Health Column: Menopause is a natural consequence of ageing and is not something to fear
Back in May, TV presenter Davina McCall produced a documentary discussing some of the myths around the menopause (if you missed it, it’s available to watch on Channel Four’s on demand service), writes Jackie Buxton, chief officer of Community Pharmacy Derbyshire.
Often talked about in hushed tones, the menopause is a natural part of aging that usually occurs in women between 45 and 55 – although sometimes it happens earlier.
It’s all down to hormones and the decline in the levels of oestrogen as women age. There are many common symptoms linked to menopause. Some are well-known – hot flushes, night sweats and low moods – and others are often overlooked or attributed to the stresses of day-to-day life, like fatigue and difficulty sleeping.
If you are experiencing symptoms that you think may be due to the menopause, or you are not sure if they are or not, talking to a medical professional can help. Community pharmacists are able to offer advice and support as well as suggesting supplements and lifestyle changes that could help. They can also advise if you need to make an appointment to see your GP.
Many pharmacies are open in the evening and weekends and you do not have to make an appointment. Most also have consultation rooms where you can discuss your symptoms and concerns in private.
For some women these symptoms can be severe and have a huge impact on their lives. Others experience lesser symptoms, but all experience some. And these symptoms can go on for months or even years. The perimenopausal stage, before the periods actually stop, can last years for some women and then continue after they have stopped, with the average time being four years. Latest figures show one in ten women experience symptoms for twelve years.
But there are medications, supplements and things women can do to care for themselves that can ease the most common symptoms. Taking regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight helps, as does reducing stress levels, alcohol consumption and stopping smoking.
There is some evidence that supplements can help. For example, calcium and vitamin D can reduce the risk of osteoporosis, which increases after women have been through menopause.
The main treatment for menopausal symptoms is hormone replacement therapy which does just as it says on the tin – it replaces the hormones that are missing. It is extremely effective and comes in a range of forms, including patches, gels and implants. Although there are some risks, the benefits usually outweigh them. Your GP can discuss the risks and any concerns you might have about taking this treatment.
It’s important to know that menopause is a natural consequence of aging and is not something to fear or get anxious about. Talking about your symptoms to a medical professional can help, as can talking to your friends and family about how you feel and how they can support you.
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