Menopause is a phase through which the mature woman passes when her ovaries no longer produce estrogen or ovum, ceasing their function. In short, that means that by not producing more estrogen, the woman stops having menstruation and therefore conceiving.
The age of onset of menopause is between 41 and 55 years in women, the average is 51 years., although it can be extended or delayed, moving in a range of 35 to 59 years, it will depend on each woman and her lifestyle. During menopause ovarian cycles slow down until the levels of estrogen are gradually reduced and there comes a moment when the woman stops producing them. From there the woman experiences a series of very disturbing physical and psychological symptoms, among which are hot flushes, irritability, anxiety, depressive symptoms, low libido, joint pain, vaginal dryness, etc. Once the woman has spent a whole year without a period, it’s possible to say that she has entered into menopause.
On the other hand, there are women who present menopause before, and this is called early or premature menopause. The absence of menstruation begins before 40 years and affects 6% of women in the world. Although this may sound wonderful to some women (because they think that they will not have to deal with the discomfort and pain any more) the truth is that early menopause brings with it a multitude of long-term consequences, since we must take into account that we are no longer protected by the effect of hormones (which helped us regulate the processes of our body and be healthy).
For example, estrogen facilitates the renewal of bone, without which the risk of osteoporosis is greater. They also regulated the levels of good and bad cholesterol, making it less likely to suffer from hypertension and diabetes. In addition, it also has aesthetic consequences, for example the skin will wrinkle before because we will lose collagen and increase its dryness. Therefore, it’s logical to think that the later menopause comes in a woman and tha better her ovaries will continue to produce hormones and she will live in a healthier way, without fear of the consequences of the lack of them.
Symptoms of early or premature menopause.
The symptoms of early menopause are the same as in normal menopause, only they appear before the age of 40 and include:
-Irritability, mood swings, depressive symptoms.
-Problems to sleep.
-Changes in the ovarian cycles.
-The sexual libido decreases.
-Increase in weight.
-Increases the risk of osteoporosis.
-Early vaginal atrophy, including weakening of the pelvic floor, uterine walls and vaginal dryness. Sexual relationships can therefore become painful.
The definitive diagnosis must be done by a professional. For this it’s necessary to do a medical examination that will include a physical examination, a blood draw to measure the levels of the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), which is responsible for stimulating the ovulation process and measuring the levels of estradiol, when both are low this indicate that the woman has entered in the early menopause.
Causes of early menopause.
Nowdays the causes are variable and can occur for different reasons and depending on the genetics and life history of the woman.
-Genetic factors. Almost 30% of women with early menopause have a family member who also presents it. The most common genetic disorder is the premature ovarian failure, the Turner syndrome or congenital adrenal hyperplasia.
-Due to a premature ovarian failure. Occurs when one or both ovaries stop producing enough estrogen and ovulation never comes to be carried out, the reason may be variable, by other diseases or by the woman lifestyle, which may be not very healthy (drugs, poor diet, living in an area exposed to pollutants, working conditions, stress …).
-Histeroctomy. This consists in the removing of the genital organs (uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes…) of the woman for different reasons.
-Consequence of other diseases: In this sense the problem may be caused by autoimmune conditions, that is, as a result of other tratornos or syndromes related to the immune system that can lead women to a late menopause. For example, Crohn’s disease, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. On the other hand, viral infections can also trigger early menopause, as in some cases of mumps.
Is there a treatment?
The treatment by choice is usually the hormonal one, where the woman begins a hormone replacement therapy in order to reduce the damage that can be generated by the symptoms of menopause. However, this is not exactly a cure, it’s only a way to delay the inevitable. The therapy works well, the only negative consequences are the side effects that come with it, as in other hormonal treatments. Therefore, this therapy is not recommended in women with circulatory or liver problems.
In conclusion, the best way to delay menopause is having a healthy lifestyle, leaving aside alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, and also:
-Practice regular exercise. The aerobic exercise is the one that has been most related to the greater segregation of hormones. It doesn’t need to be a very intense or very long exercise, it’s enough to do it 4 or 5 days a week, even if it’s a quick walk or jog, something that is available to everyone.
-A balanced and healthy diet. Eat fresh vegetables and fruits (especially those that are rich in vitamin C). Take brown rice, wheat, onions, fennel, sunflower seeds that are rich in phytoestrogens. On the other hand, incorporate quality proteins in your diet, especially those contained in fish, both white and blue and also reduce salt and sweets.
Finally, you must include soy in your diet, this is a plant that has in its composition high concentrations of phytoestrogens and isoflavones, compounds that mimic the effects of estrogen in the body of a woman and can delay the symptoms of menopause.