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This article is from the WebMD Feature Archive

It’s not your mother’s menopause

Get ready for today’s modern, more optimistic approach to life during and after the menopause.
By Hilary Parker
WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

“The Change” has changed.

The symptoms of the menopause, including hot flushes and loss of libido, are still the same, but today’s women are taking a modern approach to the menopause. They’re approaching life during and after menopause with optimism and determination. 

“Women are becoming more accepting of the physical and emotional challenges that are associated with menopause and accepting them as natural transitional changes,” says Karen Giblin, founder of a menopause website. “They’re focusing on feeling good and looking at menopause more positively.”

By uniting with one another, talking about what they’ve learned, women are now sharing their wisdom of the menopause, from coping with symptoms to changing their lives.

Those famous menopause symptoms

Menopause: Technically it means that menstrual periods have stopped for at least one year but the term is often used to describe the changes taking place in a woman’s body as she approaches the end of her reproductive years. Every woman goes through the menopause differently and at different ages, but in the UK the average age to reach the menopause is between 51 and 52 years. Experts estimate that roughly 75% of the female population reports experiencing some symptoms of menopause and 20% to 25% of women ultimately seek medical treatment for those symptoms.

Yet signs of the menopause often begin far sooner, during the perimenopause, a phase preceding menopause that can last for up to 10 years.

Dr JoAnn Pinkerton, professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Virginia, says that the perimenopause is harder to deal with than the menopause itself.   “Because it is not well described, people are not expecting it. And symptoms vary from month to month, so it’s hard to get a handle on it,” she says.

Due to the fluctuations of oestrogen and testosterone taking place during the perimenopause and the menopause, women may experience a wide range of symptoms, including:

Over time, lower circulating levels of oestrogen in the body also can have negative effects on the cardiovascular system and bone density.

Managing menopause symptoms: Lifestyle changes

“Most women look after other people, including teenagers and ageing parents, and they may be working from home or the office,” says Pinkerton. “They stop putting themselves first. They’re not exercising, they’re stress eating and they’re not getting adequate amounts of sleep, all of which make it more difficult to go through this process.”

However here’s the good news: there are many things you can do to improve symptoms, during and after the menopause, including exercising, eating properly and getting enough sleep. 

For example, regular, weight-bearing cardiovascular exercise, such as walking and jogging, can protect your cardiovascular and bone health. Add some strength training to regular aerobic exercise and get an even greater boost in bone protection. Exercising in the morning, rather than the afternoon, and engaging in stress-reduction activities like yoga and Pilates may help you sleep better, too.

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