The absence of periods for a year is an indicator that a woman is transitioning from a reproductive to a non-reproductive phase in life, i.e. she has entered her menopause. For most women menopause starts around 51, although the first signs can appear even 10 years earlier.
This process doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s rather gradual and is a different experience for each woman. Although the most common symptoms include abnormal vaginal bleeding, hot flashes, and mood changes, there are other, less common symptoms no one ever tells you.
1# Heart palpitations are common
Many women experience heart palpitations during menopause. Although these can signal a heart problem in some, in others it’s simply a result of hormonal fluxes. You can easily tell one from the other as heart palpitations that last more than a few minutes, make you feel short of breath or cause you to faint (or nearly faint) indicate a more serious condition that asks for medical attention.
2# LDL may increase
Apart from regulating periods, estrogen can also keep cholesterols levels in check. As this hormone decreases in menopause, LDL or bad cholesterol is likely to increase while HDL remains the same. However, if you lead a healthy lifestyle which includes regular workout and a balanced diet, you can easily counteract these cholesterol changes.
3# Hair will start thinning
Thinning hair or even hair loss is also a symptom of menopause. Also, hair is prone to dryness and brittleness as a result of the ongoing hormonal imbalance. That’s why health experts recommend using mild shampoos and conditioners designed to treat dry hair, and avoiding chemical treatments that can even further weaken the already thinning hair.
4# Anxiety can increase
Hot flashes aren’t just uncomfortable, but they also bring side effects on their own. What happens during a hot flash is that the body releases high amounts of adrenaline, thus making arteries contract. In fact, heart rate increases by 8-16 beats during a hot flash, but it passes after the hot flash goes away, normally between 30 seconds and 10 minutes. According to Dr. Philip Sarrel, emeritus professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale University School of Medicine “This can make you feel anxious; it’s unnerving, although it’s not harmful.”
5# Forgetfulness is an issue
Another side effect of hot flashes is poor memory. In the words of Dr. Philip Sarrel “Short term memory is directly affected by hot flashes.” In fact, memory and concentration issues are actually more related to stress than hormonal fluctuations. You can retain your acuteness by doing crossword puzzles, playing chess, or reading.
6# Weight gain is possible
According to a study in the American Journal of Epidemiology, there’s no direct connection between menopausal weight gain and hormonal changes. In fact, the main contributing factors are lack of physically activity and a slowdown in metabolism. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle which includes regular exercise and a balanced diet can help you prevent weight gain.
7# Sex can still be regular
Apart from vaginal dryness which generally accompanies menopause due to the decreased estrogen levels, sex can be even better because you are no longer under stress from worrying about birth control. And, as for the vaginal dryness, there are ways to address this issue. Lubricants such as Astroglide, K-Y Jelly and silicone can help. Coconut oil also works as a natural lubrication alternative. Health experts even advise using hormone therapy in the form of low-dose creams such as Estrace, Vagifem, Premarin or Estring (low-dose vaginal ring), which can efficiently restore estrogen locally. These prescription creams not only restore vaginal blood flow, but also improve the stretchiness and thickness of vaginal tissue and reverse the thinning and dryness.
8# Vitamin E can reduce hot flashes
Nearly 90% of menopausal women suffer from hot flashes, which can occur up to 10 times or more in one day. According to Dr. Yen Tran of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Orange, Calif. “Women typically feel extreme heat in the upper body, especially the face, neck and chest and the flashes usually last between one to five minutes.” Luckily, vitamin E has proved to be an efficient natural solution to this menopausal issue. “Studies show taking 800 IU of vitamin E a day reduces hot flashes by one a day,” adds Dr. Yen Tran.