Menopause means the cessation, or stopping, of a woman’s monthly cycle. On average, women begin menopause at age 51. This critical passage affects each woman differently. Many women begin experiencing signs of menopause, a pre-menopause 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. Hormone level fluctuations cause irregular cycles. Some patients report feelings of a loss of control. Cycle irregularity and the associated emotions can be upsetting and lead to mood swings.
The most common signs leading up to menopause are changes in the monthly cycle, hot flashes, and moodiness. 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, which can create a chain reaction and prevent you from sleeping soundly. Exercise can help you sleep better and help manage your weight, which can become a struggle during menopause. Your sleep may also benefit from limiting your consumption of red wine and spicy foods.
Duration of Menopause Varies
Perimenopause and menopause symptoms will end after a time, but the duration will vary for each woman. Menopausal women are more susceptible to osteoporosis, so be sure to take vitamin D and calcium. Exercise is also important for healthy bones and to protect the bones with muscle.
Relieving Menopause Symptoms
To relieve hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause, try increasing your level of exercise, eating a healthy diet, quitting smoking, and reducing the amount of alcohol you consume.
Many different medications are recommended to treat menopause and perimenopause symptoms, including hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and over-the-counter remedies, although the over-the-counter medications have not shown to be effective for most women.
Always talk to your doctor before taking any “natural” supplements, herbal remedies, or alternative medicines for menopause, especially if you’re already taking prescription medications or have other chronic illness.
And if you’re experiencing markedly shortened menstrual cycles or irregular bleeding, see your doctor to rule out serious problems unrelated to menopause, such as polys, tumors, and fibroids.