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Ask A Doc – Menopause

Dr. Caitlin Schmidt of North Ottawa Medical Group’s Women’s Health office answers your questions about menopause.

What are some of the symptoms of menopause?

Menopause is defined as the 12 months after your last menstrual period. The average age of menopause if 51, however this may vary among women.

Symptoms associated with perimenopause/menopause:

  • Hot flashes/night sweats
  • Diminished sleep, energy changes, weight gain and slowed metabolism
  • Irritability, depression and an increase in anxiety
  • Vaginal dryness, painful intercourse, decreased libido, irregular periods
  • Joint pain, thinning hair and dry skin

The good news is hormone replacement therapy and lifestyle changes often help treat many of the symptoms so your perimenopausal/menopausal transition can go smoothly. See your gynecologist to address any of your concerns.

What can I do about weight loss?  

This is the number one question I am asked by patients.  Know that you are not alone.

  1. Get a fitness routine! Exercise at least 35 minutes every day for one month. This can help create a lifestyle change that soon becomes a habit. Exercise helps with mood, sleep, as well as decreases anxiety and fatigue.
  2. Stop drinking alcohol (15 pounds can be lost easily with this change alone).
  3. Prepare your food ahead of time so that you can be thoughtful in your caloric intake and portion size.

Also, find a support team to keep you on track. Enlist friends or family to help. Create achievable goals: one to two pounds a month will get you to your goal.

Is hormone replacement therapy safe?

Systemic hormones are safe options for most women. The North American Menopause Society Web site (www.menopause.org) has an abundance of free information. Data shows that initiation of estrogen therapy in women younger than 60 or 10 years from onset of menopause is beneficial in many ways. Meno Pro is a phone app that has helpful treatment suggestions and options available to talk to about with your doctor.

Do I need to worry about bone loss after menopause?

Rapid bone loss occurs between 50-60 years old, so this is the most important time for prevention. The most important thing we can do is to prevent falls, fractures and improve bone health after menopause. Fractures threaten your independence and reduce quality of life. Research shows that after a hip fracture 40% are unable to walk independently and 60% require assistance a year later. Risk factors for bone loss include: period of time patient is recovering after a hospitalization, medications (antidepressants, incontinence medications, sleepers, antihistamines, or any medication that has drowsiness as side effect) alcohol use, undernutrition and vitamin D deficiency. Talk to your doctor about what you can do about bone loss to keep your independence.

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