Plenty consequences of aging are talked about – balding, joint stiffness, a sudden need for bifocals – but one aspect of aging isn’t talked about as often, even though it affects roughly half the population.
Menopause is a natural part of aging, marking the time in which a person with a uterus stops menstruating. It typically occurs between the ages of 45-55, but can happen earlier, for example, if someone had a hysterectomy or suffered damage to their ovaries from chemotherapy.
The menopausal transition lasts on average from 7 to 14 years. Its length depends on many factors such as smoking, current age, race, and ethnicity. Menopause involves changes in hormonal levels, specifically estrogen and progesterone. These hormones regulate one’s period and release of eggs, or ovulation. When the body stops ovulating, the levels of these hormones drop off. The reduction of these hormones can cause multiple symptoms:
- Hot flashes
- Changes in menstrual cycle
- Trouble sleeping
- Emotional changes/mood swings
- Weight gain
- Changes in libido
- And more
These symptoms can range from mild to pretty miserable, but there are hormonal and non-hormonal ways to treat them. Hormonal treatments involve taking low doses of estrogen or estrogen-progesterone through a patch, pill, or cream, while non-hormonal treatments involve changing one’s diet, exercising, and other prescription medications. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, have a uterus, and are over 40, you may want to talk to your doctor to see whether you are beginning menopause. They can help you figure out the best path forward to minimize your symptoms.