Medically Reviewed by Dr. George Touliatos
Menopause is a biological process that occurs in women who are in their late 40s or early 50s. It marks the end of their childbearing age. Every year more than 25 million women enter this phase of life, and 85% of them experience at least one menopause-related symptom.
During menopause, a decline in the production of important hormones occurs; as a result, your body goes through certain changes. These changes can have a negative impact on your overall health. Let’s understand how menopause affects the body, but before reading that, let’s first put some light on what menopause is.
Menopause is a part of ageing that all women experience in their lives at different times. It is the stage when your menstrual cycle ends; hence you reach the end of your reproductive years. A woman enters into this stage when she does not have periods for 12 consecutive months.
Menopause brings several changes to the body. These changes are primarily linked to the reduced production of estrogen and progesterone by ovaries. One of the most common symptoms of menopause is hot flashes others may include weight gain, loss of bone density, depression, vaginal dryness, etc.
Getting medical attention can help you deal with these symptoms well. One of the most effective treatments for menopause is hormone replacement therapy (HRT). You can talk to your doctor to find a suitable treatment option for you.
Menopause is actually not a single phase. It is further divided into three stages.
Peri-menopause, also called menopause transition, is the stage when your hormonal level (progesterone and estrogen) starts declining, but you still have monthly periods. It occurs years before menopause.
When you do not have periods for 12 months in a row, you officially enter menopause. Symptoms of menopause are more prominent in this stage.
It starts after menopause. Symptoms like hot flashes, mood swings, and lack of energy start disappearing once you enter post-menopause.
When you enter menopause, you can no longer produce eggs and become pregnant. Other than that, menopause has a whole host of negative effects on the body. Its most common effects are described below.
You will notice a disturbance in your monthly periods before the start of menopause. It is because the production of estrogen and progesterone starts declining or fluctuating before menopause hits. Estrogen is the sex hormone that maintains the female reproductive system, menstruation, and release of eggs.
Since its production is reducing in your body, your ovaries will stop releasing eggs, and your monthly periods will also end. It will indicate the end of your fertility. Your ovaries will also start getting small, and tissues of the vagina, labia minora, and rectum may get thin, making the affected organs sag. Tissues that support breasts also start decreasing; as a result, your breasts sag down.
You will notice that the cervical mucus does not thicken any more (its thickness indicates ovulation during a healthy monthly cycle). Menopause may also reduce your sex drive and cause vaginal dryness. These changes are usually temporary. Contact a doctor to find the right solution to these problems if you think they are influencing your life negatively.
Estrogen plays a crucial role in maintaining bone health. It promotes the production and activity of bone cells. During menopause, when the production of estrogen declines, it no longer supports the bone cells; therefore, bones start losing their density.
It is normal for menopause women to lose 20% of their bone density within the 5 to 7 years of menopause. If bone density declines more speedily, they may develop a condition called osteoporosis. Stats indicate that approximately 13 million women in the UK are menopausal. Around 1 in 2 women of 50 plus age will have a bone fracture due to osteoporosis.
Menopausal women have weak and brittle bones. They are at a higher risk of getting their bones fractured. Their joints also become stiff and painful. Regular exercise and a healthy diet can help them keep their bones strong during menopause.
Research indicates that around 85% of women experience menopause-related symptoms when they are in the post-menopause stage. Menopause-related hot flashes are the most common symptoms among all other symptoms.
During a hot flash, you suddenly feel a sensation of heat, particularly in your upper body part. You may also sweat profusely, and red patches may also develop on your skin. A hot flash can last from a few seconds to a few minutes. Its duration varies from one woman to the other. Hot flashes may continue to occur from time to time for up to 14 years after menopause.
Bringing a few lifestyle changes, like consuming less hot beverages and staying away from hot places, may help you manage them better.
Menopausal women experience frequent urination or urine leakage (a condition called urinary incontinence). Estrogen keeps your bladder and urethra functioning correctly, but when its production declines, muscles of the urethra and bladder weaken, resulting in urine leakage.
Small actions like sneezing, laughing, coughing, and lifting heavy objects will put pressure on your bladder, due to which urine will leak. Reducing weight and doing things that reduce pressure on your bladder may help you deal with this problem.
Menopause has a negative effect on your nervous system, too. A menopausal woman experiences mood swings and emotional changes. Again, it is because of the change in hormone levels and some other factors.
Estrogen controls the production of a mood-regulating neurotransmitter. As your body fails to produce the required amount of estrogen, the synthesis of mood-regulating neurotransmitter also declines. Due to this reason, you may notice sudden changes in your mood. You are happy today, then down the next day.
Menopause may also cause anxiety, depression, and sleep-wake cycle disturbance. Speak to a doctor if you experience such issues and believe that managing them has become very difficult.
Estrogen keeps the inner walls of arteries flexible and healthy thus, it exerts a cardioprotective effect. A decline in its production can put you at risk of developing a cardiovascular disease.
Your body will burn fewer calories and fats when menopause starts. A low level of cholesterol may also lead to an increase in the cholesterol level. It will not only make you gain weight but will also increase the risk of heart disease.
Menopause is a natural process, and unfortunately, you cannot stop it from occurring. However, you can reduce its effect on your life by choosing a suitable treatment option. You can manage your symptoms with the help of hormone replacement therapy, medications, and lifestyle changes.
The choice of a treatment option depends on certain factors like your health condition, the severity of menopause symptoms, and your medical history. Menopause treatments have their own benefits and risks. Therefore, discuss them in detail with your doctor to choose the right treatment plan.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT), also known as menopausal hormone therapy, is one of the most effective menopause treatments. It will replace the diminished hormones (estrogen and progesterone) and balance their level in the body. Replacement of hormones will help you reduce the menopause effects like hot flashes, low energy, bone loss, etc.
This treatment may bring several other benefits as well. Other advantages of HRT may include protection from cataract, tooth decay, and diabetes. Women after successful HRT therapies live a more productive and prosperous life.
However, HRT may not be suitable for people with certain health conditions. Therefore, talk to your doctor or a medical professional to determine whether it is the right treatment for you or not.
Bringing positive lifestyle changes is an effective way of reducing the effects of menopause. Do exercise regularly to reduce weight and keep your body active. Have a healthful diet that includes natural food items like vegetables, fruits, fish, etc. Natural foods are the rich source of vitamins and minerals your body requires to stay fit.
Similarly, reduce the intake of alcohol, coffee, and similar beverages. Share your experience of menopause with your friends and family. It will help you feel much better. Get plenty of rest and establish good sleeping habits.
Menopause is a natural transition that brings unwanted mental and physical changes. If you are concerned about these changes, then seek medical advice and get a suitable treatment. HRT and lifestyle changes are the most effective ways that may help you reverse the effects of menopause on your body. If you are concerned about your hormonal changes during the menopause consider speaking to one of our experts on HRT who will be able to get you booked in for an assessment and hormone replacement therapty blood test.
This article has been researched and written based on scientific evidence and fact sheets that have then been crossed checked by our team of doctors and subject matter experts.
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