Menopause is the natural cessation of ovarian function and menstruation. It is defined as 12 months without any vaginal bleeding and is usually accompanied by some or all of the following symptoms: hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, mood swings, weight gain or redistribution and insomnia.
After those 12 months without menses, any vaginal bleeding is considered abnormal and should be brought to the attention of a healthcare provider. Menopause is not considered "premature," as long as it occurs after age 40. The average age of menopause in the United States is 51.
Menopause is a natural process and does not require treatment if the symptoms are well tolerated. However, signs that treatment is warranted include distress in personal relationships, lack of sleep, or difficulty functioning at home or work due to dealing with vasomotor or emotional menopause symptoms.
Here are five helpful tips for managing menopause:
1. Make time for yourself—Make time for the things you enjoy!
2. Eat healthy and exercise—In many cases, with menopause comes weight gain due to slowing metabolism. You'll gain weight unless you change your lifestyle, so eat less, eat healthy and schedule time for exercise.
3. Get regular exams—Keep up with pap smears, mammograms and wellness exams. Know what your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, bone density and heart disease and breast cancer risks are so you can head off problems with diet, exercise and other lifestyle changes or medications if needed.
4. Be sure you are getting adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D to protect your bones. Osteoporosis prevention and management is based on good overall nutrition, including calcium and vitamin D intake. Postmenopausal women need 1,500 mg of calcium and 800 IU of Vitamin D every day. This may come from food and supplements. Weight-bearing exercise can also help to protect your bones.
5. Seek Help if Needed—If your menopause symptoms are disrupting your life, see your healthcare provider. Hormone replacement therapy is not the only option for treating symptoms; there are many other non-hormonal alternatives.
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