By: Red Hot Mamas
Published: September 18, 2023
Dear Red Hot Mamas,
Menopause Awareness Month is celebrated each year in September. This celebration is very important to the Red Hot Mamas organization because we hope to raise awareness about the importance of having accurate information about menopause.
Here are some basic menopause definitions and facts:
There are four phases that are related to menopause. These are premenopause, perimenopause, menopause, and post menopause.
Let’s briefly look at each.
Premenopause is the time between the first menstrual period and the last menstrual period. You still have menstrual periods, and you are in your reproductive years. You have no symptoms of perimenopause or menopause.
Perimenopause is the time when a woman’s body begins to change in preparation for menopause. During this time, the ovary’s production of hormones (estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone) decreases. This can cause irregular periods and other symptoms. Symptoms usually begin in the mid-40s. These symptoms can last for as little as a few months and as long as 8 years. It is important to know that despite the sharp drop in estrogen, it is still possible to get pregnant.
Some Typical Perimenopause Symptoms May Include:
- Irregular periods
- Periods that are heavier or lighter than normal
- Breast tenderness
- Weight gain
- Hot flashes
- Heart palpitations
- Mood changes
- Difficulty concentrating
- Vaginal dryness
- Lowered sexual desire
- Hair changes
Menopause is the time that marks the end of your menstrual cycles. It’s diagnosed after you’ve gone 12 months without a menstrual period. Menopause can happen in your 40s or 50s, but the average age is 51 in the United States.
Menopause can also be triggered by a hysterectomy or surgical removal of the ovaries, which produce hormones. If you have surgery to remove your uterus or ovaries and are not taking hormones, you will experience symptoms of menopause immediately.
Premature Menopause… Some Causes Include:
Premature (early) menopause is menopause that occurs before age 40. Women who have a family history of premature menopause are genetically more susceptible to starting menopause early. Premature menopause can also result from:
- Surgical Removal of the uterus, ovaries, or both. A hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus) that also involves removal of both ovaries (bilateral oophorectomy) causes immediate menopause. Women who have a hysterectomy but keep one or both ovaries do experience immediate menopause in the sense that their menstrual cycles stop. But until their ovaries fail, generally close to the time this normally occurs, they will not have other common symptoms associated with menopause caused by a lack of estrogen.
- Cancer Treatments. Some types of cancer radiation and chemotherapy treatments can induce menopause.
- Medical Conditions. Certain autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis and Graves’ disease, can cause premature menopause. Genetic disorders such as Turner syndrome that cause ovarian abnormalities can also predispose to early menopause.
Menopause can cause a range of physical and emotional changes, such as hot flashes, vaginal changes, and mood swings. Every woman will have a different experience.
About 20% of women have no symptoms at all, while 60% have mild to moderate symptoms. The remaining 20% have severe symptoms that interfere with their daily life.
Physical symptoms may include:
- irregular periods
- hot flashes and night sweats
- sleep problems
- exhaustion and fatigue
- dry vagina
- loss of sex drive (libido)
- headaches or migraines
- aches and pains
- urinary problems
- weight gain
Emotional symptoms may include:
- feeling irritable or frustrated
- feeling anxious
- difficulty concentrating
- mood swings
If any of your physical or emotional menopause-related symptoms cause you anxiety or negatively impact your quality of life or daily functioning, discuss them with your healthcare provider.
Postmenopause is the phase of life that follows the final menstrual period. These are the years after menopause. Menopausal vasomotor symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats usually ease. Postmenopausal hot flashes are caused by decreased estrogen levels. It is not uncommon to experience a random hot flash for years after menopause.
But health risks related to the loss of estrogen increase as you get older.
Let’s look at some of these risks:
Cardiovascular Disease – Women in post menopause are at an increased risk for cardiovascular disease.
What Can You Do to Prevent Cardiovascular Disease?
Eat a healthy diet, not smoking and getting regular exercise are your best options to prevent heart disease. Treating elevated blood pressure and diabetes as well as maintaining cholesterol levels are also ways to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. Maintain a healthy weight.
Osteoporosis – Postmenopausal women are also at great risk of developing osteoporosis. Women lose bone more rapidly after menopause due to decreased levels of estrogen. You may lose up to 25% of your bone density after menopause (approximately 1% to 2% per year). When too much bone is lost, it increases your risk of bone fractures. The bones of the hip, wrist, and spine are most affected. Bone mineral density testing, also called bone densitometry, is used to detect osteoporosis and osteopenia, a precursor to osteoporosis.
What Can You Do to Prevent Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis isn’t entirely preventable, but you can take steps to strengthen your bones. First of all, if there is a history of osteoporosis in your family, consult with your clinician. Eating foods high in calcium like cheese, yogurt, spinach, or fortified cereals can help boost calcium intake. Adding a calcium supplement can also help. Some people also need a vitamin D supplement because it helps their body absorb calcium.
What Can You Do to Stay Healthy After Menopause?
First, recognize that menopause is a natural transition, just as puberty was for you. Realize that this is a time of change, not just with your body, but also with your life. It is important that you have a clinician that listens to you and that is up to date on the lasted menopause information. The Menopause Society (www.menopause.org) has a list of menopause clinicians in your area. It is also necessary to re-evaluate your lifestyle. You need to incorporate a healthy lifestyle which can help you make the best of the years after menopause.
Here Are Some Ways to Stay Healthy at Menopause and Beyond:
- Nutrition—Eating a balanced diet will help you stay healthy before, during, and after menopause. Be sure to include enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet to help maintain strong bones.
- Exercise—Regular exercise slows down bone loss and improves your overall health. Weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, can help keep bones strong. Strength training strengthens your muscles and bones by resisting against weight, such as your own body, an exercise band, or handheld weights. Balance training, such as yoga and tai chi, may help you avoid falls, which could lead to broken bones.
- Routine health care—Visit your health care professional once a year to have regular exams and tests. Dental checkups and eye exams are important, too. Routine health care visits, even if you are not sick, can help detect problems early.
- And lastly, be patient with yourself. Find ways to relax and reduce your stress. Take time out for yourself and do things that make you feel good about yourself.
In closing, during Menopause Awareness Month, gather as much information as you can about menopause and collaboratively work with your healthcare provider so that you are better able to make the best choices for your health.
Good Health to You All,