Page ContentMenopauseKelsey-Seybold Clinic’s Frances Smith, M.D., Department Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Irene Sobolevsky, M.D., Internal Medicine, explain menopause and what you can expect.On average, women begin menopause at age 51. This critical passage affects each woman differently. Many women begin experiencing signs of menopause, a pre-menoupause stage known as perimenopause, in their early to mid-40s. Others may experience changes associated with menopause as early as their mid-30s.Menopause Signs and Symptoms“Most women become accustomed to their own hormone rhythm, and during perimenopause this rhythm changes,” says Dr. Sobolevsky.“Hormone level fluctuations cause irregular cycles. Some patients report feelings of a loss of control,” she adds. “Cycle irregularity and the associated emotions can be upsetting and lead to mood swings.”Menopause means the cessation, or stopping, of a woman’s monthly cycle.“The most common signs leading up to menopause are changes in the monthly cycle, hot flashes, and moodiness,” says Dr. Smith. “During a hot flash, women will experience a measurable increase in body temperature. Some may feel hot only on the inside, while others' skin will flare up and feel hot to the touch.”Along with hot flashes and mood swings, you may also experience dryness and night sweats.“Hot flashes and night sweats can create a chain reaction and prevent you from sleeping soundly,” says Dr. Sobolevsky. “I recommend exercise. It will help you sleep better and manage your weight. I also recommend limiting your consumption of red wine and spicy foods.”Duration Varies“The good news is that perimenopause and menopause symptoms will end after a time,” notes Dr. Smith. “The duration will vary for each woman.”She cautions, “Now that you've reached this stage and have become more susceptible to osteoporosis, you have to take care of yourself. Be sure to take vitamin D and Calcium, and don't forget to exercise!”How to Relieve Symptoms“For relief, try to increase your level of exercise, eat a healthy diet, quit smoking and reduce the amount of alcohol you consume,” says Dr. Sobolevsky. “Women should realize that non-pharmacological interventions are important complements to medications.”Dr. Smith adds, “Many different medications are recommended to treat menopause and perimenopause symptoms, including: Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). Over-the-counter remedies have not been found to relieve these symptoms.”The doctors recommend that you consult with your personal physician before taking “natural” supplements, herbal remedies or alternative medicines – especially if you’re already taking prescription medications or have other chronic illnesses.“If you’re experiencing markedly shortened menstrual cycles and irregular bleeding, visit your doctor in order to rule out serious problems including polyps, tumors and fibroids,” Dr. Smith advises.