There are the seven main symptoms of menopause:
Hot flashes/night sweats.
Central weight gain.
Irregular or no bleeding.
Low sex drive
"What is hard?" and invariably it is about one or more of the seven symptoms above, which are mysterious, confusing, and unwelcome. What makes the symptom "hard." For example, weight gain affecting self-image and lowering sex drive; or night sweats affecting sleep and leading to poor work performance as well as fatigue and irritability at home, and causing relationship rifts. It is all connected.
Choosing How to Age
I believe most women do not worry about getting older per se, but rather how aging will affect their sex life, mood, ability to work or play, and their appearance. Once your concerns are out in the open, ask yourself, "How do I want to age?" and, "What do I want to be like at 55, or 65, or 75?" Then you construct your "Picture of Self." Create an inventory of all seven symptoms, understanding your medical history and health habits, and create a plan around your personal goals. It all all hinges on one or two body changes at midlife or menopause, which you do not like. As a gynecologist, I see myself as a shepherd to assist women through this difficult life transition.
Comorbidities of menopause include insulin resistance, lipid disorders, bone loss, increased risk for cardiovascular disease, and sleep dysfunction. These medical conditions are mostly preventable with a healthy lifestyle including a low glycemic index diet, adequate exercise, adequate sleep, the practice of mindfulness, and hormone medication.
But to practice these habits, you need a powerful personal reason; a motivation strong enough to overcome barriers of fatigue, over-scheduling, cost, and lack of knowledge. What you do at the menopause transition will determine which, if any, chronic diseases you will develop. To improve the quality of your aging, you must ask what is hard and know what to do with your answers.
My role as a health-care provider for women is to counsel you on how to navigate through the "hard stuff" of menopause and develop a personal plan to guide you to the "Picture of Self" you have constructed for yourself. I am here to empower your plans.
Adapted from Diana Bitner, MD