Menopause occurs when the ovaries stop making estrogen and progesterone. It's defined as not having a period or spotting for 12 or more months. The average age of natural menopause in the United States is 51. It can occur anytime between ages 40 and 55.

Some women notice little difference in their bodies or moods. Others find menopause very uncomfortable and disruptive.

Health issues

The most serious issues women face after menopause are an increased risk for heart disease and osteoporosis.

These are other changes that may occur:

  • Hot flashes

  • Vaginal dryness

  • Urinary problems, such as incontinence or a burning sensation while urinating

  • Problems sleeping and mood swings

  • Concentration and memory problems

  • Weight gain

Hormone therapy (HT) has long been given to reduce symptoms and some of the health risks of menopause. Recent studies, however, have found that HT can increase the risk for breast and uterine cancer in some women. Because of this, women and their doctors should carefully weigh its risks and benefits.

What to do

The following steps can help relieve the symptoms of menopause:

  • Lose weight if you're overweight. This will reduce your risk for heart disease and some cancers.

  • Have at least three servings of low-fat dairy products a day. This will help maintain your bone density. If you don't drink milk, take a daily calcium supplement of at least 1,000 to 1,500 mg.

  • Get enough vitamin D. You need 400 to 800 IUs each day.

  • Avoid hot beverages and spicy foods to reduce hot flashes.

  • Exercise regularly. Get at least 30 to 60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every day.

  • Talk with your doctor before using herbal remedies. These products haven't been tested for safety. They may not work, and they could interact with medicines you take.

Medical Reviewer: [Byrd, Sylvia RN, MBA, Dolan, Mary MD] Last Annual Review Date: 2008-06-13T00:00:00-06:00 Copyright: Copyright Health Ink & Vitality Communications

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