Menopause occurs when a woman's natural production of estrogen and progesterone slow down significantly as a result of the aging process. Menopause means a complete halt of periods, and it's said to have occurred when a woman hasn't had a period in 12 consecutive months. The time leading up to menopause is actually called perimenopause or premenopause, although many women refer to it as menopause. The symptoms of menopause most commonly begin during a woman's 40s, but the decline in fertility can begin in her 30s. Most women experience a complete cessation of their periods in their early- to mid-50s.
Perimenopause can cause a wide array of symptoms that can vary over time and from one woman to another. Some of the most common symptoms include:
Some women experience very few symptoms while others may experience severe symptoms that interfere with normal activities and overall quality of life. Women who are in or near menopause are also at greater risk of developing several chronic diseases including heart disease and osteoporosis.
Menopause cannot be cured, but the symptoms can be treated. One of the most common and effective treatments is hormone replacement therapy (HRT) with bioidentical hormones. Bioidentical hormones are chemically identical to the hormones naturally produced by a woman's body, so they're processed and eliminated in the same manner, resulting in fewer side effects compared to traditional hormone replacement therapy. Women who opt for HRT have regular blood testing to ensure the dosing remains optimized and adjusted for their needs over time. Other treatment options are aimed at relieving specific symptoms, like vaginal creams to promote natural lubrication or medications to help with sleep problems. Women in menopause also should be tested for heart disease and other diseases that become more common with older age.
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