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Not very long ago, menopause was an area of women’s health that was rarely discussed. Even as post-partum health gained more exposure in the early 2000s, menopause was left behind.
That’s why there is a need to provide education and information about menopause with just as much transparency as any other women’s health issue. Menopause is defined as the change in a woman’s body that typically occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, largely marking the end of menstruation.
Why all the secrecy around menopause?
Dr. Karen Horst, a women’s health specialist at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women and an Assistant Professor at Baylor College of Medicine, says the way women manage menopause can determine quality of life in senior and elder years.
“In many cases, it’s a time where women feel shame about what is happening to their bodies — and that shame can be a silencer,” Horst said.
But Horst and her colleagues are trying to spark conversations and connect women around this important topic.
“One of the biggest misconceptions is that menopause is only about the end of menstruating and the ability to have children, when the truth is that many other changes also are occurring throughout the body,” Horst said.
During this time, women may deal with weight gain, fatigue, incontinence, insomnia, hair and skin issues, along with deteriorating bone health and new or worsening depression. However, with the proper treatment, these challenges can be addressed and overcome.
Women who educate themselves and take control can have a different experience.
Wellness experts agree with Horst — there is a lot that women can do to improve menopausal health. Sofia Malvaez, a clinical dietician at Texas Children’s, says that diet and exercise make a tremendous difference in a woman’s ability to prevent the challenges that menopause brings.
“We recommend a minimum of 150 minutes of exercise each week,” Malvaez said. “In addition to aerobic exercise like walking, swimming and jogging, it is best to do some light strength training, too. Squats, push-ups, lunges and even activities like heavy gardening count as strength training.”
Malvaez adds that as women near age 50, adequate calcium, vitamin D, fruit, vegetables, lean protein, and fiber intake is essential to overall health. She emphasizes that meeting with a dietitian who can personalize nutrition recommendations can be life-changing.
“Dieticians, physical therapists, counselors and so many other professionals can — and should — be called on during this time,” said Horst. “Women don’t have to go through this alone.”
More help is available
The Menopause Center at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women is offering a new series of courses open to Texas Children’s employees and to the public. This series — Menopause Matters — will bring women together to hear from trusted experts who will discuss menopausal health and answer questions.
Beginning in January 2023, five 90-minute in-person group sessions will be available on Wednesdays from 7:00-8:30 p.m. The registration fee is $60 for Texas Children’s employees and $75 for the public.