For the longest time, all anyone talked about when it came to menopause were hot flashes and weight gain. Now we know there are so many more symptoms, side effects, and challenges women should know about before they enter “The Big Change.” Here we’ve rounded up 10 of the most surprising menopause discoveries we made in 2022.
1. It’s Harder Than Starting A Family
A 2022 survey found that working with menopause symptoms was considered more difficult than starting a family. Employers are at risk of losing high-level talent—and women are being forced to make difficult midlife career choices—because offices typically aren’t very accommodating when it comes to menopause. Some employers, though, are starting to take note and make changes.
2. Burning Mouth What?
Most women entering menopause will experience a constellation of symptoms that range from mood swings to sexual dysfunction. One of the lesser-known symptoms is burning mouth, which often presents as a burning sensation on the tongue, roof of the mouth, or lips. It can also affect the throat.
3. It Even Brought Oprah Down
It doesn’t matter how successful or how strong you are—menopause will likely throw you for a serious loop. Media mogul Oprah Winfrey has done it all over the course of her career, but even she wasn’t prepared for the life-altering transition into menopause. In her late 40s, Winfrey started experiencing some concerning symptoms like sleeplessness and heart palpitations. Her doctor suspected heart disease, but she would soon discover (on her own) that the physical and mental changes she was experiencing were due to menopause. This helped her chart the course to taking her life back, as well as encouraging other women to speak up about their own experiences.
4. Your Pre-Menopause Menstrual Cycles May Help Determine Your Heart Disease Risk
A new study found that women who saw an increase in their cycle length two years before their final menstrual period had better measures of vascular health than those who experienced stable cycle lengths during this time. This means that differences in cycle length could help predict which menopausal women are at greater or lesser risk of cardiovascular disease.
5. Genitourinary Syndrome Is A (Big) Thing
Half of all menopausal women have genitourinary syndrome caused by estrogen loss, which is associated with vaginal dryness and burning, painful sex, painful or difficult urination, discharge, and recurrent urinary tract infections. Despite the overwhelming evidence that this condition affects a large percentage of menopausal women, it’s still underdiagnosed.
6. Foot Massages Are A Great Treatment For Insomnia
Foot massages could serve as a non-hormonal alternative for combatting menopause-induced insomnia. A recent study found that a daily 20-minute foot massage can lead to less fatigue and stress as well as better sleep.
This therapeutic activity can be an effective substitute for melatonin supplements, hormone medications, or just staring at your ceiling and counting sheep.
7. The Reason Why ‘Frozen Shoulder’ Is A Pretty Common Symptom
The loss of estrogen during perimenopause and menopause can lead to a common symptom known as “frozen shoulder.” Dr. Mary Claire Haver, a prolific and popular doctor who uses social media to focus on menopause, explained in a TikTok video that estrogen is an anti-inflammatory hormone. Gradually losing estrogen during midlife causes inflammation that can lead to pain and stiffness in the shoulders. Even Jenny McCarthy chimed in on the post with how she found a remedy to her case of “frozen shoulder.”
8. Menopause Can Make Us Really Mad
One of the lesser-known symptoms of perimenopause is rage. If you’re in your 40s and experiencing bouts of anger, lashing out, and making enemies out of lifelong friends and family members, perimenopausal rage could be to blame.
Mood changes are much more common in perimenopause compared to menopause, which is reached one year after your last normal period. Hormone fluctuation makes perimenopause a time of vulnerability for women. The overwhelming rage some experience may be related to the body’s changes in estrogen levels combined with other stressors.
9. One Particular Type of Menopause-Related Fat Is Worth Worrying About
Visceral fat is the type of menopause-related fat you should worry about, and there’s an easy trick to find out if you’re at risk. Visceral fat is located deep within the abdomen, so it’s not the kind you can pinch with your fingers on your arms, tummy, hips, or butt. Rather, ensuring your waist-to-hip ratio is .85 or less is the way to go.
Scientists believe visceral fat is the culprit behind a variety of diseases and chronic conditions, like cardiovascular disease, dementia, asthma, breast cancer, and colorectal cancer.
10. Those ‘Weird’ Emotional Symptoms Are Actually Pretty Normal
Perimenopause and menopause have a wide range of mental and emotional side effects. When you’re experiencing it, it can feel like you’re crazy, overreacting, or both. Thousands of women on the r/Menopause subreddit have been discussing the emotional toll menopause can take.
Seeking the support of other women can help you feel less lonely during this unfamiliar time in your life.