Got hot flashes?
There’s no escaping it—every woman will experience perimenopause, the menopausal transition that can happen overnight or drag on for years. It’s a natural event, typically affecting women ages 40 to 59. Janis Keil Day, CNM, a midwife at Fairview Clinics – Elk River, shares, “By managing your expectations and making lifestyle changes prior to menopause, you can alleviate perimenopause symptoms and come to a peaceful reconciliation with the changing state of your body.”
So what can you expect? The most troublesome symptoms tend to be hot flashes, night sweats (which lead to sleeping difficulties and irritability) and changes in weight or body shape. Less frequently discussed symptoms—but often just as irritating—are irregular periods, breast or joint pain, depression, anxiety and constipation.
Tips for managing your symptoms
By adopting a healthy lifestyle, you’ll likely feel better, be happier and experience less perimenopause symptoms. When you do have symptoms, however, Day recommends increasing your stamina and lifting your mood using the following strategies:
- Exercise a minimum of five times per week for 30 minutes each time
- Do strength training to maintain your muscle and balance
- Incorporate eight to11 servings of fruits and vegetables into your diet daily
- Eliminate the trans fats from your diet
- Reduce the amount of pre-packaged and processed foods you eat
- Make sure your weight is in a normal range (menopause may make it more difficult to loose or even maintain your weight)
- Consider working with a health coach who can help you set realistic goals and overcome obstacles, and provide encouragement
- Meet with a dietitian or nutritionist
Those pesky hot flashes
When hot flashes start, Day recommends dressing in layers, carrying a small fan, and avoiding hot liquids, spicy foods and alcohol. When night sweats disturb your sleep, wear light clothing and use blankets for additional warmth that you can remove as needed. Invest in a fan with a remote control so you can turn it on and off without getting out of bed. According to Day, hot flashes and night sweats will begin to decrease in frequency after 18 to 24 months for most women. After five years, approximately 80 percent of women will no longer experience them.
Pregnancy is still possible
Don’t forget—getting pregnant is still possible until you’ve been without a period for a year.
Prior to menopause, have your health care provider evaluate your general health, including your blood pressure, weight, blood work (such as cholesterol levels, thyroid function and glucose levels). Also make sure that you’re up-to-date on your mammogram, colonoscopy and Pap smear tests.
Elizabeth J. Wheatley, MD, practices family medicine with obstetrics at Fairview Clinics – Milaca and treats women who are going through menopause. “For women who have severe menopausal symptoms, I can prescribe medications to ease their discomfort. I often recommend estrogen cream for vaginal dryness and hormone-free medications for hot flashes.”
The irregular and sometimes heavy bleeding that accompanies menopause can also be problematic. Treatments for heavy bleeding include pills, IUDs, endometrial ablation (destruction of the lining of the uterus that causes the bleeding), uterine artery embolization (reduces the blood supply to the uterus) and hysterectomy.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was a popular treatment for menopause, but recent studies have linked HRT to higher incidences of heart disease, cancer and strokes. HRT may be used if menopause symptoms are affecting the woman’s quality of life.
“Menopause is a journey, occasionally short and easy, and other times long and more difficult,” says Day. “Whatever the path, we’re able to offer a solution for everyone, even if it’s as simple as lending an empathetic ear.”
Call 612-672-1900 or 855-324-7843 (toll-free) to make an appointment or learn more about Fairview OB-GYN locations and services.