DEAL­ING WITH MENOPAUSE

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Women are born with all the eggs we’ll ever have, around two mil­lion. By pu­berty,

this falls to some 400,000, and from pu­berty un­til menopause, only about 400 to 500 eggs will reach ma­tu­rity and be re­leased from the ovary. From 34 to 40, the num­ber of eggs rapidly de­clines and ovu­la­tion may oc­cur less of­ten in the lead-up to menopause. This is known as per­i­menopause and it can start up to six years be­fore menopause it­self – which is the fi­nal men­strual pe­riod.

Be­cause of the way the fe­male re­pro­duc­tive sys­tem works – with oe­stro­gen and pro­ges­terone lev­els fluc­tu­at­ing ac­cord­ing to where you are in your cy­cle – per­i­menopause is a time when hor­mone lev­els fluc­tu­ate rapidly. Menopause symptoms in­clude longer, shorter or ir­reg­u­lar pe­ri­ods, hot flushes and night sweats, headaches, vagi­nal dry­ness, ir­ri­tabil­ity, de­pres­sion, in­som­nia, for­get­ful­ness and crawl­ing or itch­ing sen­sa­tions un­der the skin. Even­tu­ally hor­mone lev­els de­crease enough that men­stru­a­tion stops al­to­gether. While not all women ex­pe­ri­ence symptoms, some 60% of us will have mild symptoms and a fur­ther 20% will have se­vere ones. Ways to man­age these in­clude: dress­ing in lay­ers; avoid­ing spicy food, al­co­hol or caf­feine; and

us­ing a fan to help deal with hot flushes. Some women find it use­ful to in­clude soy or foods con­tain­ing phy­toe­stro­gens, like lin­seed or se­same seeds, in their diet. To tackle night sweats, wear light cot­ton PJs

and use sheets and blan­kets in­stead of du­vets so you can ad­just your tem­per­a­ture eas­ily. Mood swings, in­som­nia and mem­ory is­sues can be helped with a healthy diet, ex­er­cise and re­duc­ing stress. As oe­stro­gen lev­els fall post-menopause, a healthy diet is also vi­tal to lower your risk of os­teo­poro­sis and car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease. If your symptoms are se­vere, ask your GP about med­i­cal treat­ments like hor­mone ther­apy. This com­bines oe­stro­gen and a syn­thetic form of pro­ges­terone to re­lieve the symptoms that come from re­duced

hor­mone lev­els.

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