If you're the type of woman who still sees menopause as a ticking time bomb, take heart: in a survey conducted by the North American Menopause Society, it was found out that some women view it as a “medical condition requiring treatment, while others view it as a natural transition that should be managed by natural means.” However, there’s no need to face menopause with dread, especially if you’re armed with the correct information about it. Check out FN’s list of things that any woman should know about menopause.
1. MENOPAUSE IS NOT A DISEASE
First off, menopause is a state that every woman goes through, which is marked by the absence of menstrual periods. While it is accompanied by several symptoms, it is definitely not an illness looking for a cure. Signs of menopause include erratic changes in the menstrual cycle, hot flashes, mood swings, weight gain, vaginal dryness and bladder problems.
2. THERE'S NO SPECIFIC AGE FOR MENOPAUSE
While there are symptoms that can give you clues whether you’re nearing towards menstruation, Medicine.net says that there’s no way to predict when a woman will experience menopause. Although the average age for menopause is 51 years old, the menopausal age varies from one individual to other. Women may experience menopause between ages 45-55 , but there are some women that experience at as early as in their 30s-40s, or as late as their 60s. Here’s an interesting tidbit: women tend to go through menopause at the same age as their mothers, so it will be helpful if you keep tabs on your mom’s menopausal age as a guideline.
3. MENOPAUSE DOESN'T HAPPEN OVERNIGHT
Perimenopause, which literally means “around menopause”, is like a “transition phase” (around six months to even a year before menopause) that prepares your body for menopause. The North American Menopause Society lists symptoms that are commonly experienced during perimenopause: hot flashes, sleep problems mood swings and vaginal dryness. The site also adds that during perimenopause, “a woman may be able to conceive, although fertility is low.”
4. MENOPAUSE CAN BE MEDICALLY INDUCED
While menopause is an unchangeable fact in every woman’s life, it can be a result of medical causes such as surgery and chemotherapy. Medical conditions such as cervical, endometrial and ovarian cancer, as well as non-cancerous conditions like endometriosis (abnormal growth of uterus-like cells outside the uterus), uterine fibroids (non-cancerous growth inside the uterus) or infections, require some patients to undergo surgery that will remove both their ovaries (bilateral oophorectomy). The removal of both ovaries can lead to menopause. In this case, the patient will still feel the symptoms of menopause. Treatments like chemotherapy and pelvic radiation therapy can also cause menopause due to damage to the ovaries.
5. HOT FLASHES ARE NORMAL
Hot flashes are commonly experienced by women during menopause. The US National Institute on Aging defines a hot flash as “a sudden feeling of heat in the upper part or all your body." The article adds that hot flashes may last a few years even after menopause, and may be attributed to changing estrogen levels. Hot flashes can last between 30 seconds to 10 minutes. Night sweats are severe hot flashes that can wake you up from sleep.
6.WILL MENOPAUSE CAUSE WEIGHT GAIN?
According to the Asian Hospital and Medical Center website, “About 90% of menopausal women gain some weight – about 10 to 15 pounds, between the age of 35-55. Weight will come sneaking in gradually-about a pound a year during perimenopause.” MedNewsReports adds that due to falling estrogen levels, the body antes up the fat cells which can produce estrogen. Falling testosterone levels on the other hand, makes muscle formation harder, which in turn contributes to slower metabolism.
7. CAN MENOPAUSE REDUCE THE RISK FOR SEXUALLY-TRANSMITTED DISEASES?
Hormonal changes can also bring about a change in attitude towards sexual intercourse. While there’s a certain freedom brought about by the possibility of not getting pregnant, the US National Institute on Aging maintains that menopause doesn’t diminish the risk for STDs, so it’s better to practice safe sex.
8.DOES MENOPAUSE PUT ME AT RISK FOR CERTAIN DISEASES?
There are two common health problems that might occur during menopause:
a. Osteoporosis – Estrogen plays a role in controlling bone loss. However, when menopause occurs, estrogen levels drop. This may lead to a slower process in replacing old bones with new ones, causing women to have a bigger number of old bones than new, healthy ones. Bones also tend to be brittle and weak, which is called “osteoporosis”.
b. Heart disease – Change in estrogen levels may also contribute to being prone to heart disease, along with weight gain, high blood pressure and other problems. As such, it is important to follow a healthy lifestyle and have regular consultations with your doctor once menopause sets in.
9. WHAT IS HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY (HRT)?
Lifestyle columnist Cory Quirino says that HRT is used to “replace lost hormones with estrogen and progesterone to be taken for five to ten years, and can be in the form of pills, implants and gels.” HRT can help women cope with menopause symptoms such as hot flashes as well as vaginal dryness and can prevent bone loss. However, HRT has risks. The US National Institute on Aging reports that “symptoms may come back when you stop taking hormones”. Medicine.net also adds that a study done by the Women’s Health Initiative in the US that “women who received combined hormone therapy with both estrogen and progesterone had an increased risk for heart attack, stroke and breast cancer when compared with women who didn’t received HRT.”
10. WHAT ARE PHYTOESTROGENS?
Phytoestrogens are estrogen-like chemicals found in food such as cereals, legumes, green/black tea, herbs and vegetables. While some women prefer to take these to help cope with menopause symptoms, be sure to consult with your doctor first before taking phytoestrogen supplements, or changing to a diet that has a lot more phytoestrogen-rich food than you normally take.
(Photos courtesy of sxc.hu)