Don't let menopause take over your life

Don't let menopause take over your life

Going through the menopause at any time of the year can be tedious, exhausting and simply distressing. But the hot summer months can be the most uncomfortable for many women. GP Tim Kenny believes a change in lifestyle among other things can help greatly.

Wendy started the menopause at the age of 49. “I haven’t had an easy time, 8 years of hot flushes and dreadful sweats has left me feeling exhausted.” She said.

The 57-year-old, from Stoke-on-Trent has experienced a lot of unpleasant side effects since she started the menopause.

“Waking up constantly throughout the night, up to 6 times, consequent tiredness, palpitations and racing heartbeat have all affected my life.

“Weight gain and facial hair haven’t been attractive symptoms.” She added.

The personal assistant, from Stoke-On-Trent, says her symptoms seem to worsen when it’s hot, resulting in a very unpleasant summer.

“I sleep with a Magicool aerosol by my bed and a cool damp flannel. Occasionally symptoms accumulate into a panic attack; which has me pacing around the room trying to calm myself down. I wont go anywhere abroad in the summer unless I know the room will be fully air-conditioned.” She said.

“Even in England I have to make sure the windows are open properly or else I’ll go into panic mode.” she added.

Wendy made the decision not to resort to HRT to help with her symptoms, as she believes there may be repercussions in later life.

“I have tried countless herbal remedies but none have helped at all, friends keep telling me that it will be over and done with in a few years, but there’s no sign of improvement yet.

“My sister-in-law started the menopause recently and began HRT almost immediately. Her symptoms disappeared completely, sometimes I wonder whether I should have taken that route 8 years ago! But I reckon I must be getting towards the end now.” She added.

Dr Tim Kenny has been a GP for many years. For the past 15 years he has also been lead author and editor of the clinical content on pateint.co.uk.

He believes lifestyle changes could help ease the unpleasant symptoms that accompany the menopause.

“Menopause is a natural event and many women go through this time of their life with little trouble. However, symptoms can be difficult to tolerate by some.

“Hot flushes on top of being hot anyway can make you even more uncomfortable and are often accompanied by sweats. So to be sweaty in hot weather compounded by a hot flush would be somewhat uncomfortable.” He said.

Tim states lifestyle changes including avoiding excess alcohol, caffeine and spicy foods may help aid symptoms as they may trigger flushes and sweats.

“There is evidence from medical research that smoking and being overweight or obese increases the likelihood of flushing. So if you smoke, try to stop, if you are overweight, try to lose some weight. Evidence suggests that regular exercise may reduce the frequency and severity of hot flushes and sweats also.

“The obvious things to help throughout the summer months are to wear loose cotton clothes, and try to keep as cool as possible. A cool shower before bedtime and, if possible, a cool bedroom to sleep in are said by some to help.” He said.

“If you are so troubled with symptoms that regularly affect your day to day life, do consider talking with your doctor to get advice on treatment options. Hot flushes and night sweats can usually be controlled by treatment.” Tim added.

Heather Currie is a gynecologist working in Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary, she has been running a menopause clinic there since 1993.

She is also the Managing Director of Menopause Matters Ltd, which runs the popular, award-winning www.menopausematters.co.uk and publishes the quarterly magazine Menopause Matters.

The 53-year-old mother of two believes the HRT is helpful in regards to dealing with symptoms associated with the menopause.

“Since the consequences of the menopause are thought to be due to estrogen deficiency, the purpose of HRT is to give estrogen back.

“The main benefits of HRT – the control of menopausal symptoms, i.e. the symptoms due to estrogen deficiency, such as hot flushes, night sweats, mood changes and disturbed sleep.

“HRT is also helpful for the bones, reducing the risk of osteoporosis, and can be used for treatment of osteoporosis. Other potential benefits include reduced risk of colon cancer, reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, and, if started early in the menopausal years, reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.” She said.

Heather also suggests the use of loose clothing and lifestyle changes can help throughout the summer heat.

“Wear loose clothing in layers, keep alcohol, and caffeine to a minimum. General advice can be found on www.menopausematters.co.uk.

“HRT is the best treatment we have for treating the consequences of estrogen deficiency, which include long term health issues - bones and heart not just early symptoms.

 “Previous publicity has exaggerated risks. All medicines have risks, but when used appropriately, for many women, HRT has more benefits than risks and it should be seen as an option, not tarnished with the risks that we heard about 10 years ago.” She added.

Femalefirst Alexandra Ashton