Everyone has heard of menopause and everything that comes with it, like the hot flashes and mood swings. But it seems not many women, or men for that matter, know about perimenopause, the change in hormones that signals the onset of menopause.
Perimenopause is typically characterized by six key things: irregular menstrual periods, mood swings, night sweats, decreased libido, fatigue, and vaginal discomfort. It usually occurs years before actual menopause begins; for some women, it can start as early as the 30s. In most cases, perimenopause lasts about four years, although it’s different for everyone—it could be eight months for one woman, but eight years for another.
Both perimenopause and menopause are caused by declining levels of estrogen. Essentially, the ovaries stop producing eggs, which throws off the levels of estrogen and progesterone, since the ovaries are what manufacture these hormones. Much like in adolescence when girls’ bodies change because their bodies start producing the hormone, the same can be said for women who are entering the perimenopause state—both puberty and perimenopause are characterized by a change in hormonal production, just at different ends of the spectrum.
There are ways to deal with perimenopause and everything it brings, including the onset of hot flashes and mood swings. You can’t stop the physiological changes happening in your body when you enter the perimenopause stage, but you can certainly adapt to them. Here are a few tips to help you cope with and ease into the transition:
• Get plenty of exercise. Many women who are struggling with perimenopause take up yoga, meditation, and rhythmic breathing exercises as a way to calm themselves and get in touch with their bodies again.
• Keep it natural. For a lot of women experiencing the effects of perimenopause, it can be overwhelming and uncomfortable. But avoid the urge to use alcohol, sleeping pills, or other drug-based treatment methods to feel better. While it may be tempting because they seem to offer immediate relief, the chemicals can interfere with the natural changes happening in your body and can even lead to an increased dependency, which is never safe.
• Get social. A lot of women going through perimenopause tend to experience bouts of depression—it’s that looming feeling that you’re getting older and your body is changing. Surround yourself with family and friends, who can provide moral and emotional support. It also helps to lean on other women who may be going through a similar perimenopause experience. If there’s no one in your life who you can relate to, joining a group fitness class or getting involved in the community are just two easy ways to meet new people in the same age bracket.
• Keep cool. To manage hot flashes in the middle of the night, sleep with a single sheet and keep a thicker blanket nearby. Also, keep a glass of ice cold water or a spray bottle filled with cold water on your nightstand for a quick cooldown.
• Adapt your anti-aging skin care routine. As your hormone levels shift during perimenopause, so will your skin. It helps to adjust your anti-aging skin care products and routine to suit your changing skin type. For instance, if your skin is oilier than before, switch to a milder cleanser and avoid harsh, gritty exfoliants. If your skin is drier through perimenopause, avoid taking hot showers or baths, which will strip away even more moisture, and moisturize your skin while it’s still damp.
• Eat healthy. Excess sugar, caffeine, and alcohol can all make perimenopause symptoms worse. Instead, load up on omega-3-rich foods, like salmon and tuna, and legumes, like lentils and beans. The decreasing level of estrogen during perimenopause also reduces your bones’ ability to absorb calcium. That’s why it’s important to make sure your anti-aging diet contains adequate calcium. Choose low-fat dairy products, which have just as much calcium, but fewer calories.
• Try hormone therapy. Some women will naturally experience more severe perimenopause symptoms. If you’re desperate for relief, you may want to consider systemic hormone therapy to boost your estrogen levels. This can usually be administered via patch, pill, gel, or cream, although it’s only recommended for short-term use. You may also have to take progestin to supplement the estrogen therapy. If you’re considering hormone therapy to relieve your perimenopause sypmtoms, speak to your doctor about your options.
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