Menopause marks the end of menstruation. During the transitionary period both leading up to and following the last period, women enter perimenopause. Throughout this time, which typically begins in a woman's late 40's, the ovaries no longer respond predictably to the brain hormones that are released during the menstrual cycle. The ovaries fail to produce an egg each and every month, resulting in irregular periods and sometimes lighter or heavier bleeding and shorter cycles. Ultimately, the ovaries fail to produce an egg and menstruation ceases.
It is during the perimenopausal time period that blood hormone levels change and women have to contend with a host of symptoms. Now, these symptoms range in severity and do not affect all women equally. In fact, most women only experience a few of them, primarily hot flashes. But how do women cope with all this change? And what are the other symptoms exactly?
So, here they are. The symptoms of menopause include:
Headaches and hot flashes
Hair becomes thin and dull
Teeth loosen and gums recede
Breasts droop and flatten
Nipples become smaller and flatter
Risk of cardiovascular disease increases
Skin becomes drier and rougher
Abdomen loses some muscle tone
Incontinence may occur
Bone mass decreases and bones become more brittle
Vaginal changes (dryness, itching, shrinking)
Body hair thickens and darkens
Looking at the above list, you can see that proper diet and exercise, especially strength-training, can help cope with the 2 most severe symptoms (11 and 15), which can lead to heart attack and osteoporosis. A healthful lifestyle of regular diet and exercise also may tackle many of the other symptoms including backaches, fatigue, insomnia, mood changes, breast drooping and loss of abdominal tone.
If you are contending with some or many of the symptoms of menopause, know that you are not alone. There are several resources online to help you understand and deal with the plethora of changes in your body. Deal with them and emerge into the next stage of your life with vigor and abandon!
Take care of yourselves and share some of your challenges with us when you can.