EXPLAINED | Menopause and women turning 40: Symptoms, treatments and precautions
Dr Shelly Singh: The time in a woman’s life when periods stop can be seamlessly simple or fraught with many problems. Gone are the days when one had to endure them; it’s time to seek options that help ease into menopause. In this article, I delve deep into the menace of menopause and will narrow down every possible details related to it, including common symptoms, treatment and precautions.
Phases & symptoms of menopause:
Natural menopause happens after the age of 40. If it happens before 40, it is called Premature Menopause. Menopause implies when there are no periods for one year. Post menopause: The years following menopause are referred to as the post-menopausal years. With increased life expectancy, a better socio-economic class, and a changed lifestyle, more and more women are grappling with menopausal and post-menopausal symptoms.
Symptoms of menopause are hot flashes, sweating in the head and neck region, fatigue, irritability, depression, anxiety, breast heaviness, increasing weight which may be more challenging to lose, vaginal dryness, lack of interest in sex, often due to painful intercourse due to vaginal dryness, urge to urinate more frequently and urinary tract infections. Later on, there may be palpitations and heart disease, osteoporosis (weak bones and joints) and insomnia as well.
Treatment for menopausal symptoms involves Hormone replacement therapy, topical hormonal creams, non-hormonal therapy to ease vasomotor symptoms like hot flashes, medicines and supplements like Vitamin D and calcium. However, lifestyle change is one of the most important ways to tackle these symptoms.
The advantages of a healthy lifestyle like exercise, clean eating and keeping your weight in check are multi-fold and are greatly needed if one wants to protect itself from menopause. Exercise five to six times a week, at least for half an hour to 45 minutes, is highly recommended. I suggest you indulge in weight-bearing exercises like walking, jogging, gardening, biking, dancing, cycling or water aerobics.
An important message to all women turning 40:
Please don’t ignore your body but listen to it; begin with short intervals and then increase the frequency and intensity. Get involved in exercises as it reduces weight and keeps it in check, boosts happy hormones, and helps to strengthen bones. Kegel’s exercises are highly prescribed as they tighten pelvic floor muscles. Activities like Yoga, Pranayam, breathing exercises and alternate forms of exercise like Tai-chi and acupuncture also have a place in treatment. However, smoking, excess coffee intake, and alcohol increase hot flashes, especially if taken at night. Hence avoidance is the key.
It would be best if you have a diet that is balanced and rich in fibre and protein. Whole grains, green leafy vegetables, fruits like papaya etc., are rich in fibre, nuts and mixed seeds (they have a low glycaemic index too). Foods like dairy products, fish, broccoli and dals are rich in calcium and must be added to the diet. If you’re non-vegetarian, have eggs, chicken and lean meat.
The importance of keeping yourself well-hydrated can’t be over-emphasised. Drink enough water throughout the day. Remember, this is an essential phase in our life and is an inevitable part of our journey. May we empower each other in this stage of life; may we have a more robust, calmer, mentally, socially and emotionally equipped band of women – strong enough to understand and adapt to the changes in our bodies. Stay strong!
Dr. Shelly Singh is a senior consultant Obstretics and Gynaecologist at Rosewalk Healthcare in New Delhi.