Oh no, here comes the “the change”! For years both doctors and women cast menopause in negative terms, using such phrases as “hormonal deficiencies” and “reproductive dysfunction” to describe the physical aspects of this stage of life.
While menopause has previously gotten a bad rap, the times are a-changin’. The new outlook: The change is not negative — it’s just, well, a change.
“Menopause is an exciting opportunity,” says Elizabeth Ricanati, MD, medical director for the Cleveland Clinic’s Lifestyle 180 program. “It is not a death sentence. When I saw patients and they complained about not feeling well during menopause, I stressed that this is a phase and that they’ll come out of it feeling better and ready to really enjoy the next stage of their life.”
A positive mind-set may help ease your way through menopause. Anthropological studies of various cultures suggest that how you go through this life stage is largely dependent on your attitude. For example, anthropologist Ann Wright’s studies of traditional versus culturally advanced Navajo women indicate that psychological stress causes more menopausal symptoms than physical stress.
Although a positive attitude can help you adjust to this new phase of life, your diminishing hormone levels do have real physical effects. As your body first experiences fluctuations in levels of estrogen and progesterone, it is not uncommon to experience such symptoms as hot flashes, insomnia, night sweats and mood swings.
Additionally, estrogen provides a protective effect to both the skeletal and cardiovascular systems; once your body stops producing this hormone, you need to pay particular attention to maintaining bone and heart health.
The good news: Many of the symptoms of hormonal fluctuation can be lessened in severity — or even eliminated — through diet, exercise and stress reduction.
These same measures also can have a positive impact on your long-term health by counteracting the increased risk of such serious problems as osteoporosis and coronary artery disease. And with your physical and mental well-being ensured, you can look forward to enjoying this new phase of life to its fullest.