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  • Writer's pictureKaren Bigman

My beating heart & other menopause symptoms

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

Understanding Perimenopause: Symptoms, Solutions, and Embracing the Transition

Experiencing heart palpitations, sensations akin to bugs crawling on your skin, or sleep disturbances? While seemingly unrelated, these symptoms might point to a common underlying cause: perimenopause.

What is Perimenopause?

Perimenopause marks the phase when estrogen, along with other hormones, start to decrease. Estrogen influences nearly every system in our bodies, so its decline can trigger a plethora of symptoms. Often beginning in the late 30s to 40s, these signs might not immediately link to menopause in many people's minds.

In my 40s, I began experiencing heart palpitations and even underwent a full cardiovascular assessment. I never considered consulting my gynecologist. It wasn’t until hot flashes — or "flushes" as they're medically termed — began that I connected the dots with menopause, remembering how my mother walked around with a hand-held fan during her transition.

The Menopause Journey

For those with female reproductive organs, menopause is an inevitable transition, marked by 12 months without a menstrual cycle. Although the average age for menopause is 51, some women might enter this phase as early as their 20s or 30s. Perimenopause, the precursor to menopause, can span years, and its symptoms might persist throughout one's life.

Commonly Recognized Symptoms:

· Vasomotor symptoms: hot flushes, night sweats, sensitivity to temperature

· Vaginal dryness

· Tender breasts

· Mood fluctuations

· Sleep disturbances

· Irregular menstrual cycles

· Weight gain

Less Discussed, Yet Equally Important Symptoms:

· Decreased libido

· Challenges with orgasms

· Brain fog

· Frequent headaches

· Urinary incontinence

· Itchy skin sensations

· Muscular and joint pain

· Hair thinning or loss

· Dizziness

· Onset of osteoporosis

The Relief of Menopause Hormone Therapy (MHT)

Previously associated with an elevated risk of breast cancer, recent studies suggest that MHT can be beneficial for many women. Supplemental estrogen can bolster bone health, mitigate the risk of cardiovascular diseases, Alzheimer’s, dementia, and even decrease the likelihood of recurrent breast cancer in some cases.

Key Insights from the North American Menopause Society (NAMS):

· Most recently menopausal women can benefit from hormone therapy to alleviate symptoms like hot flashes and vaginal dryness.

· Hormone Therapy remains the most potent remedy for menopausal symptoms.

· Women with an intact uterus need both estrogen and a progestogen to prevent uterine cancer.

· Women without a uterus can rely solely on estrogen.

In the past, minimal estrogen doses for short durations were favored. However, current perspectives support continuous MHT, provided you continue to be monitored by your medical provider.

Embracing the Positives of Perimenopause

With the cessation of menstrual cycles, there's no more monthly cramping or headache. The elimination of pregnancy risks paves the way for enhanced intimacy and creativity in your sexual relationships. While perimenopausal and post-menopausal phases pose certain challenges, they also bring the freedom to explore without pregnancy concerns.

Age graces women with maturity, wisdom, and a unique strength. Armed with confidence and experience, women can now advocate for themselves and pursue what they truly desire.

Looking to learn more about sexuality in midlife? Listen to my podcast Taboo to Truth: Unapologetic Conversations about Sexuality in Midlife coming in September.

Email me your burning questions:

SUBJECT: Tell me the truth!

*This article is not intended to provide medical advice. For more information on whether MHT is right for you, visit your medical provider. NAMS approved Menopause Practitioners in your area can be found here.

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