Thursday, May 02, 2019

Mind Your Mind During Menopause

Menopause is a pivotal point in life. It often coincides with major life milestones, such as retirement and saying good-bye to children as they leave the nest. As a result, it can be both an exciting and stressful time.

When you think of menopause, your first thoughts may be about hot flashes and sleep troubles. But don’t discount the psychological impact either! With menopause comes a number of changes to your body — and to your mental health.

What is menopause?

First, let’s define what menopause is.

Menopause is when you can no longer get pregnant and your menstruation stops permanently. You only officially reach menopause when it’s been a full year since your last period.

Before you can reach menopause, though, you go through the transition period called perimenopause. During this period, hormone levels can start to change. For instance, levels of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone will start to vary. And this shift typically causes menopause symptoms to happen. Your periods may become irregular, heavier, or lighter.

Symptoms of menopause include:
  • Decreased libido
  • Sleep problems
  • Hot flashes
  • Vaginal dryness
The average American woman reaches menopause by age 52, but the range can be between ages 45 and 58. Your age of menopause may be similar to your mother’s.

Psychological Effects of Menopause

Menopause can be a complicated time. Because your body is making less estrogen and progesterone, menopausal women have a higher risk of developing certain diseases, such as osteoporosis and heart disease.

Mental health is not exempt. Of course, some women may be happy that they no longer have to deal with the inconvenience of periods, or they may enjoy the increased freedom that comes with retirement and independent children. Other women, however, may feel directionless without career and childcare responsibilities, or they may struggle with a lower libido.

Menopause and Sex

It’s true that menopause has a large impact on your sex life. After all, two main symptoms of menopause are vaginal dryness and a reduced desire to have sex.

While these changes don’t sound fun at all, don’t throw in the towel just yet! The following tips may help you maintain a healthy sex life:
  • Be patient. Allow more time to warm up. Arousal helps lubricate your tissues, so don’t rush through the initial stages of sexual activity.
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol, and quit smoking. These substances can inhibit your sexual response. Cigarettes can also reduce blood flow to your genitals.
  • Keep active — this includes having sex more often! Exercise boosts mood and energy, and regular sexual activity can help maintain a healthy blood flow to the vagina.
  • Use lubrication. Lubrication products can make sex more comfortable for you and your partner.
  • Practise safer sex. Even though you can’t get pregnant anymore, you can still catch sexually transmitted infections. A drier, thinner, and more delicate vagina can also mean a higher risk of infection if injury happens.
Finally, don’t be afraid to discuss sexual problems with your doctor. While often seen as a very private matter, sexual health is an important component of overall physical and mental health. Just because you’re older doesn’t mean you’re doomed to an unsatisfactory sex life. Doctors are trained and willing to help you have a satisfying one.

If vaginal dryness is a more serious issue, your doctor may prescribe you medication like Vagifem® (estradiol). You can access cheap Vagifem® online through international and Canadian pharmacy referral services. These places connect American patients with licensed pharmacies outside the U.S. that offer quality drugs at reduced prices.

Menopause, Body Image, and Health

Another impact menopause has on your body is weight gain. On average, women who gain weight after menopause gain about five pounds. This can be distressing, but remember that weight gain is part of the aging process for many people. It’s just one side effect from your metabolism slowing down as you age.

To help you feel and look good, keep in mind the following tips:
  • Eat a healthful diet. Older people often don’t need as many calories as their younger counterparts, so try gradually reducing the amount of food you eat. To preserve enjoyment of food, try using smaller plates and practice mindful eating.
  • Ask about supplements. Older women may be at higher risk for certain diseases if they are low on certain nutrients. Ask your doctor whether supplementary vitamin D and calcium would benefit you.
  • Stay active. Physical activity doesn’t need to be intense. You can still benefit from 10-minute bouts of exercise. As an older person, you may also feel better doing low-impact exercises like water aerobics, swimming, and cycling, as they put less pressure on your joints.
  • Stay up-to-date on health screenings. Make sure you get the appropriate health screenings for your age, such as mammograms and height measurements to monitor bone loss.
At the end of the day, try your best to enjoy the positive aspects of this stage in your life! If you are about to retire or have recently retired, plan trips to places you’ve always wanted to explore, whether it’s within your town or across the ocean. If your children are independent, fill up that extra time with volunteering, hobbies, or learning a new skill. Menopause is your oyster!

This is a guest blog entry.

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