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Hot Flashes are Power Surges

It is said that we are living in a time of the silver tsunami. The boomers have now reached into their 50s and 60s. This generation has always been proactive and well informed about issues related to health. Women of this generation (my generation) will not accept the patriarchal model of medical care of the past. Medicine has also adapted and engages in a shared decision making model. This is particularly true when we make decisions about the entry into menopause.

Menopause is defined as being one year after the last period. It is essentially when our ovaries have fully stopped producing eggs. There is a transition period that varies from more frequent heavy periods to spread out and scant periods. This transition period is called the perimenopause. Some of the symptoms of menopause can begin in that transition phase. 

 There are distressing symptoms such as hot flashes, difficulty with sleep, mood changes, irritability and vaginal dryness. There may also be loss of libido and painful intercourse. There are also unseen effects such as loss of bone strength and change in risk for heart disease.

 There are many options for decreasing symptoms of menopause and for lessening the risks associated with menopause. The most notable is hormone replacement therapy where the hormones that the ovary is no longer producing are replaced. In women who do not have a hysterectomy, it is important that this include the balance of both estrogen and progesterone. There are other treatment options that are specific to symptoms experienced. Some medications may help with hot flashes; estrogen creams may help with vaginal dryness and pain with intercourse. 

 In preparation for visiting your primary care provider it is important that you take stock of the symptoms experienced. If you are experiencing only hot flashes and do not want to start on hormone replacement therapy (HRT), there may be other options. In addition, learning your family history may help in making decisions. Is there a family history of osteoporosis? Is there a family history of breast cancer? Knowing which risks are specific to your own history might help to come to a decision about what treatment is best for you.

In addition, remember that although menopause is a natural stage of life, we are living a lot longer than we used to and it is important to consider the quality of our lives for many years to come. When we reframe hot flashes as power surges, it is upon us to use that power to better our health.

Dr. Bhooma Bhayana is a family physician in London and the mother of two young men and grandmother of one lovely princess! She continues to find wonder and enjoyment in family practice despite more than 30 years on the job!


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