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Menopause - A New Beginning

What Is Menopause?

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Updated July 19, 2009

Menopause needn't signal an end to your life. In some cultures menopause is seen as a time when older women can help support the younger women as they raise their children. The older women are revered for their wisdom and knowledge. Menopause is a time of freedom and renewal- if you have any children, they should be grown and you are free of the monthly hassle of menstruation.

Menopause, the word, is a combination of two Greek words which mean month and terminate. Translated literally menopause means "the end of the monthlies." The average woman reaches menopause about the age of fifty- one, although it can vary from your thirties to your fifties. Certain factors such as the age your mother began menopause and environmental influences may play a key role in determining when you begin to experience the signs and symptoms of perimenopause.

Perimenopause occurs for several years before actual menopause and sometimes precedes menopause by as many as fifteen years. Some changes that signal perimenopause include:

  • changes in your menstrual flow which may become heavier than normal or lighter than normal or irregular periods
  • Hot flashes and/or night sweats are common signs of perimenopause.
  • Vaginal dryness.
  • Sleep problems.
  • Increased fat around the waist.

  • Up to 75 percent of women report being more fatigued and emotional changes of nervousness, depression, and mood swings may also be present.

The Symptoms of Menopause

Most women will go through several years of perimenopausal symptoms before their periods end. The most commonly known symptoms include hot flashes and night sweats. Hot flashes usually occur for at least one year and up to five years before cessation of menstruation; they can be a major annoyance, disrupting your sleep and daily life, or you may be lucky, and for you they might simply be a minor inconvenience.

When you have a hot flash you may feel an increasing warmness, usually beginning in your chest and rising to your head; your skin may become warm and red causing you to sweat, sometimes, profusely. Hot flashes most commonly occur at night and can last from a few seconds up to an hour. They may occur up to ten times in one day and often begin before you notice any changes in your menstrual cycle.

You may also begin to notice vaginal dryness which may be relieved using a vaginal lubricant or if it's a serious problem, your doctor can prescribe an estrogen cream. Never use petroleum jelly such as Vaseline as a vaginal lubricant. Petroleum jelly may causes damage to condoms and diaphragms, and increases your risk of vaginal infection.

Other symptoms you may begin to notice are headaches and trouble sleeping. Trouble sleeping and fatigue during the day may be caused by night sweats which sometimes require your getting up and changing soaked sheets. You may also experience urinary incontinence, dry eyes, and difficulty concentrating, among other various symptoms.

What Can I Do to Relieve My Menopausal Symptoms?

Several options for reducing symptoms of menopause may be tried. Hormone Replacement Therapy is often started using estrogen and/or progestins. Natural remedies are often used including the use of natural progesterone derived from soy beans, Black Cohosh, or soy isoflavones. Other herbal remedies often used include ginseng and phytoestrogens.

There are some risks associated with the use of HRT, including increased risk of cancer. Your risk of developing osteoporosis may be lowered by increasing your daily intake of calcium to 1500 mg per day. If you smoke cigarettes, quit and your risk of both osteoporosis and heart disease are significantly lowered. Eating a diet low in fat and cholesterol also greatly lowers your risk of post menopausal disease. Talk to your health care provider determine the best treatment for you.

Exercise is known to help reduce the severity of menopausal symptoms and has the added benefit of significantly lowering your risk of heart disease and several types of cancer. Exercise also relieves stress, and often improves depression and anxiety symptoms. Routine exercise improves bone mass, as well.

Exercise at least thirty minutes on at least three days of the week and you'll feel and be much healthier, and you'll have more energy than you thought possible.

You should be aware of the changes before they happen so you'll know what's happening when you begin to experience the symptoms of menopause. As in everything, knowledge is half the battle. Good luck and remember... it's not the end of your life... it's just the beginning!

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