Concerned by symptoms and signs of menopause?

Today, many people think of menopause as an illness or undesirable health condition. Much attention has focussed on the negative impact it can have on the lives of middle-aged people, but the truth is, for women it’s just a natural part of growing older.

It isn’t necessarily painful or problematic and it doesn’t have to be seen as a difficult time of life.

What is it?

It occurs naturally in all women, when the ovaries stop producing the hormones oestrogen and progesterone, usually around the age of 51 years, although it can happen earlier or later.

It can also happen as a result of surgery to remove the ovaries during a hysteroectomy.

The resulting low and flucuating levels of ovarian hormones, particularly estrogen, are thought to be the cause of the menopausal symptoms experienced by around 70% of all women.

Menopausal symptoms

The most common are undoubtedly “hot flushes” (or “flashes”), which are sudden changes in body temperature experienced by around 60-80% of those who have any symptoms at all.

These are often accompanied by night sweats, a nocturnal version of the “hot flush”, which can sometimes lead to insomnia. They generally last around two years.

In addition, some (but not all) women have palpitations i.e. irregular heart beat, joint aches, headaches, urinary tract infections, loss of concentration, lack of sex drive and eventually bone fragility.

What can I do to ease symptoms?

Many of our ideas surrounding menopause come from popular culture. For example, there’s social pressure put on women to remain looking young and attractive, and being fertile is one part of this package.

Women who reach the menopause are typically showing some signs of ageing, including wrinkles, hair thinning, and perhaps a lessening of sex drive.

Their worries about these aspects of growing older can be compounded by the appearance of menopause.

But there are steps you can take to lessen or avoid any uncomfortable symptoms. Diet and exercise play a huge part in our general health, and taking care of these can only help your body at every stage in life.

They’ll be particularly useful during menopause, to keep your bones strong and healthy, help your body regulate hormone levels and provide your organs with the nutrients they need.

Women who exercise and follow a healthy diet cope better with menopausal changes and also help protect themselves against other problems such as osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. A healthy diet should include at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, with as few unrefined foods, sugary products and “bad” fats as possible. Being overweight has been shown to worsen “flushes” and increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Cutting down on cigarettes or stopping smoking altogether is always beneficial.

Women who smoke tend to have an earlier menopause than non-smokers, they have worse “flushes” and they often don't respond as well to treatment of their symptoms. It’s never too late to stop!

Decreasing your alcohol intake might also help.

Excess caffeine and alcohol not only worsen “flushes” but also increase the risk of osteoporosis. Reducing your stress levels, through meditation or some other stress-relief programme can also improve your symptoms and benefit you in numerous other ways at the same time. Hormones

Hormone replacement therapy

As well as taking the steps above, you may want to consider some hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Since many problems associated with the menopause seem to stem from having reduced oestrogen levels, the main ingrediant of HRT is oestrogen.

The oestrogens used in HRT resemble the natural equivalent produced in the body and they include oestradiol, oestrone and oestriol.

Mostly, these come from soya beans or yam extracts, although you may be surprised to learn that sometimes they’re also taken from horse urine!

For some women, HRT can be very beneficial, but there are risks.

Many now prefer to take a high quality natural supplement instead, and there is a fair amount of evidence showing that these can work just as well.

That’s mainly because their main ingrediant often comes from the same sources as the HRT.

Natural HRT

One of the most promising of these natural supplements comes from soy. Phytoestrogens and isoflavones are chemicals found in plants which can mimic the effects of oestrogen in the body, and soy plants are rich sources of isoflavones.

Epidemiological studies have shown that having a high soy intake can sometimes result in a lower risk for certain hormonal problems.

In addition, oestrogen is a natural antioxidant; it can also increase your levels of “good” cholesterol and help decrease the levels of “bad” cholesterol. It additionally acts as a protector of the bones, which thin and weaken once the natural levels of oestrogen in the body fall.

So taking an oestrogen supplement can help keep your bone mass at a healthy density and reduce your risk of breaking or fracturing bones, and getting bone diseases like osteoporosis. In addition, taking any kind of HRT may help you keep your concentration levels up and go some way towards preventing you suffering from the memory loss often caused by ageing.

Supplements for health

By taking a high-quality nutritional supplement designed especially with women in mind, you can use this time in your life to start living in a healthier way.

The firm foundations offered to your health by good nutrition will stand you in excellent stead later, so you can look forward to a trouble-free menopause and senior years.

Medical references 179,180,181,182,183,184,185,186

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