Health Watch: Easing the transition into menopause

Hot flashes, night sweats, weight gain, insomnia, headaches, and hair growth ... the list of symptoms related to menopause is never ending! The average age of a woman reaching menopause is 51 years old, but it may occur as early as your thirties and as late as your sixties. There is no way to prevent it, but there is some info to ease your anxieties.

During menopause, estrogen levels drop, causing your REM sleep cycles to shorten.

Mache Seibel, MD, Harvard Medical School, says, "According to the National Sleep Foundation, about two out of three women in or around menopause are going to have sleep issues."

But you can counteract this. Try listening to soothing music or meditating before bed.

"A nice relaxing bath before you go to bed is a really good idea because it allows you to kind of relax your muscles as well and also some people like aromatherapy perhaps lavender in the room," Dr. Seibel continued.

What about hot flashes? Thirty percent of women don't even get them. But if you do, prescription drugs like gabapentin and clonidine can provide relief. Weight gain? Menopause can increase belly fat in particular, but it can be countered by increasing activity, and subtracting 200 calories from your daily diet. Regular exercise also helps control mood swings. Your healthcare provider can help you manage symptoms like night sweats, vaginal dryness, or hair loss by using low-dose antidepressants or estrogen therapy.

A study of over 35 thousand women, led by scientists at Leeds University in the UK, found that women with a diet high in carbohydrates, experienced menopause almost two years earlier than average. But those who consumed daily fish and vegetables, such as beans and peas, were able to delay menopause for another three years.