As most of us know, menopause is defined as the cessation of menstrual periods and can be diagnosed after 12 months of amenorrhoea (no menstrual periods). It is the natural state the body enters after the ovaries have stopped ovulating, due to depletion of eggs. Menopause generally occurs between the ages of 40 and 55 years, with the average age of menopause in Western societies being 50-51 years.
Although menopause is a completely natural state of health, it also increases the risk of a number of health conditions, including:
- Osteoporosis: when menopause occurs, oestrogen levels drop. Healthy levels of oestrogen are required for the health of our bones.
- Cardiovascular disease: there is also an increased risk of cardiovascular disease following menopause. This is because oestrogen is protective to the heart and has positive effects on blood pressure, cholesterol and other aspects of cardiovascular health. However, it is important to note that most of the risk factors for cardiovascular disease are able to be modified through dietary and lifestyle interventions.
Signs and symptoms of menopause include:
- Hot flushes
- Mood changes
- Sleep disturbances
- Memory and cognitive changes
- Body aches
- Hair loss
- Urinary incontinence
- Vaginal dryness
- Bladder infections
- Increased facial hair
There are many dietary, lifestyle and herbal interventions which can help combat the symptoms of menopause. The use of synthetic hormones (HRT) to manage menopause can provide short term relief but the side effects including the increased risk to Alzheimer’s disease are frightening. Menopause symptoms and hormone modulation responds exceptionally well to herbal medicine. As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Balancing baseline hormones and optimising your health prior to menopause can make the menopausal transition so much smoother.