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Hour-long talk on menopause well-attended, appreciated

Nobody really understands menopause," Dr. Terry Stanford told the crowd of women attending last week's "Preparing for Menopause" presentation at Sunnyside Community Hospital.

Stanford explained that only in the last 100 years or so have women lived long enough to regularly experience menopause, making it a relatively new field of study for medicine.

Menopause is defined as when ovaries stop making estrogen, and happens to women any time between ages 40 and 60, though more commonly to women between 45 and 55 years old. The average age for the onset of menopause is 51 years old.

Stanford gave a list of the most common symptoms of menopause, starting with hot flashes, which are called night sweats if the woman is sleeping when they occur. She described how the body becomes flushed for a few moments, resulting in a lower overall temperature.

Another symptom of menopause that surprised some of the women attending is severe back itch. Weight gain and sleep apnea were other symptoms women in the group recognized.

Many of the audience members nodded along with the presentation and later shared their own experiences in dealing with menopause.

Stanford said that doctors used to think providing menopausal women with estrogen would help, but it turned out to raise the risk of other diseases. Now it's only prescribed for three to five years.

Only a handful of medicines help women to cope with the symptoms of menopause. Some anti-depressants can help, but most of the advice was to drink water, exercise daily and take calcium and vitamin D supplements.

"We all have low vitamin D levels up here," she said. She also said it is important for menopausal women to quit smoking.

After the presentation, audience members asked questions and got advice. Stanford, who is menopausal, shared her own experiences with the group.

In the end, she said accepting yourself for what you are will get people through menopause with a good attitude.

"I know I'm never going to look good in a bikini again, and I'm okay with that," she said.

The presentation was part of a new initiative by Sunnyside Community Hospital to give the public more access to the expertise of the hospital's physicians.

Presentations will be held once a month at the hospital on different subjects. Call Sandra Linde at 837-1313 for more information.

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