Health Column - April/May 21
Let’s Talk About The Perimenopause by Kate Duggan
The average age of the menopause is 51. Before 45 is considered young, but the perimenopause (the time leading up to the menopause when levels of oestrogen and progesterone are decreasing) can last for years.
The most common symptoms include:
- Irregular periods
- Hot flushes or night sweats
- Mood changes (eg, feeling sad for no real reason or having sudden rages)
- Loss of libido
- Joint pain
- Urinary problems
HRT slightly increases your risk of breast cancer, but it may decrease your risk of other types of cancer, as well as osteoporosis and other serious illnesses. Whether or not you take HRT is a personal decision to be made in consultation with a doctor.
Dr Louise Newson is a leading menopause specialist and the founder of the Balance app. She recommends seeking help early, “The perimenopause is when hormone levels start to reduce, so this is actually the best time to start taking HRT. When hormone levels reduce, symptoms commonly occur and also health risks start, such as an increased risk of heart disease and osteoporosis.”
If HRT isn’t for you, supplements may help. Before starting HRT, I took turmeric and evening primrose oil, which did seem to help. Others swear by black cohosh or other herbal treatments. However, there is little scientific evidence about how effective supplements are, and some should not be used if you have certain health conditions or are on medication. So do your research, speak to your doctor and only buy from reputable retailers.
Dealing with Hot Flushes
I kept a bottle of rose water in the fridge to spritz on my face when the heat hit. An electric fan can help, as can wearing layers that are easily removed for quicker cooling. The NHS also advises reducing alcohol and caffeine.
If hot flushes are making your life a misery, do talk to your doctor, as they should be able to prescribe something to help.
Weight-bearing exercise (such as running) can help to strengthen your bones, thus giving you some protection against osteoporosis. Exercise (particularly outdoors) is also good for your mental health.
Couch to 5K is the option I chose, but ideally find a running partner to keep you motivated. Otherwise, try podcasts or music, and challenge yourself by logging your progress on Strava.
If you’re not keen on running, there are thousands of exercise videos on YouTube, from Yoga With Adriene to high-energy dance workouts.
The Menopause Doctor website (www.menopausedoctor.co.uk) has lots of resources on everything from HRT to contraception.
The Balance app (www.balance-app.com) can help you to keep track of your period and symptoms.
The website www.healthandher.com offers a wealth of advice and relevant products, from vitamins to cooling nightwear.
If your friends aren’t at the same stage, why not join a forum? ‘Totes Merry Peri’ on Facebook is my personal favourite.
(Please note that this article is intended to give a general overview of the subject and is not intended as medical advice.)