It is important that every woman in their 40’s is aware of the perimenopause and the changes it will bring. Even if you feel you are way too young to be thinking about the dreaded M word, learning about the P word will stand you in good stead.
If you understand the vital role hormones have in your health, emotions and overall wellbeing you will be much better prepared to deal with the perimenopause, menopause and ageing process in general.
So in the spirit of forewarned is forearmed, here are 5 things I wish someone had told me when I hit 40!
1. It starts at 40 not 50
Sorry, you probably didn’t want to read that. However, I cannot over emphasise enough how important it is to listen to your body in your 40’s when changes in your hormone levels begin to occur.
You probably know that menopause is when you have not had a period for 12 months. But… you may not know that the six to thirteen years leading up to the menopause are when some of the most difficult symptoms kick in. I’m talking; hot flushes, insomnia, bone loss, mood swings, brain fog, irregular periods, diminished sex drive, breast cancer and unexplained weight gain. This is called the perimenopause. It usually starts in your 40s, but can start as early as your 30s.
Although most women experience the menopause at around the age of 51, it’s very likely you will have suffered some perimenopause symptoms from your 40s onwards.
2. It’s your hormones
Menopause symptoms are your body’s way of signalling that something is wrong, that you have a hormonal imbalance. Hormones regulate every bodily function, from your heartbeat to weight gain. Without them we would slowly but surely fade away and die! Perimenopause is in fact, the earliest stage of this fading process.
In menopause, oestrogen(s) and progesterone levels decline drastically. These female hormones, that are so famous for fertility in our younger days, should not to be ‘left out in the cold’ once we reach menopause, as they are key hormones and play a vital role in bone health; protecting against osteoporosis. They protect our skin, keeping it healthy and glowing; brain function, protecting against dementia; heart health, protecting against heart attack; vaginal and urethral tissues, keeping our sex drive in ‘top’ form!
When there is an imbalance of even just one hormone, it will adversely affect the others and may result in any of several menopausal symptoms.
3. Test your thyroid
After your fortieth birthday, it is important to recognise the symptoms of low thyroid (hypothyroidism). Low thyroid complaints include; joint pain, allergies, carpal tunnel syndrome, high insulin, unexplained weight gain, fibrocystic breast tissue, hair loss, loss of libido, dry skin and headaches to name just a few.
In perimenopause, declining levels of oestradiol (a type of oestrogen) and progesterone (both known as female sex hormones), along with testosterone from our ovaries, may leave a woman with a ‘go-slow’ (underactive) thyroid. Declining levels of female sex hormones may cause thyroid issues such as hypothyroidism. However, these are not true thyroid problems, they occur because female sex hormones are low. When oestrogens and progesterone are restored to optimal levels, in the majority of cases, thyroid issues will be rectified, thus, there would be no need to supplement with thyroid hormones.
However, about 25 per cent of perimenopausal women have some kind of thyroid problem. In the majority of cases it is due to subclinical hypothyroidism which may progress into overt hypothyroidism. Both subclinical and overt hypothyroidism should be treated.
4. There is an alternative to conventional HRT
There is not a one-size-fits-all woman. Therefore, there cannot be a one-size-fits-all pill. We are all different, we all metabolise hormones differently, and our hormonal decline varies from woman to woman. Therefore, we need an individualised treatment. HRT is a one-size-fits-all treatment. Bioidentical hormone restorative therapy (BHRT) is tailored to the patient’s requirements. We are all different – would you go out and buy a size 14 dress just because your friend did, when you’re actually a size 12?
5. Don’t dread the ‘M’ word
Contrary to the conventional menopause stereotypes that we often see in the media, you can have a happy, healthy, strong and sexually vibrant life, well into your forties, fifties and even beyond. The key is to get the right information early on.
The Menopause Cure: Hormonal Health. The book is available in good book stores and online at Amazon.