Menopause marks a time of new beginnings for many women. Because your body is going through so many changes at this time, it's important that you do all you can to help stay healthy. The decisions you make about your health and lifestyle will affect you now and in the years to come.
What Is Menopause?
Menopause is the finale to a gradual process in which your ovaries produce less and less of the hormone estrogen. At first, you may notice your menstrual periods become irregular. Eventually, your ovaries stop producing estrogen, and your periods stop altogether. Once you have not had a period for 12 consecutive months, you are in natural menopause. For most women, natural menopause usually occurs in their 40s or 50s, with the average age being about 51 years old.
You are in surgical menopause when your ovaries have been removed, usually during a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus).
When either type of menopause occurs, it's important to talk to your doctor or other health care professional about what you need to do to help keep yourself healthy during this new stage of life. He or she should be your most reliable source of information about what's right for you.
How Will Menopause Make Me Feel?
With either type of menopause, a series of other physical changes can also begin. These may include hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness. Sleep disturbances are also common. Menopausal symptoms vary greatly among womenfrom minor to serious life disruptions.
Your health care professional can offer guidance about what steps you can take to help you feel more comfortable. The Menopause Health Checklist can help you get the conversation started.
What Else Do I Need to Consider?
After menopause, women are also at greater risk for certain diseases and other health-related conditions, such as postmenopausal osteoporosis, high cholesterol, and heart disease. Depending on your particular age and health history, your doctor may suggest certain tests and adjustments to your daily routine. Regular monitoring of risk factors for disease as well as early screening tests are important during menopause and beyond.