What to expect after menopause
Menopause occurs when a woman's ovaries stop producing eggs, which in turn leads to the cessation of her menstrual cycle. Once a woman has not had a cycle for 12 months, she is considered to be in menopause. While menopause is a fairly simple biological process, it can also be a difficult emotional transition. By arming herself with basic knowledge, a woman do more than just endure this new phase in her life – she can embrace it. Here's what women need to know.
Changes in the Body
The most obvious physical change of menopause is the absence of a menstrual cycle. Less noticeable are falling estrogen levels, which can lead to weakened bones and osteoporosis. Hair loss is common, while facial hair can make an appearance. Vaginal dryness may occur.
Many symptoms of menopause are well known: hot flashes, night sweats, trouble sleeping and forgetfulness. Other common issues are mood swings, decreased sex drive, joint and muscle pain, depression and anxiety.
Menopause itself does not require treatment, but the effects of it often do. Hormone therapy works by replacing estrogen in the body and it remains one of the most popular treatment options. Antidepressants may be prescribed to help with hot flashes and depression. Because there are many treatment options available, a doctor should help each woman decide what is best for her.
Some bleeding is normal for women on hormone replacement therapy. It can range from light bleeding to that resembling a period and is normally not a cause for concern. However, all post-menopausal bleeding should be reported to a physician, especially if it occurs without the use of hormones.
Post-Menopause Weight Control
According to the Mayo Clinic, women tend to gain about a pound a year as menopause approaches. Hormones are often blamed for this shift, but it's more likely that decreased physical activity and poor nutritional choices are the culprits. Additionally, women burn fewer calories at this stage in their lives, so what used to be a good caloric intake for maintenance of body weight will eventually result in excess body weight.
Making Healthy Choices
Healthy choices in menopause are much the same as they are in every other stage of life. Staying active is one of the best things a woman can do to maintain a healthy body. A balanced, low-fat diet combined with a reduced calorie intake will allow women to look and feel great. It is also important to have regular physical exams and to report any concerns to a doctor as soon as possible.
Feeling Good and Staying Strong
Despite its often surly reputation, menopause can be an exciting time in a woman's life. Freed from the inconvenience of their menstrual cycles and the possibility of an unplanned pregnancy, many women feel invigorated by this new phase. Armed with some basic knowledge, a healthy diet and an active lifestyle, the post-menopausal years can truly be the best of a woman's life.
By Sarah Collins
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