Menopause is a Greek word ‘mens’, which means monthly and “pause”, meaning cessation. So, it’s the end of menstruation and reproductive life due to loss of ovarian activity and is a natural ageing process in a women.
The age of menopause varies between 45 years to 55 years average being 50 years of age. There is a decline in ovarian function in the transition phase before menopause, which begins in most women at around 45 years of age. That’s when women typically experience menopause symptoms such as infrequent menstrual cycles, hot flashes, night sweats, troubled sleep, exhaustion, mood swings, low sex drive, vaginal dryness, urinary bladder problems, weight gain and decline in bone density.
“Different women go through menopause with different symptoms, so it’s not the same with everyone,” says Dr Jayashree Nagaraj Bhasgi, Senior Consultant, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Fortis Hospital, Richmond Road, Bengaluru.
Role of estrogen in women’s health
Ovarian hormones play an important role in a woman’s health, apart from reproductive function. Estrogen, an important ovarian hormone, influences the adult skeleton during its continuous regeneration by process of remodelling which involves formation and resorption. Consequently, loss of estrogen leads to an increased rate of bone remodelling and tilts the balance towards bone resorption and this increases the rates of fractures.
Dr Bhasgi outlines the different roles of estrogen.
* Estrogens do have action on cholesterol levels, wherein it helps in increasing HDL cholesterol or good cholesterol.
* Estrogen also protects the cardiovascular system in women through a variety of actions .
* Estrogen plays a role in regulating insulin hormone secretion and therefore nutrient homeostasis. So, its deficiency predisposes to Type 2 diabetes and obesity. Women also tend to gain weight around the lower abdomen and around the organs. It is called visceral fat, and is linked to medical conditions like diabetes, stroke, heart disease and cancers.
* Estrogen has a neuroprotective action on a healthy brain. It modulates systems in the brain that are crucial for higher cognitive function, and deficiency of which is implicated in mood and psychiatric disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.
* Estrogen deficiency is known to cause dry and lackluster skin and hair and one may notice more hair on face than the scalp.
6 tips to prepare for menopause
Before one enters menopause, it is good to optimize one’s health by regularly exercising, and remaining at one’s ideal weight for as long possible.
So, here’s how you manage menopause:
1. Maintain ideal weight
It is better to remember that metabolism slows down during this time and gaining weight is easy. The chances of arthritis and osteoporosis increases as one is obese.
Any exercise one enjoys doing is good enough when done consistently and persistently. Kegel exercise for pelvic muscle strengthening are a must.
Weight-bearing exercise and resistance training to maintain bone and muscle strength is recommended to prevent fall and fractures.
3. Watch your diet
Being watchful about diet, eating healthy diet low in fat and simple carbohydrates, rich in fibre and proteins must be a part of a healthy lifestyle. Having plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grain foods, nuts and food rich in omega 3 fatty acids is good as it reduces risks of heart diseases.
4. Consume calcium and vitamin D
One has to make sure one is taking enough calcium and vitamin D for bone health during this period.
5. Do something to calm your mind
Meditation, learning a new language or any creative activity helps in preventing declining memory and mood variations and prevents stress.
6. Inculcate healthy habits
Reducing screen time, especially in the nights, avoiding caffeine after mid-day, and alcohol at night can help you get better sleep. Also, quit smoking for better heart health.
Family support during menopause
The woman’s spouse or children should be aware of these changes that she is going through so that they become empathetic and help her through this phase of her life.
The healthier one is during this transition period, the more successful one will be in combating health changes and diseases when menopause ensues.