A woman’s body is amazingly complex and delicate. Multiple roles as the mother, daughter, wife, homemaker, wage earner is physically and mentally quite taxing. We have tried to put focus on some major health issues in women.
Although some loss of bone density is a natural part of aging, certain women are at higher risk for developing very porous bones and bone fractures associated with osteoporosis. Women who are thin or have a small frame are at higher risk Osteoporosis, which means “porous bones,” is a condition that causes bones to gradually thin and weaken, leaving them susceptible to fractures. About 1.5 million fractures occur each year due to osteoporosis. Although all bones can be affected by the disease, the bones of the spine, hip, and wrist are most likely to break. In elderly people, hip fractures can be particularly dangerous because the prolonged immobility required during the healing process can lead to blood clots or pneumonia, both of which can have fatal consequences. For women, the loss of bone density speeds up during the first five to seven years after menopause and then slows down again. Scientists believe that this rapid postmenopausal increase in bone loss is caused by a sharp decline in the body’s production of estrogen, which appears to help keep calcium in the bones.
Bone’s Density Test for Osteoporosis:
A bone density test measures a small part of one or a few bones to evaluate the strength of your bones and the potential risk for osteoporosis. The bones most commonly measured by a bone density test include the hip, the spine, and the heel. The most widely used bone density test is the DXA test of the hip and lower spine. DXA stands for dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. The DXA test is painless and takes about 10 minutes. It uses only a fraction of the radiation needed for a chest X-ray. Your doctor can order the DXA bone density test and give you your T-score, which represents the overall strength of your bone. A T-score is a measurement of how you compare to young adults of the same sex and race. If you fall below average, the T-score will be a negative number. A T-score between -1 and -2.5 indicates low bone mass, a condition called osteopenia, which is mild thinning of bone. It is not, however, as severe as osteoporosis. A T-score below -2.5 (for example, -3) indicates your bone mass is more than 2.5 times thinner than that of a young adult. This is a sign that you have osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis Prevention Tips:
Osteoporosis usually strikes after menopause. But you can take action now to avoid it with the osteoporosis prevention tips.
Importance of Regular Exercise to prevent Osteoporosis:
It’s recommended that adults get at least 30 minutes of exercise each day to strengthen bones and prevent osteoporosis. Weight-bearing exercises force your body to resist gravity and stimulate cells in the body that make new bone. Strength training causes the muscles to pull on the bone. This results in increased bone strength. Strength training also increases flexibility and reduces the likelihood of falling — the number-one risk factor for hip fracture.
The following examples of weight-bearing and strengthening exercises can help keep your bones strong
- Climbing stairs
- Tai chi
- Water aerobics
These exercises will not only help you improve your muscle strength, they will also help strengthen your bones
- Lifting canned goods or bags of groceries
- Lifting free weights
- Lifting young children
- Using ankle and wrist weights
- Using an elastic resistance band
- Using weight machines
- Using your own weight as resistance
Why are Calcium and Vitamin D important for strong bones?
If you don’t get enough calcium every day through diet or supplements, your body will be deficient of this mineral. Then your body will break down the bones to replenish them and bone loss will increase. You can get ample calcium from any of the following
- Low-fat or fat-free dairy products
- Calcium-fortified juices and food
- Sardines with bones
- Certain vegetables
- Soy products
- Calcium supplements
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. It helps your body absorb calcium into the bloodstream. When your body is depleted of vitamin D or has an insufficient supply, the blood levels of calcium plummet.
Vitamin D can be obtained through minimal sun exposure (10 minutes a day) and from your diet.
What is a menstrual cycle?
The menstrual cycle is the series of changes a woman’s body goes through to prepare for a pregnancy. About once a month, the uterus grows a new lining (endometrium) to get ready for a fertilized egg When there is no fertilized egg to start a pregnancy, the uterus sheds its lining. This is the monthly menstrual bleeding (also called the menstrual period) that women have from their early teen years until menopause, around age 50. The menstrual cycle is from Day 1 of bleeding to Day 1 of the next time of bleeding. Although the average cycle is 28 days, it is normal to have a cycle that is shorter or longer. Girls usually start having menstrual periods between the ages of 11 and 14. Women usually start to have fewer periods between ages 39 and 51. Women in their 40s and teens may have cycles that are longer or change a lot. If you are a teen, your cycles should even out with time. If you are nearing menopause, your cycles will probably get longer and then will stop.
