Approximately 70 percent of all women approaching menopause will experience symptoms of menopause. The symptoms may begin in perimenopause and last for the whole menopause transition. Some women experience these symptoms for the rest of their lives.
Menopause is not a disease to be cured, but rather a natural process of aging in a woman’s body. The symptoms indicate changing levels of the hormones estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. As hormone levels change, this can create a hormonal imbalance which causes the symptoms of menopause.
Some symptoms can be relieved through medication, but this is not the only treatment solution. Here are several options:
Eating right and getting plenty of exercise can help to minimize the symptoms of menopause, and will help maintain overall good health.
Eating a diet of estrogenic foods such as soy, rice, wheat, yams, cherries and potatoes will have a positive effect on a woman’s hormonal imbalance. Some foods such as caffeine and spicy foods have been known to trigger some symptoms of menopause.
Getting plenty of exercise and participating in stress reduction activities, such as yoga, can be helpful. If you’re struggling with hot flashes, try to dress lightly and in layers. For problems with vaginal dryness, moisturizers and non-estrogen lubricants (Astroglide, KY Jelly, Replens) are beneficial.
Some are firm believers in alternative therapies for alleviating menopausal symptoms. Acupuncture, yoga, meditation and other relaxation methods are harmless ways to reduce the stress of menopause. Many women benefit from these methods.
There are also many herbal remedies like Remifemin (black cohosh), dong quai, and ginseng that are commonly used for menopausal symptoms. However, more research is needed to prove their effectiveness and safety, so it’s important to discuss all alternative medicine with your doctor.
If you are struggling with menopausal symptoms, talk to your doctor about treatment options. The most commonly prescribed drug therapy for menopausal symptoms is hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
For women who still have their uterus, treatment with estrogen and progesterone (combination hormone replacement therapy) can be prescribed. Women who have had a hysterectomy are prescribed estrogen alone.
In the past, HRT was widely recommended. However, a large study called the Women’s Health Initiative found that the combination HRT increased the risk of breast cancer, heart disease and stroke. The study found that estrogen-only HRT increased the risk of blood clots and stroke. However, a more recent study found that this increased risk might not apply to all postmenopausal women.
More studies are currently underway to research the relationship between heart disease and HRT. For women who use HRT, it is recommended that they take the lowest dose of hormones needed to relieve symptoms and to prevent osteoporosis. It is best to limit hormone usage to the shortest time period. HRT should be re-evaluated every six to 12 months.
In addition to tradition pills, creams, gels, patches and vaginal rings are available.
Women who have had blood clots, liver diseases, cancer, or undiagnosed vaginal bleeding may not be candidates for HRT.