The Doctors: How to identify signs of perimenopause
January 22, 2013
Night sweats, mood swings, unpredictable periods: They can happen to the best of women, they’re normal and they’re all signs of perimenopause – the phase in a woman’s life when hormone levels start to fluctuate and she begins her transition to menopause. Test your health knowledge about perimenopause, the “change before The Change,” with this true-false quiz.
True or False? It starts after 40.
False. It can start in your 40s, but some women feel symptoms as early as 35, and others not until after 50. Your experience will be unique as well, from the severity and frequency of symptoms to even which ones you’ll feel and when they’ll end – perimenopause can last anywhere from two to eight years. (Menopause officially starts when you’ve gone 12 months without a period.) You can’t predict exactly when it will begin, but factors such as smoking may bring it on earlier. Women also tend to experience “changes” around the same age as their moms.
True of False? It spurs midlife weight gain.
False. Blame aging and lifestyle. A boost in belly fat may be a consequence of hormonal changes during perimenopause, according to a recent comprehensive review by the International Menopause Society. Before menopause, women tend to store extra weight in the hips and thighs. As estrogen levels drop, the hormonal shift causes fat to settle in the midsection. Aim to keep your waist size under 35 inches for women, 40 inches for men. Anything greater is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
True or False? Your memory may slip.
True. Hot flashes are the most common symptom, but “brain fog” ranks high on the list of complaints, with up to two-thirds of women reporting forgetfulness or other memory-related difficulties. One study found perimenopausal women were more apt to test low on “working memory,” which is the ability to take in and manipulate new information (such as mentally adding a series of numbers); they also had a harder time concentrating. More research is needed to determine why this happens. Experts suspect other symptoms, such as depression or sleep problems, may contribute to the memory problems.
True or False? Hormone therapy can relieve symptoms.
True. During perimenopause, birth control pills are often the most effective treatment. Once you reach menopause, your doctor may suggest low-dose hormone therapy to alleviate hot flashes and other symptoms. Used for the short-term, hormone therapy is safe for many women. It’s not recommended, however, for those with a history of breast cancer or blood clots. Your age and the length of time since menopause also play a significant role in risks associated with hormone therapy. Talk with your doctor to determine your safest way to feel better.
– The Doctors is an Emmy-winning daytime TV show with pediatrician Jim Sears, OB-GYN Lisa Masterson, ER physician Travis Stork, and plastic surgeon Andrew Ordon. Check http://www.thedoctorstv.com for local listings.