Symptoms, Affects and Risks of Menopause

During menopause, the fluctuations in estrogen, progesterone and other hormone levels can cause changes in body functions which include hot flashes, night sweats, depression, change in skin and hair texture, insomnia, urinary urgency and frequency, body dryness, difficulty concentrating, memory loss (especially when recalling a name or word) and other symptoms. Some women experience few or no symptoms, while others may experience severe symptoms and discomfort.

Risks of Disease

The decline in hormone levels at the onset of menopause also triggers other more serious affects in the body. Estrogen and other hormones are required to protect and maintain the normal cellular function of body organs and systems, including the vagina, bladder, breasts, skin, bones, arteries, heart, liver, and brain.

Menopauses increases the incidence of heart attacks, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, as well as the risk of certain types of cancers. Before menopause, female hormones decrease the risk of heart disease in women, but with the onset of menopause that protection is lost. By about the age of 55 years women suffer from heart disease at similar rates as men.

Additionally, the gradual loss of bone density that most women experience from the age of 30 years onward is drastically accelerated after menopause, causing a 10 to 20 percent decrease in bone mass. Bone loss results in part from the lack of estrogen as well as insufficient absorption of calcium by the body, causing osteoporosis. This bone thinning, increases the risk of fractures which can lead to disability and pain.

This condition occurs when bone mass diminishes. Bones become fragile and susceptible to fracture. It is most common among post-menopausal women, although it can affect people of all ages and both sexes. Certain dietary measures can reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Besides calcium rich dairy products, fruit and vegetables are important for good bone health and the prevention of osteoporosis.

Unlike some foods that increase acidity in the body and encourage minerals to be drawn out of the bones to neutralize acid, fruit and vegetables create a more alkaline environment and so help to prevent the loss of bone mineral density.

Treatment: HRT

HRT (hormone replacement therapy) is a combination of synthetic or natural estrogen and progesterone prescribed by doctors to replenish reduced hormone levels. HRT can alleviate these but has to be taken consistently to maintain results. Additionally recent studies show that though it is effective in relieving symptoms of menopause, there may be risks associated with long term use.

And despite the marketing of some companies, hormone replacement therapy will not help women maintain youth and keep wrinkles at bay. Most physicians recommend that when HRT is required, it be used for the shortest period of time possible at low doses.