Women often believe that conversations about menopause are reserved for senior citizens or at least those in their fifties. There are many health complications that arise as a result of even a slight decline in estrogen levels. Exercise and nutrition play a vital role in the management of menopause. Unfortunately, in many cases, hypothyroid issues can easily be misdiagnosed as perimenopause. Young women and matriarchs alike, must pay close attention to what our bodies are trying to communicate to us.
Younger women under forty, such as myself, with an active lifestyle typically wouldn’t find themselves amongst peers discussing menopausal issues. However, recent studies have shown that even women in their thirties could suffer from early menopause. According to womenshealth.gov, early or premature menopause, a condition where the ovaries stop releasing eggs and or producing the typical amounts of reproductive hormones, only affects five percent of the American population. While that number is low, you could unknowingly be included in that statistic.
Many of the commonly known and utterly annoying symptoms of menopause include irregular menstrual periods, vaginal dryness, mood changes, and hot flashes. A complication that is far more severe, yet less noted outside of the medical community, is the silent killer known as heart and blood vessel disease. As estrogen levels decrease, the risk of cardiovascular disease increases. Some non-life threatening but accompanying inconveniences are osteoporosis and urinary incontinence. Osteoporosis is a brittle and weak bone condition, and the latter can cause frequent urinary tract infections and strong sudden urges to urinate.
There are no proven studies that show how exercise and eating a balanced diet can slow a woman’s progression into the various stages of menopause. However, the mayoclinic.org Women’s Health section speaks to how exercise can strengthen your bones, curbing some of the negative effects of osteoporosis. While Black women normally don't have concerns in that area, our genetic predisposition to sickle cell and lupus can be contributing factors. Weight gain, especially in the abdomen area, can be kept at bay through proper nutrition and exercise. I enjoy balanced meals that are low in fat and sodium. Also, dark chocolates are a great dessert that can elevate your mood to balance crankiness brought about by menopause. A wellness focused lifestyle, along with other determinants of health, can improve the overall quality of life for any woman at any age.
Despite your best efforts of dieting and regular exercise, you could still see little to no progress in the mirror. At first glance, a doctor could assume that you are in the pre-menopause stage. The symptoms of hypothyroidism and menopause can appear to be eerily similar without a professional healthcare provider asking the right questions and requesting the accurate testing of various hormone levels. If you are experiencing a loss of energy, sex drive, or overall vitality, I think it would be wise to consult your primary care physician, OBGYN, or endocrinologist.
Lastly, I am a pharmacist. I fill prescriptions for bio identical hormone creams that help women to present the best version of themselves to the world every day. Much like the warning indicator lights on a car’s dashboard, the longer we wait to address the issue, the harder it becomes to address and or correct. Actively listen to your body, and don’t always make decisions solely for convenience. If you are uncertain about something, educate yourself under the guidance of your doctor.