Menopause is the time when you stop having your menses. It is diagnosed when you don’t have menses for longer than a year. Average age of menopause in Indian women is 46 years, which is earlier than in Caucasians. But the symptoms of menopause may start many years before the stoppage of menses. This is called the perimenopause and usually lasts for 3-5 years before menopause.
Typical symptoms of menopause or perimenopause are
● Irregular menses
● Hot flashes – a sudden feeling of hotness on your face and neck and upper body
● Night sweats- hot flashes at night with sweating
● Vaginal dryness and pain during sex –can be avoided by using commercially available lubricants or common household products like coconut oil.
● Mood swings and Depression
● Sleep problems
● Weight gain
● Loss of breast fullness
● Dry skin and falling hair
Menopause may also make your bones more brittle ( Osteoporosis)
Menstrual symptoms vary from woman to woman. Most women will experience some irregularity in their cycles before they stop completely. Some may skip periods for a month or two and then start again for a few cycles before entering menopause. Symptoms usually remain for a few years ( typically 3-5 years) after menopause and are usually more severe when your periods stop suddenly as in after a hysterectomy ( removal of the uterus and/ or ovaries).
When should you see a doctor?
Always see your doctor for preventive health care during perimenopause and after menopause. This includes regular pap smears, Mammography, screening for Diabetes mellitus and Hypertension, screening for raised lipid profile( triglycerides and cholesterol).
Ask your doctor on how to protect your heart. Menopause makes you more vulnerable to cardiovascular diseases like hypertension and heart attacks.
Seek advice if you start bleeding from the vagina after attaining menopause.
When menopausal symptoms become particularly troublesome , you can take medications including estrogen hormones and these are fairly safe when used under medical supervision.
Diet should be a healthy balanced diet with foods rich in calcium like milk products and fish and avoiding fatty foods like cheese and butter.
Take plenty of water orally.
Weight gain after menopause occurs due to a slowing down of the metabolism. You can avoid it by reducing your calorie (food) intake and exercising more.
Actions taken at the time of menopause can avoid chronic diseases in later life, according to a report on women’s health marking International Menopause Day. For all women, the report stresses the need to consider lifestyle measures (healthy diet and physical activity) ,prevention of weight gain, being involved in mentally stimulating activities, etc.
In the words of the renowned menopause expert, Dr Roger Lobo “The main message we want to put forward is that, at the menopause, women have a chance to take steps which will help determine whether they go on to live a healthy and active life. “Many of the measures a woman can take are simple, but effective”, he continued. “Do a little more exercise, eat a little less, if you consume alcohol, do so in moderation”.