I know it is waiting for me out there as I approach the 5th decade of my life. I dread it but I also look forward when it is finally over. I am referring to that stage of a woman’s life called “menopause.”
According to the October issue of NIH News:
Menopause is defined as the final menstrual period. On average, women have their last period around age 51, but it can also occur in their 40s or late 50s. Symptoms usually begin to appear several years before menopause. This time of change—called the menopausal transition, or perimenopause—extends to 1 year after your final period.
The reason why I dread menopause is the symptoms that come with it. I remember my mom’s menopausal years and they were not that easy, neither for her nor for her family.
Menopause can be physically and mentally challenging. The good news is that not all women suffer from severe symptoms that require treatment. The bad news is that “those bothered by symptoms, choosing the best treatment can be confusing.” Some of the most common symptoms of menopause are:
- Hot flashes
- Sleeping problems
- Mood changes
According to researcher Dr. Sherry Sherman:
What causes these symptoms?
During perimenopause, levels of estrogen and progesterone—2 female hormones made in the ovaries—go up and down irregularly. This leads to changes in menstrual periods. The fluctuation in hormone levels that begins during perimenopause can affect many different parts of the body.
The heart, blood vessels, brain and brain are all affected by the hormone fluctuation, leading to a wide range of symptoms.
The convention treatment for menopause symptoms is hormone replacement therapy, especially estrogen. The hormone supplementation not only alleviates menopausal symptoms, it also has cardioprotective effects and benefits for bone health. Recent research evidence, however, indicates that this menopausal hormone therapy presents some risks including increased risk for breast cancer and stroke. Thus, “different therapies have benefits and risks that need to be weighed carefully.”
Alternatives to hormone therapy are being looked into, including
- mind-body approaches
- different medications
- behavioral interventions
- alternative medicine approaches
On the other hand, I am looking forward to life after menopause, a life without contraceptive pills, pre-menstrual syndrome and tampoons.