A question I am asked regularly.
Though you may have some idea of what’s in store for you as you head toward menopause, the stage of life when the ovaries stop producing eggs and menstrual cycles dwindle, you may not quite know what to expect when your periods are officially over.
A woman is medically defined as being in menopause when she has not had a menstrual cycle for at least 12 months. At that point, the transition into your non-child-bearing years is complete.
After Your Period Stops
Unfortunately the permanent end of menstrual periods doesn’t necessarily mean the end of bothersome menopause symptoms. The symptoms typically associated with menopause, like hot flushes and mood swings, can occur for some time both before and after that point.
Women who have reached menopause can expect menopause symptoms to become worse than they were during perimenopause (the period shortly before menopause). Experts don’t know exactly why this happens, but it’s believed to be related to the hypothalamus, the portion of the brain that regulates temperature.
The hypothalamus is acutely responsive to oestrogen. Leading up to menopause your oestrogen levels fluctuate. When they’re high, you don’t have symptoms. But when you go into menopause and there’s a complete lack of oestrogen, you start to notice those symptoms more.
Managing Menopause Symptoms
Replacing the missing oestrogen in the body with medication can help relieve hot flushes and night sweats.
The simplest way to take control of your physical symptoms is to stay in good health such as taking regular exercise, developing healthy eating habits and getting enough sleep at night. All can help a woman stay stronger, which makes her more able to withstand the changes that occur as oestrogen levels drop. Women who do these things are less likely to be bothered by hot flushes, and they get less of them.
The Most Important Part of Post-Menopause Life
Along with the physical changes that occur after menopause, women may need to improve their health-care routines.
Postmenopausal women are at greater risk of heart disease, so it’s important to redirect your diet toward healthy-fat foods and lower your salt intake — this will reduce your risk of illness. As part of your routine check-ups, you should have a blood test at a minimum of every five years until age 50, and then at regular intervals. Your doctor will recommend what that interval should be based on how high your cholesterol is, if you are on cholesterol treatment, and on other cardiovascular risk factors that you may have, such as hypertension or obesity.
Women should also have their bone density checked once every two years to spot early signs of osteoporosis, a weakening of the bones. Postmenopausal women are particularly at risk for this condition: Research shows that up to 20 percent of bone loss can occur in the first five years of menopause. Oestrogen is one of the best stimulators of bone growth. The risk of osteoporosis is very low before menopause, but post-menopausally fractured hips and problems related to bone density are very likely.
This article was kindly supplied by Susan Booth, owner of Alive Fitness based in Derby.
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