Menopause is in the spotlight. As the American population is growing older, more and more women in the United States will be entering menopause. In fact, more than 1 million women go through menopause every year in the United States. Despite these statistics, for too long menopause has been stigmatized, perpetuated by a culture of shame around women and aging. As a result, many women don’t feel comfortable speaking out about the symptoms they’re experiencing with friends, family, or doctors.
While there is still much work to be done in order to shed the stigma of menopause, advocates like OB/GYN Dr. Jen Gunter, author of the “The Menopause Manifesto: Own Your Health with Facts and Feminism”, are helping to shed light on the realities of menopause and empowering women to take charge of their health by better understanding their bodies.
Here, we’re sharing some of the top menopause truths from Dr. Gunter’s book:
- The one thing that’s predictable about menopause is that it’s unpredictable. It’s true that not every woman will experience menopause the same. And while it is time of transition, it shouldn’t be feared. While some women may experience more extreme symptoms than others, many of them are treatable. Generally, we know that menopause is experienced between the ages of 40 and 58. However, some women can reach this phase earlier or later in life. Gunter dispels the myth that there is any type of blood test to see where you are at in your menopause journey. There’s no way to predict when you will go through menopause, although genetics do seem to play a factor. For example, you may go through menopause the same time that your mother or sister did. It’s up to each of us to solve our “menopuzzle,” as Dr. Gunter describes it, by recognizing our symptoms and working with our doctor.
- The three easiest things you can do to help you during menopause are eating healthy, exercising, and not smoking. Sometimes the simplest things can have the greatest impact. Gunter encourages women to just get moving, noting that exercise doesn’t have to mean getting in 10,0000 steps every day. Taking a short stroll around the block can have physical and mental health benefits. Avoiding smoking can also help decrease the risk for cardiovascular disease during menopause. In addition, eating a balanced diet can help manage menopause symptoms. However, Gunter warns to be weary of foods that claim to act as superfoods in completely alleviating menopause symptoms. Foods with phytoestrogens like soy, whole grains, and nuts can act like a weak estrogen in the body but will not replace estrogen completely.
- There are more proven, effective treatments to address the symptoms of menopause than ever before. Over the past two decades, there has been a wealth of new medical research and treatments for menopause. First, there is hormone replacement therapy. During menopause, our bodies make less estrogen and progesterone, key hormones that can aid in our bone, heart, skin and vaginal health. Hormone replacement therapy can help restore the hormone levels and may help aid in reducing hot flashes, easing vaginal dryness, and preventing bone fractures caused by osteoporosis. While there has been much discussion about the safety of this treatment, experts now agree that if started before the age of 60, this treatment carries a low risk for side effects. Gunter advises steering clear of unregulated or untested therapies that market false claims or celebrity endorsements, and sticking to FDA-approved treatments.
- Having an open dialogue about menopause can make a difference. As Gunter states, so many of the symptoms of menopause — from hot flashes to mood swings and painful intercourse –have become the center of jokes. Therefore, women may be afraid to bring them up, even though they could indicate a larger health concern or significantly alter her quality of life. For example, hot flashes that keep you up at night can disrupt sleep and lead to greater health issues. In some cases, hot flashes can also indicate cardiovascular disease. Understanding that these symptoms can be serious, and not a laughing matter, is important and can empower you to feel comfortable addressing them with your doctor.
Menopause doesn’t have to be a mystery, nor does it have to mean you stop enjoying life. Through education and help from your Axia Women’s Health provider, you can both understand and prepare for the transition so you can continue to enjoy this next chapter of your life!