Being proactive with treatment can help the transition into menopause. Menopausal symptoms can vary from very mild to severe, the most common being hot flashes, night sweats, difficulty sleeping, mood swings, vaginal dryness and urinary changes.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
Many women ask, “Is hormone replacement therapy right for me?” HRT is more effective for women who are bothered by moderate to severe menopausal symptoms. The average age for women bothered by these symptoms is 45 to 55. The decision to start HRT is individually based on your needs and considers your current health, risk factors, quality of life and lifestyle.
HRT comes in a variety of forms: oral tablet, patch, gel, lotion or vaginal application. A term often confusing in HRT is “bioidentical,” which simply means that the hormone is identical to the hormones produced by the woman. Bioidentical hormones are produced by pharmaceutical companies, which are FDA approved or custom-made by compounding pharmacies. A review of the research at this time shows little evidence to support using bioidenticals over conventional HRT.
Hormone replacement therapy is not recommended for women with unexplained vaginal bleeding, history of breast or endometrial cancer, history of blood clot in the veins, chronic liver disease or a family history of premenopause breast cancer.
Other clinically proven methods to help relieve hot flashes are antidepressants and Catapres, a blood pressure medication.
Although nonprescription remedies such as black cohosh, soy and progesterone creams have been used for menopausal symptoms, studies have shown mixed results on their effectiveness.
Alternatives that have been shown to help decrease the severity of menopausal symptoms include:
- Avoid hot flash triggers (hot beverages, caffeine, spicy food, alcohol).
- Eat healthy.
- Manage stress.
- Exercise regularly.
- Dress in layers.
- Stop smoking.
- Manage weight.
When a hot flash begins, deep rhythmic breathing with slow inhalation and exhalation also can help calm the nervous system and decrease the severity of the hot flash.
Find What Is Best for You
Talk with your provider about what is best for you. Discuss the risks and benefits of HRT. Initiate lifestyle changes that not only help with menopausal symptoms but also can help decrease the risk of heart disease and cancer.
If you decide on HRT, it is currently recommended to use the lowest dose for the shortest time frame that is effective for you.