July 14, 2008

When Things Start Heating Up

By Laura Burkey, York Daily Record, Pa.

Jul. 13--Nobody likes change. It breaks the routine; it ruffles feathers. Now add lava-like hot flashes to an extremely sleep-deprived brain, a pudgier mid- section and night sweats. You'd be irritable, too.

That's what the young women of today have to look forward to -- menopause.

But it's not all doom and gloom.

Apparently, menopause is just one day, according to Susan Wysocki, president and CEO of the National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women's Health.

(Cue hysterical laughing/crying/yelling now.) Clinically, menopause is the day a woman hasn't had a period for 12 consecutive months. The symptoms prior to this are part of the perimenopause stage, and the time after is post-menopause.

"Sure, I don't believe that," scoffed 57-year-old Sandra Millan-Merriman. "I've gone 16 months and then 14 months without a period, and right now, I'm just frustrated."

The change of life descends upon women usually between the ages of 45 and 55, lasting for an unknown and unpredictable amount of time.

The most debilitating symptom? Night sweats.

"My husband has had to sleep in a sleeping bag because I have the A/C at 63 in the summer and two fans on me," said Millan-Merriman. "I never see his face."

Luckily, night sweats and hot flashes only last about one to two minutes on average.

At least symptoms -- the memory loss, the mood swings, the decreased libido -- will eventually end.

"A sense of humor will get you through more than just menopause," said 51-year-old Melanie Rodgers of Windsor Township.

And remember to count your blessings.

Below is more advice for women embarking upon, in the middle of and not quite approaching . . . (drum roll, please) . . . menopause.

--* "Being about one year into 'The Change' myself, I did not expect the spontaneity and intensity of the hot flashes.

I figured they'd be like being mildly warm and sweaty, when in actuality I feel as though I am suddenly being filled with boiling liquid from bottom to top.

Then it's over as quickly as it happened. Being hot has become such a part of my life, I designed shirts to describe my experience in "The Menopause Mart" at www.cafepress.com/mellenhouser."

-- Melanie Rodgers, 51, Windsor Township --* "My suggestions of what to tell others about menopause are: 1. Understand that it doesn't just start. You could be in the perimenopausal stage several years before the onset of menopause. Ask your mother and aunts at what age they went through it to get an idea of when yours will occur.

2. To include their husbands/partners in their journey via researching and sharing the info so they can understand what's going on in their bodies.

This will help them understand that the mood swings, need for additional fans, and diminished libido have nothing to do with them -- it's the hormones!" -- Sandra Millan-Merriman, 57, Felton --* "I wish someone would have told me about the almost Bi-Polar-like behavior that can occur while going through menopause. The mood swings -- being happy, sad, anxious and mad can occur at anytime without notice. Although completely out of your control, the destruction it can do to your inner self and the effect it can have on your family and friends is indescribable. Going through most of your life as a happy-go-lucky person and then having to watch your family walk on eggshells because they don't know who you'll be next is heart-wrenching. Why didn't I know?"

- Ann Minichino, 44, North Codorus Township --* "I wrote the following for a friend's 50th birthday. I have left out the "personal" stanzas.

A woman of fifty has no need to weep Just forget names and faces, your neighbors and sleep.

Forget where you came from, where you're going and such, A woman of fifty remembers . . . not much.

A woman of fifty saves plenty of dough No need for haircuts, her hair doesn't grow.

Her skin is now dry and her fingernails brittle What once was chest high now resides in her middle.

And when husband and children complain of the cold, A woman of fifty enjoys being "old."

"Don't touch that thermostat, the temp is just right.

You guys are sissies to want heat here at night."

Look at her people! Her face simply glows She's a woman of fifty who secretly knows That her family adores her, her life is a ball Sex couldn't be better (if she could recall).

That should be the last word, but there's something to add Even with life's change, fifty isn't so bad.

The girls will forgive you those memory losses Cause they too are having those damn menopauses."

- Ruth Jones, 63, York --* "Breast cancer came the year prior to having a hysterectomy, a surgery that forced me into menopause.

