The Female Menopause. What is it? And how can Physical Activity help?
The menopause– means the last menstrual period, which is caused because the low levels of oestrogen and progesterone do not stimulate the lining of the womb (endometrium) in the normal cycle. Hormone levels can fluctuate for several years before eventually becoming so low that the endometrium stays thin and does not bleed.
Perimenopause– is the stage from the beginning of menopausal symptoms to the post menopause.
Post menopause is defined as someone who has not had a period for 12 months+ regardless of whether the ovaries are still present in the body
Symptoms of the Menopause may include –
- Fluctuating moods between happiness, irritability, and depression
- Sleep problems/insomnia – due to hormone levels (drop in oestrogen) can make it difficult to fall asleep at night and some may get night sweats (excessive perspiration) and be woken in the night, disturbing your natural sleep pattern.
- Hot flushes where there is a sudden temperature hike, which could make your face red and feel flushed. Sometimes these occur with night sweats, however hot flushes can occur day or night
- Weight gain – you may gain weight as you retain body fat more easily
- Urge to urinate more frequently due to drop in oestrogen levels and possibly also lead to bladder leakage. You may find you urinate more often, or you leak when you laugh, work out, or sneeze. Frequent urination can also interfere with your sleep.
- Vaginal dryness which is not just an issue for sex but a daily feeling of no lubrication and tenderness in that area.
- Lowered sex drive, head aches and some may get joint pains (due to loss of muscle mass occurring at a higher rate which makes joints stiff and achy).
- Bone fractures as bone density decreases due to hormone changes
- Heart protection is lowered again by the loss of oestrogen and increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. It also effects the body’s cholesterol, which could increase the risk of heart attack or stroke.
How can physical activity help?
- Reduce stress and improve your mood and sleep
- Helps control weight or even weight loss
- Activity that makes use of your large muscle groups in a rhythmical manner whilst keeping up your heart rate is known as aerobic or cardio exercise such as walking or swimming can improve your heart, reduce blood pressure and cholesterol. Strength or weight bearing activities will help to build bone and muscle strength, burn body fat, and rev up your metabolism.
- Promote your general well-being
What else can help?
- Improvements to your diet and lifestyle will also help reduce symptoms.
- A healthy diet should include 5 portions of fruit/vegetables per day.
- Try to include unrefined foods as much as possible.
- Reduce intake of high fat and sugar containing foods in moderation
- Reduce caffeine and/or alcohol.
- A poor diet has been proven that it worsens flushes and increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
- Losing weight has been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer too.
- Quitting smoking. Women who smoke have an earlier menopause than non-smokers, have worse flushes and often do not respond as well to tablet form of HRT. It is never too late to stop smoking!
- If you are having symptoms there are options such as specific treatments, such as Hormone Replacement Therapy, other prescribed treatments, Alternative Therapies, and Alternative Techniques. Being aware of the treatment options will help you decide what route to take and will assist in preparing you to discuss further with your doctor or nurse to make an informed choice.