by Louann Biddick
How do you know if you are in menopause?
Menopause is defined as not having menstruated for a period of one year. This most often takes place between the ages of 48 to 55 years, but the normal age range for the onset of menopause is wide – anywhere from 40 and 60 years.
Menopause is not a disease state; it pertains to a change in hormonal, emotional and reproductive life of women. Women need to be aware of what is happening to their bodies so they can make rational decisions about how to manage this stage of their lives. Genetic and family history are factors that influence when menopause occur.
As the life span for women lengthens – currently to an average of 84 years – menopause does not signal the end, but rather another exciting phase of life, with its own challenges and opportunities.
What is the difference between perimenopause and menopause?
Perimenopause is the period of time two to eight years before and one year after the complete cessation of menses (menstrual bleeding). It is characterized by changes in ovarian function which results in menstrual cycles that are unpredictable. Perimenopause symptoms include:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Irregular bleeding
- Weight gain
- Vaginal dryness
- Decreased libido
- Memory/concentration concern
So what is good about menopause?
- Healthy natural step in the life cycle
- No longer have menstrual cycles/periods
- No need for contraception
- Closer to retirement
What can you do to go through menopause and stay healthy?
- Take a calcium supplement with Vitamin D-
- Weight-bearing exercises
- Annual physical exams with pelvic exam and pap smear
- Yearly mammogram
- Dexa scan (bone density)
- Healthy eating
- Take care of yourself
- Smoking cessation
Regular clinical checkups will help a woman achieve optimal health. The checkups can identify any health conditions that need to be addressed. For example, regular mammograms are important for women over 40. Pap tests are also recommended, even after menopause. Height measurements detect loss of height, possibly an indicator of osteoporosis. Blood, urine and other tests can help to screen for existing or increasing risk of various diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, and thyroid disease.
What about hormone therapy?
While hormone therapy is a reasonable option for short-term control of menopausal symptoms, it is an individual decision made by you and your primary care provider based on your health history and symptoms.
Don’t Pause For Menopause
- Talk with your primary care provider about your individual symptoms
- Keep an open mind
- Realize everyone’s symptoms are different
This is the next step in your life, take time to enjoy the niceties of life. Use the fine china, put out the “good” towels, wear the nice perfume…..just because you earned it!