My Menopause Story and my Message to all WomenOct 02, 2022
I experienced many of the symptoms of menopause, including hot flushes, night sweats, brain fog, fatigue and sleepless nights. Like many women who go through perimenopause, it can have a profound effect on your daily life. For me, the feeling of being constantly tired was the worst thing. I went through a period of being so tired that I could easily fall asleep at 3 o’clock in the afternoon and would have little energy to do all the things that I wanted to do.
There was something else that I discovered I had during this time. Not a symptom of perimenopause, but a condition that can develop during this time.
When I suspected I was going through perimenopause I went to my doctors just to make sure that’s what it was. The first thing she did, before we even got around to discussing perimenopause, was to send me for a bone scan.
Within a week I found out that I had osteoporosis in my pelvis and spine. At the time I was only 44. I’ll never be sure how long it had been since I started losing bone density, but I can only imagine that it must have been a few years. I just wasn’t aware of what was going on. I suppose it’s because I didn’t associate having osteoporosis at such as young age. I always thought of it as something that women in their 70s and 80s had.
I’ve been active all my life. I started dancing from a young age, did martial arts for years, have spent hours in the gym, I loved to go running, and in my 20s I was competing in Ballroom dancing competitions at international level, so looking back, you’d of thought that I would have built up enough bone mineral reserves so that I was less likely to develop osteoporosis in my 40s.
The only period of time when I wasn’t as active was when I had the children. A period of about 4 years when I didn’t really do any exercise.
The advice these days is to ensure you do weight bearing exercises to help prevent the onset of osteopenia and osteoporosis. I know that one of the factors why I probably developed it soon than some women is that I don’t carry much weight. But even so, all the exercise I had done through my teens to my early 30s had all been weight bearing exercise, but I still developed it.
Thinking back, I remember paying a visit to the nurse, who made a passing comment that I was more likely to develop osteoporosis. At the time I didn’t question it. This conversation happened at least 3 years before my diagnosis, so it didn’t even enter my head that that was the point I should be starting to do something about it.
Things have changed a lot with women’s health in recent years. Women are starting to become much more aware that they don’t have to put up with menopause symptoms, that there is lots they can do themselves to manage their symptoms. But I still don’t see enough education around when we should be thinking about bone and muscle health, and the preventative steps we should be taking even before we hit perimenopause.
I now feel that all I needed was for the nurse to explain it a little more to me, and I would have done the research and found out what I needed to do. Maybe then I would have only found myself with osteopenia, and I wouldn’t have had the aching and discomfort in my upper back every day, not understanding what was causing it.
It’s been 4 years since my diagnosis. Because of covid, I have to wait one more year before I can have another bone scan to check the progress of the disease, but I’m hopeful that it’s slowed right down. I’ve been doing as much as I can to ensure I maintain as much of my bone density as possible. I do much more resistance training, I started running again, and I changed my diet. I did all of this to help support my bones, but now realise that everything that I’ve done, may also have helped my menopause symptoms.
There is so much research out there now about the benefits of regular movement during perimenopause, which also greatly benefits women who have already gone through the menopause. Women are starting to talk more about menopause, how it’s effecting their daily lives, and realising there are so many options for them out there, even if they choose not to take the HRT route.
But my message to all women, whatever your age, is to look after your bones. Most women, just like me, don’t realise they have the condition, as there are no symptoms, and it’s often referred to as the ‘silent disease’. Sometimes it’s not until a woman falls and breaks a bone that she find out she has osteoporosis.
Research has shown that a women aged 65 who breaks her hip, has a 50% chance of being unable to live independently one year later.
It’s never too late to start moving your body. Movement is medicine for your body and has been shown to help with reducing the risk of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, along with depression and dementia, and it’s also effective in helping those menopause symptoms like brain fog, anxiety, hot flushes and mood swings.
Don’t wait another day. The life you want to lead in later life in your hands. Keep your muscles and bones strong to promote longevity, and a long a happy life.
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