What is the menopause?
Perimenopause follows the fertile stage of a woman’s reproductive life and starts about the age of 40. For the next 10-15 years, ovarian function and hormone production slowly decline. Periods become irregular and then stop altogether. Menopause is the term for when it has been one year since a woman’s last period. When the ovaries stop producing oestrogen, this function is taken over by the adrenal glands which convert androgen to oestrogen with the help of fatty tissue and muscle. The timing of this changeover phase varies from one woman to another meaning that there is an enormous variation in time and symptoms. For many women this transition or “change of life” is not easy and there are physical, mental and emotional changes that can be very disruptive and difficult to manage. However, many women find this stage in their lives liberating.
Bone and heart attack after menopause
There is an increased risk of heart disease and osteoporosis in post-menopausal women. Post-menopause is considered to be the time after periods have stopped for one year. Oestrogen is important for bone health and strength and lack of this can lead to bone thinning and fractures. Oestrogen also protects women from cardiovascular disease before menopause so that the risk of heart disease and strokes catches up to that of their partner’s and male friends and family after menopause.
What are the symptoms?
You may have all or none of these but most women experience some of these symptoms:
Prevention and treatment
You cannot prevent menopause but you can make it easier to cope with by looking after your general health, keeping fit and eating well. If you need help with your symptoms, visit your doctor and discuss options, particularly if you are worried about your bones or other health issues.
1. How to tell when menopause has started
2. Treating symptoms
3. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
HRT is the replacement of naturally produced oestrogen and progesterone, with another source in the form of creams, tablets, patches or implants. HRT helps relieve menopausal symptoms like flushing and sleep problems and it also protects against thinning bones. Prolonged use (over five years) has been linked with increased risk of breast cancer and other health problems. The decision to take HRT should be made in consultation with your doctor and depends on the severity of symptoms.
4. Look after your bones
Bones need calcium for strength (at least 1000mg recommended) and vitamin D to help them absorb calcium, so make sure you have enough of both in your diet from low-fat dairy foods, leafy green vegetables, and nuts and fish with edible bones like salmon and sardines. A little bit of sunlight is also good for bones as it helps you manufacture vitamin D. Enough calcium is hard to achieve in a normal diet and supplementation may be needed.
Weight-bearing exercise such as walking and resistance-based exercise such as working with weights are both important for maintaining bone mass.
Biphosphonates are prescription medicines you can take to protect bone structure and prevent bone loss.
5. Lifestyle approaches
Herpes doesn’t deserve the upset it causes. Four out of five New Zealanders have the herpes simplex virus, which is responsible for both ‘cold sor..
I’m sure most people know that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month – with promotions and events such as the Pink Ribbon Street Appeal, the Pi..