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Menopause is something which will end up affecting every woman in her lifetime, yet it is so poorly understood. As women, we should not just accept how we’ve been told it will make us feel or let the symptoms of menopause reduce our quality of life. There are many things we can do before we start to see the signs, to best manage the transition to the next phase of our lives. Although this life stage is well-known, there are actually different stages within menopause that are important to recognise and understand. Menopause itself officially occurs when we have stopped menstruating for 12 months and is experienced at the age of 51 and 4 months on average.

Getting To Know Peri-Menopause

Peri-Menopause is the period of time before we officially enter Menopause, usually starting around 10 years before. Peri-Menopause is a great indicator that we need to start getting ready, giving us some clues that the change is coming. Most of us tend to only think about managing our bodies once Menopause hits and the symptoms take full effect, but it’s in this lead-up period when our bodies are often giving us the clues that things are not quite right.

Identifying Peri-Menopause is not just about hitting a specific age, either. It’s something we often feel, things that are indicating a change, like hormone levels. We need to listen to our bodies and can go get a blood test to see where particular hormones are sitting – often particular hormones were high and now low, and others that were low high, eg FSH and oestrogen.

So What Are The Signs?

The main indicators that we’re entering Peri-Menopause is an increase in FSH and often a
reduction in oestrogen. Our bodies will gradually continue to produce less and less oestrogen
throughout the years leading into menopause. This can encourage night sweats and hot-flushes
and well as our skin integrity.

Insulin production can increase, therefore effecting the regulation of blood sugar levels. When
insulin rises we usually see weight gain particularly around the waistline.

Fighting Back

As with all weight challenges, we can manage it by eating a balanced and healthy diet but at this
point more than ever you should be looking to build muscle and reduce sugar intake. By getting
active and moving our body’s main muscle groups, we build up its resistance and encourage our
body to produce more testosterone, higher human growth hormones and reduce glucose and
hence insulin production.

Having a good exercise regime is great for when we’re going through menopause as well, but we
don’t want to only be starting at that point. Getting the signals that we’re entering Peri-Menopause means we can get started and make sure when Menopause hits, the body is ready for the effects of the hormonal changes.

With all this exercise and body maintenance, we will start to produce more
Dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS), a male sex hormone that is present in both men and
women. A good, robust androgen which helps keep the weight off.

As hard as it may be at times, it’s a good idea to go easy on the alcohol as well while managing
our body’s hormonal transition. A number of studies have shown that alcohol consumption can
even affect the frequency and severity of menopause symptoms. Cartilage and tendons lose water
as we age, which causes our body to hold less water. As such, the diuretic nature of alcohol will
cause us to lose even more water from our body, exasperating joint pain, hot flushes, insomnia
and night sweats. So consider good hydration a key part of optimal Menopause and Peri-
Menopause management as well.

It is a significant time for us as women, to move from our reproductive years into the next phase of our lives. Menopause can be a challenge with some very real and very uncomfortable symptoms, but it doesn’t have to be. Like anything we want to do well…we prepare well in advance, know all the short falls and put ourselves in a position of strength. The more work we put in earlier, the more exercise we get and the more we focus on getting our body in shape to fight back, the easier and more enjoyable the transition will be.

Read also: Mindfulness May Help Improve Menopause Symptoms