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Menopause & Fatigue - Know it all

Menopause, as we all know, in simple terms is a biological or natural process marking permanent cessation of regular periodic cycles in women. It is mostly achieved in late 40s and brings along many uncomfortable symptoms like hot flashes, urinary incontinence, depression, emotional turmoil, vaginal dryness, low energy levels and fatigue, also known as extreme tiredness.

Menopausal transition brings about marked changes in body composition like decreased bone mass and bone density leading to osteopenia / osteoporosis and increased fat mass leading to obesity. Women who never suffered weight problems might experience an undesirable increase of body weight and body mass index.

Night sweats, disturbed sleep and constant feeling of lethargy are common complaints in menopausal women. You may also experience unrelenting exhaustion that lasts for a long time and doesn’t get cured with rest. This may cause low motivation, poor concentration and impact overall quality of life and take a toll on one’s emotional and psychosocial wellbeing.

Since menopause and fatigue is not talked about much, here are some insights to its symptoms, causes, lifestyle modifications and other tips to overcome it.

What causes fatigue after menopause?

Approaching the menopause, our hormonal levels fluctuate in unpredictable ways. Eventually levels decrease until body stops producing them completely. These bodily disturbances trigger brain to wake up at odd hours in the night, causes mood swings, decreased energy levels and thereby fatigue.

Lower levels of progesterone does not only make women short tempered and restless but also leads to a more complicated situation called ‘sleep apnea’ – a disorder where breathing repeatedly starts and stops. Hence oxygen deprivation makes you awaken many times in the night.

Risk Factors

Perimenopause or Post Menopause, there can be many other factors contributing to fatigue.

  • Alcohol and Drugs

  • Acute or chronic respiratory distress

  • Cancer

  • Heart Disease

  • Anemia

  • Tendency of fatigue

  • Sedentary lifestyle

  • Less physical activity

  • Diabetes

  • Stress and anxiety

  • Antidepressants, Blood thinners, analgesics, Heart medicines

  • Obesity

  • Hyperthyroidism

  • Sleep disorders

  • Poor nutrition

Management and Remedies for fatigue

Fatigue during menopause can be emotionally and mentally draining. There are first lines of intervention but sustainable solution to this is lifestyle modifications and eliminating the root cause of risk factors.

  • A Good night sleep - Though sleep disturbances start to happen, still we can adjust our body clock as per nature’s routine – Early to bed and early to rise is the key. A seven to eight hours sleep is essential for body to function well the next day.

  • Anxiety and stress – Stress being a subconscious mechanism to a great extent is also many a times self invited. If we take charge of it, plan activities well, command our brain to NOT PANIC, we can certainly keep anxiety and stress at bay. Indulging into activities you loved once, listening to soothing relaxation music, meditating even for ten minutes are some amazing techniques to overcome day to day challenges.

  • Nutritious diet – Plenty of fluids and diet rich in protein shall give you energy throughout the day. Omega 3 and calcium rich foods are good for bone health and to prevent osteoporosis. Try and eat small portions throughout the day .We also suggest cutting down of caffeine, cigarettes and aerated drinks for maximum results.

  • Hydration – Alcohol, coffee, energy drinks tend to cause lot of dehydration. Switching over to homemade drinks, coconut water and regular water intake is more effective substitute for staying hydrated.

  • Exercising – One of the most common symptoms of menopause is fluctuating weight hence, habit of exercising daily is very helpful in combating fatigue, feeling rejuvenated and releasing good hormones in the blood stream. Simple deep breathing exercises additionally when done early morning and bedtime facilitate calming the mind and nerves.

  • Multivitamins – Blend of Zinc, calcium, potassium and vitamin D is advised for overall energy needs, increase bone mineral density and arrest bone resorption.

  • Hormone Replacement therapy – It is one of the most conventional treatments to tackle persistent, episodes and severe fatigue. This may be possible even after getting enough sleep hence medical advice must be sought. Other indications for medical help are experiencing heavy periods likely cause anemia and hair issues due to hyperactive thyroid gland.

  • Keeping light and easy at night – Well ventilated room, keeping the thermostat at tolerable range to avoid hot flashes trigger, wearing light clothing are good ways to get a sound sleep.

  • Medications – When advised against HRT, there are many medications including anti-hypertensives, anti-depressants which are known to reduce hot flashes, mood swings and fatigue. Folic acid supplementation is also an acceptable alternative to HRT for women with hot flashes and as preventive treatment for depression.

  • CPAP – Continuous Positive Airway Pressure is the standard treatment for Obstructive sleep apnea, a condition where relaxed throat muscles during sleep block the upper airways. Women with OSA wake up quickly and feel they barely slept. In this therapy the patient is made to sleep with the mask hooked up to machine that is designed to keep the airways open by uninterrupted flow of air.

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