Surgery successful, healing well, then suddenly awakened into the unknown. OMG, I thought I died and went into hell. After the furnace experience, I cried for over an hour. The first of many cries.

I wished I would have known the impact menopause would have on my life.

Being cautious, my oncologist suggested I take nothing -- a hormonal imbalance, feeling of climbing walls, skin crawling to excessive weight gain.

Even had I known, nothing could have prepared me for the journey."

- Deborah Orr, 55, York -- AP contributed to this report [email protected]; 771-2106 THE STAGES 1. Premature menopause is menopause that occurs before the age of 40. Women who enter this stage are more likely to develop osteoporosis. Reasons for the onset are chromosome defects, genetics, autoimmune diseases, surgical removal of the ovaries and chemotherapy.

2. Perimenopause marks the years leading up to menopause, ranging from two to eight years, plus the year after the final menstrual cycle. There's no way to predict how long the stage will last.

3. Menopause usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, when a woman's body makes less estrogen and progesterone. Technically, menopause is reached when a woman has not had a period for 12 consecutive months.

4. Postmenopause begins after the 12 consecutive months without a menstrual cycle.

Source: www.womenshealthcareforum.com SYMPTOMS --- Hot flashes --- Irritability --- Mood swings --- Night sweats --- Less interest in sex --- Memory lapses --- Weight gain around the waist --- Increase in allergies --- Fingernails are softer or crack/break easier --- Changes in body odor Source: WebMd STAY HEALTHY Here are a few tips for making menopause easier: --- Good nutrition -- Adopt a low-fat, high-fiber diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Add calcium and avoid alcohol and caffeine. Don't smoke.

--- Regular exercise -- Working out at a moderate intensity for 30 minutes or more several times a week keeps weight down, improves sleep, strengthens bones and elevates mood.

--- Stress reduction -- Meditation and yoga help the body relax Source: www.womenshealthcareforum.com RESOURCES --The North American Menopause Society (NAMS): www.menopause.org --The Menopause Journal (official journal of NAMS): www.menopausejournal.com --WebMd: www.webmd.com/menopause --U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: www.womenshealth.gov --Menopause Online: www.menopause-online.com --Menopause Impact Tool: www.copewithmenopause.com FOR MEN So, your (wife, sister, daughter, daughter-in-law) is suffering through menopause. Instead of sulking in the corner or hiding from the next mood swing, here are a few tips to help men navigate the change of life, too.

1. Recognize the symptoms, which include hot flashes, moodiness, decreased libido, weight gain, forgetfulness, depression, etc.

2. Listen. Poking fun or ignoring her would not be a wise choice.

3. Find ways to nurture your relationship, such as spending more one-on-one time.


While currently debated in the medical community, some men report experiencing similar menopause and perimenopause symptoms that women experience. Since there is no well-defined period, some doctors refer to the problem as andropause, or androgen (testosterone) decline.

Source: WebMd TALK ABOUT IT Share your thoughts (and complaints) about menopause by visiting the Living room on exchange.ydr.com and clicking on "Health and Fitness."

ABOUT THIS SERIES Numerous how-to books, articles and TV specials have been made about important life events such as marriage, college, retirement and childbirth. We think it would be more interesting to find out what people wish they had known before reaching these milestones.

We're asking readers to think about what no one told them about 12 significant life events -- one for each month of 2008 -- to help others prepare for the future.

So far, we've wished we were told more about: --Dieting --Breakups --Buying a house --Office life --Childbirth --Being a father WHAT'S NEXT?

Pets, no matter how big or small, are precious. They bring companionship, protection and fun to our lives.

But, with vet visits and obedience issues, they can also be a pain in the neck.

Share what nobody told you about being a pet owner with us in 100 words or less. Submission can be sent to York Daily Record/ Sunday News, c/o Erin McCracken, 1891 Loucks Road, York PA 17408; or e-mailed to [email protected] Include you and your pets names, ages, where you live, a daytime phone number and a photo of you and your pet. Deadline is Friday.


To see more of the York Daily Record, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.ydr.com.

Copyright (c) 2008, York Daily Record, Pa.

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