Turning 40 is considered a milestone in a woman’s life. I remember how excited I was on my 40th birthday as if some life-changing phenomenon was about to take place! Nothing phenomenal really happened, but as days passed and months, I began noticing subtle, yet, significant, changes taking place within me — my body and my mind.
The significant changes being the onset of perimenopause – a period of physiological changes that indicate what lies ahead.
Perimenopause refers to the menstrual irregularities in a woman’s body due to hormonal changes which eventually lead to menopause — the end of menstruation.
The changes, when they begin appearing, can be quite disturbing. And confusing, too. Heck, at 45, I still get baffled by stuff that happens!
However, you also begin feeling quite ‘sorted’ as a person. Life takes a new meaning and you start realizing and understanding Life. At least, I have. I might as well walk with a halo around my head! 😛
Of course, I know I still have a lot more maturing to do. But, Life does make sense nowadays, as do the ups and downs and the madness and the chaos, too. The chaos within, and the chaos outside.
So, today I am sharing the physical and physiological changes I began noticing after celebrating my fortieth birthday. Changes that are still taking place within. And, driving me insane!
Symptoms of perimenopause:
Estrogen plays a huge part in body weight, moods, sex drive, blood flow and memory, and that’s why the decrease in its levels affect the above to a great extent. Thus, during perimenopause, the changes in the production of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone cause the periods to become irregular.
One finds a change in the flow, as well. Either the flow is heavy, or light, giving enough reason to distress over the unmanageable changes.
In short, it’s a major irritant that’s so not in our control. All we can really do is just go with the flow! Pun unintended.
The vagina loses its elasticity. The dryness caused during this period puts the vagina at a greater risk of urinary tract infections.
Dryness of the skin and hair loss:
The skin also loses its moisture and feels dry, as does the scalp. Wrinkles begin to appear as do dark spots, which along with the itchiness can cause a lot of distress. Hair starts thinning and some women experience scanty hair growth and eventually, baldness.
One really can’t discuss mood swings enough, isn’t it? The volatile nature of our moods in this period can cause a lot of headaches, as well as heartache! Joy, sorrow, anxiety, fear, anger — the moods become so unpredictable, you never know what can trigger a foul mood and what can result in euphoria.
Anxiety hits the roof at the drop of a hat, and the tears come rolling down your cheeks at the mere mention of, well, anything! Dealing with these frequent mood changes can get very difficult, and one does wonder whom to confide it all in.
The memory also gets affected because of these hormonal changes. Forgetfulness becomes a new companion, and it leads to many an embarrassing moment. Retaining the littlest of information can seem like the toughest of jobs, at times.
Words fail me while writing as well as while speaking. I forget the keys of certain letters like U, V, A, E on the keyboard while typing. I also forget things hubby asks me to remember (and then receive an earful for the same!). Once, I forgot the breed of a friend’s dog! Can you believe it? At times, I fear I might lose my way home!
The first thought that comes to mind is, “Am I heading towards dementia?”
No, you are not. It’s all because of the fluctuating hormones. So, chill.
Changes in sleep cycle:
Perhaps, this is the second worst part of perimenopause! You start feeling drowsy so you lie down to sleep. But the moment you hit the bed, the sleep vanishes. Or, you wake up sometime in the middle of the night to visit the loo, and then it takes hours to go back to sleep again. And, then you wake up either late or feeling cranky and miserable.
As you near your 40s, your metabolism begins to slow down resulting in gradual weight gain. You fail to notice any major difference, initially, but slowly and steadily, you feel the love handles appearing, and the cellulite, too.
Dieting doesn’t help and you only keep piling the pounds, bit by bit.
Treatment of these symptoms, however, lies in our hands.
First of all, accepting this phase and embracing the changes makes it less painful as It’s all part of aging. Of course, it’s easier said than done! But, sharing your troubles with close friends helps a lot. You realize you are all sailing in the same boat. So, gather your women around you. They are the ones who will be by your side.
Taking care of your diet is paramount. Increase water intake to combat the dryness. Include fresh green vegetables through salads, as well as fruits, nuts and whole grains. Include enough dairy products to keep the bones healthy.
Following an exercise regimen becomes a necessity after a certain age (if one hasn’t been giving it the deserved attention). Yoga, walking, or any other form of exercise that one can carry out comfortably helps considerably. Exercise helps keep the joints supple, the muscles toned, the skin glowing and the internal organs in a good working condition.
Enjoying this phase, accepting the changes and appreciating oneself is, I believe, the best way to deal with this phase. Moreover, with menopause, the body gets attuned to the above changes and Life, as we knew it, gets back to normal!
So, what have you experienced in your 40s? And, how have you tackled the changes?
Do share with us all. We all know how much we need the advice and the help. Oh, and also a shoulder to cry on!
I will be doing a detailed post on health care in the 40s in June. So, stay tuned.