Menopause is described as the permanent cessation of menstruation. This occurs as early as age 40 or as late as age 55 and usually spans 1 to 2 years. Menopause is normally diagnosed in females after 1 year of absent periods. Menopause is only one event in the “climacteric”, a biological change in body tissue and body systems that occurs in both sexes between the mid-40’s and mid-60’s. Menopause occurring before age 40 is termed premature and may need medical evaluation for the cause.
Frequent Signs and Symptoms of Menopause
Physical changes directly associated with decreased blood levels of female hormones:
- Menstrual irregularity
- Hot flashes or flushes (sensations of heat spreading from the waist or chest toward the neck, face and upper arms.)
- Headaches, dizziness, rapid irregular heartbeat
- Vaginal itching or burning, or discomfort during intercourse
- Bloating in the upper abdomen
- Bladder irritability
- Breast tenderness
- Mood changes, pronounced tension and anxiety, insomnia, depression
Menopause is a normal process, not an illness. Most women make an easy transition without crisis. However, there is an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and osteoporosis after menopause.
Treatment of Menopause
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
Because hormone treatment has benefits as well as risks, learn all you can about replacement therapy before deciding on treatment. HRT helps prevent osteoporosis and coronary heart disease, and brings relief to symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness.
Active exercise is beneficial. Weight bearing activities, such as walking, are helpful in maintaining bone strength. Calcium intake should also be increased for bone health.