Most of you have become members of MelioGuide either because you, someone you know or those you work with has been diagnosed with reduced bone mineral density or osteoporosis. Low bone density is one of the changes brought on by menopause.
I recently attended a lecture on menopause given by Dr Elaine Jolly, Medical Director of the Shirley Greenberg Medical Health Center in Ottawa, Ontario. The lecture was very informative and I believe that many of you will benefit from the suggestions made in this article. Some of you will need more support from your Physician or a Physical Therapist trained in the area of Women’s Health and I encourage you to work with a knowledgeable health care professional.
The resounding message was that you should try to maintain a healthy lifestyle that includes an exercise program that is both comprehensive and safe. If you have not signed up for your MelioGuide exercise program, I encourage you to do so.
What Is Menopause?
Menopause is official when you have been without a menstrual period for twelve full continuous months. Menopause is a natural event and is not something to be “treated”. Each woman will go through menopause in her own unique way and some will go through menopause more easily than others.
Menopause and Bone Loss
If you enter the premenopausal period with good bone density, you should not experience bone loss until menopause. Bone loss from diminished estrogen levels will vary from woman to woman. Depending on genetics and lifestyle, bone loss can vary from 1% to 5% per year!
For women who are already at risk for bone loss, SERM (Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators) is a great choice. There is little increase in the risk of breast cancer when SERMs are appropriately prescribed.
We now know that proper exercise has been shown to reduce the bone loss caused by menopause and strength training is a key component of a well-constructed exercise program.
Melioguide provides individuals with comprehensive exercise programs with their bone health as a key focus.
Menopause and Unwanted Hair
During and after menopause your ovaries stop producing estrogen and progesterone but they still produce testosterone. The presence of testosterone explains the increase in facial hair.
Symptoms of Menopause
Symptoms of menopause can include:
- Aches & Joint Pain
- Cognitive changes (decreased short term memory and planning)
- Lack of Energy
- Memory Change
- Hot Flashes
- Reduced Bladder Control
- Sexual Dysfunction
- Dry Mouth
- Vaginal dryness
Menopause and Hot Flashes
Some women will have hot flashes as young as 38 years of age and as late as 72 years of age. Dressing in easy to remove layers, keeping your room cool (especially at night), and avoiding spicy foods will help you if you are experiencing hot flashes.
Menopause and Sleep
It has been shown that the more active you are, the less the incidence of insomnia. Only 30% of active woman complain of sleep disturbances compared to 61% of less active women.
Menopause and Weight Gain
The average weight gain is 4.2 Kg during menopause. This can be controlled with a regular exercise program.
Menopause, Sex and More
Within three years of menopause, women may experience the following symptoms:
- Bladder urgency
- Recurrent urinary tract infections
- Vaginal dryness
- Painful intercourse
To reduce the symptoms of vaginal dryness you could try avoiding harsh soaps, over washing, dampness (hanging out in a wet swim suit), wearing non-chafing breathable underwear, using antihistamines and smoking.
Lubrication, Moisturization and Utilization
Three important key points to help with vaginal dryness and painful intercourse are:
1. Lubrication (non-prescriptive)
- KY with Vitamin E
- “Slippery Stuff”
Several non-prescriptive moisturizers include:
- KY Moisture Beads
- Vitamin E (before you go to bed at night)
Some of the prescription products available include:
- Estring: contains estradiol; one ring lasts 3 months
- Premarin Vaginal Cream: contains conjugated estrogens; to be used cyclically, i.e. 3 weeks on/1 week off
- Vagifem: estradiol in vaginal tablet insert form; insert daily for 2 weeks, then twice a week
Use it or…. ouch. If you stop having intercourse, the vagina will shrink down and future intercourse will be painful. Recommendations are to use a vibrator once a week for 5 minutes.
You should also consider performing Kegels exercises daily.
Hormone therapy is beneficial for some women. The decision to use hormone therapy should be made between a woman and her doctor. In cases where woman still have their uterus, a combination of estrogen and progesterone is prescribed. For women whose uterus has been removed, estrogen alone can be prescribed. If a decision is made to begin hormone therapy, the therapy should be tapered off by the age of 60 years (in order to reduce the risk of breast cancer).
The Resounding Message
The healthier your lifestyle, the better you will be at dealing with life’s changes and challenges including menopause. I applaud you all for your dedication to exercise and encourage you to keep at your program.