Cougars on the Loose!

10/27/2011 03:48 pm ET | Updated Dec 27, 2011
  • Ellen Dolgen Outspoken women’s health and wellness advocate, menopause awareness expert, author, and speaker

I grew up in the foothills of Tucson, Arizona for most of my life. I was taught that cougars were something to stay away from -- beautiful yet dangerous beasts of the high desert!

Today "cougar" has a whole new meaning. Cougars are middle-aged shmirshkies who are interested in dating or marrying younger men ("shmirshky", pronounced SHMERSH-KEY, is a playful name for vagina and the women who possess them). We have cougar dating sites, mugs, T-shirts and TV shows like "Desperate Housewives" and "Cougar Town" depicting older women with younger men. If you ask me, "Cougar Town" should change the title of the show to something more comfortable, like "Friends with Beverages" or "The Drinking Age." Apparently, the show's impending name change is quite the hot topic.

Thanks to cougars like Jennifer Aniston, Demi Moore, Madonna, and Halle Berry, the media is embracing the idea -- or rather, the FACT--that women are fabulous in their 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond! So what happens when the cougar collides with perimenopause? Perimenopause usually begins between the ages of 38-48. It is the 6- to 10-year symptom-laden time before you reach menopause, which is when your period stops for a full year (FYI, there are roughly 34 perimenopause and menopause symptoms). The average age for menopause is 51. The question is...

Cougars or menopause: Which is going to take the first bite?

Relax! Take it from me, there's no need to lose the tigress inside you. Perimenopause and menopause (PM&M for short!) present their challenges, but you can still be sexy, exciting and excitable! OK, I know you're hot, but no cougar wants to be suffering from a hot flash while having a quiet, romantic dinner for two.

Here are some very easy tips:

Be sure you have a PM&M specialist to guide you. While all good gynecologists are familiar with menopause, there are gynecologists and healthy aging doctors who specialize in PM&M.

Trust how you feel. Listen to your body -- it will talk to you. If you are experiencing sleepless nights (not the ones caused by passionate, nonstop lovemaking), memory loss, irritability, anxiety, depression, the dreaded crashing libido, or a shmirshky that seems to have taken a trip to the desert (I am not talking about Las Vegas), don't hide your shmirshky under a bush. DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!

Get the help and support you deserve! There are about 34 symptoms of PM&M. Start keeping track of yours. I put together a daily symptoms chart to make it easy to track and record hot flashes, sleepless nights, body changes, and the other joys of menopause. Take it to your appointment with your menopause specialist to help you communicate your symptoms easily and clearly. In addition, ask your specialist for the various tests that you may need, such as a hormone panel, a bone density test, or a thyroid workup. Every woman's needs are different and there is no one-size-fits-all solution for hormone happiness. However, with these tools your doctor will be better able to create a customized plan just for you.

Cougar or not, we all deserve to feel sexy, alive and vibrant! I like to think of myself as a sleek, beautiful, and sometimes dangerous "cougar" (even though my lover/husband of 34 years is 4 years older than I am!).

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