Managing menopause symptoms

What are a woman’s options for symptoms like hot flashes, mood changes, or sleep problems? Here’s the evidence about herbs, yoga and more.

What is menopause?

Menopause is when a woman stops menstruating. For most women, this occurs around age 50.

What do most women experience?

Many women do not have symptoms related to menopause, but up to 90 percent of women do. These can begin months or years before menopause and include:

  • Hot flashes—sweating and feelings of overheating followed by chills.
  • Problems sleeping.
  • Mood changes including anxiety or depression.
  • Other changes such as weight gain; loss of bone density, which increases risk of broken bones; and vaginal dryness, which can be irritating and make sex painful.

Researchers often measure the impact of menopausal symptoms on women by asking about their overall quality of life.

What do we know about how to manage menopause-related symptoms?

“We know that hormone therapy can help some women with menopause symptoms,” says Dr. Katherine Newton, a Group Health Research Institute investigator who studies women’s health. “But many women prefer nonhormonal, alternative choices. However, some of these work and some do not.” Based on Dr. Newton’s work and research by others, here are some tips about nonhormonal treatments for managing menopause symptoms.

Nonhormonal therapies include the antidepressants escitalopram and venlafaxine. Alternative therapies tested for relieving menopause symptoms include herbal and botanical nutritional supplements, exercise, and yoga.

  • Antidepressants might relieve hot flashes.
  • Antidepressants, yoga, and exercise might help with sleep and mood problems and improve quality of life.
  • Social support and cognitive behavioral therapy can improve quality of life.
  • NO strong evidence supports using botanicals or herbal supplements such as soy, black cohosh, dong quai, wild yam, or red clover for menopause symptoms.

“The good news for women approaching or at the age of menopause is that we have much better tools for managing symptoms than we had only a few years ago,” says Dr. Newton. “I encourage women to talk with their health care providers about their symptoms, medical history and personal preferences when deciding among these treatment options.”

 

by Chris Tachibana

 

healthy findings blog

MsFLASH to continue helping women manage menopause

The MsFLASH research network has renewed funding to study healthy ways to reduce menopause symptoms. Dr. Katherine Newton tells what we've learned so far. 

Read it in Healthy Findings.