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Learn More About Menopause at Washington Women's Center Seminar

October 15, 2010

Menopause Issues: Going Beyond ‘Hot Flashes’

"I’m having my own personal summer heat wave."

"It’s not a hot flash, it’s a power surge!"

"My inner child is playing with matches again."

Among themselves, women going through the changes associated with menopause will sometimes resort to humor to downplay their concerns and fears about what is happening to their bodies. But for many women, menopause – or the "change of life" – is not really a laughing matter.

"Going through menopause is different for each woman," says Washington Women’s Center Coordinator Kathy Hesser, R.N. "Midlife can be a wonderful time of life for women, but there also can be challenges to face in maintaining your health as your body changes."

Technically, menopause is defined as when a woman reaches one year past her last menstrual period, but symptoms often begin several years earlier. Physicians often refer to this phase as perimenopause. Symptoms also can last for several years after menopause. Most women reach menopause in their early fifties, but some women have their last period in their forties, and others have it later in their fifties.

"Some women will experience only mild menopause symptoms," adds Hesser. "But some women may develop persistent hot flashes and night sweats that disrupt their sleep, rapid bone density loss that increases their risk of osteoporosis, or other symptoms that decrease their quality of life."

In addition to the symptoms mentioned above, women may experience a variety of other possible signs and symptoms of perimenopause:

  • Menstrual periods that may be shorter or last longer, or that come at irregular intervals
  • Increased or decreased levels of menstrual bleeding
  • Metabolism changes that result in weight gain
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Mood swings
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Difficulties with concentration or memory

Taking Charge of Your Health

"In your fifties, there are other changes taking place in your body that may not be directly caused by menopause, but there may be an interrelation," Hesser notes. "For example, the risk of breast cancer increases as you age. Other conditions such as high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and arthritis also may emerge. At this point in your life, it becomes more important to take care of yourself."

Hesser also says some women may need to take medications to control the symptoms of menopause or to manage other health conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes, but they shouldn’t see this as a sign of personal failure.

"It’s important to take charge of your health and schedule regular physical exams including pap smears, pelvic exams, mammograms and screenings for cholesterol, blood sugar levels, blood pressure and bone density," she adds. "If you don’t have a regular physician, you can take advantage of free and low-cost screenings available in the community and then find a physician or nurse practitioner who can help interpret the results and guide you."

Free Evening Program for Women

To help women learn more about the physical and emotional issues surrounding menopause, the Washington Women’s Center is sponsoring a special Evening Lecture Series event on Wednesday, November 3, from 7 to 8 p.m. To accommodate the expected large turnout, the event will be held in the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium in the Washington West Building at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont, rather than in the Women’s Center Conference Room.

The program will include brief presentations by physicians specializing in women’s health, sleep medicine and rheumatology (including discussions of bone density and arthritis). An open forum in which participants can ask questions of the physicians and each other will follow the physician presentations. Pre-registration is strongly encouraged.

"This event is intended to be an interactive session where women can ask their own personal questions as well as hear questions from other women that they may not have considered," says Hesser. "It’s also a way to learn more about the services offered through Washington Women’s Center, which is a place where women can come for support, information, health screenings and help with diet and exercise."

For more information about the Washington Women’s Center, or to pre-register for the November 3 lecture event, visit www.whhs.com or call (800) 963-7070.

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