The menopause refers to the time after a woman stops having regular periods. Technically it is diagnosed after 12 months without a menstrual period. This is caused by the ovaries running out of eggs, and usually occurs around 50-51 years of age. However in some women it can occur years earlier, while in others it may occur much later.
At the onset of menopause, which can be several months to years before the last menstrual period occurs, there is a corresponding drop in the level of the female hormone estrogen. This can result in irregular periods, sleep disturbance, hot flushes, excessive sweating, weight gain, dry skin, vaginal dryness and reduced libido, mood swings, general malaise/tiredness, and forgetfulness. These may last for several months and are usually short-lived. However, some women may have more severe symptoms and may benefit from hormone treatment.
The menopause also results in an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, so it is important to exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet and maintain an optimal weight.
In addition, after the menopause, bone density starts to reduce and the risk of osteoporosis increases. This results in more brittle bones that are prone to fracture, especially of the spine, hips and wrists. Ensuring that enough dietary calcium is important, together with additional calcium supplements and Vitamin D.