Almost 50% of Canadian women feel “unprepared” for menopause. What to Expect – National

In her late 40s, Janet Ko began having palpitations, night sweats, and hot flashes 30 times a day, she said.

Fearing heart problems, the Mississauga, Ontario resident saw several doctors, but none had linked her symptoms to perimenopause at the time.

Ko, now 55, said it took several years before she felt healthy before she got the help she needed.

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“I entered menopause in my late 40s, had perimenopause experiences, but I had no idea there was such a thing as perimenopause,” she told Global News.

Hoping other women wouldn’t be so “caught by surprise,” Ko founded the Menopause Foundation of Canada in January 2022 to raise awareness of the hormonal changes affecting nearly half of Canada’s population.

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“We don’t want women to be caught off guard in the prime of their lives,” she said.

“We want women to be given options and choices that will help them navigate their menopause their way,” she said, adding that there are many safe and effective treatments available to women, many of which they are unaware of.

Janet Ko, President and co-founder of the Menopause Foundation of Canada.

Copyright: Kathryn Hollinrake

A new national report released Oct. 6 by the Menopause Foundation of Canada found that nearly 50 percent of women feel unprepared for menopause, while more than half were unaware of common menopausal symptoms.

Of the 41 percent of women in their 40s who sought medical advice, 72 percent found it was of little or no help, the report shows. Almost 40 percent of the women also felt that their symptoms were undertreated.

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dr Wendy Wolfman, a professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Toronto, said it is very important to assess the general health status of women at and during menopause in order to be able to identify risk factors, “silent health problems” and discuss them treatments.

This will improve women’s aging years and quality of life when they are most productive, she said.

“Many of the diseases of aging can actually start in women during perimenopause – so the goal is prevention and trying to optimize health,” Wolfman said.

dr Wendy Wolfman, director of the Menopause and Premature Insufficiency Clinics at Mount Sinai Hospital.

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Most women enter menopause between the ages of 45 and 55 – characterized by not having menstrual periods for a year.

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Wolfman said testing for menopause isn’t really necessary because the diagnosis can be made once a woman starts experiencing menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes, and her periods are lighter.

During menopause, a woman’s ovaries stop producing eggs each month, causing hormone levels to drop.

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Perimenopause is the six to eight year transitional period leading up to menopause, when a woman’s menstrual cycle can become irregular as hormone levels fluctuate.

In Canada, the median age of menopause is 51.5 years. However, according to the Menopause Foundation of Canada, most women are in perimenopause between the ages of 40 and 50.

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And women can continue to have symptoms well into their 60s and 70s, Wolfman said.

In the UK, a parliamentary group recommended this week that women should be invited to a menopause assessment when they turn 45.

Ko said Canada can learn from the example of other countries like Britain to better support women going through menopause and fill the knowledge gap.

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Dispelling common myths about menopause

Women experience a variety of symptoms, both physical and emotional.

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Some of the most common symptoms of menopause include irregular periods, hot flashes, night sweats, headaches, mood swings and joint pain.

Menopausal women can also experience trouble sleeping and a lack of sexual desire, which can occur within about 24 months of their last menstrual period, Wolfman said.

In 50 percent of women, genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM) can cause vaginal dryness, bladder symptoms, pelvic floor effects, as well as sexual repercussions, she said.

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Meanwhile, one of the hallmarks of perimenopause is abnormal uterine bleeding or menstrual changes.

And women may also experience more migraines, headaches, and vaginal discharge during perimenopause.

Long-term health risks such as osteoporosis, diabetes, heart disease and GSM are also associated with menopause.

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“There’s this myth that menopause happens and then you get over it and it’s over,” Ko said.

“So I think it’s really important that we emphasize that menopause is a continuum and that there are health issues that women need to be aware of and focus on with preventive care, lifestyle choices and certainly evidence-based treatment options.” ”

From over-the-counter medications to prescription medications to lifestyle changes, there are multiple ways to manage menopause symptoms.

However, Wolfman said the most effective treatment is hormone therapy, which can be given by pills or transdermally via a patch or gel.

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This treatment is Health Canada approved and administered by prescription. However, women over the age of 70 are at risk of initiating hormone therapy, so they typically don’t get it, Wolfman said.

“We have women who are going through menopause or are in perimenopause, so women in their 50s,” she said.

HRT is taken by mature postmenopausal women.

Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

She said that this type of therapy is safe and effective as long as a woman has no contraindications to starting hormone therapy and is within 10 years of her last period.

Ko said HT was a “lifesaver” for her.

Antidepressants and other drugs like gabapentin, oxybutynin, and clonidine can also treat menopause symptoms, but none work as well as hormone therapy, Wolfman said.

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Yoga is also recommended, but exercise hasn’t proven to be as effective, she said.

“Women spend a lot of money on many therapies that have not really been proven to work. And that’s not really fair to women.” Almost 50% of Canadian women feel “unprepared” for menopause. What to Expect – National

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