After the recently held so far the most visited and most successful humanitarian & Body event with the theme Menopause: achieving balance and full potential, I would like to comment on this topic and this blog. Before I go, I would like to share with you that we have collected 2000 euros for the association All for her ! I am simply beside myself with happiness as the & Body community grows and does good to myself and others. Thank you to every single person who is a part of this story. I’m looking forward to new & Body events after returning to Croatia in the spring, and pssst… One of the new topics is infertility.
But to get back to the topic. First, I’m going to give you information about menopause in school, and then I’m going to look back at the survey I did on Instagram that slightly shocked me. It’s just an indication that you need to read this book. Also we women HAVE to start talking about this topic because listening to a series of clients in pen, fasting and menopause my heart breaks because I always hear the same adjectives that describe themselves and which describe them by the environment: I’m ugly, stupid and forgetful, I’m incompetent and I can’t do anything right, I’m constantly tired, I’m unbearable to myself and others, I’m annoying… I’m lonely in this because I have no one to talk to, no one understands me… I could go on, but I believe you’ve found many of them in these sentences. That’s why we need to communicate because you’re not alone!
Let’s dive into matter!
Perimenopause and menopause: Everything you ever wanted to know that you didn’t dare ask
Even though we live in the 21st century. We often think that we have overcome many prejudices and solved their controversiality, (too) often we have the opportunity to be surprised that this is not really the case at all. Thus, specifically female ‘problems’ and conditions in public are rarely or with reservations, and women’s health seems to be still in many cases shrouded in mystery and secrets. It’s like a tangle of topics that everyone thinks about, but no one talks about openly about them.
In addition to menstruation, which is generally still accepted as a topic that is not often talked about honestly in the wider society, another female topic of this type, which is unnecessarily and harmfully stigmatized is menopause. This term is associated with a symbolic end, the end of fertility, the end of femininity, as evidence of aging and the passage of time, as the first ‘nail in the coffin’ of a woman’s life – and this does not need to be and is not at all.
Menopause is a biological fact that no woman can avoid and as such should accept and learn about it and as a stage of life not be ashamed of it. As life expectancy extends, so people live 80, 90 or even 100 years, it can actually happen that a woman spends more than a third of her life in menopause – so it would really be good to know something about her, and not just to face the symptoms as she knows how, without the help and understanding of the environment. So, in the following, remove your prejudices and other people’s prejudices, unknowns and find answers to numerous speculations.
What exactly is menopause and how does it manifest itself?
Medically speaking, menopause represents the end of physiological menstrual bleeding, that is, the end of a woman’s reproductive age. It is believed that the average woman spends at least one-third of her life during this period, and the latest demographic indicators indicate that more than 45% of women in Croatia are in pre-menopause or postmenopausal. So, it works about the consequences of a decline in ovarian function, and therefore the production of the main sex hormones of a woman – estrogen and progesterone.
Menopause in the gynecological sense marks the last menstruation in a woman’s life and is an inevitable part of the natural biological aging process of a woman. What happens at the physiological level is as follows: women’s ovaries contain in their superficial part or crust follicles, i.e. sac-filled formations filled with fluid in which the eggs are located. Every month 3-10 eggs begin to grow, but most of them only mature and ovulation is expelled into the fallopian tube.
At the same time, follicles during maturation every month release hormones responsible for the menstrual cycle of a woman into circulation. While in the male sex system new sperm are created periodically until late age, which is clear evidence that women and men biologically age completely differently, a woman constantly wears out her follicles. By reducing the number of follicles, ovarian function also decreases – until menopause occurs, when ovarian function stops.
Statistics show that the average woman will have about 30 to 400 menstrual cycles in her lifetime and that she will ovulate 400 mature eggs, and that in the process of their maturation will consume about 15 to 20 thousand follicles. After 40. the years of life of the follicles are less and less, and irregular menstrual cycles are increasing. When the reserve of follicles (that is, eggs) is depleted, the woman enters menopause. This stops menstrual cycles, and with them the production of hormones, which leads to a number of clinical symptoms – which can be very unpleasant for many. Due to the poor coverage of this topic in the media and its stigmatization, women do not talk about their problems in menopause – which is why the problem is becoming larger and more demanding to solve.
Of the medical problems that appear in this period of life, the most pronounced are those related to the collapse of the quality of tissues in the body that are dependent on the proper function of hormones, that is, predominantly estrogen. This is primarily about problems with the functions of the brain, skin and mucous membranes, urogenital system, bone and blood vessels. These changes and imbalances in the body can significantly disrupt a woman’s quality of life, and more importantly, increase the risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and senile dementia.
