One of the things about getting older is that people don’t tell you what to expect. I remember overhearing my mom and her friends talking about hot flashes and hormones but that was it. Around the age of 43, I started experiencing perimenopause symptoms. I literally had no idea what was happening to me and each time I went to the doctor to report an issue like heart palpitations, I was NEVER once told that it might be my hormones. AND…I was going to female doctors that were older than me.
Push finally came to shove years later when I was sidelined by a massive headache that wouldn’t go away for a month. They gave me every test imaginable, changed me to a migraine diet, tested me for diabetes, etc… When nothing helped, I meekly asked the question, “Could it be my hormones?” She replied, “It could be.” Out of every test they ran, how could they not test my hormone levels???
Thankfully, I have a close friend, Dr. Steven Krems, an Internal Medicine doctor that has specialized in hormone replacement for more than 20 years. I called him, completely desperate for help and after some simple blood work, he started me on a treatment that was completely life changing. I know so many women who are suffering so I wanted to share some information about managing perimenopause symptoms.
What is Perimenopause?
Perimenopause is a stage of hormonal change that happens before you lose your period. I didn’t even know what perimenopause was until years after it started affecting me. If you think about it like this – our hormone levels change over time.
And not just estrogen and progesterone – thyroid, DHEA and testosterone too. After the age of 35, the decrease in hormone levels can become noticeable. When we experience symptoms, we start wondering what is wrong with us. It should be noted that some lucky women don’t experience any symptoms.
What age does Perimenopause start and how long does it last?
Perimenopause can start as early as your late 30s but is more typically experienced in your 40s. It can last anywhere from 1 to 10 years. A woman is considered menopausal when her period has been gone for a year. Perimenopause is the period of time that you start experiencing symptoms until you are in menopause.
I experienced many perimenopause symptoms years before I knew it was happening but the real kicker was the heart palpitations. I saw 3 doctors over the course of 2 years and none of them mentioned it could be due to my hormone levels. It is extremely important to check out any heart issues fully but after everything serious is ruled out, get your hormone levels checked.
The treatment for each woman will be different. Unfortunately there are a lot of doctors out there that say they specialize in hormones and are horrible at helping patients. Here are some important things to keep in mind.
- When blood work is done, there is a range of normal. I was at the bottom of the normal range but experiencing a lot of symptoms. Ideally, you want to be at the top of the normal range.
- There are multiple hormones that make up this equation. You need an expert that knows the right tests to run and treat you accordingly. I started with Testosterone and DHEA only. That’s what made the life changing difference for me.
- Learn about Bioidentical Hormone treatment. These are not the hormones that our mothers were taking. Whether you choose this path or a “natural treatment” from the health food store, you should be consulting with a doctor. We’ve all heard about the horrors of the vitamin industry being unregulated. You need to know what you are taking and the effect it can have on your body. Just because you can buy it, doesn’t make it safe.
- Women who have had cancer do have some options. Again, research and a great doctor is key. It seems counterintuitive that women have depleted testosterone but it can make a huge difference in energy levels and vitality.
- Many women, especially those with very heavy periods, suffer from something called estrogen dominance. Our next hormone post will cover this, but again, this is why a doctor is important. You also need to be careful with phytoestrogens in food.
- You can mitigate some symptoms with healthy eating. Getting rid of high fat foods and replacing it with vegetables, lean protein and lots of water makes a world of difference on energy levels. Cutting back on sugar in your diet can also help.
What Should I Do With This Perimenopause Information?
Trust your instincts and see a doctor if you are experiencing symptoms that are troublesome to you. For me the irregular periods, heart palpitations and lack of sleep were unmanageable. If you are doing fine and cruising through the transition, you don’t need to do anything.
I have seen some women try to get their friends on hormones by telling them that they are going to look old and dried out. That’s ridiculous. We’re all getting older and we all have to eventually transition into menopause. If you feel good, keep doing what you are doing and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. If you are having a tough time, eat healthy, exercise and find a great doctor to get your hormones checked..