September is Menopause Awareness month, but if you’re reading this you’re probably more than aware of it. Our experiences and emotional reactions will be as varied as we are. For some women, the menopause journey signals new beginnings. While for others, it can be an added burden during an already stressful time. Menopause Awareness month is a great opportunity to reflect on what this era means for our family, our friends, and for ourselves.
Menopause symptoms may mask other conditions
It’s not uncommon for women going through menopause to be suffering from other health conditions as well. Diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, obesity, arthritis, depression, and anxiety may all occur in parallel with menopause, though not necessarily related to it. Any of these conditions can exacerbate our symptoms, or worse—hide behind them. While we should always listen to our bodies, it’s possible that other conditions are at play or affecting our experiences.
Use this month to schedule a menopause-only chat with your healthcare practitioner. Set aside some time to focus on exactly how you’re feeling and the best steps to help manage your symptoms.
Menopause is a full-body experience
In the midst of unexpected hot flashes or mood swings, it can be tempting to seek immediate relief for those specific problems. But estrogen is one of the body’s great multitaskers. The heart, bones, brain, bladder, and skin all rely on estrogen to do their jobs effectively . The loss of this hormone can affect the health of every organ that relies upon it. Physical changes that aren’t commonly associated with menopause, may still be a symptom of it.
After the chaos of summer, September is a good month to unwind, listen to our bodies, and prepare for the upcoming holiday season.
Menopause isn’t just for women over 50
While estrogen production ceases with age, many environmental and health-related conditions can also trigger . Some young women may opt into surgical procedures which induce menopause in order to reduce a genetic risk for cancer. For other young women undergoing chemotherapy or radiation, they may not even have a choice. There are some women who enter into menopause before 50 for reasons we don’t yet understand.
Either way, it’s important to know and share that a woman may experience menopause at many ages. Some factors that contribute to early menopause include: autoimmune disorders, infections or inflammatory conditions, metabolic syndromes, smoking and/or genetics [2-6]...
Menopause awareness means talking to friends and family too
The loss of a major hormone throughout a woman’s entire body is a big deal regardless of her age. There are few things we can do to help ease this transition for everyone else in our lives as well—and ultimately for ourselves as well.
Share your experiences with the younger women in your family. Genetics play a large role in the time in which and how you experience this. If you can, it helps to share your experience with younger women in your family, or reach out to any other relatives may be able to shed light on the experience.
It can also help to open up to your partner. This is the final biological period in our lives, and for many women it’s the longest one. That’s something worth talking with our life partners, as it could mean big changes for us and for them.
And most importantly, listen to yourself. Every woman’s journey is different. Stay educated, explore all of your options, find a healthcare practitioner you trust, and listen to your body. After all, only you know what’s best for you.
- Endocrine Society, Hormone Health Network, “Estrogen.” Webpage. <https://www.hormone.org/your-health-and-hormones/glands-and-hormones-a-to-z/hormones/estrogen> Accessed on 09-05-19
- North American Menopause Society, “Menopause 101: A primer for the perimenopausal.” Webpage. <https://www.menopause.org/for-women/menopauseflashes/menopause-symptoms-and-treatments/menopause-101-a-primer-for-the-perimenopausal> Accessed on 09-10-19.
- Shuster et al. Maturitas. 2011; 65(2): 161-166.
- North American Menopause Society. Menopause Practice: A Clinician's Guide. 3rd ed. Cleveland, OH: North American Menopause Society; 2007
- Nelson LM. N Engl J Med. 2009; 360:606-614.
- Santoro N. Ann Endocrinol (Paris).2003; 64:87-92.