Menopause is part of the natural progression of aging in women.
Technically, it is defined as the point where menstruation stops
completely, but the term ‘menopause’ is commonly used to refer
to the entire perimenopausal stage of a woman’s life. Over
the course of a few years, a woman’s body gradually reduces its
production of estrogen, resulting in hot flashes, night sweats,
mood swings and memory loss. Surgical menopause may result
as the consequence of a complete hysterectomy that includes the
removal of both ovaries.
‘average’ age of onset of menopause is about 51, but there’s a
wide variation in actual age of onset and completion of
menopause. The process generally takes about four years,
and is considered complete when a woman has not menstruated in a
estrogen provides protection to a woman’s body, living without
its effects does put a woman more at risk for some serious
medical conditions, including osteoporosis and cardiovascular
disease. Many doctors recommend hormone replacement
therapy to counteract the effects of the lack of estrogen
production, but there are a wide variety of treatments available
to alleviate the symptoms of menopause and the medical
conditions associated with it.
woman is different, and that applies to the symptoms that each
woman experiences as well. There is some evidence that the
symptoms that accompany menopause vary from culture to culture
as well as from person to person. Researchers speculate
that these differences may be caused by cultural differences in
diet, lifestyle and attitudes toward aging. In general,
however, women may experience symptoms that affect the bones,
skin, reproductive and sexual organs, circulatory system and
Symptoms of Menopause:
the perimenopausal stage – the years between the onset of
menstruation and its complete cessation, a woman may experience
any of the following symptoms.
Menstrual bleeding slows, the menstrual cycle becomes
irregular and stops permanently
Periods when the face and chest become flushed, and the body
feels overheated (hot flashes)
Changes to the vaginal walls, which may result in dryness,
lack of lubrication, itching and bleeding after intercourse
hands and feet due to poor circulation and low levels of
hormone in the system
Changes to the urinary system that may include incontinence,
frequent urination, and burning during urination
Insomnia and trouble sleeping in a regular pattern, beyond
that caused by night sweats
changes including irritability, depression and heightened
of elasticity in the skin
estrogen levels may contribute to many other conditions,
various symptoms of menopause are brought on by the gradual
decrease of estrogen in the body. While this usually
happens as part of a gradual, natural process, there are some
things that can bring on sudden menopause. These include,
as stated before, surgical removal of the ovaries, as well as
Smoking may hasten the onset of menopause. There have been
studies that show that women who smoke begin menopause
earlier than women who don’t.
Radiation or chemotherapy may artificially induce menopause.
Premature ovarian failure may cause early onset of
Hypothyroidism may contribute to early onset of menopause.
condition that reduces hormone production by the adrenal
Treatments for Menopause:
Obviously, the goal of treatment in menopause is not to prevent
the condition, but rather to alleviate and control the symptoms
associated with the gradual reduction and cessation of estrogen
production, and to lessen the possibility of long-term
conditions that are associated with menopause. To that
end, health care practitioners recommend treatment strategies
that are preventive, as well as those that treat the conditions
symptomatically as they occur.
of the more controversial but frequently prescribed
treatments to alleviate symptoms and effects of menopause is
replacement of the hormones lost. The specific
hormones used include estrogen (derived from synthetic and
animal sources), progesterone, testosterone and selective
estrogen receptor modulators. Some research suggests that
HRT may increase a woman’s chances of developing breast
cancer and other conditions. Women going through
menopause should discuss all the pros and cons of hormone
replacement therapy and other more natural treatments with
their health care provider.
Health care providers often recommend the following diet,
nutrition and lifestyle changes to help alleviate and
prevent the symptoms of menopause.
Quit smoking. On average, smokers start menopause 1-2
years earlier than non-smokers. Quitting smoking also
reduces the risk of heart disease and osteoporosis
Take calcium supplements can help protect against bone
loss from osteoporosis.
Regular exercise helps reduce the incidence of hot
flashes, mood swings and slows the rate of bone loss. It
also is important in controlling weight, which is
another contributor to the overall severity of menopause
Control cholesterol levels with a low-fat diet.
Avoid caffeine. There are several studies that suggest
the consumption of caffeine may increase the loss of
bone and the incidence of heart disease in