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Spotting the Signs of Menopause

Menopause affects everyone differently, but knowing what to expect from common symptoms can help make the transition easier both physically and emotionally.

Throughout your lifetime, you will experience many telltale signs that your body is changing. For example, acne may have served as an indicator of puberty. Nausea may have cued you into pregnancy. Sometime in your mid-to-late forties, your body will begin to send distinct signals that it’s changing once again — this time by exhibiting signs of menopause.

Menopause begins at different times for different women, though it usually occurs around age 50 or 51. While a minority of women don’t seem to have any menopause symptoms other than the absence of a period, it’s likely you’ll have one or two — or more. Here are some of the most common menopause signs to watch for:

The First Signs of Menopause

wow-health-foto-1The first sign of menopause is usually subtle — irregular periods and/or spotting that relate to fluctuating hormone levels in your body. This is an easy menopause sign for women to miss because unless they’re trying to get pregnant, they may not be tracking their cycle and may not realise their periods are getting closer together or are lighter.

Most women do experience some erratic changes in their menstrual cycles during perimenopause, the stage leading up to menopause. Perimenopause can last anywhere from 2 to 10 years. It generally brings waves of such menopausal symptoms as erratic periods, hot flashes, night sweats, and irritability, all of which are the result of escalating hormonal fluctuations during this period.

Classic Menopause Signs and Symptoms

The most obvious signal indicating you’re officially in menopause is the absence of a period for 12 consecutive months.
Once your period has officially stopped, the estrogen levels in your body will gradually decline; also, you will no longer produce another female hormone called progesterone. Such hormonal changes may intensify the hot flashes, mood swings, or other symptoms you may have been experiencing throughout perimenopause, or they may trigger symptoms you have yet to experience.
In addition to no longer having a period, the following are the most common signs of menopause for the great majority of women:

  • Absence of a period for one full year
  • Mood swings and irritability
  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats
  • Poor sleep
  • Cognitive changes (trouble remembering names, directions, losing focus/train of thought)
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Vaginal/vulvar itching
  • Generalised itching

Another physical sign of menopause is bone loss (approximately 20 percent of bone mass can be lost in the first five years of menopause). And although hot flashes usually subside, some women experience hot flashes for the rest of their life.

What’s Your Menopause Timetable?

Your body has its own timeline for when menopause will start and how long it will last — probably a similar timeline to the one your mother or sister followed. But certain health conditions, medical treatments, and lifestyle choices can influence your timeline, and as a result, menopause may occur earlier than you expect. Some of these factors include:

Smoking
On average, women who smoke reach menopause one and a half years earlier than those who don’t. The longer you have smoked and the more you smoke, the more likely you are to experience this effect.

Removal of the pituitary gland
Many key hormones are secreted from this gland in the brain.

Medical treatments 
Chemotherapy or radiation therapy can trigger menopause.

Certain diseases,
especially genetic and autoimmune disorders.

Ovary abnormalities
Removal of both ovaries (oophorectomy) or premature ovarian failure can disrupt hormone action.

A radical diet 
that limits foods groups — going vegan or following a no-carb/high protein diet.

Body fat
Being too low in body fat (under 19.5 percent) or too high (over 25 percent) can wreak havoc with hormones and spark menopause. Maintain a healthy weight.

Source: everydayhealth.com