The Menopause Map
According to Dr. Nicholas Sieveking, a Nashville-based, board-certified plastic surgeon and the founder of Ageless Solutions, “menopause can surely be a crazy time in a woman’s life. Not only does it signal the fact that she can no longer procreate, she will most likely suffer from some symptoms; physical, mental or both. As the body is depleted of estrogen, bones lose calcium and become more brittle which can lead to osteoporosis, hormonal fluctuations prompt hot flashes and night sweats and vaginal dryness can become a problem.”
And of course, as with anything, there are myths floating around about menopause from when it will hit to the best way to combat its symptoms. Here are some things I hear from patients which serve as a relatable rundown to help women navigate their way through what can be a very confusing time.
- “I just had my last baby 4 years ago! I’m only 40! How can I be perimenopausal? “
While it’s been largely believed that menopause begins at 50, this just isn’t true. The average age to begin menopause tends to be 52, but women can actually begin anywhere from their 30s to 60s. Perimenopause, the shift leading up to menopause, can begin anywhere from a few months until a year before actual menopause starts. Symptoms include but aren’t limited to night sweats, trouble sleeping through the night, shorter or irregular periods, crashing fatigue, sore muscles, dizziness, changes in nails and hair. It’s important for women to keep a health log of any changes they notice in their bodies after age 35 and mention them to their doctors during checkups.
- “I’m not menopausal! I haven’t even had one hot flash.”
Hot flashes and menopause seem to go hand in hand. But a hot flash isn’t always the first sign. While most women experience hot flashes, not every woman does so if they aren’t aware of the other emotional or mental changes they may solely focus on the physical changes. The start of menopause can also be signaled by anxiety, depression, fuzzy or unclear thinking with inability to focus, low libido, forgetfulness, short temperedness or irritability. Pay attention to how you are feeling day to day. The more attuned you are to your body, the sooner you’ll flag any changes.
- “Weight gain comes with the territory. Nothing I can do will change that.”
As estrogen is depleted, the body may experience hormonal imbalance. The body often responds by trying to protect itself and a main way of doing that is storing fat. But women don’t have to gain weight without a fight. Some ways to keep a well-maintained weight are:
- Look for high-fiber foods. They can help with constipation, which is often associated with menopause, because lack of estrogen can decrease bowel activity.
- Eat plenty of calcium and vitamin D-rich foods, like low-fat dairy products, green leafy vegetables, beans and fish. They help to keep bones strong.