Dr. Paul Mikel, MD, is an OB/GYN at Banner Health Center in Maricopa. For more information on this topic, talk with your doctor or call (520) 233-2500.
Question: I’m nervous about entering menopause. Can you give me advice on how best to manage it?
Answer: Being nervous about the changes associated with menopause is normal, but it should not overwhelm you. All women will experience menopause at some point, usually between the ages of 45 and 55, after going a year without a period.
Menopausal symptoms include hot flashes and night sweats; changes in mood and irritability; tiredness and insomnia; forgetfulness; less interest in sex; and some bloating or weight gain. These symptoms are caused by hormone shifts as a woman moves out of childbearing years, with many women beginning to experience some degree of these effects in their mid to late 40s.
Fortunately, tremendous progress has been made to help women deal with and even thrive during menopause. Regular exercise is a proven way to fight anxiety, stress, weight gain and moodiness. Meditation and natural remedies like aromatherapy reduce stress, and women who surround themselves with a support circle of friends will manage menopause better.
Making healthy food choices helps the body to function properly, especially during menopausal changes. Research has also shown that soy-based foods, such as edamame and tofu, can help reduce symptoms. Limiting alcohol and caffeine to avoid dehydration is important, so choose water and calcium-fortified beverages instead.
Night sweats and hot flashes are often relieved by wearing lightweight clothes that wick away moisture, keeping room temperatures cool, and drinking plenty of fluids. Other symptoms are aided by numerous relaxation techniques and lifestyle changes.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a recognized way to get relief by supplementing the estrogen lost during menopause, but it carries some risks. Every woman's experience is unique, so HRT should be discussed with a doctor along with other options, to determine the best approach based on a woman's health history and personal needs.