If you’ve got any questions or maybe you’re wondering about the myths surrounding the menopause, this should clue you in before you visit your doctor.
So the first question here is basically, what is the menopause?
Women past a certain age will experience menopause, which is defined as having no menstrual periods for one year. The age you experience it can vary, but typically this occurs in your late 40s or early 50s.
Menopause can cause many changes to your body. These symptoms are the result of your body decreasing the production of estrogen and progesterone in your ovaries.
So some of the main symptoms are the most famous ones too, like hot flashes, weight gain, or vaginal dryness. Menopause can also increase your risk for certain conditions later in life, like osteoporosis.
Some women find getting through menopause requires little medical attention, but others will need to discuss symptoms and treatment options with a doctor.
Here are 11 things every woman should know about menopause.
1. What age will I be when start menopause?
On average, women who start menopause are 51 years of age. The majority of women stop having periods somewhere between the age of 45 and 55.
But the beginning stages can begin years before that in some women, while others will continue their periods into their late 50s.
The age of menopause is thought to be determined genetically, but if you’re a smoker or you’ve had chemotherapy, these can accelerate ovary decline, resulting in earlier menopause.
2. What’s the difference between perimenopause and menopause?
Perimenopause is the period of time right before menopause begins.
During perimenopause, your body is beginning to transition into menopause, with hormone production from your ovaries beginning to decline. You may begin to experience some symptoms commonly associated with menopause, like hot flashes. You may also notice your menstrual cycle may becoming irregular.
Once your periods completely stop for 12 consecutive months, then you’ve entered menopause.
3. When do I know that I’m having a hot flash?
Oh you’ll know. During a hot flash, you’ll feel your body temperature rise, your skin may even turn red or blotchy. This rush of heat could lead to sweating, heart palpitations, and feelings of dizziness. After the hot flash, you may feel cold.
You can manage them however, by avoid triggers like spicy foods, caffeine, or alcohol. Then you can also talk to your doctor about medications that may help reduce your hot flash symptoms such as birth control pills or hormone therapies.
4. What symptoms are caused by the reduced levels of estrogen in my body?
About 75% of women experience hot flashes during menopause, making them the most common symptom. Hot flashes can occur day or night, with some women also experiencing muscle and joint pain, or mood swings.
It may be difficult to determine whether these symptoms are caused by shifts in your hormones, or other things like life circumstances or ageing.
5. How does menopause affect my bone health?
A decline in estrogen production affects the amount of calcium in your bones, which can decrease bone density, leading to osteoporosis. It can also make you more susceptible to hip, spine, and other bone fractures.
So to keep your bones healthy, try eating foods rich in calcium, such as dairy products or dark leafy greens, take vitamin D supplements and exercise regularly.
You can also try to reduce alcohol and smoking in your habits, and of course consult your doctor.
6. Will I gain weight when I experience menopause?
Changes in your hormone levels could cause you to gain weight, as well as ageing, so many women do experience weight gain in menopause.
7. Is heart disease linked to menopause?
Some women’s arteries become less flexible during the menopause, which affects blood flow, so they might experience heart conditions such as dizziness or cardiac palpitations.
Just continue doing all the common sense things like watching your weight and what you eat, exercising, and not smoking to reduce chances of developing heart conditions.
8. Will I experience the same symptoms as my mother, sister, or friends?
The symptoms of menopause vary from one woman to another, even across members of the same family. How old you are when you start menopause, and how quickly ovary function is affected, differs a lot from person to person. So when it comes to managing the menopause, whatever worked for your mother or for your best friend may not necessarily work for you.
To help you understand your symptoms and to find ways of managing them that work with your lifestyle, talk to your doctor about the menopause.
9. How will I know if I am going through menopause if I’ve had my uterus removed?
If your uterus has been surgically removed through a hysterectomy, you may not actually know you’re going through menopause at all unless you experience hot flashes. It can can be the same if you’ve had surgical treatment for heavy periods in your life.
If you aren’t experiencing any symptoms, a blood test can determine ovary function. That way, doctors can find out your estrogen level, which can tell you and your doctor whether or not you’re at risk of osteoporosis, or at least determine whether or not you need a bone density assessment.
10. Is hormone replacement a safe option for management of menopause?
Several hormone therapies can help with hot flashes and the prevention of bone loss. Benefits and risks vary depending on the severity of your hot flashes and bone loss, and also of your health, so these therapies may not be the right ones for you. You should always consult your doctor before trying any hormone therapies.
11. Are there non-hormonal options?
As we’ve already seen, hormone therapy may not always be the right choice for some women, due to underlying medical conditions or other personal reasons. But changes to your lifestyle can have the same effect, by helping to relieve you of many of your menopause symptoms.
So you can make all the lifestyle changes we’ve seen so far to live a healthier life which can help with the menopause. But there are also alternative treatments which you might find helpful such as herbal therapies, self-hypnosis and acupuncture.
Menopause is just another natural part of a woman’s life cycle. It’s a time when your estrogen and progesterone levels decrease, and mostly there’s nothing you can do about that. Sure, your risk for certain conditions like osteoporosis or cardiovascular disease may increase, but maintaining a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise to avoid unnecessary weight gain will help with most symptoms.
If you experience symptoms that you have trouble management, that affect your ability to function for example, you should always consult your doctor.