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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Hot Flash Barbie....

......or a discussion on the last  taboo subject.

 These days we have come a long way in our ability to openly discuss subjects such as homosexuality or hate crimes for example but one subject is rarely ever mentioned at all. Menopause! Men don't know what it means and are scared of it and women don't know what to expect, or how to deal with it .

  The baby boomer generation just refuses to grow up. Fifty is the new forty thirty, people in their seventies still expect to be as active as they were 30 years ago. Everyone believes they look younger than their years and all swear they certainly feel it. Modern medicine is coming up with new innovations every day to ward off the signs of aging and prop up sagging flesh. However, menopause is about to become a reality for a whole generation of women. Barbie was created in 1959 making her of that certain age when dewy skin is more likely from a hot flash than youthful exuberance.


In past generations, the elderly were revered members of society and families. They helped raise the children, were a source of knowledge and to be respected. These days of youth over experience, the elderly are seen as behind the times, in the way, a burden to be dealt with. Who would want to admit they weren't at the peak of their game? Women don't admit they are going through menopause, their doctors don't take them seriously or have any good answers when it comes to their symptoms, and the husbands don't want to be reminded that their partners are middle-aged.

Every woman experiences it differently. Some cultures seem to barely notice the changes while others are over whelmed by them. Asian cultures seem to breeze through menopause, but the elderly are also revered in their culture. Islamic woman don't get the depression that is often associated with it but they get to take off the veil and finally be accepted as equals by their men as opposed to sex objects. Caucasian women seem to be the most affected by hot flashes, mood swings, depression, mental fog, laggy libido and fatigue.

In the scale of evolution, it wasn't that long ago that women got pregnant shortly after starting their menstrual cycles, breastfed for a few years, got pregnant again and so on until they reached 40 or so and then died shortly thereafter. They probably only had 40-50 cycles in their lives. Modern woman, with her ability to stave off pregnancy until later in life have more like 300 cycles in a lifetime. The more cycles a woman has, naturally or synthetically, the more estrogen she has in her system over a lifetime. This means that modern women are getting a very different pattern of hormonal stimulation than her ancestors. Taking estrogen replacement hormones hits them with another period of exposure to hormones that they never would have had in the past.

 Most primates in the wild never live long enough to experience menopause. Most female animals just keep on breeding until they die. Nature never provided for women who routinely live several decades past fifty. Once females had made their genetic contribution, evolution was finished with them and society followed suit. Menopause in the 19th century was only described in terms of what women lose at this stage of life. They were cued to view menopause as the gateway to old age at which women passed through at the peril of their life. Nineteenth century obstetricians taught that " the change of life unhinges the female nervous system and deprives women of their personal charm". OUCH!

Menopause affects women in a few ways. One is the emotional changes that they go through when they realize that their child bearing years are over and they must find themselves another role in society. For some women this is a time of new found freedom. Their children are grown, they have more time for their careers, hobbies, friends, and charities. Without pregnancy to fear, some experience a more relaxed sex life. For others, it is a time of becoming a care-giver to the preceeding generation as they start to experience poor health. For yet others it is a time of sadness and depression as they suffer the empty nest syndrome, their husbands trade them in on a newer model or they get passed over at work in favor of younger talent. If a woman lives to be in her 80's, she will have spent as much time in menopause as she did menustrating. It is another whole chapter in her life that needs to be recognized and embraced for what she has gained ( knowledge,wisedom ), not discarded for what she has lost (estrogen).

The other way menopause affects women is physically.Menopause is characterized by the loss of estrogen production by the ovaries. This may occur by natural means or by the surgical removal of both ovaries.Estrogen keeps blood vessels limber and able to take the increase in pressure that occurs with pregnancy. Once estrogen stops being produced , the arteries start to become inflexible and narrower, placing women at higher risk for heart disease. Estrogen, whether it is produced by the ovaries, taken as a supplement or generated as a result of carrying too much belly fat has the result of increasing the risk of breast cancer. Not only does a fatty diet increase the level of estrogen, it also increases the size of tumours independant of estrogen. Rather than taking estrogen to reduce heart disease risk, women would be better off to lower their fat intake to reduce the risk of both heart disease and breast cancer.

Osteoporosis is another concern for menopausal women. The loss of estrogens accelerates bone loss for a period ranging from 5 to 8 years. In terms of bone remodeling, the lack of estrogen enhances the ability of osteoclasts to absorb bone. Since the osteoblasts (the cells which produce bone) are not encouraged to lay down more bone, the osteoclasts win and more bone is lost than is produced. This bone loss can be slowed or halted by taking calcium combined with weight bearing exercise(walking,jogging,weightlifting)

Symptoms of estrogen deficiency in postmenopausal women include vaginal dryness and itching, urethritis & cystitis (commonly known as urethra or bladder infection), high blood pressure, heart palpitations, fractures, bone pain, foot and leg cramps, osteoporosis, facial hair growth, skin wrinkles, hot flashes, and brain fog (loss of concentration and forgetfulness). In addition, for most women, underarm and leg and pubic hair becomes finer and less prevalent. Not all women will experience all of these symptoms.


Hot flashes are not as common as they are during menopause itself, but some women experience them up to 10 years after their last period. Occasionally bleeding will occur. If this occurs check with your doctor immediately, as it can be a symptom of a serious health problem. Post menopause symptoms will ease over time.Postmenopausal women do still have periods,but they are very irregular. Generally no bleeding occurs (if it does see your doctor), but premenstrual and menstrual symptoms such as back ache, headache, irritability, fatigue, cramps, cravings for salt and chocolate, and bloating will arise. Like a woman's regular periods, these periods can last for several days, or may simply be present for a day or two.




Menopause doesn't happen overnight. The hormones slower sputter out over a period of years. Some women start experiencing symptoms in their 30's as hormones surge and wane. For some their periods actually increase in flow or length . Their menstrual cycles become irregular again like when they were in their teens. Once the hormones have finally settled into their new dosages, many of the symtoms will disapear and a new found energy will take their place. In the meantime, take care of yourself, eat healthy, gets lots of exercise( mental and physical), go for check-ups and monitor your heart, breasts and bones. Revel in your wisedom and experience. Embrace the goddess that you have become. Go ahead and wear purple! Your still hot...even if it comes in flashes!

"Inside every old person is a young person wondering.. what the hell happened??"

1 comment:

  1. Great post Rhianna but Sorry! "The menopause! Women go through it but men truly suffer from it?" I can`t remember who said that! probably (Ardie 1978) :o))

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