Midlife & Menopause: A Time to Reset the Dial
A life-stage full of possibilities.
Menopause, the point in time when periods have stopped for 12 consecutive months & the perimenopausal years leading up to this, might be inevitable & unstoppable, but they represent a life stage full of possibilities.
With the average age of menopause in the UK being 51, many women will spend more than 40% of their lives on some part of their menopause journey. Yes, 40% plus! And that is why mastering our menopause & embracing the possibilities can be crucial to living longer better.
Everyone’s experience of their perimenopause & menopause will be unique. Whilst for most, a natural transition into menopause will begin in their mid-40s, it’s important to note that menopause can start earlier or later for individual women & it can also begin as the result of medical or surgical treatments.
During this time, there is an overall decline of our sex hormones (Oestrogen, Progesterone & Testosterone). However, this decline isn’t smooth & predictable, it is often erratic & chaotic. And it is both this overall decline & the erratic nature, that can lead to a range of physical & emotional symptoms.
Symptoms can show up in so many different ways, along with their severity & impact. Poor sleep, night sweats, anxiety, weight gain, brain fog, rage, itchy skin, vaginal dryness, low libido, painful breasts, joint pain are all commonly reported symptoms.
*Long term, declining levels of oestrogen can put us at greater risk of:
- Oesteoporosis: a condition characterised by weaker & brittle bones
- Urinary tract infections
- Cardiovasculsar disease
- Neurological conditions, such as Alzheimer’s (emerging evidence).
BUT, whilst we might not be able to stop the transition through menopause, we can become fitter & better-prepared to help offset the effects of perimenopause, menopause & our declining sex hormones.
A holistic approach, that considers exercise, nutrition, sleep & re-balancing hormones through medical strategies, can help us become the ‘master of our menopause‘
Keeping a note of your cycle & any physical / emotional symptoms, can help us to really tune into our bodies. Are there any triggers that make your symptoms better or worse – for example caffeine, alcohol, or certain types of activity?
Your notes can prove invaluable when speaking to your GP or healthcare professional.
2. Hormonal Rebalancing through HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy)
Armed with your insight about how your menopause is showing up for you, your GP or healthcare professional can explore the risks & benefits of HRT to support the management of menopausal symptoms, along with other options.
3. Physical Activity
Midlife women are often the ‘conductors of the orchestra’. Finding time to be active, whilst juggling all the demands of work, home, children, parents, partners & friendships, can be HARD. This can feel even harder when you throw into the mix how menopause might be showing up for you. Aching joints, exhaustion from lack of sleep, anxiety around how you look in a swimsuit or vaginal dryness, aren’t necessarily conducive to feeling motivated to get active!
It can feel as though our changing bodies are letting us down & perhaps what once worked for us, is no longer having the same effect. It can be frustrating, demoralising & intimidating!
BUT being active in our midlife is crucial! The great news is that it can help manage our perimenopausal symptoms & vitally, it can help offset the long term health risks of declining oestrogen levels.
- Remember, you are never too old to be active in a way that works for you.
- Build physical activity into everyday life at home, travelling & at work.
- The possibilities are endless, so explore what you enjoy. Take time to consider what is important to you, how you might best get started, or who you might like to do an activity with. Take a look online for different virtual communities or local in-person groups. Explore activities being signposted at work, or through your children’s different circles. Connecting with other people can be very powerful, but equally you may prefer to go solo!
- 100% – comparison is the thief of joy! You do you & remember, you are AMAZING!
- All movement is great movement, but for women in their midlife, strength exercises using weights or body resistance, are important. They help maintain or improve bone & muscle strength, as well shaping your body, managing weight, reducing injury risk, anxiety & stress. **please remember that good technique for all strength exercises is vital. Seek advice on technique from recognised & qualified sources**
- Don’t forget your pelvic floor. Leaking urine or bladder & bowel issues can be more common in midlife, so seek advice. The NHS Squeezy App is a multi-award winning app supporting people with their pelvic floor muscle exercise programmes.
- Wearing a well fitted & supportive sports bra is a simple way of reducing breast pain when you’re active.
- Warm up & recover well – moreso than ever, we need to protect against a greater risk of injury & shocking the body into a stress-response. A gradual warm up is important & we also need to recognise that it takes us longer to recover as we age.
4. Nutrition & Hydration
Our diet & hydration all feed into a whole-person approach to mastering the menopause. Weight gain during perimenopause & menopause, particularly as ‘belly fat’ is common. Significantly, it can have a real knock-on effect on self esteem, confidence, motivation, as well as worsening certain symptoms such as joint pain. Longer term, we also know that excess weight can put us at greater risk of chronic disease, such as heart disease.
Menopausing by Davina McCall
The Definitive Guide to the Perimenopause & Menopause by Dr Louise Newson
The Female Body Bible by Dr Emma Ross, Baz Moffat & Dr Bella Smith
And don’t forget the Think Active #PeriodPower resources
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