Menopause – perimenopause, menopause and postmenopausal
You’ve probably heard the term ‘menopause’ before and completely equated it with menopause – but it actually covers a much longer period. This is the period that begins with the gradual shutdown of reproductive function, and includes perimenopause and the first ten years of postmenopausal.
On average, women in Croatia today enter menopause at 51.2 years, and it is interesting that the age of entering menopause is largely genetically predetermined and does not depend at all on the number of pregnancies and births, breastfeeding, the use of hormonal contraception, socioeconomic condition, race, education, height, weight, as well as the age at which a woman got her first menstruation. However, medical research shows that in women who smoke, it was observed that their menopause occurs 2 years earlier than women who do not smoke.
When setting menopausal diagnosis, it is necessary to pass 12 months of amenorrhea, that is, the complete absence of menstruation. Premature menopause occurs before 40. Years of life are becoming more common among women. If menopause occurs after 55. It is called late menopause (menopausis tarda). Early menopause is a menopause that occurs between 40 and 20. and 45. age.
Perimenopause and postmenopause:
Although in the minds of many menopause occurs only after 45. The fact is that the symptoms of perimenopause in many women begin to be expressed already in their thirties. Perimenopause is thus a transitional or transitional period towards menopause, which occurs already about ten years before the last menstruation, when the reproductive ability of a woman begins to decline. Women then find it harder to become pregnant, and the incidence of spontaneous abortions increases. Significant hormonal changes occur approximately 8 years before menopause, and in most 4-6 years before, menstrual cycles become irregular with a number of clinical signs. Perimenopause is thus a perennial period that is characterized by cycle disorders, disordered and irregular bleeding, as well as vasomotor problems.
On the other hand, postmenopause is the period that occurs after the last menstruation in a woman’s life, i.e. menopause. It is divided into early (before the age of 70) and late (after age 70) postmenopause. Late menopause is also called senium.
What is crucial to emphasize is that due to an increasingly stressful life and changes in the quality of life, women enter perimenopause earlier and stay in it longer, and on their natural path to menopause, they are faced with numerous health problems. From vaginal dryness and a decline in sex drive, through difficult conception and infertility, to cognitive dysfunction, emotional imbalance and memory problems – perimenopause is the least talked about period, and can last up to 10 years and greatly burden a woman’s life if she herself does not know what is happening to her and why.
Symptoms of perimenopause and menopause
We’ve all heard about the so-called menopausal hot flashes, feelings of powerlessness and irritation, as well as sex problems that can occur during this period of a woman’s life – but do you know exactly what the symptoms of menopause are and what they mean?
It is simple, changes in the level of hormones are reflected in the menstrual cycle at the earliest. 3-5 years before menopause, almost 70% of women have cycle disorders that manifest as extremely frequent or rare cycles, very heavy bleeding, as well as frequent absenceof ovulation. Disordered uterine hemorrhages in perimenopause are the most common dysfunctional bleeding, i.e. those caused by the absence of ovulation.
It is interesting that the first symptom of perimenopause and subsequent entry into menopause is simply – fatigue. So some women start to feel tired, exhausted and listless already in their thirties, and they don’t know what’s behind it. These are disorders in hormones, that is, a lack of estrogen, which leads to lethargy and constant fatigue. Fatigue as a symptom is present in as many as 90 percent of women, and psychological problems, most often in the form of depression, are found in about 50-60% of cases and sleep disorders and poor sleep in about 75% of cases.
Vasomotor problems (so-called hot flashes in the feeling of heat and cold) occur in 20 to 30% of premenopausal women, and even in 85% of cases in early postmenopausal. This symptom has become practically synonymous with menopause over time. Hot flashes occur due to abnormal activation of the thermoregulatory center in the hypothallalmus, due to which the initial heat attack occurs as a result of peripheral expansion of blood vessels. The heat wave ends with sweating and with time a drop in temperature. Seizures are more common at night, during sleep and in warm regions. It takes time for the hypothalamus to ‘learn’ to a new condition marked by a decrease in estrogen concentration in order for these problems to pass.
Other common symptoms of a decrease in estrogen levels in the body are also changes in hair and skin, vaginal dryness, decreased libido and decreasein cognitive function. Most women here are most troubled by changes in the field of sexuality. Due to the pronounced thinning of the mucous membranes, there are problems in the form of dryness, itching and burning of the vagina, vaginal discharge becomes frequent and sex is unpleasant. All this leads to a decrease in sexual desire, which many women in this period of life particularly troubles and negatively affects their relationships.
