MENOPAUSE: Dealing with it

Menopause symptoms may be managed better with collaboration with your doctor.

McMaster Optimal Aging Portal

3 strategies to help you on your menopause journey

As women age, they produce less and less female sex hormones like estrogen and progesterone until they no longer menstruate one day. Otherwise known as “the change,” a woman has officially reached menopause when she has not had a period in 12 months.

When and symptoms
This typically happens as women approach middle age and can cause a range of symptoms, commonly referred to as a genitourinary syndrome, including issues with the genital system (for example, vaginal dryness, soreness, itching, and burning), issues around sexual activity (for example, painful intercourse), and issues of the lower urinary tract (for example, urinary tract infections and urinary incontinence). Hot flashes and night sweats are also common, affecting up to 85% of all women. In addition to these unpleasant symptoms, menopause can bring a host of complications, such as the increased risk of bone loss and osteoporosis.

Dealing with menopause symptoms
Whether you’re well into your journey through menopause or nearing the start of this next chapter of your life, a few evidence-based strategies are available to help women deal with the most common symptoms and complications that accompany menopause.

  1. Vaginal estrogen: For specific single symptoms – such vaginal dryness – over-the-counter lubricants and moisturizers may bring adequate relief. But for multiple or more severe symptoms, vaginal estrogens are recommended as the next step. The evidence shows that all types of vaginal estrogen effectively relieve symptoms of genitourinary syndrome of menopause and may also help reduce the frequency of urinary tract infections.
  2. Hormone replacement therapy patches: Hormone replacement therapy patches, isoflavones, and black cohosh can help reduce the frequency of hot flashes and night sweats.
  3. Exercise: Research suggests that exercise programs that combine multiple forms—generally resistance training and aerobic exercise—can enhance the bone mineral density by a small amount in postmenopausal women compared to normal activity levels.

Team up with your doctor
As you navigate this time in your life, it is helpful to be proactive and initiate or maintain dialogue with your healthcare provider. Inquire about the various stages of menopause and what they entail, be transparent regarding the symptoms you are experiencing or are concerned about for the future, and seek information on available treatment options and strategies that reduce your risk of complications.

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