Menopause happens when a woman loses the ability to become pregnant. Most of the time, menopause happens naturally as the result of age, though it can also happen as the result of disease or surgery. The average age of menopause is 51, though some women don’t go through menopause until age 55 and others go through the transition in their forties or, in rare cases, younger.
It’s not easy to tell if you’re entering menopause. There’s no real test or diagnostic procedure to pinpoint menopause — the only way you can really know is if you’ve stopped having menstrual periods for 12 consecutive months. Because menopause causes sharp declines in the female hormones estrogen and progesterone, it can come with uncomfortable symptoms and could cause body changes including osteoporosis, urinary and vaginal problems and weight gain. By taking care of yourself before and after menopause, you can maintain a strong and healthy body.
If you’re between the ages of 40 and 55, it’s very likely that you could be entering perimenopause, or the menopausal transition. This is the time before menopause in which a woman’s body begins to move toward menopause. You are still fertile and can still get pregnant during perimenopause, even though you may begin to feel some of the following physical symptoms:
Your periods may not necessary get shorter or more infrequent during the years leading up to menopause. They may become longer and heavier instead of shorter and lighter. Regular periods may become irregular.
You may feel sad, weepy, anxious, irritable, angry or vaguely unhappy for no reason.
You may begin to notice hot flashes very early in the menopausal transition.
Hot flashes at night or stress could keep you awake during perimenopause, or you could have problems sleeping for no apparent reason.
Hormonal changes could reduce your interest in sex or make sex less pleasurable.
Like other early menopause symptoms, heart palpitations could be a sign of a more serious condition. Talk to your doctor, especially if you feel short of breath, dizzy or fatigued.
Urinary or vaginal changes
As you enter the menopausal transition, you may notice urinary problems like frequent bladder infections, an inability to hold your urine long enough to make it to the toilet or urine leakage when you laugh, cough or sneeze. Vaginal problems can include dryness and frequent infections.
You may not notice the symptoms of osteoporosis at first, but this condition can make your bones brittle and weak.
Many women experience muscle loss and weight gain, especially around the waist, during menopause.
If you think that you are experiencing the early signs of menopause, talk to your doctor. While you may not necessarily need any treatment for natural menopause, it can help relieve your symptoms.
Protecting Your Health Before and After Menopause
Entering menopause means you’re starting a new phase of life which comes with its own special health concerns. Living a healthy lifestyle during and after menopause is much the same as it is at any other age. Eat right, exercise regularly, and get regular gynecological exams and mammograms. You will still need to get Pap smears after menopause, and may need to see a specialist about urinary incontinence and any other vaginal or urinary problems you may have developed.
Your doctor may recommend hormone replacement therapy, or HT, to treat symptoms like night sweats and hot flashes. He or she may also prescribe medication to help with any sleep problems you may be experiencing. Antidepressants, blood pressure medications and anti-seizure drugs can also help with menopause symptoms, if you’re not eligible for or don’t want hormone therapy. Take advantage of Canadian Pharmacies to keep your prescription costs manageable.
As you get older, you may find that you need fewer calories each day. This can make it challenging to eat a balanced diet and get all the nutrients you need. You should take 2.4 mcg of vitamin B12 and 1.5 mcg of vitamin B6 every day. To protect your bone health, take 1,200 mg of calcium daily from age 51. If you’re between age 51 and 70, you should also take 600 IU of vitamin D every day, and 800 IU of vitamin D every day from age 71. Sometimes postmenopausal women need additional supplements; talk to your doctor.
Both before and after menopause, aim to get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise, every week. Do strength-training exercises, like yoga, calisthenics or weight lifting, two days a week.
Menopause is a natural part of life, but it doesn’t have to hold you back. With the right lifestyle changes and medical care, you can remain strong, healthy and full of life for decades to come.