Also, hair and skin become thinner and weaker, prone to breaking and flaking, and with age cognitive function also declines. Menopausal women often complain of a decrease in concentration and poor memory, and all this is due to the lack of estrogen and hormone imbalance in the body.
Symptoms that occur in postmenopausal
And while all of these above symptoms are talked about and mostly known, many are not aware that there are late consequences of estrogen deficiency, which begin already in perimenopazi and can cause major health problems at a later age. Especially this is about the occurrence of cardiovascular diseases in women, which after 50 years in women are manifested in the fact that they appear suddenly. Before 50. Mortality in women from cardiovascular disease is significantly lower than that of men, but after 50. Cardiovascular disease has become the cause of death for 50 percent of the female population.
Another disease that affects many postmenopausal women is osteoporosis, that is, a decrease in bone density. It is caused by increased bone breakdown due to a lack of estrogen. Along with cardiovascular diseases, it is the most serious consequence of menopause because it deeply impairs health and leads to age-related impotence. Osteoporosis is also called a “silent disease” because there are no clearly visible signs until the first fractures occur. Fractures occur most often as a result of falling, but often the bone becomes so fragile that fractures are frequent and without an obvious cause. Osteoporosis is also associated with tooth loss, as atrophy of the bone alveoli of the teeth occurs.
Because of all of the above, it is extremely important to speak and teach not only women about menopause and its consequences for the body, but also the whole environment. You may think that menopause is still far from you, that you have years of ‘luft’ and that these topics are none of your business – but it will concern you eventually. Whether it’s yourself, your mother, friend, colleague, boss, wife or sister – menopause is an inevitable phase of a woman’s life, which brings its own challenges that will be easier for women to respond to if they have the support and understanding of the environment.
The problem of ‘sweeping it under the carpet’, i.e. Ignorance
As stated, menopause as a topic is often stigmatized and associated with negative prejudices, and one of the surest ways to destroy these prejudices and issues related to the behavior and ills of menopausal women is to demystify the general population. It is devastating that women themselves do not have too much interest in researching this topic and thus find themselves in the period of perimenopause unprepared and ‘surprised’ by the first symptoms – while they could prepare for them years earlier.
Although there are no large-scale studies at the national level on how ‘literate’ women are when it comes to menopause, but a small survey on my Instagram profile showed worrying trends of not knowing this topic. Thus, 98 percent of my companions said that they are not in postmenopausal, which is not surprising because 71 percent of them are under the age of 25 to 45 years, and that as many as 99 percent are interested in this topic – but the same percentage of them admitted that they know too little about menopause!
On the possible symptoms of menopause, and as many as 27, 90 percent of women said that they have experience with some of these symptoms. And that’s where we get to the problem – because the same women in almost 50 percent of the responses said that they do not know how to help themselves solve these problems other than by taking hormonal therapy. Also, as many as 40 percent of women who responded to the poll did not know or have heard of perimenopause – which is alarming, because they may be in it without even realizing it.
Because of all of the above, it is extremely important to educate ourselves and continuously monitor changes in our body and mood so that we can explain to ourselves and the environment what is happening to us and why we feel the way we feel. Also, the key to preventing and combating the negative symptoms of menopause is in their knowledge and treatment in an adequate way.
‘Treatment’ of menopausal symptoms
Here we will not deal with the issues of hormone therapy – we leave this topic to doctors. What we are interested in is how to alleviate the symptoms of menopause in a natural way, without taking medication.
Soy isoflavones – Soy extract and evening primrose oil contain phytoestrogens that are similar in structure and effect to estrogen. They can help relieve vasomotor symptoms, vaginal dryness and regulate blood cholesterol.
Exercise – Exercise reduces the level of stress and feelings of agitation that are very pronounced in menopause. During exercise, the hormone irsin is secreted, which is important for regular bone cell renewal, and thus reduces the possibility of developing osteoporosis.
Quit smoking and limit your alcohol consumption – The sooner you quit smoking and drinking alcohol in your life, the better. It has been proven that exposure to cigarettes worsens the symptoms of menopause, and excessive alcohol consumption during menopause has a particularly bad effect on cognitive function and reduces it in the long run. In addition, we have already stated that menopause occurs earlier in women who smoke than in those who do not let go, which is a clear sign that smoking biologically ages the body.
If you want more advice and expert guidance on how to turn your life around and use its full potential, regardless of how old you are and whether you have already faced the symptoms of menopause, contact me for individual counseling or subscribe to my program Body by Andrea Solomun, which will help you become a better and healthier version of yourself in 12 weeks.