Menopause: What it is, What to do
Every woman knows that if she lives long
enough, she will go through menopause, the "change of life." But what
is it? What should we expect, and when should we expect it? And, perhaps most
importantly, what can we do to make this transition as physically and
emotionally comfortable as possible?
What Is Menopause?
The word menopause comes from the Greek and
Latin words for "moon" and "stop," and refers to the ending of
a woman's menstrual cycle, viewed by some throughout history to be influenced
by the moon. The moon may or may not affect our periods, but estrogen most
As we age, our bodies begin to produce less
estrogen, resulting in irregular or nonexistent menstruation. This can also
occur after removal of the uterus and both ovaries and is then called a
surgical menopause. Non-surgical menopause usually occurs around the age of 50,
give or take five years. It is not impossible, however, for it to happen as
early as age 35 or as late as age 60.
Signs of Menopause
You may experience only some of these
symptoms, or even none at all.
Hot flashes (up to 20 times a day)
Irregular, heavy or light menses
Disturbed sleep patterns
Decreased sexual desire
Increased bladder infections
Health Risks and Replacement Therapy
Once it has been determined that your
symptoms are those of menopause, you will want your physician's assistance to
determine whether your newly lowered estrogen level will increase your risks
for health problems such as osteoporosis or heart disease.
If it is determined that your risks are
increased, you may wish to begin estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) or hormone
replacement therapy (HRT). These treatments have their pros and cons, and
should be discussed carefully with a health care provider before making a
decision. You will want to take into consideration such things as age, race,
family and personal health history. If you have had certain types of cancer or
liver disease, for instance, you should not take estrogen.
Regular exercise and calcium supplements may
prove to be a better way to prevent osteoporosis in some cases.