What is Menopause?

In simple terms, “the menopause” is the period when menstruation gradually becomes less and less regular and then finally stops. Most women experience “menopause” between 45 to 55 years of age, although some women experience it anywhere between 30 to 60 years of age.

Hopefully, your menopause will pass by without any ill-effects. But if you start feeling terrible and can’t understand why – chances are it’s menopause!

If you do get ill-effects, don’t panic – many problems are strictly temporary and most can be eased or alleviated in a variety of ways.

Above all be positive – see menopause as a useful reminder to you to pay attention to your weight, diet and lifestyle.

The most common signs of menopause

Include any or all of the following:

  • Hot flushes
  • Night sweats
  • Insomnia
  • Sudden inexplicable fatigue
  • Irritability, anxiety, mood swings
  • Sudden crushing depression
  • Forgetfulness and headaches
  • Pain in back or joints
  • Panic attacks & dizziness
  • Thinning scalp hair
  • Growth of facial hair
  • Vaginal dryness or inflammation

What’s happening?

To put it simply:

  • The supply of eggs in a woman’s ovaries dwindles.
  • As a result, levels of the two hormones Oestrogen & Progesterone fluctuate, then decline.
  • Also, menstrual periods become irregular, then cease.
  • In addition, due to the disruption in hormone supply, the body suffers a variety of side-effects.

The medical side-effects of menopause

The reduction in Oestrogen leads to the following:

  • Weight is redistributed to the central abdominal region (stomach) – For details, see Weight control during menopause
  • There is an increased risk of heart disease – For details of heart disease, click Heart disease – the facts
  • There is an increased risk of osteoporosis – For more details, click osteoporosis.

The treatment & relief of menopause side-effects

Step 1. Consult your doctor

Some doctors know a great deal about menopause, others know zilch. Don’t rest until you have found a knowledgeable doctor with whom you are comfortable. Even if this takes several months, it is definitely worth doing. In addition, take steps to inform yourself about the menopause, it’s effects and how to treat them.

Step 2. Question your doctor closely

In particular, find out the following:

  • What treatment options are available to you.
  • These may include: Hormone Replacement Therapy, alternative programs, or support groups.
  • What is your cholesterol level; what is your blood pressure; what additional heart disease risk factors are present in your family history.
  • What self-tests you can perform to check for breast-disorders.
  • What vitamin and mineral guidelines you should follow to minimize the risk of osteoporosis.
  • What exercise regime will be safe for you.

Subject to your doctor’s advice, proceed to Step 3.

Step 3. Take control of your personal menopause!

  • Take exercise – for details, see Exercise Introduction and Exercise tips.
  • Eat properly – for details, see Sensible Eating.
  • Get your weight under control – for details, see Menopause Weight control.

Step 4. Get support

Look around for a good support group, local or online. A support group can be a great help when coping with the side-effects of menopause.

How to Control Weight in Menopause

  • What happens to your body during menopause
  • How to control your weight during menopause
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy

What happens to your body during menopause

Your body starts to store fat around your tummy, instead of on your hips

Why? Because your body is producing less and less oestrogen. You see, oestrogen causes us to store fat around our hips, so when we run short of it, our weight stops going to our hips and goes to our tummy area instead.

Unfortunately, this is not good news. Why not? Because abdominal obesity is a risk factor for diabetes, hypertension, certain cancers, and cardiovascular disease.

Your cholesterol levels tend to rise

Why? Lack of oestrogen again! Oestrogen helps promote a favorable cholesterol level, so when we run short of it, our cholesterol level tends to rise. Which (as we know) is bad news for our heart.

You tend to gain weight

This is NOT directly caused by menopause. It is due to three things:

  • We take in too many calories. Usually because we eat too much fat & sugar – The point is, as we get older, we actually need fewer calories.
  • We take less and less exercise – This further widens the gap between the energy we take in and the energy we expend.
  • We experience physical & mental disruption – For example, we give up smoking or suffer from increased anxiety and depression. Result? We seek comfort in food.

How to control your weight, during menopause

In a nutshell, weight control in menopause in best achieved, as follows:

Eat fewer calories

Metabolism slows with age – by the age of 40, our normal maintenance needs are about 20% less than they were at the age of 20. Unfortunately, we fail to take this reduced need into account and eat the same amount – usually more! Result? We gain weight.

The correct approach

  • Limit yourself to about 1,200-1,500 calories per day.
  • These calories should come from nutritionally dense foods, like fruit, vegetables, grains, beans, cereal, fish, low-fat dairy foods and ultra-lean meat.
  • Increase your consumption of fiber.
  • Reduce consumption of caffeine and alcohol.
  • A good way to do all this, is to follow the Anne Collins Weight Loss Diet Program!

Eat less fat

Before the menopause, oestrogen protects women from some of the effects of a high fat diet, but afterwards – as oestrogen levels decline – our level of HDL fat (the good fat) tends to fall, and our LDL (bad fat) tends to rise, thus increasing our risk of heart attacks.

The correct approach

Limit yourself to a maximum of 30-35 grams of fat, per day. Of this, a maximum of 10 grams may be saturated fat. A good way to do all this, is to follow the Anne Collins Weight Loss Program!

Take regular daily exercise

Regular active exercise increases the production of HDL fat (the good fat) and thereby reduces LDL (the bad fat). It lowers the risk of diabetes, osteoporosis and other medical problems. Also, regular exercise helps raise our metabolic rate (thus easing weight loss) and decreases our feelings of stress (thus reducing our need for comfort-eating).

The correct approach

Take at least 30 minutes of moderate activity, most days of the week.
For details, see Exercise tips.

Be aware!

Feelings of tiredness, depression and discomfort are greatly eased by staying on top of the situation and by knowing what is happening to your body.

The correct approach

Maintain regular contact with your doctor. At the same time, monitor your body, including your weight level.

Hormone Replacement Therapy

  • Hormonal Replacement Therapy (HRT) replaces some of the missing oestrogen and progesterone caused by menopause.
  • It can only be prescribed by a doctor.
  • HRT may be prescribed in pill, skin patch or implant form, in various doses and combinations.
  • As well as easing some of the ‘minor’ symptoms of menopause, HRT reduces the risk of heart disease and osteoporosis.
  • HRT may produce PMS-like symptoms including nausea, bloating, breast tenderness, spotting, and headaches.
  • The long term side-effects of HRT remain unknown.

Not for everyone

HRT doesn’t suit everyone. For example, women who have cancer concerns or who are at high risk of other complications should avoid HRT since the hormones may exacerbate these conditions.

Consult your personal doctor

As stated above, for best results, please consult your doctor.