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Let’s talk about menopause: 10 things you need to know

Anxiety, sleep problems, hot flushes, low energy, weight gain ... could this be the menopause? Here are 10 things we should all know about menopause, thanks to Sara Rounce from The Wellwoman Fitness Foundation.

women laughing together, menopause, women's health

The ‘M’ word has long been a taboo subject – the preserve of older aunts whispering about hot flushes and ‘the change’. For many women who enter this phase of life, there’s a feeling they have to just get on with it.

But attitudes to ‘the change’, are slowly changing… thanks to a slew of celebrities including Davina McCall, Meg Matthews, Emma Thompson and Michelle Obama who are talking openly and candidly about menopause and the symptoms.

So on World Menopause Day (18 Oct), we tapped up women’s health specialist, Sara Rounce from The Wellwoman Fitness Foundation, to find out 10 things we wall women – and men! – should know about the menopause.

1. There are four stages of menopause:

  • Pre-Menopause – before you enter the Peri-Menopause
  • Peri-Menopause – the stage leading up to the Menopause
  • Menopause
  • Post-Menopause – after the Menopause

2. Key changes take place in the body:

  • Reproduction hormone levels change
  • Progesterone and Oestrogen BOTH decline
  • Periods become erratic

3. There are many symptoms of menopause, and these occur during the peri-menopause phase and can last up to 10 years. This is by no means an exhaustive list:

  • Sleep disturbance
  • Hot flushes
  • Night sweats
  • Irregular periods
  • Brain fog
  • Vaginal dryness and loss of libido
  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Anxiety
  • Itching
  • Digestive problems
  • Breast soreness
  • Headaches
  • Weight gain
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Stress incontinence

4. Premature menopause does exist – this is when the menopause happens in your 30s. It may be due to illness or medical intervention.

5. The meaning of menopause is “monthly pause” in Greek.

We only actually reach the menopause when periods have stopped for a full year. It is a natural part of the ageing process. The definition is the point in time when menstrual cycles permanently cease due to the natural stop of eggs being released. The average age for menopause is 52 years of age.

6. You can still get pregnant!

You still need contraception right up until it is confirmed that you haven’t had a period for a full year. If you bleed before the age of 50 you’ll need contraception for a further two years. The Mirena Coil or Combined Pill helps reduce heavy bleeding and increases the intake of progesterone and both help to stop heavy periods.

7. Things we should avoid to help reduce our symptoms:

  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Sugar
  • Hot temperatures
  • Stressful situations
  • Sleep deprivation

8. What we can do to help us feel better in this phase of life:

  • Try herbal remedies – Black Cohosh is known to help night sweats and hot flushes; Evening Primrose is also known for helping with hot flushes and helping with the hormonal changes associated with menopause.
  • Ask for help – See your doctor especially if you are struggling with your symptoms and ask for a hormone test to determine your hormone levels (blood test or urine sample) and whether you are suffering with the menopause symptoms (or if it could be an Adrenal or Thyroid issue instead). You can also discuss treatments such as HRT and what might be right for you.
  • Improve your diet and nutrition – know what to increase and what to avoid, and seek advice from an expert in women’s health.
  • Try to sleep better by taking exercise and creating a cool dark environment.
  • Exercise regularly – and know what is best for your body. The benefits of exercise are vital for reducing moderate depression and mood swings, helping relaxation and for de-stressing. Find someone who specialises in women’s health and fitness and offers relevant classes.

9. Take extra care of ourselves AFTER the menopause and be aware of a higher risk of the following:

  • Coronary disease
  • Weight maintenance
  • Cancer
  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Particular changes caused by declining hormone levels:
    – Bone Health and osteoporosis
    – Lower sexual function
    – Hair loss
    – Vaginal dryness

10. Take more of the right exercise. What should we be doing at this time of life in the way of moving and exercising our bodies?

The best types of regular exercise are Pilates, strength training, yoga, meditation, walking, cycling and running because they include the following important aspects:

  • Strength work
  • Cardio work
  • Balance work
  • Stretching
  • Mindfulness
  • Breath work
  • Relaxation

Sara Rounce has taught Pilates for 18 years and has a passion for Women’s Health & Fitness. She offers a weekly Move with the Menopause class available online or at her studio in Liss.

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