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Debunking menopause myths

Dr. Patricia Allen helps clear up some of the biggest misconceptions about 'the change'.

Menopause is inevitable for women, and for some, it is a daunting change. But Dr. Patricia Allen thinks it can be liberating too. She's an obsetritian and gynecologist featured in this month's issue of Vogue magazine. She says menopause need not be shunned. Dr. Allen helps clear up some of the biggest myths about menopause:

Myth #1-  Menopause is a disease
It's not a disease — it's an opportunity! Menopause is unique to each woman — but it is universal to all. You are not going to get out of having it! A positive and honest attitude about approaching menopause is essential. Fasten your seat belts and say, I am having a variation on a universal experience and at the end of it I will emerge more certain of who I am. I will choose who I am.

  • Tip: Have a good attitude and seek support.

Menopause can be very difficult for some women. But with the right attitude, a supportive doctor and friends, you can make it a positive transition. Talk to others! Avoid isolation by choosing positive friends and role models. Talk about ways of reinvention and then you will be less isolated and you will come through this transition just fine. If we are all in denial and ashamed, then we can't talk about what is happening to us in a positive way.Myth #2-  Menopausal women want to be young again
No we don't. We are relishing the present! No we don't want to be in our 20's trying to find a job, a career, a date... No we don't want to be in our 30's trying to get married, have children, have a husband and have it all. It's at 40 that life really begins to be great for women. By 45 most women have children who are very independent. By 50 most women can count on the opportunity to focus on themselves. It' nice to be in our 50's when our children are launched or we have none and that's ok too. We are not looking back. That stage of life is gone — it's the past. It is the present that we live in. We are happily in the "menopausal transition." We may want to look beautiful, but we don't want to be 25 again!

  • Tip: Focus on good health.

Menopause is the marker for focusing on life-long health practices. Good physical and emotional health are essential.

  • Tip: Get in shape.

Menopause is not an excuse to let your body and your appearance go! It is a time to reinvigorate yourself — to take stock, to start fresh. And when you feel better physically, you feel sexier and increase your libido too. Myth #3-  Menopausal women are not sexy
We are sexy, but we may not always feel sexy, so we have to work at it. I say — use it or lose it! Being sexual is nearly always attitudinal. It is a choice. If a woman is emotionally healthy and in a great relationship, she will have to do some work to remain sensual and sexy. It doesn't fall out of the sky. She has to think about it, work at it, but if the marriage is good, I say use it or lose it!

  • Tip: Don't neglect your sexual health.

Work at it! That means tossing the worn-out, bedtime t-shirt and going shopping for some lingerie. Pay attention to your needs and your partner's. And keep in mind that women in menopause have to maintain their genital health: You stop producing estrogen and a side effect is less vaginal lubrication. You may need a prescription from your doctor for vaginal estrogen that helps maintain muscle tone of the vagina and prevents dryness. Myth #4-  Menopause makes you gain weight
Menopause does not make you fat. What you eat makes you fat! I say, if it doesn't go in your mouth, it doesn't go on your body. Weight gain has nothing to do with hormones.

  • Tip: Eat mindfully.

For women and men, as we grow older our metabolism changes and our body shape may change too. The tip is to pay attention to what you eat! Calories count! You have a choice about what you eat and when. Do not eat mindlessly. Pay attention to what you put in your mouth.  I recommend five small meals a day and avoiding sugar, sugar substitutes and alcohol.