Mar 4, 2022
WOMEN OF COLOR AND MENOPAUSE
Menopause = A natural decline in reproductive hormones when a woman reaches her 40s and 50s. Many symptoms become present and vary from individual.
Studies suggest that women of color reach menopause earlier and experience more intense symptoms compared with white women.
Each woman’s experience with menopause is unique. Some women are in full menopause and not even aware they are in the throws of such a life-changing time. Other women suffer in ways that are totally debilitating. However, results from the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN) show that women of color usually experience perimenopause and menopause at earlier ages than their white peers, have longer transition periods, and experience more intense hot flashes and vaginal symptoms. Women of color may also be at a higher risk of gastrointestinal issues, bloating, and nausea during menopause.
If you experience significant gastrointestinal problems – diarrhea, nausea, or stomach pain, follow up with your physician. It could be a complication of menopause.
Early-onset menopause can also be reasons for biological effects of menopause – bone density decline, increase in fat mass, decrease in muscle, increase in cholesterol. Knowing that Black women are likely to have longer and worse menopausal symptoms does her a disservice. Your clinician might tend to minimize the impact of your symptoms and might be less likely to offer you hormone therapy or other treatments.
One way to assist your physician is to track how long your symptoms last and any differences in the symptoms from month to month. Request a bone density screening, and other tests related to menopausal decline once discussed with your physician.
Physicians and researchers are not entirely sure for the reasons behind the disparity in menopause experiences, but researchers believe it has to do with a specific type of wear and tear on the body – a term “allostatic load”. The body is constantly trying to maintain homeostasis, maintain your blood pressure, heart rate, blood glucose level, and more. When you are faced with life’s challenges, these things tend to go up or rise. There are long-term negative consequences of responding too often which is “allostatic load”; hence; the stress response systems get worn down.
Chronic stressors can lead to early-onset menopause. Having the ability to calm yourself down, take breaks, vacations, do things that eliminate stress are extremely important for your overall health, but plays a vital role in regulating menopause and its beginning stages and severity or non-severity in your life. Take advantage of some of the things in your community you have access to that help you reduce stress. Create an environment in your home that reduces stress.
Since women of color more often experience the trauma that goes with racism and poverty, the thinking goes that this leads to a more allostatic load and is causing the disparity in menopause outcomes.
What can you do? Advocate for your health. Many clinicians/physicians still don’t know about symptoms in different types of women so advocate for yourself! Bring a list of your symptoms to your doctor’s office visit. Request your physician to sit down with you and have a conversation about your concerns. Not having a conversation could indicate that your physician is assuming your symptoms are light and not of any concern and manageable.
Getting all of your concerns out in the open is the road to managing your menopause and the start of learning what is best for you!
By: Eden Barbee-Mabry / (@gardenonthegram – IG/ @EdenJBe – Twitter)
Eden Barbee-Mabry is an Education Support Analyst with the State of Georgia. Eden is a native of Kalamazoo, Michigan, and was led to relocate to Atlanta, Georgia after graduating from Clark Atlanta University in 1988. Eden joined Black Girls Run! in Spring of 2016 and graduated from the Walk B4 You Run program in June of 2016 and is currently Run Lead for the Fairburn, Georgia group. Eden is a purse lover and strives to inspire every woman because her belief is that although the circumstances may be different, every woman can extract strength from another woman’s story.