Menopause is not a disease—though the way this natural process is portrayed in the press, you might think otherwise.
Don't believe the hype. Menopause does not have to be a horrendous life-altering change. Many women cruise through menopause with minimal symptoms, and many of the symptoms women do endure can often be controlled naturally.
Doctors commonly define menopause as the 366th or 367th day after a woman's last period (think 1 year and 1 day). This event can occur in a woman's forties or her sixties, but most commonly, the change takes place when a woman is in her early fifties.
The symptoms of menopause vary widely from woman to woman. They may not affect a woman at all, or they may hit like a blizzard in Buffalo. As women age, their estrogen levels drop, which triggers menopausal symptoms and also increases their risk of cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. The most common symptoms are weight gain, vaginal changes (including dryness and loss of elasticity), sleep disturbances, emotional changes, and hot flashes.
Sound bad? It doesn't have to be. Eat right, exercise, and talk to your doctor about the possibility of hormone replacement therapy (HRT), other medications, or herbal remedies. They all can help smooth your transition, enabling you to enjoy the benefits of menopause: no more PMS, no more periods, and no more pregnancy worries.
Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., has a few rules for when you should see your doctor about menopause-related symptoms. First, she recommends an annual exam no matter what. Also, if you have irregular spotting or strange bleeding for any reason, see your doctor, she says. Finally, if menopause leaves you feeling unwell in general, see your doctor.
Serafina Corsello, M.D., is and international lecturer on the topic of women's hormonal balance, fertility and andropause. She is the author of The Ageless Woman.
Larrian Gillespie, M.D., is a retired assistant clinical professor of urology and urogynecology and president of Healthy Life Publications. She is the author of The Menopause Diet and The Goddess Diet.
Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., is a clinical professor at Yale University School of Medicine and an obstetrician-gynecologist in New Haven, Connecticut. She is the co-author of What Every Woman Needs to Know about Menopause: The Years Before, During and After and A Women's Guide to Menopause and Premenopause.