Lifestyle Factors In Controlling The Symptoms And Complications Of Menopause
Many of the symptoms of menopause and the medical complications that may develop in postmenopausal women can be lessened or even avoided by taking steps to lead a healthy lifestyle.
- Regular exercise can help protect against cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. Exercise also has proven mental health benefits.
- Stop smoking
Which types of doctors treat menopausal symptoms?
The symptoms of menopause are often treated by a womanâs gynecologist. Primary care providers, including family medicine specialists and internists, may also treat the symptoms of menopause.
When Does Menopause Usually Happen
Menopause happens when you have gone 12 months in a row without a period. The average age of menopause in the United States is 52. The range for women is usually between 45 and 58.2 One way to tell when you might go through menopause is the age your mother went through it.3
Menopause may happen earlier if you:
- Never had children. Pregnancy, especially more than one pregnancy, may delay menopause.4
- Smoke. Studies show smoking can cause you to start menopause up to two years earlier than women who dont smoke.5
Certain health problems can also cause you to start menopause earlier.
Menopause usually happens on its own. However, you may enter menopause earlier than you normally would if you have had chemotherapy or surgery to remove both ovaries. Learn more about early menopause on our Early or premature menopause page.
How Will I Know If I Am Starting The Transition To Menopause
Sometimes it can be hard for you and your doctor to tell whether you are in perimenopause, the transition to menopause:
- Symptoms: Tell your doctor or nurse about any menopause symptoms, such as hot flashes or trouble sleeping.
- Irregular periods: Track your periods. Irregular periods may be your first sign of menopause.
- Hormone levels: Your doctor may test the amount of hormones in your blood if your periods stopped at an early age . Doctors dont usually recommend this test unless there is a medical reason to do so. This is because, for most women, hormone levels go up and down in an unpredictable way during the transition to menopause. So it is difficult to tell for sure whether you have gone through menopause or are getting close to it based on this blood test.
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Are There Any Tests For Menopause
The most accurate way to tell if it’s happening to you is to watch your menstrual cycles for 12 months in a row. It helps to keep track of your periods and chart them as they become irregular. Menopause has happened when you have not had any period for an entire 12 months.
Your doctor can check your blood for follicle stimulating hormone . The levels will jump as your ovaries begin to shut down. As your estrogen levels fall, youâll notice hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and less lubrication during sex.
The tissue in and around your vagina will thin as estrogen drops, too. The only way to check for this is through a Pap-like smear, but itâs rarely done. As this happens, you might have urinary incontinence, painful sex, a low sex drive, and vaginal itching.
Can Menopause Cause Facial Hair Growth
Yes, increased facial hair growth can be a change related to menopause. The hormonal change your body goes through during menopause can result in several physical changes to your body, including more facial hair than you may have had in the past. This is caused by testosterone being relatively higher than estrogen. If facial hair becomes a problem for you, waxing or using other hair removers may be options.
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When Does Menopause Begin
Menopausal symptoms usually start from around age 47 years. The final menstrual period is usually about age 51 but can vary considerably. There is currently no reliable way to predict when you will experience menopause and what your menopausal symptoms will be like.
When menopause happens before 40 years it is called premature, and when it happens before 45 years it is called early. Menopause after age 45 years is considered normal and there is no upper age limit to when it can begin. However, most women have experienced menopause by age 55 years.
What Other Factors Influence When Perimenopause Starts Or When A Woman Reaches Menopause
New research published online on April 12 in Menopause, the journal of NAMS, looked at the various factors that may affect the age when natural menopause occurs.
They found that there are factors that do seem predictive of when a woman will approach menopause, such as higher and follicle-stimulating hormone levels, which weve known for a while,” says Streicher. Irregular menstrual bleeding and hot flashes were also indicators of earlier menopause, she adds.
One new finding uncovered in the research was around alcohol consumption. The authors observed that participants tended to increase their alcohol consumption when approaching menopause, making it a potential clue that the change was coming.
That makes sense, says Streicher. This can be a time of added stress for women, and we know that any can cause someone to drink more, she says.
Although this study didnt find a strong association with smoking, other research has indicated that smoking is related to early onset of menopause, says Streicher.
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Treatment For Early Or Premature Menopause
There is no treatment available to make the ovaries start working again.
Rarely, the ovaries may spontaneously start working again, for reasons unknown. According to some studies, about one in 10 women who are diagnosed with premature ovarian insufficiency get pregnant, for reasons that are not yet clear.
Women with early menopause have a long period of postmenopausal life, which means they are at increased risk of health problems such as early onset of osteoporosis and heart disease. For this reason, it is recommended that they take some form of hormone therapy until they reach the typical age of menopause . This may be the combined oestrogen and progestogen oral contraceptive pill, or menopausal hormone therapy .
Either option treats menopausal symptoms and reduces the risk of early onset of osteoporosis and heart disease.
Are There Treatments For The Menopause
If your symptoms are severe, theres treatment available which could help. This includes hormone replacement therapy , which replaces oestrogen to alleviate symptoms, creams for vaginal dryness, and cognitive behaviour therapy to help with mood changes. Speak to your doctor about the risks and benefits of different treatments.
