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What is Menopause?

Menopause is the normal and natural cessation of the menstrual period marked by 12 months without a menstrual period. Menopause is typically caused by aging but can be triggered prematurely by medical interventions such as a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) or chemotherapy. The average age for menopause is 51-years-old with a range of 40 to 58-years-old.

Perimenopause, meaning around menopause, is the time marked by irregular menstrual periods and changes in flow (lighter or heavier) usually beginning years before a woman experiences her final menstrual period. Perimenopause can last 7-14 years.

While menopause is a normal and natural health milestone, and not a health condition that needs treatment, there are symptoms that can negatively impact the daily lives of women. Menopause symptoms vary for each individual and some women experience no other symptoms than the end of their menstrual period. For others, the 3 most common symptoms include:

  • Hot flashes and night sweats
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Sleep difficulties

Often, women who are experiencing menopause are also caregiving for others, such as children, grandchildren, or parents. Menopause marks the end of the reproductive years and there is often unrecognized and unacknowledged loss in this transition. Many women in this age range are reaching their career goals and gaining more responsibility in their work life.

Post-menopause describes the time period after menopause and goes on for the rest of a woman’s life. This is an important time to refocus health goals including managing increased risk for heart disease and osteoporosis. Additional tips include:

  • Stop smoking or using tobacco products
  • Eat foods high in fiber and low in fat including lots of fruits and vegetables
  • Get plenty of calcium and vitamin D
  • Maintain your healthy weight
  • Engage in weight bearing activity three times per week (walking or dancing)

If you’d like an opportunity to learn more about menopause and speak with other woman in a safe and supportive environment, consider joining an upcoming free, 4-week Menopause Discussion Group. The Group will meet via Zoom each Wednesday in February at 7:00 p.m. and is offered by SEARHC Health Promotion. Participants will receive a comprehensive menopause guidebook from The North American Menopause Society.

For more information and to register, contact Erin Matthes at (907) 966-8720 or ematthes@searhc.org.

Check out the National Institute of Health’s helpful articles on menopause.

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