What controls the menstrual cycle?
Your hormones control your menstrual cycle. The hormones estrogen and progesterone play the biggest roles in how the uterus changes during each cycle.
- Estrogen builds up the lining of the uterus.
- Progesterone increases after an ovary release an egg (ovulation) at the middle of the cycle. This helps the estrogen keep the lining thick and ready for a fertilized egg.
- A drop in progesterone (along with estrogen) causes the lining to break down. This is when your period starts.
A change in hormone levels can affect your cycle or fertility. For example, teens tend to have low or changing progesterone levels. This is also true for women close to menopause. That is why teens and women in their 40s may have heavy menstrual bleeding and cycles that change in length. Other things can change your cycle. They include birth control pills, low body fat, losing a lot of weight, or being overweight. Stress or very hard exercise also can change your cycle. Pregnancy is the most common cause of a missed period.
What common symptoms are linked to the menstrual cycle?
Some women have no pain or other problems. But other women have symptoms before and during their periods. For about a week before a period, many women have some premenstrual symptoms. You may feel more tense or angry. You may gain water weight and feel bloated. Your breasts may feel tender. You may get acne. You also may have less energy than usual. A day or two before your period, you may start having pain (cramps) in your belly, back, or legs. These symptoms go away during the first days of a period. When your ovary releases an egg in the middle of your cycle, you may have pain in your lower belly. You also might have red spotting for less than a day. Both are normal.
How can women take care of bleeding and symptoms?
You can use pads or tampons to manage to bleed. Whichever you use, be sure to change the pad or tampon at least every 4 to 6 hours during the day. Pads may be best at night. Many women can improve their symptoms by getting regular exercise and eating a healthy diet. Try to reduce stress. A heating pad, hot water bottle, or warm bath also can help with cramps. You can take an over-the-counter medicine such as ibuprofen or naproxen before and during your period to reduce pain and bleeding.
Menstrual Cycle Disorders
Menstrual cycle disorders make their presence known through a myriad of physical and emotional symptoms. Read the following questions about the signs and symptoms of menstrual cycle disorders. How many questions you can answer with a “yes?”
- Do the days before your period make you wish you could just stay in bed?
- Do you crave salty or sweet foods like potato chips and candy the days before you bleed?
- Have you been bleeding or spotting between periods?
- Are your periods so unpredictable you can’t make plans?
- Is it difficult, even impossible, to button or zip your clothes shortly before your period starts?
- Do you sometimes feel so bloated just before menstruating that you wonder if your scale is broken when it doesn’t say you’ve gained ten pounds?
- Has it been so long since you had your last period you aren’t sure what month, or season it was?
- Do you have frequent menstrual cycles less than 21 days apart?
- Is your period so light that you’re not even sure you’re menstruating?
- Do you change tampons or pads so often you’re thinking of buying stock in the company that makes them?
- Do you have more headaches, or migraines, when your period’s due?
- Do you have periods that last longer than seven days?
- Do you have regular menstrual cycles that are more than 35 days, or 5 weeks, apart?
- Do pelvic pains or cramps warn you when your period’s going to start?
- Do menstrual cramps feel worse than childbirth: or at least worse than the way, you imagine labor pains might feel?
- Do you have constipation or diarrhea every time you start your period?
- Do you have pelvic pain that occurs around the time you ovulate?
- Do you feel anxious or panicky just before menstruation?
- Do you go from happy to mad to sad and back again often before your period?
- Does your family seem to get on your nerves more often the last week or so before menstrual bleeding begins?
- Do you ever find yourself screaming at the people you love when your period is near?
- Have you noticed your spouse, significant other, or other family members seem busier with away from home activities more often when it’s close your next period?
- Do the people you work with seem to hassle you the week or two before your period?
- Have you ever hastily quit your job just before menstruation begins?
- Do you feel angry more often when you’re expecting your period soon?
- Do you ever cry over trivial matters, things that you’d normally never cry about, in the days before you menstruate?
- Do you feel sadness before your period starts that goes away once menstruation begins?
- Do you find it difficult or impossible to get out of bed the day before, or on Day 1 of your menstrual cycle when menstruation begins?
