Penny Lancaster discusses her menopause 'brain fog'
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During the climacteric process, symptoms may begin to emerge as hormone levels change. Menstrual periods may still be regular at this stage, but two signs of the impending menopause include night sweats and mood changes. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists explained the changes in mood can be put down to declining levels of oestrogen and progesterone. “Lack of sleep due to night sweats may also lead to mood swings,” the organisation added.
The Bridgewater Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust mentioned that many people describe the experience as “going through the menopause” – and for good reason too.
While leading up to the menopause, symptoms can linger for a number of years – averaging out to about four years.
In some cases, people might experience symptoms associated with hormonal changes for up to 10 years.
Symptoms can include:
- Hot flushes
- Night sweats
- Mood swings
- Vaginal dryness
- Aching joints, muscles and tendons
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Poor concentration
- Poor memory
- Loss of sex drive
- Discomfort during intercourse.
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Lifestyle factors, such as diet and exercise, as well as medication, can all play a part in a woman’s experience in the run-up to the menopause.
In the UK, the average age for a woman to reach menopause is 51 years of age.
However, women can begin to experience natural menopausal symptoms between the ages of 45 to 55.
As oestrogen levels take a nosedive, the urge to urinate more frequently may become apparent.
Urination may also be uncomfortable, leading to more urinary tract infections (UTIs), bladder leakage, and burning and itching down below.
The skin may become more dry, and bruising on the skin may become more commonplace.
“Unwanted facial hair growth can also be explained by lack of oestrogen,” the NHS added.
Other symptoms might include:
- Itchy skin, sometimes with the feeling that something is crawling on them
- Tingling in the arms and legs
- Burning sensation in the mouth
- Breast tenderness (and they may shrink slightly!)
- Gastrointestinal upset such as indigestion, diarrhoea, wind and bloating
- Increase in allergies
- Change in body odour
- Bleeding gums
- Changes in the fingernails
- Feelings of unspecified fear and dread.
Many people may not realise they’ve entered the peri-menopause as they continue to have periods.
A decrease in oestrogen will reduce the amount of calcium in the bones, which can lead to osteoporosis.
To minimise the risk of this health complication, a healthy, balanced diet should supply a good source of calcium.
A health diet involves:
- Eating less saturated fat
- Choosing lean cuts of meat
- Choosing low or reduced fat dairy foods
- Reducing salt intake
- Eating at least two portions of oily fish a week
- Eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day
- Including plenty of fibre in your diet.
Exercise is also key to staying healthy during and after the menopause, with evidence suggesting that an active lifestyle leads to less peri-menopausal symptoms.
“The best exercises are those that are aerobic, sustained and regular, for example running, cycling and swimming along with strength and flexibility exercises,” the NHS certified.
However, as peri-menopausal symptoms can include insomnia, do make sure you’re not exercising two hours before you plan on going to sleep.
Once a woman has experienced 12 months with no periods, it’s described as post-menopause.
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