"Menopause is a natural part of aging that typically affects women between the ages of 45 and 55, and is triggered as a woman"s estrogen levels begin to decline.
The average age for a woman affected by menopause is 51. However, it has been known for women to experience it before they reach 40 years of age.
Figures suggest that 1 in 100 women suffer from this early menopause which is also known as premature menopause or premature ovarian insufficiency.
Menopause can be a controversial subject, particularly with regard to hormone replacement therapy. A certain large-scale study reported that HRT does not shorten lifespan and that the benefits of HRT outweighed the risks. The Women"s Health Initiative trial found that HRT was not associated with risk of all-cause, cardiovascular, or cancer mortality in postmenopausal women during an 18-year follow-up of 27,000 women.
Menopause affects every woman, and for many this natural stage in life can become a time of physical and emotional discomfort. The most common symptoms include hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, anxiety, mood swings, and weight gain, which are in part caused by the diminishing levels of estrogen.
Longer-term concerns can include osteoporosis, cancer, dementia, and heart disease. The average age for a woman to reach menopause is 51 years and with an aging population, it is predicted that the number of post-menopausal women will increase to over 1 billion by 2025.
Perimenopause or "menopause transition" is the time when the ovaries will start to decrease the amount of estrogen they produce and physiological changes first become noticeable, usually beginning on average 3-4 years before the menopause. During menopause, the ovaries no longer release ovicells, and estrogen production slows drastically.
Menopause occurs when there has been a permanent cessation of menstruation for 12 months. The majority of menopausal symptoms usually improve within 5 years of the final menstruation.
It is estimated that around 80% of women will experience symptoms and for 10% of women, symptoms can last for up to 12 years.
Women have a hard decision to make therefore with regard to menopause, and for many, the risks of HRT may still outweigh the benefits.
Whichever decision women choose to make, menopause can become less overwhelming if we gain an understanding of the hormonal changes that occur during this time, their effect on the body, and what we can do to support the body to adapt to these changes by doing so we can help to make the menopause a positive experience rather than one to fear."
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