Feeling a little flushed?
The Effects Of Menopause On The Body
• Menopause Terminology
Menopause: Menopause technically means the end of menstrual periods. During the years leading up to menopause (called perimenopause) your periods become erratic until finally they stop coming. When you have not had a period for 12 months you are officially menopausal. The average age a woman hits menopause in the United States is 51. If you reach menopause before the age of 45 it is considered 'early' and before the age of 40 it is considered premature menopause.
|What's Going On Inside My Body?
Firstly it is worth pointing out that menopause is not a disease, nor is it necessarily going to cause problems for you. Every woman experiences the transition in a different way. It is a natural process, one we should feel privileged to experience because in the past, life expectancy was so low, most women died at the end of their reproductive years. Today it is considered just another stage of life, and many women go on to live another 30 or 40 years after menopause (see latest health statistics). Your postmenopause years can be just as fruitful and happy as any other stage of your life. Of course, as with any change, the more we know about it, the easier it is to deal with what's happening. So let's start by taking a look at what is going on inside your body.
Crazy Hormone Swings
Some doctors tell women who are still having periods but experiencing menopause symptoms not to worry and just ignore it. Yet we now know that some of the worst symptoms associated with the change of life are often most intensively felt during the perimenopause years when we are still having periods. And the perimenopause phase can start 10 years before periods stop completely. So what's happening to cause these symptoms? Hormones. Over the course of a lifetime the female body goes through many changes. Primarily those changes occur during puberty, pregnancy and menopause and they are controlled by hormone fluctuations. Hormones are little chemical messengers that travel through the bloodstream and issue orders to cells and organs throughout the body. The main hormone that is responsible for menopause changes is estrogen, but there are others involved in the process. Together they are known as the sex hormones and they are controlled by the endocrine system.
The Hormones That Cause Menopause
The symptoms of menopause are tied up with fluctuating hormone levels. Symptoms are worse during perimenopause than in menopause itself because this is when the levels fluctuate the most. Sometimes levels rise to normal levels other times they come crashing down. When you reach menopause your hormone levels are consistently low so they don't trigger symptoms in the same way, although some symptoms (often different ones) can still occur. In perimenopause the most obvious effects come from fluctuating levels of estrogen. Here's how it works:
Common Perimenopause Symptoms
|The Menopause And Postmenopause Phase
After you reach menopause (periods have stopped for 12 months) things start to calm down a bit. Hormone levels settle at a lower level, mood swings stabilize and hot flashes subside. Your body begins to accept its new level of estrogen production, although a small percentage of women continue to suffer menopausal symptoms for another few years. In the longer term, consistent lower levels of estrogen cause some new physical changes to your body. These include:
|Who Is Most Likely To Have A Hard Time Of Menopause?
The simple answer is, doctors don’t know. Just because your mother or sister suffered badly, doesn’t mean you necessarily will. What we do know is that your attitude to the change of life can have a significant impact on your experience. Studies show that educated women are more likely to view the menopausal transition with a positive attitude and appear to have an easier time as a result. Additionally, women who exercise regularly and have a healthy body weight are less likely to suffer hot flushes, depression and joint pain compared to obese women. Also, higher cholesterol levels are associated with more sweating, depression and skin dryness. Ultimately however, the only way to find out how you will react to menopause, is to experience it. In the meantime, take a look at our list of books on menopause, it contains some useful guides.
Researchers have found some links as follows:
From start (when you first notice obvious menopause symptoms) to finish (when you don’t notice them anymore) the process can take anywhere between 1 and 15 years. But before you have a heart attack - statistically research shows that it usually lasts on average 4 years. Typically symptoms tend to peak one year after the woman's last menstrual period but continue for up to 4 years in 50 percent of women. But who knows - you may be one of the lucky ones that sails through with only the odd hot flash to contend with. For more see other menopause questions, as well as our general section on womens health questions.
| Other Useful Guides
Head And Face Disorders: From headaches to depression, skin and eye conditions.
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