Life to Years and Not Years to Life

By: Red Hot Mamas

Published: September 11, 2012

September is being celebrated as Menopause Awareness month. Menopause has been a very important milestone in my life because this process is a wonderful opportunity for me to maximize life with the minimum amount of disability by taking a more proactive approach to my health. Menopause is not to be feared but celebrated and I see it as a time to reinvent myself while moving forward with confidence into the future.

Menopause, the final menstrual period is a natural event in a woman’s life but some women may have a surgical menopause (both ovaries removed). Natural menopause usually occurs between age 45-55 years (average age 51 years). Declining estrogen levels may result in symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, insomnia and irregular menstrual period. The vaginal tissues are very sensitive to the effects of estrogen and over time the lining becomes thin and fragile resulting in vaginal dryness, atrophy and painful sexual intercourse. These symptoms can be alleviated with the use of hormone therapy in women where there are no contraindications and other non hormonal modalities of treatment so women do not have to suffer in silence as was customary and they can enjoy a good quality of life as they age.

Lifestyle changes such as weight management, exercise and stress management can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease and heart attack, the silent killer of women. Osteoporosis, brittle bone disease resulting in fragility fractures can also be prevented by weight bearing exercise, calcium and vitamin D supplements. The key to a healthy and fulfilling life in the menopause and postmenopausal years is to recognize that this is an opportunity for women to visit their doctor to have a health assessment done which would include screening tests such as mammogram, pap smear, colonoscopy, bone density testing, cholesterol, fasting blood sugar and thyroid screen. This approach would indeed add “life to years and not years to life”.

About the Author: Verna Brooks McKenzie MB., BS., FACOG, NCMP is an Obstetrician and Gynecologist/Certified Menopause Practitioner with over seventeen years of experience in training, lecturing and public speaking on women’s reproductive health issues internationally including Ghana West Africa. Learn more about Dr. McKenzie and our other Red Hot Mamas advisors.