- Cardiovascular disease. At the same time your estrogen levels decline, your risk of cardiovascular disease increases. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women as well as in men. Yet you can do a great deal to reduce your risk of heart disease. These risk-reduction steps include stopping smoking, reducing high blood pressure, getting regular aerobic exercise and eating a diet low in saturated fats and plentiful in whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
- Osteoporosis. During the first few years after menopause, you may lose bone density at a rapid rate, increasing your risk of osteoporosis. Osteoporosis causes bones to become brittle and weak, leading to an increased risk of fractures. Postmenopausal women are especially susceptible to fractures of the hip, wrist and spine. That's why it's especially important during this time to get adequate calcium — 1,500 milligrams daily — and vitamin D — 400 to 800 international units daily. It's also important to exercise regularly. Strength training and weight-bearing activities such as walking and jogging are especially beneficial in keeping your bones strong.
- Urinary incontinence. As the tissues of your vagina and urethra lose their elasticity, you may experience a frequent, sudden, strong urge to urinate (urge incontinence) or incontinence with coughing, laughing or lifting (stress incontinence).
- Weight gain. Many women gain weight during the menopausal transition. You may need to eat less — perhaps as many as 200 to 400 fewer calories a day — and exercise more, just to maintain your current weight. Oh goody.
- Emotional and cognitive changes. You may experience irritability, fatigue, decreased memory and diminished concentration as you approach menopause. These symptoms have sometimes been attributed to hormonal fluctuations. Yet other factors are more likely to contribute to these changes, including sleep deprivation and stressful life events — such as the illness or death of a parent, grown children leaving home or returning home, and retirement. Can it get any worse?
- Changes in appearance. Many women gain a modest amount of weight — about 5 pounds on average — during the menopausal transition. The fat that once was concentrated in your hips and thighs may settle above your waist and in your abdomen. You may notice a loss of fullness in your breasts, thinning hair and wrinkles in your skin. If you previously experienced adult acne, it may become worse. Although your estrogen level drops, your body continues to produce small amounts of the male hormone testosterone. As a result, you may develop coarse hair on your chin, upper lip, chest and abdomen. Sorry I asked.
In my experience, a hot flash occurs once an hour when some evil demon switches on a furnace in the pit of my belly. He (I say "he" as I KNOW that NO "woman" would ever do this to another) turns the thermostat WAY up, and instantly the flames roar, devouring every inch of my body. They rise hotter and higher, until I feel that I am about to explode into a ball of fire. The monster keeps the heat going for about five minutes and then slowly turns down the thermostat. This is followed by one to two minutes of a soft "glow" like hot coals on the bottom of your barbecue. My body is left cold and wet like the steel frame of a building hosed down by firefighters after a blaze brought under control. But ... that's just me. Sorry... I digress ... where we? Oh yeah...
There is currently no method to predict when hot flashes will begin and how long they will last. Hot flashes occur in up to 40% of regularly menstruating women in their forties, so they may begin before the menstrual irregularities characteristic of menopause even begin. About 80% of women will be finished having hot flashes after five years. Sometimes (in about 10% of women), hot flashes can last as long as 10 years. GOOD GRIEF! There is no way to predict when hot flashes will cease, though they tend to decrease in frequency over time. On average, hot flashes last about five years.
Sometimes hot flashes are accompanied by night sweats (episodes of drenching sweats at nighttime). This may lead to awakening and difficulty falling asleep again, resulting in unrefreshing sleep and daytime tiredness.
Research shows that cigarette smoking, caffeine (including chocolate) and alcohol increase the intensity and frequency of hot flashes. But, in my own defense, if I didn't have a cup of coffee in the morning, smoke all day, eat hundreds of Tootsie Rolls at my desk and drink heavily on occasion, I'd be a FREAKIN' LUNATIC! Albeit a less sweaty one.
In my quest for knowledge I also discovered that withdrawal from hormones is strikingly similar to heroin and crack cocaine withdrawal! Heroin Addiction says heroin addicts experience being cold and then getting hot flushes - constant temperature changes, sweating / chills, feeling sad, crying at little things (even TV soaps, adverts), insomnia, not sleeping for days on end, irritability, feelings of weakness and tiredness, although not being able to sleep and elevations in blood pressure, pulse and respiratory rate, and Crack withdrawal symptoms include but are not limited to: agitation, depression, extreme fatigue, anxiety, angry outbursts, lack of motivation, irritability and disturbed sleep.
And the longest drug withdrawal is only THIRTY-TWO WEEKS! Compare that to FIVE to TEN YEARS!
I just wanted you to realize what we're up against! Not to mention having a few facts to throw at anyone who thinks menopause is child's play.
Knowledge is power, so they say.
Of course "they" are probably men, or women in their thirties who would run to the nearest emergency room if they ever had a hot flash at this point in their lives.
So what does all this mean? I'm getting to that ... stay tuned.