Menopause is inevitable and a natural part of life and growing older – so why not embrace it? Once perhaps frowned upon, conversations about menopause are fortunately more and more commonplace, providing great relief to women and reminding them that they do not have to go through it alone. In this guide, we explore what menopause means and when it occurs, symptoms to look out for, as well as how to get the appropriate support you may need in Hong Kong, from health coaches, doctors, and support groups. You will also find great tips and suggestions on adjustments you could make to make your quality of life even better as you navigate this transition period.
By definition, you are in menopause when you haven't had your monthly period for the past 12 consecutive months. The period leading up to that is called perimenopause.
During perimenopause, you will experience symptoms associated with menopause, due to fluctuations in hormone levels, namely estrogen and progesterone. The severity, frequency, and presence of symptoms vary from one woman to another. Perimenopause usually begins about 8 to 10 years before menopause - so around your mid-40s, but it can occur much earlier, in the case of premature menopause (before the age of 40). If there are no medical or surgical causes for premature menopause, it is called premature ovarian failure or insufficiency. For more information about premature menopause, which affects 1 in 100 women, the Cleveland Clinic in the US has a wonderful guide on how to understand and address it.
The most common symptoms associated with perimenopause are:
If you start experiencing symptoms of menopause, there is of course, no need to panic. The first step is to perhaps seek medical attention and support from your gynecologist, and there are some wonderful ones out there. For our guide to the best gynecologists in Hong Kong, click here.
During that initial appointment, and once you've discussed your concerns, your doctor will probably ask you for some blood tests: a full CBC and hormonal profile - this will give them a better indication of how far along (or not) the transition you are. They are typically looking at thyroid function as well as levels of FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) - a high FSH would indicate a higher chance you are menopausing. Depending on the results as well as your age and medical history, the doctor may recommend HRT or Hormone Replacement Therapy, which is basically either an oral medication or patches to replace the hormones you may be lacking. Much research has been conducted on the benefits of HRT, and the health risks associated with taking hormone replacement pills have since been debunked. HRT can help alleviate symptoms of perimenopause and menopause, as well as reduce the risk of certain diseases associated with lower hormonal levels such as dementia, osteoporosis (or weakening of the bones), sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass) and heart disease. Another common form of therapy BHRT, Bioidentical Hormone Therapy, and uses processed hormones that come from plants; for more information click here.
Going through this life-altering change can sometimes be difficult, and may negatively affect your physical and mental health, as well as relationships. During a transition phase, it can always help to talk to someone or even a professional or a counselor. If you would like to seek support and help from a counselor or other mental health professional, browse our guide to the best ones in Hong Kong here.
The Internet also provides a wealth of knowledge and support. Although we could not find any Hong Kong-based menopause support groups on Facebook, we found one with quite a few members which seemed quite active. Over on Instagram, The Menopause Doctor, who is also a UK-based GP and menopause specialist, frequently posts advice and tips - she also founded the Balance Menopause App. Balance - menopause support is an app certified by ORCHA and provides menopause support at your fingertips from recipes to symptom alleviation. Emma Bardwell is another Instagrammer specializing in menopausal nutrition and is quite helpful.
In Hong Kong, there are several names you should know about of people and clinics who will help make your menopause journey somewhat more enjoyable and easier to navigate:
It is no secret that as you get older, your bones become weaker and your lean muscle mass diminishes. And with perimenopause and menopause, that risk becomes even more apparent and significant. Strength training is one way to ward off those risks, develop strong bones, manage your weight as well as protect your joints from injury, as well as a host of other benefits. Pherform Gym in Central offers female-specific strength training, metabolic conditioning and isolated hypertrophy with the aim of getting stronger, faster, fitter, healthier, and leaner. Book your free intro class here! There are a number of other gyms in Hong Kong offering strength training, check them all out here.
If lifting weights is not your thing, Pilates is another excellent way to strengthen your bones, joints, and muscles. Check out the best Pilates studios and reformer classes Hong Kong has to offer here.
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