Menopause is commonly associated with the advancing of age, and is often referred to as ‘the change of life.’ Menopause is actually a diagnosis that can be made in hindsight. The definition centers on not having a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months.
During this time of life, the ovaries stop producing hormones, specifically, estrogen and the reproductive system begins to gradually change. As the body attempts to adjust to the changing levels of hormone during menopause, a variety of symptoms may occur. Among these symptoms are depression, anxiety, hot flashes, irritability, changes in moods, the inability to concentrate, etc. In addition to these symptoms, women may experience irregular menstrual periods during the menopause, especially at the beginning. The time just before menopause is referred to as the perimenopause.
The average age of menopause is around 52, but there are many women who will enter menopause earlier or later. Once the cycle is complete, known as being post-menopausal, women will find that they are at an increased risk of developing other illnesses, including, but not limited to osteoporosis and heart (cardiac) disease.
The treatment for menopause frequently includes the use of hormones, known as HRT or Hormone Replacement Therapy. This is believed to reduce the weakening of bones often seen in osteoporosis. For many years, there has been ongoing debate about which types of therapy is most beneficial to women.
Menopause is above all else, a natural process as opposed to a disorder or disease. For decades, women have been pressured to take hormone therapy as a way of managing some of the symptoms associated with menopause. They were frequently told to do so base on the belief that it would reduce their risk of heart disease. More recent studies have shown that this type of therapy may actually increase the risk of other illnesses, including breast cancer, heart attack, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.
Each woman is unique. The timing and the exact symptoms experienced will vary from woman to woman. Because these symptoms are also commonly found with other illnesses, the only way to confirm menopause is by seeing a physician. Following a confirmed diagnosis, your physician should be able to prescribe the best type and formulation of medication or reccomend the best form of treatment help guide you through menopause and help your body adjust to the change in your hormonal status.
Be Your Own Best Advocate
It is important that you act as your own, best and most informed advocate by asking questions, reading and doing some of your own research and “comparison shopping,” as you do for all the other aspects of your life. This means that you should carefully consider any medications prescribed to your, not only menopause, but any time in life. It is important that you ask your physician about the expected benefits, known risks and potential side effects associated with the any of the medications you plan to take to treat your menopausal symptoms.
The information in this article is to be used for general informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of, or in conjunction with, professional medical advice. If you have further specific questions you are urged to consult with your personal physician for additional information.