A woman with a red umbrella walks into a hurricane.
Find your way through the menopause storm with an overall health and wellness approach. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

So many women come into the office and share now familiar symptoms.

“Why am I gaining weight?”

“I do not feel like myself!”

“How do I avoid a heart attack so I do not suffer like my mom?!”

“I am afraid to go out in the winter because I do not want to break a hip.”

“How do I deal with all of my stress?!”

Women’s health is different than men’s health and the topic deserves research and attention to better recognize and offer the best prevention and treatment options to women.

Menopause symptoms are important to understand and treat as these symptoms can be a sign more is going on under the surface.

Low estrogen causes hot flashes, night sweats and vaginal dryness. It also accelerates development of heart disease, bone loss, diabetes and obesity.

Emotional changes can be a sign of the existence of a high level of stress from handling kids and aging parents. Or this can be a red flag symptom of changing levels of brain chemicals, less sleep and a need for improved coping tools.

Women who cope well with life and body changes have three things in common:

1. They believe they deserve to be happy.

2. They keep a support network around them.

3. They ask for help when they need it.

A patient I’ll call Katie came to us because she was facing the perfect storm of menopause and felt like it was a hurricane.

She had all the symptoms—hot flashes, night sweats, irritability, insomnia, bladder urgency and low sex drive.

She no longer felt motivated to get up early to exercise and ate cookies at 3 p.m. to stay awake.

She and her husband argued about minor things, especially about how to deal with their son who was failing his class. Her mom, who’d suffered a stroke, fell and broke her hip in the assisted living center.

Work seemed crazy as her boss had left and she had to do both their jobs until a replacement could be found.

She came to us at Midlife, Menopause & Sexual Health and said, “I do not even know where to start! My life is a mess.”

Katie came to us because she heard we could help with hot flashes. We certainly could offer meds and call it a day, but we see such a situation as an opportunity to become her partner in her health and consider all options.

This included a practical plan for a healthy lifestyle using the SEEDS, tracking and treating her symptoms, and assessing her health risks for bone loss, stroke and heart attack.

We also know emotional health is a big part of healthy aging. We support this facet of wellness by listening, discussing how the SEEDS can support the body and mind, and also having a team that includes a psychotherapist who can help our patients cope with strong emotions.

Three months later, Katie had improved sleep, better moods, only a rare hot flash, and she and her husband had a plan worked out with their son. Her mom had started to heal and feel better, and she was excelling in her new role at work.

Further, she ate better, took her vitamin D and calcium, and made time for small bursts of exercise. She no longer needing cookies to stay awake.

Best of all, she had a plan to reduce her risk of stroke, heart attack and bone loss.

Her hurricane of menopause had passed and life returned to smooth sailing.