Menopause and health

Menopausal health covers the natural stages of aging including the perimenopause, menopause and post-menopause. Symptoms reflect how your body responds to the changing levels of oestrogen that naturally occur with age. 25% of women have no or minimal menopausal symptoms and 25% of women have severe or debilitating symptoms.

The definition of menopause is the time when you have not had a period for a full 12 months. After this time, you are said to be post-menopausal. Perimenopause is the lead up to the menopause and can last for months or years. If you are taking hormonal contraception that masks your periods, you may not be able to tell when you officially reach menopause or notice any changes in your periods. This doesn’t matter and you may still experience other symptoms.

Perimenopause reflects the symptoms you get as a result of the fluctuating hormone levels during this time. Your overall hormone production reduces with age. Symptoms may come and go for weeks or months at a time reflecting the variable levels at this time.

The average age of menopause is 51 years, and for most women it happens between the ages of 45 and 55, so many women will be perimenopausal for a proportion of their 40s.

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People experiencing menopause and perimenopause are often unaware of the range and impact of symptoms that can result from falling hormone levels. They may become worried about joint pain, fatigue and other physical symptoms, and/or mental health changes like depression, anxiety and mood changes. Menopause can come with a wide range of symptoms and can affect women differently – not everyone will experience problematic symptoms, whereas others will be affected more severely.

Falling oestrogen levels also means that post-menopausal women are more likely to be affected by osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and dementia.

Making positive lifestyle changes can significantly reduce your symptoms. Appropriate lifestyle changes, such as staying a healthy weight, maintaining and improving strength and balance and thinking about your changing nutritional needs, can help symptoms and lessen associated risks. It’s important to consider these alongside symptom management.

It’s an important transition point in life and a good time to think about taking action to support your future health and wellbeing. Your GP practice can support you with advice and discussion around managing your menopause.

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