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How Can You Alleviate Perimenopausal Symptoms
Some women deal with the symptoms of perimenopause, and some women seek treatment for specific health concerns. Women with heavy bleeding, periods that last longer than seven days, spotting between periods or cycles that are less than 21 days should contact a doctor.
Typically, perimenopause is a gradual transition, and no particular test indicates what is happening to the body. Hormone therapy, vaginal estrogen treatments and antidepressants can help treat perimenopausal symptoms.
Start by identifying what’s bothering you most and then working with your doctor to address it. There are steps you can take to feel better. Lifestyle changes that can make a big impact in easing perimenopausal symptoms and improving your overall health include:
The Critical Window Theory Of When To Start Hrt
Menopause comes at different times for different people. While the average age of menopause in the United States is 51, many factors can impact when menopause occurs, including racial and ethnic differences and overall health. But regardless of when menopause starts, the hormonal changes that lead to the end of your reproductive cycle actually begin years earlier.
So when should you start hormone therapy? In part, it depends on your symptoms. For many women, perimenopausewhich can begin as many as 10 years before menopause can be an uncomfortable and distressing experience. The symptoms of perimenopause can include irregular periods, mood disturbances, sleep disturbances, increased anxiety, and vasomotor symptoms like hot flashes, any of which benefit from HRT treatment. However, some women worry that their symptoms are not severe enough to warrant hormone therapy, particularly if they are relatively young. Others erroneously believe that they are too young for HRT even while experiencing severe perimenopause symptoms.
While its common to assume that its too earlyto start hormone replacement therapy, research suggests that there may bemeaningful benefits to starting HRT earlier rather than later. In fact, agrowing body of evidence indicates that there is a critical window ofopportunity for HRT to confer significant long-term health benefits.
Overactive Bladder Or Discomfort
Women can also find they have bladder changes during menopause. If you have this symptom, you might find you need to urinate more often, you cant hold on or your bladder might feel full and uncomfortable.
What can you do about your symptoms?
Understanding menopause and developing a strategy to manage your symptoms can improve your health and lifestyle.
If your symptoms are bothering you, your doctor can help. Your doctor can tell you about the changes in your body and offer options for managing your symptoms. Many treatment options are available and include:
- Non-hormonal treatment options
- Complementary therapies
If you have any concerns or questions about options to manage your menopausal symptoms, visit your doctor or go to the Find an AMS Doctor on the AMS website.
NOTE: Medical and scientific information provided and endorsed by the Australasian Menopause Society might not be relevant to an individuals personal circumstances and should always be discussed with their own healthcare provider. This Information Sheet may contain copyright or otherwise protected material. Reproduction of this Information Sheet by Australasian Menopause Society Members, other health professionals and their patients for clinical practice is permissible. Any other use of this information must be agreed to and approved by the Australasian Menopause Society.
What Are The Stages
The process happens slowly over three stages:
Perimenopause. Your cycles will become irregular, but they havenât stopped. Most women hit this stage around age 47. Even though you might notice symptoms like hot flashes, you can still get pregnant.
Menopause. This is when youâll have your final menstrual period. You wonât know for sure itâs happened until youâve gone a year without one. Hot flashes, vaginal dryness, sleep problems, and other symptoms are common in this stage.
Postmenopause. This begins when you hit the year mark from your final period. Once that happens, youâll be referred to as postmenopausal for the rest of your life. Keep in mind that after more than 1 year of no menstrual periods due to menopause, vaginal bleeding isn’t normal, so tell your doctor if you have any ASAP.
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Calcium And Vitamin D
A combination of calcium and vitamin D can reduce the risk of osteoporosis, the bone loss associated with menopause. The best sources are from calcium-rich and vitamin D-fortified foods.
Doctors are currently reconsidering the use of calcium and vitamin D supplements. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force advises that healthy postmenopausal women don’t need to take these supplements. According to the USPSTF, taking daily low-dose amounts of vitamin D supplements , with or without calcium supplements , does not prevent fractures. For higher doses, the USPSTF says there is not enough evidence to make a recommendation. In addition to possible lack of benefit, these supplements are associated with certain risks, like kidney stones.
However, calcium and vitamin D are important nutrients. Supplements may be appropriate for certain people including those who do not get enough vitamin D through sunlight exposure and those who do not consume enough calcium in their diet. They are also helpful for people who have been diagnosed with osteoporosis. Talk with your doctor about whether or not you should take supplements.
The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends:
Vitamin D is necessary for the absorption of calcium in the stomach and gastrointestinal tract and is the essential companion to calcium in maintaining strong bones.
At What Age Do Most Women Reach Menopause
The medical definition of menopause is no menstrual bleeding for a year, according to Lauren Streicher, MD, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology and the medical director of the Northwestern Center for Menopause and the Northwestern Center for Sexual Medicine in Chicago.
Most women experience menopause between age 40 and 58, and the average age at menopause is 51, according to the North American Menopause Society.
