Wednesday, September 17, 2008

5 Menopause Facts Every Woman Should Know

I was having a hot flash and found myself furiously googling "menopause". In the interest of women everywhere, here are the top five facts that jumped out at me (in no particular order.)

1. Menopause is a natural and important part of every woman's life. Most women experience this stage after age 40 and spend a third of their life in this phase. (source: WebMD )

Emphasis mine. WTF? My doctor told me that the perimenopause phase "could last up to 10 years" - which is significantly less than one-third of my life - so someone's got some 'splainin' to do. I do not intend to spend 30 years or more in menopause.

2. Menopause often causes or worsens sleep disturbances. (source: multiple )

Apparently, part of the sleep disturbance symptoms during perimenopause and/or menopause may just coincide with the menopausal period and may not be of endocrinological (hormonal) origin. I say BAH to that. I have always slept well, and now I don't. I have at least 7-10 days every month where I have varying degrees of wakefulness - sometimes multiple times in one night, sometimes spending hours awake. And sometimes I'm hit with serious fatigue (so much more than just "tired". )

3. A diet high in soy has been shown in some studies to decrease postmenopausal hot flashes. (source: multiple )

I actually eat a lot of soy products and can eat an entire bowl of edamame in the blink of an eye, but what is the POSTmenopausal crap? I need something to reduce hot flashes NOW. But I have noticed that I crave soy when I'm having a rough day of flashes.

4. As estrogen levels drop, the small amount of testosterone that a woman produces may have more pronounced effects on her body. For instance, she may develop coarse hair on her chin, upper lip, chest and abdomen. (source: iVillage )

Oh, mama. No one ever told me about the whiskers. Why is this a secret? It's a terrible thing to touch your face and feel a sharp poke. Then you have to run to a mirror and make sure it isn't visible even though it feels like Rapunzel. But after reading this delightful tidbit I'm all frantic about the possibility of "chest and abdomen."

5. Symptoms that no one talks about so that when you experience them you think you are sick or crazy (but you aren't.) For me that includes sudden unexplained bloating not really tied to my cycle; inexplicable feelings of doom and dread; and inflammation in the joints.

I only just found these things out by poking around on the internet. When I say "bloating" I mean at an uprecedented level somewhere north of 5 pounds, and not knowing if you have gained weight or if it will be gone in a day or two. And as for doom and dread - there are days when I just can't shake feeling really nervous and down. I'm convinced of all kinds of depressing things and would generally prefer to just lie on the couch and watch Project Runway reruns. And inflammation in the joints really blows me away. For the past year I have been waking up frequently with very stiff fingers and lamenting that Arthritis was probably beginning. Now I suspect that it's hormonal.

There are other weird things that women report, too - like irregular heartbeat; itchy, crawly skin; bleeding gums; tinnitus; thinning hair; "burning tongue"; and occasional incontinence. These can all be symptoms of menopause - check with your doctor to be sure it's not something more serious. But isn't it good to know that it may all be part of "normal"?

So there you go. This change is BIG and can affect you both physically and mentally. It's strange and uncomfortable. But knowing about it helps.

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