- Do you ever feel so depressed just before your period starts that you’re not even sure you want to live?
- Do you feel your best within the first few days of your menstrual cycle, and continue feeling good until about halfway through your menstrual cycle when you slowly notice you’re not feeling so great again?
If you answered “yes” to even one of these questions, you might have a menstrual cycle disorder. Menstrual cycle disorders can cause all of these symptoms, as well as others. For example, premenstrual syndrome or PMS, and the more severe form of premenstrual dysphoric disorder can cause many of the physical and emotional symptoms described in the previous questions.
Abnormal uterine bleeding, a menstrual cycle disorder, causes many of the types of abnormal bleeding patterns referred to in these questions. In fact, several different types of abnormal bleeding patterns fall under the diagnosis of abnormal uterine bleeding. A diagnosis of abnormal uterine bleeding includes amenorrhea and oligomenorrhea – both of these types of abnormal uterine bleeding refer to the absence of menstruation. There are two types of amenorrhea. Primary amenorrhea occurs when menarche doesn’t occur by age 16. You may receive a diagnosis of secondary amenorrhea if you have had periods previously, but haven’t menstruated for several months. Oligomenorrhea occurs when your menstrual cycles last longer than 35 days.
Benign uterine fibroid tumors depend on estrogen – a female sex hormone produced by the endocrine system glands – to grow and develop. The female gonads, or the ovaries, produce the estrogen that uterine fibroid tumors need to grow and develop. Irregular bleeding is a common symptom in women who have uterine fibroid tumors. While the symptoms of uterine fibroid tumors can be unpleasant, the good news is that because the tumors are estrogen-dependent fibroids often shrink and disappear as estrogen levels decline at menopause. It is extremely rare for uterine fibroid tumors to be malignant, or cancerous, hence the name benign uterine fibroid tumors. The medical term for fibroid tumors is leiomyomas.
Treatment for Menstrual Cycle Disorders
Menstrual cycle disorders include a number of types of abnormal bleeding patterns, as well as premenstrual syndrome or PMS, premenstrual dysphoric disorder or PMDD, and dysmenorrhea or menstrual cramps. Treatments for menstrual cycle disorders range from things as simple as starting an exercise program to help relieve menstrual cramps or the symptoms of PMS or PMDD or taking over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen for dysmenorrhea, to something as life-changing as having a hysterectomy for uterine fibroid tumors.
Abnormal Uterine Bleeding
If you’re experiencing abnormal uterine bleeding or AUB, several factors play a role in determining the appropriate treatment. These factors include the type of abnormal uterine bleeding you’re experiencing, the underlying cause, your age, and whether you desire future pregnancies. Treatments for abnormal uterine bleeding include high doses of conjugated equine estrogens for severe, acute bleeding; hormonal contraceptives such as The Pill, the patch, and the vaginal ring for amenorrhea, menorrhagia, and other types of abnormal uterine bleeding; and surgical procedures such as dilation and curettage or D&C for severe, acute bleeding, endometrial ablation; and a hysterectomy when other treatments have failed to provide effective relief of symptoms and future childbearing is not an issue.
Hormonal Treatments for Menstrual Cycle Disorders
Hormonal contraceptives including The Pill, the patch, the vaginal ring, and the Mirena IUD offer effective relief for many women from menstrual cycle disorders including PMS, PMDD, dysmenorrhea, anovulatory bleeding, and women who experience heavy menstrual bleeding, as well as other types of abnormal bleeding patterns.
While ibuprofen is often effective for reducing menstrual cramps, you may not be aware that ibuprofen can also help to reduce blood loss as
much as 20% to 50%. Other NSAIDs or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as naproxen also provide effective relief of menstrual cramps. Alternative self-help measures that may relieve menstrual cramps include heat in the pelvic region and regular exercise.
