Menopause is a normal change in a woman's life when her period stops. It is often called the "change of life." During menopause, a woman's body slowly makes less of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. This often happens between the ages of 45 and 55 years old. A woman has reached menopause when she has not had a period for 12 months in a row, and there are no other causes for this change. As you near menopause, you may have symptoms from the changes your body is making. Many women wonder if these changes are normal, and many are confused about how to treat their symptoms. You can feel better by learning all you can about menopause, and talking with your doctor about your health and your symptoms. If you want to treat your symptoms, your doctor can tell you more about your options and help you make the best treatment choices. "My mom never talked to me about menopause. She says her mother never talked about it either. I'm not sad. I'm past menopause. I'm glad those monthly periods are over." Symptoms of Menopause Every woman's period will stop at menopause. Some women may not have any other symptoms. But as you near menopause, you may have these symptoms: * Changes in your period. The time between periods and the flow from month to month may be different. * Abnormal bleeding or "spotting." This is common as you near menopause. But if your periods have stopped for 12 months in a row, and you still have "spotting," you should talk to your doctor to rule out serious causes, like cancer. * Hot flashes ("hot flushes"). You get warm in the face, neck and chest. * Night sweats and sleeping problems. These may lead to feeling tired, stressed, or tense. * Vaginal changes. The vagina may become dry and thin, and sex and vaginal exams may be painful. You also might get more vaginal infections. * Thinning of your bones. This may lead to loss of height and bone breaks (osteoporosis). * Mood changes. May include mood swings, depression, and irritability. * Urinary problems. You may have leaking, burning or pain when urinating, or leaking when sneezing, coughing, or laughing. * Lack of concentration. You may become forgetful. * Sex drive decreases. You may have less interest in sex and changes in sexual response. * Weight fluctuation. Weight gain or increase in body fat around your waist. * Hair loss or thinning. Hair thinning or loss is a problem for some women. * Depression. Some researchers believe that the decrease in estrogen triggers changes in your brain, causing depression. Symptom Relief "Is it hot in here, or is it me?" As you near menopause, you may have symptoms from the changes your body is making. Here are some ways to relieve those symptoms. * Hot Flashes. A hot environment, eating or drinking hot or spicy foods, alcohol, or caffeine, and stress can bring on hot flashes. Try to avoid these triggers. Dress in layers and keep a fan in your home or workplace. Regular exercise might also bring relief from hot flashes and other symptoms. Ask your doctor about taking an antidepressant medicine. There is proof that this can be helpful for some women. * Vaginal Dryness. Use an over-the-counter vaginal lubricant. There are also prescription estrogen replacement creams that your doctor might give you. If you have spotting or bleeding while using estrogen creams, you should see your doctor. * Problems Sleeping. One of the best ways to get a good night's sleep is to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week. But avoid a lot of exercise close to bedtime. Also avoid alcohol, caffeine, large meals, and working right before bedtime. You might want to drink something warm, such as herb tea or warm milk, before bedtime. Try to keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature. Avoid napping during the day and try to go to bed and get up at the same times every day. * Memory problems. Ask your doctor about mental exercises you can do to improve your memory. Try to get enough sleep and be physically active. * Mood swings. Try to get enough sleep and be physically active. Ask your doctor about relaxation exercises you can do. Ask your doctor about taking an antidepressant medicine. There is proof that this can be helpful. Think about going to a support group for women who are going through the same thing as you, or getting counseling to talk through your problems and fears. Two other common health problems can start to happen at menopause, and you might not even notice. * Osteoporosis. Day in and day out your body is busy breaking down old bone and replacing it with new healthy bone. Estrogen helps control bone loss. So losing estrogen around the time of menopause causes women to begin to lose more bone than is replaced. In time, bones can become weak and break easily. This condition is called osteoporosis. * Heart disease. After menopause, women are more likely to have heart disease. Changes in estrogen levels may be part of the cause. But, so is getting older. As you age, you may develop other problems, like high blood pressure or weight gain, that put you at greater risk for heart disease.
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