TWELVE consecutive months without bleeding a period is considered the menopause. However, perimenopausal symptoms can begin up to a decade beforehand. What can you expect to happen?
Some women may begin to notice menstrual changes as early as their mid-30s, as the level of oestrogen rises and falls unevenly during the perimenopause. Cycles can lengthen or shorten and, in some months, you may not ovulate. Hot flushes – the intense and rapid onset of intense heat, usually appearing on the face and chest – might begin to emerge, sleep irregularities can develop, and vaginal dryness can occur. According to the Mayo Clinic, mood swings, irritability and an increased risk of depression can occur during the perimenopause.
As oestrogen levels plummet, women are more vulnerable to urinary or vaginal infections.
Furthermore, loss of tissue tone in the vagina can contribute to urinary incontinence.
While a woman’s ability to decreases during the perimenopause, pregnancy is still possible as long as periods are still occurring – even if they are irregular.
Declining oestrogen levels can also lead to “unfavourable changes” to cholesterol levels.
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This includes an increase in “bad” low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, increasing the risk of heart disease.
Women going through the transition are also more at risk of developing osteoporosis – a disease that causes fragile bones.
While the list of perimenopausal symptoms can seem frightening, do not expect all of these symptoms to coincide with one another.
To help ease the natural transition into older age, healthy lifestyle choices can ease symptoms of the perimenopause.
“Because your risk of osteoporosis and heart disease increases at this time, a healthy diet is more important than ever,” said the Mayo Clinic.
A favourable diet is a low-fat, high-fibre diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Calcium-rich foods also need to be included to help strengthen bones, whereas alcohol and caffeine are better off avoided.
This is because alcohol and caffeine are said to trigger hot flushes.
“Regular exercise and physical activity helps prevent weight gain, improves your sleep and elevates your mood,” added the Mayo Clinic.
It is advisable to move for at least 30 minutes daily, five times per week – although doing so before bedtime is not recommended as it can keep you awake.
Exercise has also been shown to strengthen. “Brinkwire Summary News”.