PMS and PMDD
Oral contraceptives are the preferred treatment for PMS among most physicians. However, several other therapies can provide effective relief from the symptoms of PMS and PMDD. These include
- Eating a diet rich in complex carbohydrates
- Cutting out things that can make symptoms worse such as caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, salt, and refined sugar
- Taking supplements and/or increasing dietary sources of vitamins and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, B6, and vitamin E
- Antidepressants such as fluoxetine or sertraline
- Anti-anxiety medication
- Diuretics such as spironolactone for fluid retention and/or bloating
- Short-term therapy that lasts no longer than six months with GnRH agonists such as Lupron in combination with estrogen or estrogen-progestin therapy. While some women claim to get relief from the symptoms of PMS by using herbal supplements and natural hormones such as evening primrose oil and natural progesterone, the bulk of current scientific evidence does not support the use of either of these commonly used products. Finally, while exercise is not a treatment for abnormal uterine bleeding, it often effectively relieves the symptoms of PMS and / or PMDD, as well as helping to reduce menstrual cramping as previously mentioned. In fact, taking a 20- to 30-minute walk just three times weekly provides several other benefits to your health such as:
- Increasing the chemicals in your brain which are responsible for mood and energy
- Decreasing levels of stress and anxiety
- Improving sleep quality
- Reducing your risk for a number of diseases including heart disease and several types of cancer.
Natural Remedies for Menstrual Cramps
If you are experiencing symptoms of menstrual cramps, Here are some of the more popular natural remedies for menstrual cramps.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, and anchovies. They are also available in capsules, which may be the preferable form because many brands filter out any pollutants in fish, such as mercury and PCBs. At least eight studies involving a total of 1,097 women have investigated the relationship between diet and menstrual cramps and have found that Omega-3 Fatty Acids intake seemed to have a positive effect on menstrual cramps. It decreases prostaglandin levels. The results suggested that the women experienced significantly fewer menstrual cramps when they were taking the Omega-3 Fatty Acids. These capsules are sold in drug stores, health food stores, and online.
- Magnesium: Magnesium is a mineral found naturally in foods such as green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. It is also available as a nutritional supplement. Magnesium is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions. It helps to regulate blood sugar levels and is needed for normal muscle and nerve function, heart rhythm, immune function, blood pressure, and bone health.
High doses of magnesium may cause diarrhea, nausea, loss of appetite, muscle weakness, difficulty breathing, low blood pressure, irregular heart rate, and confusion. It can interact with certain medications, such as those for osteoporosis, high blood pressure (calcium channel blockers), as well as some antibiotics, muscle relaxants, and diuretics.
- Acupressure: Acupressure is a traditional healing practice that is based on the same principles as acupuncture. Instead of applying needles to acupuncture points, pressure is applied. A point that is often recommended by acupuncturists for menstrual cramps is called Spleen 6. Although there are only preliminary studies on acupressure for menstrual cramps, it is a simple home remedy that is often recommended by alternative practitioners.
To find the point, acupuncturists suggest feeling the bony point of the inner ankle. From that point, draw an imaginary line up the lower calf from the inner ankle. The point is approximately four finger widths from the inner ankle. It isn’t on the shin bone, but just beside it towards the back of the calf.
With your thumb or middle finger at a 90-degree angle to the skin, apply gradually increasing pressure. Hold for three minutes. The pressure should not be painful or uncomfortable. Acupressure to the Spleen 6 points should not be done if you are pregnant. It should also not be done over broken or infected skin.
Eating light, frequent meals and following a diet that is rich in complex carbohydrates (whole grains, fruits, and vegetables) and low in salt, sugar, alcohol, and caffeine also helps reduce painful menstruation for some women. It’s especially important for women who experience bloating or fluid retention during menstruation to lower their salt consumption, since excess salt intake can cause fluid retention. Regular physical activity works wonders at reducing many of the symptoms of PMS, including menstrual cramps. If you’re under stress, like many of us are, relax your body and mind through meditation oryoga.
Anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, which are available without a prescription, often provide effective relief from painful menstrual cramps. If you have PMS as well as menstrual cramps, you may want to try taking supplements such as vitamin B complex, essential fatty acids, calcium, and magnesium. The following supplemental amounts are in addition to the amount in a daily multi-vitamin and mineral supplement, which all women should take regularly
1200 mg of calcium in two divided doses.
250 mg of magnesium (If you experience constipation or diarrhea while taking magnesium, talk to your doctor. You may need to increase or
decrease the amount of magnesium you take.)
Supplemental vitamin B6 varies from 50 to 200 mg
50 mg of vitamin B1
Natural Remedies for Menstrual Cramps