When we see a little girl in her beautiful pink dress, rarely a thought strikes our mind that slowly she will grow old be a grandmother. Most women if they live long enough go through many distinct phases in life, namely, childhood, puberty, motherhood, menopause and old age.
Most women dread the onset of menopause because of the distressing physical symptoms associated with it. More importantly women feel that they will loose their charm after menopause. It is indeed rare to find a woman growing old gracefully and still rare to find one who believes that life begins at forty.
What is Menopause?
Menopause simply means the end of menstruation. With few exceptions, this generally occurs between the ages 44 and 55. After menopause there is no ovolation and the ovaries of women do not produce eggs anymore. It is the last stage of biological process in which the ovaries reduce their production of female hormones, estrogen and progesterone. During this time there may be some physical or emotional changes too. The process actually begins about 3 to 5 years before the final cessation of mensturation. And this transition phase is called climacteric, or peri-Menupause.
Most women notice some changes in their menstrual pattern such as, shortening of cycle length, skipped menstural periods and occasionally heavy bleeding before mensturation finally ceases. Some women may experience hot flushes, night sweats, decreased memory, disturbed sleep or vaginal dryness. Whereas some may have irregular periods and headaches. It is well recognised that there is also an increased incidents of heart diseases, stroke and osteoporosis during and after menopause.
Although Menopause is not a disease to be afraid of. It is only a stage in the natural biological process of ageing. It has to be managed with understanding and adjustments. Each stage has its attraction, magic and beauty. It has been noticed that women living in rural areas are less prone to pre- and post-menopausal problems. They accept changes that occurs with advancing age more gracefully as compared to their urban counterparts
Whenever there is a hormonal imbalance resulting in excessive menstural bleeding, hormones are prescribed for few months. If the problem is not resolved within a reasonable period. Then gynaecologists may recommend removal of uterus along with the ovaries. The treatment is called hysterectomy.
However, this procedure may not be necessary in large number of cases. Unless the situation is life threatening. It is better to permit your body to find its own balance and allow transition to occur naturally. Surgical induced Menopause, especially in younger woman results in large number of side effects. It is due to abrupt deficiency of female hormones, especially estrogen. In most cases female hormones are prescribed to overcome the resulting deficiency.
However, it has been found that hormone therapy does not fulfill its “feel good” promise.
Hormone Replacement Therapy
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or Hormone Therapy(HT) involves intake of estrogen and progesterone. It helps in relieving the distressing physical symptoms during Menopause. Also it provides protection against heart problems/stroke and osteoporosis.
But can HT relieve the symptoms of Menopause?
Does HT provide protection against heart stroke or prevent osteoporosis? How safe is HT?
Well, while some benefits of HT have been seen with regard to relief of symptoms of Menopause. But a risk benefit analysis is very much against the use of HT. Clinical trials have reported that not only did Hormone Therapy increases the risk of breast cancer in woman. It also made tumours harder to detect, leading to potentially dangerous delay in diagnosis.
Short term side effects of HT include unusual vaginal discharge and bleeding, nausea, headaches, fluid retention and swollen breasts. A study undertaken by the Indian Menopause Society, Mumbai Chapter has shown that about 20% of women in study group comprising 500 women has menopausal symptoms as compared to 60-80% in western countries. These women with symptoms may not need HT as they usually settle down without medical treatment.
ALTERNATIVE APPROACH TO HORMONE THERAPY
Now, let us discuss what can be the alternate ways for menopausal women if HT is not acceptable?
Exercise works wonders with the body. It bestows huge health rewards and benefits virtually the entire body system. It keeps the metabolism at a higher rate. Moreover exercise is often helpful to counter depression, anxiety, depression and weight gain
Take Healthy Diet
One should have good diet to manage the symptoms of Menopause. Some foods including soybeans, black bean, split peas, lentils, whole grain and berries contains compounds known as phytoestrogens and isoflavones that mimic estrogen. When incorporated in diet they help in alleviating hot flushes and night sweats in short term.
Taken over a long term, they are beneficial for bones and managing cholesterol. Japanese women have far less symptoms of Menopause. This is believed to be primarily due to high consumption of soybeans which is a rich source of phytoestrogens. Soybeans and soy flour can be easily incorporated into number of traditional Indian recipes. However, women with thyroid problem are advised to limit their intaje of soy.
Raw garlic and onion are good for heart. Several cloves of garlic can lower blood pressure, reduce phospholipids and cholesterol. It can strengthen heart action and increase immune response besides reducing clotting which reduces strokes and stabilizes blood sugar levels.
Specific yoga asanas and pranayama can be practiced everyday to help alleviate menopause problems. Include wheat germ, leafy vegetables and spirulina in the diet. It comprises primarily of fruits, raw and cooked vegetables sprouts and whole grains. To keep bones healthy and strong take appropriate amount of Calcium and Vitamin D.
Although many problems associated with Menopause are on account of lowered levels of female sex hormones. Taking these hormones provides very little benefit. The best option for women is to go in for lifestyle changes. Accept the advancing age gracefully and adhere to what a poet said,” grow old along with me, the best is yet to be “. In other words, grow old gracefully!