Menopause: An Overview

We are in year 2022, however, based on a British Menopause Society survey, 47% of women still do not feel comfortable enough to ask for an off day because of the symptoms of menopause. We are at a point that women’s health should be discussed enough and not be a taboo anymore. 


First of all, let’s understand what menopause is. The menopause is a natural part of ageing in women – it is when a woman’s periods stop. According to the British Menopause Society, three quarters of menopausal women in the UK say that their life changed with their menopause experience [1]. 

The menopausal transition begins between ages 40-60 — average age being 50-51 years. The transition, hence the menopausal symptoms last about 2 to 5 years. Menopausal transition is unique to each woman as it can depend on many lifestyle factors such as smoking, age of onset, race and ethnicity. Some people may have a sudden menopause, whereas for others, it may happen over a couple of years. 

There are stages of menopause. The period leading up to the menopause, in other words the entire process of female hormonal changes happen during peri-menopause. This is when the menopausal symptoms are experienced. Menopause is the last menstrual period, whereas post-menopause is defined by having no menstruation for the past 12 months. 


What happens during peri-menopause?


During peri-menopause, levels of oestrogen decrease resulting in various symptoms. With fluctuating levels of oestrogen, periods are the first to be affected. They become irregular and/or heavy. Other changes in body include higher blood pressure, changes in cholesterol levels (increasing the risk of heart disease) and loss of calcium from bones (increasing the risk of osteoporosis). [2,3]

As the body begins to use energy differently, fat cells would also change, and there would be a greater tendency for weight gain, hence a change in body shape and composition. [2]

Menopause affects women differently, however, each woman report an average of 7 symptoms during their transition. The severity of the symptoms differ depending on a woman’s lifestyle habits and of course genetics.

Some other common symptoms include:


  • Hot flushes and night sweats
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Loss of libido
  • Dry skin, mouth and eyes
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Insomnia
  • Poor concentration – brain fog
  • Headaches
  • Palpitations (noticeable heartbeats)
  • Tiredness
  • Aching limbs and joint stiffness
  • Reduced muscle mass

All these symptoms may not be purely down to menopause; stress, ageing and lifestyle factors may contribute or cause some of these symptoms as well. 

Nutrition and lifestyle changes may help manage some of the symptoms, maintain bone density, reduce risk of heart disease and ease the transition. 

Research shows that following a Mediterranean diet supports healthy menopause. Incorporating dairy products, healthy fats, whole grains, variety of fruits and vegetables and quality sources of protein may help relive some the menopausal symptoms. [4,5]

Besides nutrition, it is important to approach menopause in a holistic way. Physical activity (such as brisk walking, jogging, swimming) and stress management (for example talking to a friend, counselling or psychotherapy, practicing mindfulness or breathing techniques) are also key parts of managing menopausal symptoms. [6,7]

If you are struggling even though you are taking care of your nutrition and lifestyle, please be kind to yourself and make sure that you ask for more help from a doctor.

References:

  1. thebms.org.uk/2017/10/world-menopause-day-2/
  2. pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24734243/
  3. pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27801706/
  4. frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fendo.2022.886824/full
  5. pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32329636/
  6. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3296386/
  7. doi.org/10.1016/j.ctcp.2021.101398

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