Key Facts About the Menopause
20 Sep 2022
Menopause is a normal biological process, the onset of which is the absence of a woman’s menstrual cycle after 12 consecutive months. This is usually seen in women between 40 and 50 years of age, with some exceptions possible, both in the lower and upper age limits. Menopause marks the transition to a new stage of a woman’s life, bringing along many changes for which it is important to be prepared. In this article, we focus on the individual stages in the onset of menopause, possible health issues, as well as ways to minimize discomfort and risk to your wellbeing.
The three phases of menopause - what do you need to know?
Perimenopause can start up to 10 years earlier than the actual menopause, but usually, this phase is most noticeable in the last one to two years before menopause. During perimenopause, the ovaries begin to produce smaller amounts of the hormone estrogen - key to the functioning of the female body. This is also the period with the strongest symptoms. They may include hot flashes, sleep and memory problems, headaches, and fatigue.
When the monthly cycle is not present for 12 consecutive months, it is considered that menopause has occurred. Monthly ovulation has ceased and natural conception is impossible due to the depletion of the eggs supply suitable for fertilization. It should be noted that menopause can also be artificially induced at an earlier stage in life, for example during invasive medical procedures during which parts of a woman’s reproductive system are surgically removed.
Postmenopause is the period of a woman’s life after menopause. During the first few years after the final cessation of the monthly cycle, the unpleasant symptoms of perimenopause begin to disappear. Nevertheless, the levels of the hormone estrogen remain low, which, in turn, can lead to some health problems, because of the key role of the hormone in the body.
Health risk factors
- Osteoporosis is a weakening of the bones, which leads to easier fractures and more difficult healing of the tissue. From the onset of menopause to the age of 60, 25% of the bone mass in the body is lost. This is because of the limited amount of estrogen, which plays a key role in the strength of the bone system.
- Postmenopausal heart failure is caused by increased blood pressure due to the lack of the hormone estrogen, which helps regulate cholesterol. Additional external factors such as smoking and lack of physical activity increase the risk of developing cardiovascular problems.
- Insomnia is a common side effect of menopause, and one of the main causes of it is hot flashes, which makes it difficult to fall asleep naturally at night. Depression is often a byproduct of insomnia because poor sleep quality inevitably worsens mental health. In addition, menopause leads to a drop in the hormone serotonin (the hormone of happiness), which is another reason for more frequent gloomy moods.
How to prevent the complications
The hormonal imbalance caused by menopause affects all systems in the body and it takes several years for it to adapt and return to normal functioning. It is important to help your body on every occasion related to the cessation of your monthly cycle - both during and after menopause.
According to experts, there are ways to help the body in this turbulent period by watching what food you eat. For example, reducing the consumption of caffeine and spicy foods may help with hot flashes and sleep problems.
There are plants naturally rich in estrogen that can also soothe perimenopause symptoms and help the body in the period after. Such foods are beans, lentils, chickpeas, soybeans, rice, flaxseed, fruits, and vegetables. Of course, it is important to note that plant-based estrogen cannot completely replace the one produced by the body.
Another important thing that experts recommend for bone healing is performing lightweight exercises, as they stimulate cell reproduction and thus build better bone density. Following a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D also helps a lot.
Eliminating bad habits such as excessive alcohol use, smoking, and consumption of unhealthy food (with added sugar, trans fats, and flavorings) is of utmost importance for heart health. If you lead an active lifestyle and do sports at least 3 times a week, the risks of developing heart failure are reduced. Annual preventive examinations by a specialist should not be neglected as well.
In addition to our physical health, we must also take care of our mental health. Inevitably, change is something that causes stress for many women, especially when it comes to our bodies. Some of the practices we can try if you experience mood swings are:
- Meditation - the mental health benefits of meditation are numerous and globally recognized, some of which include reducing stress levels and improving sleep quality.
- Communication - try to be as open as possible about the problem you have by sharing it with your loved ones. They know you best and could support you in finding the right solution for your condition. Sometimes only the sharing process makes you feel better.
- Time in nature - did you know that the color green soothes the eyes? Time spent in nature boosts the immune system, and fresh air has a beneficial effect on the nervous system.
Menopause in men
Menopause in men (andropause) is a topic that is rarely discussed because few people are familiar with it. Andropause occurs much more unnoticed in men than menopause in women. This is because the decline in the hormone testosterone is much more gradual than that of the female hormone estrogen. Studies report a 1% decline in testosterone for each subsequent year in men over the age of 40. Symptoms of andropause include erectile dysfunction, prostate enlargement, urination problems, loss of muscle mass, and depressive moods.
How can digital technology help?
Consultations with a medical professional and regular monitoring of symptoms are important steps to take when menopause begins. In hectic daily life, this can be a difficult task, but this is where the Medrec:M digital health mobile app comes to the rescue, providing a solution to this problem. Store medical records, and lab tests, conduct online doctor consultations, and more. You can download Medrec:M completely free now.