Master the Menopause

Master the Menopause

This menopause infographic shows how to master the menopause symptoms through positive lifestyle changes that can affect your overall quality of life and the ways in which you cope with the menopause.

Stages of Menopause 

The menopause can take several years to come to completion and has three main stages: 

  • Perimenopause: The years leading up to the menopause when the ovaries start to produce less oestrogen. Many women start to experience mild symptoms during this period, which can last several years.
  • Menopause: This is when the ovaries stop producing eggs. The menopause lasts an average of four years, although symptoms can persist for longer. 
  • Post-menopause: The years after the menopause has ended when the symptoms start to ease. 

Common Symptoms of Menopause

Every woman experiences menopause differently. For some women, the symptoms are mild and pass within a couple of years. For others, the symptoms are so severe that they interfere with everyday life. While the symptoms of menopause can vary, most women experience at least one of the following:

  • Hot Flushes/Night Sweats: During menopause, the body’s ability to regulate its own temperature is impaired, which results in sudden feelings of heat, usually in the face, neck and chest.
  • Difficulty Sleeping: Depending on the frequency of their occurrence, night sweats can interfere with sleep, leaving you feeling tired and irritable during the day. 
  • Vaginal Dryness: Declining oestrogen and progesterone levels affect the thin layer of moisture lining the vaginal walls, which can result in dryness, itching, and even pain. Some women find that it also causes discomfort during sex and, as a result, experience a loss of libido during this period. The reduced sensation may also reduce the desire for sex.
  • Headaches: Women who have suffered from headaches in the past may find that they increase in frequency during menopause. 
  • Heart Palpitations: Some women experience heart palpitations; heartbeats that suddenly become more noticeable. 
  • Urinary Problems: The tissues around the urethra start to lose elasticity and it is common for women to suffer urinary problems, particularly stress incontinence (the loss of control when coughing, laughing or lifting). Declining oestrogen levels can also leave the urinary tract more susceptible to infections so UTI’s are common. 
  • Depression and Mood Swings: Fluctuating hormone levels trigger feelings of low mood and irritability, which in severe cases can lead to depression. 

Possible Complications of Menopause

  • Osteoporosis: Menopause carries an increased risk of bone loss and osteoporosis. Declining oestrogen levels increase the loss of bone density, which leaves the bones vulnerable to breaks and fractures, particularly the hips, wrists, and spine.  
  • Heart Disease: Declining oestrogen levels also increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and heart attacks. Despite many preconceptions, heart disease is a leading cause of death in women as well as men, so it’s important to keep your heart in the best possible shape by closely monitoring your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. 

Lifestyle Changes to Help

  • Keep Active: It is important to keep active during and after menopause to maintain strong and healthy bones. Plus, regular exercise will lift your mood and improve general health. Aim for at least three thirty-minute exercise sessions per week that include both cardio and strengthening exercises. Cardio helps to strengthen the heart and burn calories, while strength training exercises burn fat, strengthen muscle, and protect against bone loss. 
  • Don’t Smoke: If you smoke, try to quit. There is evidence to suggest that smoking causes early menopause and the chemicals in cigarettes can make hot flushes worse and further accelerate bone loss. One study also found that female smokers were 19% more susceptible to breast cancer after menopause compared to non-smokers. 
  • Diet: Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, nuts, lean meats, and eggs. It’s important to get sufficient amounts of calcium and vitamin D to protect the bones:
     
    • Eat: Foods rich in calcium and vitamin D such as dairy produce, fortified bread, pulses, nuts, and fish. Foods rich in tryptophan to improve mood such as turkey, oats, and cottage cheese.
       
    • Avoid: Stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol, chocolate and spicy foods, all of which are known to trigger hot flushes. Also limit sugar intake, as it can leave you feeling tired and fatigued. 

Natural Remedies for Menopause 

  • Black Cohosh: The black cohosh plant is a well-loved herbal remedy for menopause, and black cohosh supplements are often taken to reduce the frequency and severity of hot flushes, night sweats and irritability. In one study of 704 menopausal women, 49% of participants experienced complete relief of menopausal symptoms, with an additional 37% reporting significant improvements. Black cohosh can be used in several forms, of which black cohosh tablets and herbal teas are the most popular. 
  • Soya Isoflavones: Soya beans contain the four isoflavones with the most oestrogen-like actions; daidzein, genistein, formononetin and biochanin. Studies have shown that women who consume large amounts of soya-based isoflavones have fewer menopausal complaints, including a 45% reduction in the frequency of hot flushes. Other studies have found that women consuming more soya-rich foods also have higher bone density compared to women who eat few soya-rich foods. Aim to consume around 25 grams of soya per day - good food sources include soya beans, edamame beans, tofu, tempeh, soya milk, and miso. Soya Isoflavone supplements provide concentrated levels of isoflavones that can help to supplement the diet
  • Red Clover: Extracts from the red clover plant also offer oestrogen-like effects and are popularly used to treat hot flushes. Studies have shown that red clover can reduce the frequency of hot flushes by a third, and those that were experienced were significantly less intense. Red clover has also shown some protective effects against osteoporosis by preventing the breakdown of existing bone. There are several different preparations available, including red clover tablets, herbal teas, and tinctures. 

If you wish to find out more about the menopause and ways in which you can cope when going through it, our handy infographic above lists common symptoms, causes and natural remedies.