Menopause Effects on Health

Happy Mature woman riding a bikeDo you remember when menopause was referred to as “the change?” (In hushed tones, of course.) These days, menopause is discussed much more openly, but the needless dread surrounding this natural evolution of a women’s reproductive cycle really hasn’t changed. Many women are taught to fear menopause because of the hormonal shifts such as hot flashes, night sweats or insomnia. But you should know that these are simply perceptions. Menopause is simply a healthy part of your reproductive life and with the right knowledge and support, it can be a freeing new phase of life.

A female baby is born with all the eggs she’ll ever have. From day one of your first period, it’s a countdown of that finite egg storage. But don’t worry, your body knows what it’s doing. The average age of U.S. women at the time of menopause is 51 years old. So, obviously there aren’t a whole lot of women who are still pondering having babies in their 50s, welcoming menopause at just the right time.

Around age 50, you may start to experience irregular periods—a signal that menopause may occur soon. The signs of menopause may differ from woman to woman, but the most common signs of menopause symptoms are:

  • Irregular periods
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Hot flashes
  • Chills
  • Night sweats
  • Sleep problems
  • Mood changes
  • Weight gain and slowed metabolism
  • Thinning hair and dry skin
  • Loss of breast fullness

You may want to discuss hormone therapy options with your Ob/GYN doctor, as there are many options to address your hormonal symptoms. Many women, however, choose to manage their menopause without the use of synthetic medications, choosing instead to use natural supplements or even acupuncture.

After menopause, your risk of certain medical conditions increases. Examples include:

  • Heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease. When your estrogen levels decline, your risk of cardiovascular disease increases. Heart disease is a “silent killer” in women, who are at much higher risk after menopause. Women’s heart disease symptoms are often different from men’s, so always take your annual physical checkups seriously.
  • Osteoporosis. This condition causes bones to become brittle and weak, leading to an increased risk of fractures. During the first few years after menopause, you may lose bone density at a rapid rate, increasing your risk of osteoporosis. Definitely pay closer attention to your diet and include supplements to support bone health.
  • Urinary incontinence. As the tissues of your vagina and urethra lose elasticity, you may experience frequent, sudden, strong urges to urinate, followed by an involuntary loss of urine (urge incontinence), or the loss of urine with coughing, laughing or lifting (stress incontinence). You may have urinary tract infections more often. Your doctor will need to know about this immediately as, urinary tract infections are not only painful but can lead to more serious kidney infections.
  • Sexual function. Vaginal dryness from decreased moisture production and loss of elasticity can cause discomfort and slight bleeding during sexual intercourse. Also, decreased sensation may reduce your desire for sexual activity (libido). There are many over-the-counter lubricants out there to take care of this issue.
  • Weight gain. You’re not going to want to hear this: many women gain weight during the menopausal transition and after menopause because hormones cause your metabolism to slow. Reduced calorie intake and increased exercise is the sure way to battle this.

There is plenty of support for menopausal women out there — medical, informational and medicinal. Just as every woman will go through menstrual cycles, those same ones will go through menopause. Give yourself grace and speak with other women about your shared experiences.

Source: The North American Menopause Society

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