocks from your destination to fit more walking into your day!
Incorporate exercise everywhere: Have a light pair of weights at your desk or install a rowing machine/spin bike in front of your TV.
Make goals: It’s easier to accomplish your goals if you start with a plan. Decide what you want to achieve and how you want to achieve it. Goals are only achieved if you stick to a plan!
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