Here's how to better your health and thrive during this transition in your life.
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For many women, the word "menopause" can be absolutely dreadful. Menopause is a natural part of life, and you shouldn't feel embarrassed to talk about it. In fact, you shouldn't treat it as a taboo subject because it is a big transition in your life as a woman, and when you have open and honest conversations about menopause, it makes the experience far less scary and stressful. Below, you'll learn more about menopause, including what to expect and how to make the process as enjoyable as it possibly can be for you.

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Hormone Therapy Can Help

The hallmark change of menopause is that your ovaries make much less of the hormones estrogen and progesterone, causing symptoms like hot flashes. Hormone therapy (HT) involves taking estrogen or a combo of estrogen and progesterone (or a synthetic progestin) to even levels. If you’ve had a hysterectomy, your doctor will prescribe estrogen HT.

After a 2002 study found the long-term use of HT can raise the risk of heart disease and other conditions, people shied away from it. Since dozens of other studies and further analysis of the original study, experts now say that women who get severe hot flashes or are at high risk for bone loss (which can accelerate at menopause) can take HT if they’re not at high risk for breast cancer, heart disease, or stroke. Doctors recommend taking HT at the lowest dose for the shortest amount of time.

Migraines Might Go Away

Because you’re making much less estrogen once you hit menopause, you no longer have the monthly increase and decrease that can cause migraines.

More good news is that no more periods means no more PMS. And as the fluctuations in estrogen steady at menopause, other hormone-fueled issues like fibroids and endometriosis will likely improve or even vanish, says JoAnn Pinkerton, M.D., executive director of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS).

Pelvic Exercises Really Work

Due to the decrease in estrogen, the bladder and pelvic tissues can weaken, causing issues like leaking (sigh). But research shows that women can see up to a 70-percent improvement in symptoms if they strengthen the pelvic floor that supports the bladder by doing exercises called kegels and remember to relax after each squeeze fully.

Things to Keep An Eye On

There are a few lesser-known symptoms and side effects of menopause that belong on your radar. Here are three to watch (and how to manage them).

Vitamin D

Lower estrogen levels put you at a higher risk of osteoporosis, but vitamin D helps protect your bones by promoting calcium absorption. Get your D levels tested to find out if you need to take a supplement.

Exercise

Strength training (lifting weights or resistance exercises like push-ups) helps maintain muscle mass, which gives your metabolism a boost and slows bone loss, says Andie Melendez, M.S.N., R.N., national secretary of the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses.

Your Skin

The decrease in oil caused by reduced estrogen means you’re way less prone to breakouts. Instead, dryness might be an issue. Try washing with a mild cleanser (soap can be drying) and applying moisturizer (look for one with hyaluronic acid) right after a shower to lock in moisture.

What Is Perimenopause?

You don’t actually go through menopause; you arrive at it once you haven’t had a period for one year. The time before that (often starting in your mid-40s), when hormone levels start to drop and periods can become irregular, is called perimenopause. Your doctor may test your FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) levels to see where you are in the process, but test results can fluctuate.

Menopause doesn't have to be a big, bad thing. With the right tips, guidance, and support, going through this natural transition can be a more pleasant experience.

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