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Menopause: Time for a Change by National Institute of Aging - HTML preview

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T I M E F O R A C H A N G E

National Institutes of Health

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

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Table of Contents

AN INTRODUCTION TO MENOPAUSE . . . . . . . . . 2

Understanding the transition through

menopause and why menopause

happens early in some women

SIGNS OF THE MENOPAUSAL TRANSITION . . . . 7

Hot flashes and other symptoms

during mid-life

WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR HOT FLASHES

AND OTHER MENOPAUSAL SYMPTOMS . . . . . . 11

How some women find help

POSTMENOPAUSAL HEALTH CONCERNS . . . . . 18

Osteoporosis, cardiovascular

disease, and urinary incontinence

STAYING HEALTHY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26

Nutrition, health care, and lifestyle

suggestions to follow during and

after menopause

FOR MORE INFORMATION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35

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you are a woman in her mid forties or early fifties, you may feel like your body is changing, but you If may not know what is happening. Maybe your periods are not the same. You don’t sleep as well as you always have. Or your waist is getting thicker. You may not be paying much attention to these changes until one day, if you’re like many women, it happens—a hot flash! One minute you feel perfectly comfortable, and the next you are sweating and flushed—for no apparent reason. You may be surprised.

You may feel “too young.” You ask yourself—could this be the start of my transition through menopause?

This booklet begins with an explanation of what is happening during the menopausal transition. It will tell you about some of the common signs that you are beginning this transition and give you information about handling bothersome symptoms. There is a discussion of some health problems that become more common after menopause, as well as suggestions for staying healthy.

There is a resource list for more information. This booklet, based on research conducted by scientists, represents what we know now about the menopausal transition.

1

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A N I N T R O D U C T I O N T O

Menopause

Menopause, also known as “the

change” or “change of life,” is a

normal part of a woman’s life.

It is a point in time—the last

menstrual cycle, the last period.

The years leading up to that

last period, when women might

be experiencing menopausal

symptoms like changes in their

monthly cycles or hot flashes, are

called the menopausal transition.

It is a common mistake to use

the word menopause to describe

this whole transition.

2

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A N I N T R O D U C T I O N T O M E N O P A U S E

menopausal transition

The

occurs at a time in a woman’s

reproductive life when the production

of estrogen and progesterone, two

dryness, are caused by changes in her

hormones made by the ovaries, may

hormone levels. As a woman ages and

vary dramatically and unpredictably.

especially as she gets closer to menopause, The ovaries are two small glands found

her ovaries get smaller. This time of changes on either side of the top of the uterus or in hormone levels and menstrual cycles

womb. Before menopause, they hold

is called the menopausal transition. You

eggs, one or more of which are released

might also hear it called perimenopause.

during a menstrual cycle. If the egg then It usually lasts several years until 12 months joins with sperm following sexual inter-after your last period. Once a woman has

course and attaches itself inside the uterus, gone a full 12 months without a period,

pregnancy is the result. Ovaries also

she can be fairly sure that she has been

produce chemical substances known as

through menopause and is now in post-

hormones, which travel through the blood

menopause. The chart on page 5 shows

to other tissues to control how cells work.

how the patterns of hormone production

One of these, estrogen, has effects on cells change as women go from their reproductive in many parts of the body including the

years through the menopausal transition to reproductive organs, brain, heart and

postmenopause. Postmenopause lasts the

blood vessels, and bone.

rest of a woman’s life.

Usually in her forties, a woman’s body

Going through menopause is a little

starts changing. Some differences, such as like driving on an unfamiliar, twisting road a thickening waist, can happen because

with an unclear destination. You may not

she is getting older, but others, like vaginal be sure of all that is happening, where you 3

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M E N O P A U S E : T I M E F O R A C H A N G E

R E P R O D U C T I V E A G I N G I N W O M E N

R e p r o d u c t i v e Ye a r s

M e n o p a u s a l

Postmenopause

Tr a n s i t i o n

First Period