Many women are surprised when they go through menopause in their forties because they think theyre too young, but its not unusual, says Dr. Streicher.
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Facts You Should Know About Menopause
- Menopause is defined as the absence of menstrual periods for 12 months. It is the time in a woman’s life when the function of the ovaries ceases.
- The process of menopause does not occur overnight, but rather is a gradual process. This so-called perimenopausal transition period is a different experience for each woman.
- The average age of menopause is 51 years old, but menopause may occur as early as the 30s or as late as the 60s. There is no reliable lab test to predict when a woman will experience menopause.
- The age at which a woman starts having menstrual periods is not related to the age of menopause onset.
- Symptoms of menopause can include abnormal vaginal bleeding, hot flashes, vaginal and urinary symptoms, and mood changes.
- Complications that women may develop after menopause include osteoporosis and heart disease.
- Treatments for menopause are customized for each woman.
- Treatments are directed toward alleviating uncomfortable or distressing symptoms.
How Do I Know If I Am Going Through Early Or Premature Menopause
You know you have gone through menopause when you have not had your period for 12 months in a row. If you think you may be reaching menopause early, talk to your doctor or nurse.
- Your doctor or nurse will ask you about your symptoms, such as hot flashes, irregular periods, sleep problems, and vaginal dryness.
- Your doctor or nurse may give you a blood test to measure estrogen and related hormones, like follicle-stimulating hormone . You may choose to get tested if you want to know whether you can still get pregnant. Your doctor or nurse will test your hormone levels in the first few days of your menstrual cycle .
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Pregnancy Is Still Possible
Menopause marks the end of a females reproductive years, but it is still possible to become pregnant around or after this time.
Perimenopause can start 4 8 years before menopause. As long as menstruation continues, a person can become pregnant. However, the chances of conceiving and having a full-term pregnancy decline as a person approaches menopause.
Advances in reproductive technology mean it is also possible to become pregnant after menopause. This will usually be with donated eggs or embryos that the individual preserved earlier in life.
There may be a higher risk of pregnancy loss, preterm birth, and risks to the womans health, depending on the individuals age and health status at the time of conception.
However, as one points out, younger people who have not entered menopause may also experience similar issues.
Learn more here about becoming pregnant around the time of menopause.
What Is Perimenopause Or The Transition To Menopause
Perimenopause , or the menopausal transition, is the time leading up to your last period. Perimenopause means around menopause.
Perimenopause is a long transition to menopause, or the time when your periods stop permanently and you can no longer get pregnant. As your body transitions to menopause, your hormone levels may change randomly, causing menopause symptoms unexpectedly. During this transition, your ovaries make different amounts of the hormones estrogen and progesterone than usual.
Irregular periods happen during this time because you may not ovulate every month. Your periods may be longer or shorter than usual. You might skip a few months or have unusually long or short menstrual cycles. Your period may be heavier or lighter than before. Many women also have hot flashes and other menopause symptoms during this transition.
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Loss Of Libido And Sexual Discomfort
Hormonal changes can negatively affect your sex drive. During menopause, vaginal dryness can make sex uncomfortable.
What to do: Talk to your gynecologist. Some local treatments can help with vaginal dryness. Over-the-counter products designed for vaginal use can also help make intercourse easier. Hand creams or lotions containing alcohol or perfumes are a no-no, as they can irritate tender skin.
What Happens At Menopause
Women are born with about a million eggs in each ovary. By puberty about 300,000 eggs remain, and by menopause there are no active eggs left.
On average, a woman in Australia will have 400-500 periods in her lifetime. From about 35-40 years of age, the number of eggs left in your ovaries decreases more quickly and you ovulate less regularly until your periods stop. Menopause means the end of ovulation.
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What Is The Difference Between Early And Premature Menopause
Early or premature menopause happens when ovaries stop making hormones and periods stop at a younger age than usual . This can happen naturally or for a medical reason, such as when both ovaries are removed in a hysterectomy.
Early and premature menopause can have the same causes. The only difference is the age at which it happens. Menopause that happens before age 45 is called early menopause. Menopause that happens before age 40 is called premature menopause.
Women who have gone through early or premature menopause cannot get pregnant.
Predicting Natural Menopause: Why Does Age Matter
If theres not a lot that women can do to change when theyll experience menopause, why does predicting it even matter?
It would be helpful for every woman to know exactly when menopause will arrive. Beyond recognizing and addressing issues such as increased cardiovascular disease risk and risks related to bone health, if a woman knows her age of menopause and how long the perimenopause transition will last, it could help her make important health decisions, says Faubion.
If youre bleeding like crazy it would be helpful to know, she says.
As of now, research hasnt uncovered a way to determine when a women will go into menopause, but having that information could be useful in making decisions such as whether to have a or other invasive procedures, says Faubion. If menopause is going to be a few months or a year from now, you may choose to wait it out if it’s going to be five years from now, you might want to go ahead and have an invasive procedure, she says.
The ability to predict when menopause will occur could also help with managing or deciding which type of birth control to use, adds Faubion.
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