The (shhh!) Menopause


Men – don’t you dare press close – one day you may be living through the menopause with your beloved and will need to help her through it, you will need help to get through helping her through it!  We will also be discussing if the Male Menopause it truth or myth?!

Women do a get a raw deal, I’m not looking for sympathy but let’s face it, we do. From puberty, periods, giving birth and then the menopause, Not exactly a great laugh is it? Throughout our lives we are a slave to the hormone Oestrogen. It gives us all we need to be a healthy functioning woman but after the ages of 40 – 55 (it varies considerably from one woman to the next) Oestrogen starts to dessert us. It’s like nature is saying to us, “well done love, you’ve done a good job for womanhood, b****r off”

The Perimenopause
The more observant of you will notice this is written in font size 9, not as embarrassing to talk about but that’s only because no one knows what it is! This is the front – runner for the Big One. This can last for 10 years and its gift to you is the start of symptoms which in some cases can be mild and not noticeable at all or in some people it causes a huge disruption. Poor sleeping, irregular, heavy painful periods, low moods, irritability, in fact, not  -dissimilar to Pre-menstrual Syndrome (can I write that in font size 11?) so many people don’t realise that they are going through it.

Hot flushes!
Hot flushes are the most common symptom of the menopause, 80% of women say that they experienced them. There is one office in our building that could double up as a steam room if our one at the Swimming Centre ever breaks down. This isn’t due to any expensive pieces of spa equipment but the temperature of 3 or 4 menopausal ladies synchronising their hot flushes! This is due to the decrease in hormone levels which upsets the temperature regulating part of the brain. These hot flushes can carry on into the night where they then earn the name of Night Sweats. Both of these are embarrassing for the sufferer and can be debilitating.

Keep cool…
During the day, wear cotton and layers of clothing rather than one big sweater (no pun intended!) so that as you feel the temperature raising you can peel off the layers, you may also feel cold once the flush has passed. Try to keep the room ventilated and the heating not too high. At night avoid hot drinks, caffeine, red wine and chocolate before you go to bed.  Try a lighter tog quilt, have the window open slightly and make sure you have kept yourself hydrated throughout the day and stop smoking. Make sure that your partner wears a wet suit and snorkel (optional!)

It is sometimes referred to as the Meno-podge, it’s not really, I made that up. Many women complain that they put weight on during this time. While there are hormone changes which can affect weight gain it could be caused by women not being as active as they were. If a women gains weight during this time the weight may be carried around the tummy area. This increases the chance of developing visceral fat- or fat around the internal organs which can lead to heart disease and diabetes type 2.

Mood swings
The hormone changes can also affect the brain function and lead to mood swings or in some cases depression. This can be linked to other factors which happen around this time, such as children leaving home or the Empty Nest Syndrome which can be upsetting.

Some women also experience palpitations or a racing heart, all due to hormones again. You should be aware that if a woman is a certain age the symptoms may not be due to the menopause and they should be checked with their GP.

So, what can you do?
You know what I’m going to say but it really, really helps: exercise of course!

Evidence shows that women who are more active tend to suffer less symptoms than those who are sedentary. Once Oestrogen has left the departure lounge women are more at risk of developing heart disease. Regular physical activity can help to keep the cardio-vascular system healthy, fat levels in the blood at the desired levels and blood glucose levels healthy.

Just 30 minutes a day of moderate intensity such as walking can help considerably. You can break it up into 10 minute sessions throughout the day. If you need motivation, join the gym, go to classes, swim, dance whatever it takes for you to move more, it will also help to lift your mood and is very social.

Bones are susceptible to developing Osteoporosis at about five years after the menopause which can result in fractures. The most common sites for fractures are the spine, pelvis and wrists. Resistance training using light to moderate weights is important at least 2 – 3 times a week. Body resistance exercises are great too such as squats, lunges press ups etc. It is also important to do weigh bearing exercises such as walking, dancing and studio classes such as aerobics, Zumba etc. Whatever you choose make sure that you enjoy it!

HRT v Exercise
Whether a woman goes on to HRT is a personal choice for her and her GP who knows about her symptoms and quality of life. Exercise and HRT can be taken together if this is the right choice for her. There are certain risks to taking HRT but they will be explained by their medical professional. Physical activity can be free, it has no side effects (other than being a bit sore!) and it’s fun!

Eat well
Eat a healthy diet which includes all macro and micronutrients. There are many vitamins specifically for menopausal women out there. Foods containing phytoestrogen such as soya beans, tofu and soya milk can help, phytoestrogen is weaker than oestrogen but can be beneficial to help you though.

Male menopause – Truth or Myth?
The experts are out on this one, some say that there are definitely testosterone hormone changes related to aging. Testosterone levels vary greatly in men in general and there is a slight decrease in older men than younger men which some experts say isn’t low enough to cause symptoms. But, some men do experience changes in their sexual function, insomnia or need too much sleep, there is a decrease in bone density and very  rarely they have hot flushes and less energy. Men also report emotional changes, lack of motivation and self- confidence, have trouble concentrating and poor memory.

Scientists don’t agree however, they would say that a lack of energy and the development of a beer belly and moobs makes them realise
that they are getting on a bit, losing their hair along with their sex appeal hits hard!

I couldn’t possibly comment – I’m not a Scientist after all. All I will say is that women don’t have a need to go out and buy a Harley Davidson, that is all……

Don’t despair…
There is life after the menopause (font size 9) you can rejoice in the fact that you will have no more periods, no PMS, You can’t get pregnant, hormonal headaches will be a thing of the past, you’ll be free! Many women become more successful within their career at this stage of their life.

It doesn’t matter if you are male or female, the MENOPAUSE  -(big shouty capital letters! It’s out there people, we’re over it, we can say the word with confidence!!) will get us all at some point- eat and drink well, look after your body and be physically active and hopefully you will sail through it, if you are worried or need support have a chat with your GP.

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