What Younger Women Should Know about Getting Older

Getting older is terrific and very natural! It’s what we all begin to do at the moment of our birth. If you could just keep that same happy anticipation that you felt while waiting to “become a woman” for your final menstrual period, you could quite contentedly look forward to what’s in store for you in the future.

The number of eggs that your ovaries produce will lessen and stop sometime during the climacteric. You cannot see or feel or reverse those universal changes. However, you can alleviate many of the other bodily changes that occur as a result of the cessation of menses. The hot flash is the most prevalent sign and can start early. Almost all women have them at menopause. The hot flash can make you feel as if your personal thermostat has gone awry. Suddenly, you are uncom­fortably hot. While you are removing your jacket or sweater, you realize that no one else in the room is feeling the heat. So it begins. For many women, the hot flash is just a mild discomfort, yet others sweat through intense heat. For some, the hot flash occurs only occa­sionally; for others it returns with almost unbearable regularity.

You may be able to avoid hot flashes or lessen their intensity by avoiding alcohol, especially red wine (the chemicals in it seem to encourage flashes and headaches), and tobacco, caffeine, and stress (whenever possible). Regular exercise helps, too, to stabilize your body. Relaxation and visualization techniques, in which you conjure up cool, comfortable surroundings, may work for you as well.

If you are in your mid-thirties and beginning to show premenopau­sal symptoms, you can begin to work toward having a more comfort­able menopause and by exercising regularly to protect yourself against heart disease and to conserve bone mass to help safeguard you against osteoporosis. We should mention here also that the activities that help the younger women most are weight-bearing pursuits such as racquet sports, walking, cross-country skiing, low-impact aerobic dancing, and bicycling.

Vaginal discomfort can occur early, too, as the vaginal lining gradu­ally thins in response to very subtle shifts in estrogen levels. Some women in their thirties do experience vaginal dryness, itching, and atrophy, causing some discomfort during sexual activity. Frequent sex is the most positive prescription for these problems. If you are at a time in your life when it takes you longer to become sexually aroused and lubricated, then tell your caring partner openly. If extra lubrica­tion is necessary, consider using a vaginal moisturizer like Replens. If more than that seems required, check with your physician to see if a vaginal estrogen cream should be prescribed for you.

Bladder control problems can occur with estrogen decline because the muscles in the pelvic area become slacker or weaker. Certain exercises can help to keep that muscle strong. Kegel exercises, named for the physician who first described them, usually work. There are two varieties: the slow Kegel, during which you contract all the pelvic muscles as if you were trying to squeeze the vaginal opening closed, holding it closed for a count of three, relaxing, and doing it again; and the fast Kegel, in which you alternately contract and relax the muscle as quickly as you can. Twelve of these exercises each time you stop at a traffic signal for a total of fifty Kegels per day will often work wonders with bladder control and may enhance your sex life, too.

We know that aging is more difficult in a youth-oriented society such as ours, and far easier to accept in other cultures where age and wisdom are synonymous and revered. However, change is change, and for some people it is always exciting; for others it is always stressful. Our ability to handle change has to do with matching posi­tive actions to a positive attitude about the change. Thus, the Menopause Management Program can be a valuable asset to your continued good health. It promotes a positive outlook and shows you how to structure your diet, exercise program, health and grooming practices, and vocations, avocations, and preventive medicine pro­grams to get the best out of the best years, which are yet to come.

As you enter midlife, many changes occur that you should know about in order to find the health maintenance program that is best for you. PMS, when it arrives late in your reproductive life, may be a premenopausal signal that it is time to spend some time on yourself. The following questionnaire was designed to help you figure out just where you fit into the midlife cycle. Once you know, you can make optimal use of the Menopause Management Program. Your responses may also serve as a foundation for your next meeting with your physician.