Making Sense of Menopause: Basic FAQs
Although menopause is a transition that happens for all women, it remains a mystery for many. This is partly because the transition is not always black and white. Some women experience its obvious signs and symptoms, while others don’t.
Some women can have symptoms that come and go or appear to be other conditions. Because of the number of changes that can occur during this life phase, making sense of menopause can be difficult – but it doesn’t have to be. The first step in understanding menopause is to learn what it is and what it isn’t. Here are eight common questions, and their answers, related to menopause.
Perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause – what are they and what is the difference?
Menopause is the end of ovulation and menstrual cycles. To be menopausal, a woman will not have had a period for 12 months – although it’s common to refer to symptoms that occur closely before or after this time as “menopause symptoms.”
Perimenopause is the circumstance that can be most confusing. For some women, menopause is a relatively seamless and quick transition. One month they have a period, and the next month they don’t and never do again. For other women this process can take 8-10 years, being a slow decline in reproductive function, accompanied by fitful stops and starts.
During perimenopause a woman will still have cycles, although her periods can be increasingly less regular, and she can still become pregnant. Perimenopause can even start when a women is in her late 30s – and can be harder to diagnose when it starts this early. Eventually, however, women in perimenopause will stop ovulating and reach full menopause.
Postmenopause is the remainder of a woman’s life after her menopausal transition is complete and the acute symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes and night sweats, have declined or vanished.
What about induced menopause and premature menopause? Are those the same?
If a woman has her ovaries removed before natural menopause occurs, then this will cause the abrupt onset of menopause because ovulation and menstruation are stopped immediately. Likewise, some drugs and medical treatments (especially chemotherapy or radiation) can lead to ovarian failure and the onset of menopause, regardless of age.
Other health conditions, such as prolonged eating disorders and some autoimmne disorders, can also cause menopause to occur much earlier than normal. Regardless of the cause, menopause can have the same symptoms and carry the same health challneges.
When does menopause typically occur?
Perimenopause and menopause have quite a broad range of onset. A typical woman will experience menopause between the ages of 45-55, with 51 being the average. However, the age of onset is not set in stone and many women enter perimenopause in their late 30s while some don’t fully enter menopause until closer to 60.
How can I tell if I am in menopause or perimenopause?
If you have not had a period for a year and there is no other recognized medical cause, then you are probably in menopause. However, because symptoms tend to vary from woman to woman, and because some of the common menopause symptoms can be caused by other health conditions unrelated to menopause, it’s a good idea to test the key hormone levels related to menopause. In addition, your health-care practitioner can help you better understand if you are in perimenopause.
What are the symptoms of menopause?
The symptoms of perimenopause and menopause are not universal and every woman will experience symptoms differently. Some women have only a few mild symptoms, while other women experience a range of symptoms over months or years. The symptoms most commonly associated with menopause include:
- Sleep changes
- Mood swings
- Hot flashes and night sweats
- Vaginal dryness
- Weight gain
- Skin changes
- Loss of menstruation
- Breast tenderness
- Brain fog
- Memory lapses
How can I naturally manage menopause symptoms?
Certain strategies can be taken to naturally minimize the symptoms associated with menopause. For example, eating a healthy and balanced diet – and avoiding foods that trigger symptoms like hot flashes – can be helpful in managing some symptoms of menopause.
Lifestyle changes like regular exercise and participating in stress-relieving activities (such as yoga, meditation, or just setting aside daily quiet time) are good ways to help manage symptoms associated with menopause.
In addition to the benefits that come with a healthy diet, regular exercise, and reducing stress, the use of certain botanical extracts can help with the unpleasant symptoms associated with menopause.* Meta-Balance™, Thorne’s unique botanical blend that contains ingredients like wild yam, black cohosh, and Vitex, is designed to support perimenopausal and menopausal women. These botanicals help mitigate common symptoms as hormone production naturally declines.* Meta-Balance also contains the patented ingredient Pycnogenol®, an extract of French maritime pine bark, that can help manage hot flashes, night sweats, and sleep interruptions.* The formula is a great choice for women seeking a natural option to mitigating these common symptoms.*
Are there complications associated with menopause?
Although menopause is a natural stage in life, hormonal changes that occur during and after menopause can affect other areas of health, including:
- Heart health
- Bone health
- Brain health
- Body weight
- Metabolic function
- Urinary health
- Sexual health
Because these areas of health are also affected by other aspects of the aging process, menopause is a good time to reassess your health and focus on healthy aging habits.
How can I stay healthy after menopause?
As with managing symptoms during menopause, a healthy diet, exercise, and practicing stress management can keep you healthy after menopause. Because nutritional needs change as we age, supplementing with a quality multi-vitamin/mineral formula that supports healthy aging can fill nutritional gaps.
Thorne’s Extra Nutrients, a comprehensive formula that includes key nutrients that provide antioxidant support, also adds select botanicals and nutrients that support energy production and eye health, higher levels of calcium and vitamin D for healthy bone, vitamin K as MK7 for bone and heart health, and much more.* Depending on your personal concerns with aging, your health-care practitioner can recommend other botanicals or nutrients for maintenance of good health.
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