Menopause: Causes and Symptoms
A woman reaches menopause when she has not had a period for 12 months and this usually happens between the ages of 45 and 55 years. It is the time when the function of the ovaries ceases. Menopause can occur as early as the 30s or as late as the 60s. It has been found that women tend to undergo menopause at a similar age to that of their own mothers.
Menopause affects every woman differently. Some have no symptoms at all and just sail through this time in their lives. Others suffer from the well known “hot flushes” & night sweats, vaginal dryness, urinary problems, insomnia, mood swings or memory problems. Treatments are available for alleviating any of the more uncomfortable or distressing of these symptoms so don’t be afraid to seek help if you need it. Even if you do suffer from one or more of these symptoms, they are usually for a comparatively short time and will not last indefinitely.
Two serious conditions can be brought on by menopause - osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease:
- Osteoporosis is the deterioration of the quantity and quality of bone so that there is an increased risk of fracture. Bone mineral density normally begins to decrease in the 40s though it is accelerated during menopause. Osteoporosis treatment and prevention measures include smoking cessation, limiting alcohol, plenty of exercise and adequate calcium and vitamin D intake or supplements. In addition medications are available that can stop bone loss and increase bone strength.
- Cardiovascular disease becomes more of a risk to women after menopause (two to three times higher than before). It is thought that this may due to declining estrogen levels. However, although it is possible to take hormone therapy as a preventive measure, it is not usually thought to be advisable because of other risks from such hormone therapy. Before thinking about embarking on such a program, it is wise to do research and to discuss it thoroughly with your doctor.
Tips to help you through menopause
Many of the symptoms of menopause and the medical conditions that may develop as a result of the menopause can be lessened or even avoided by taking steps to lead a healthy lifestyle:
- Regular exercise can help protect against cardiovascular disease as well as osteoporosis. It is also well known that exercise has mental health benefits.
- Good nutrition with a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as whole grains. Dairy products and dark green vegetables are good for adding calcium to your diet. Plus almonds, sesame seeds, prawns, anchovies, sardines, apricots, figs and dates
- Smoking cessation will reduce your risk of both cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.