About a third of Canadian women are 45 years of age or older – the time when menopause may begin. During and after menopause, women need to pay special attention to factors such as blood pressure control, bone health, and cholesterol levels.

The Symptoms of Menopause

There is an array of menopause symptoms that can be experienced in varying in intensity. It is believed that many are related to estrogen deficiency, yet estimates suggest that about a quarter of women have few, if any symptoms. The following is a list of some of the signs and symptoms generally associated with menopause:

  • Absence of monthly periods and infertility
  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats
  • Sleep disturbances (difficulty falling and staying asleep)
  • Personal dryness (and vaginal infections)
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Stress incontinence
  • Impaired concentration and memory loss
  • Irritability, mood swings and depression
  • Breast pain
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Weight gain
  • Joint pain
  • Fluid retention
  • Brittle nails and hair loss
  • Sensation of insects of crawling on the skin
  • Intestinal complaints
  • Change in body odor
  • Heart palpitations
  • Cold hands and feet

Symptoms can indicate more than one medical condition, so it is always a good practice to have them checked to rule out any serious, underlying medical concerns. Long term menopause symptoms can increase one’s risk for: cardiovascular disease, accelerated bone loss, and osteoporosis.

Coping with Hot Flashes

Hot flashes can occur several times per week or as frequently as every hour. They can last for seconds or up to 10 minutes. They often occur at night along with night sweats to disturb sleep and trigger a host of additional symptoms like fatigue, irritability, stress, anxiety, and depression. To cope with hot flashes, a combination of approaches is usually required. Many women find it helpful to incorporate the following for relief:

  • Keeping cool
  • Layering clothing
  • Avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and spicy foods
  • Practicing deep breathing
  • Exercising
  • Quitting smoking
  • Maintaining a healthy weight

If hot flashes are severe, drug therapy may be needed. Hormone therapy is one option, and while it is effective for alleviating symptoms, the treatment is only for short term. Antidepressant drugs such as venlafaxine, paroxetine, and fluoxetine are also used because they work through the nervous system to curtail symptoms. Other drugs that are sometimes useful include the seizure medication gabapentin and the blood pressure medication clonidine.