“Dr Irena’s” Health Tips – No. 17
Irena Hulson is continuing with her series of health tips, which have been very well received by our readers, especially those who can relate to certain of the topics covered and we hope to receive and publish more in the future for your information. If there is a particular topic you would like to see published please let us know and we will ask Irena to see what she can find on the subject.
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By Irena Hulson
- Menopause is defined as the absence menstrual periods for 12 months. It is the time in a woman’s life when the function of the ovaries ceases.
- The process of menopause does not occur overnight, but rather is a gradual process. This so-called perimenopausal transition period is a different experience for each woman.
- The average age of menopause is 51 years old, but menopause may occur as early as the 30s or as late as the 60s. There is no reliable lab test to predict when a woman will experience menopause.
- The age at which a woman starts having menstrual periods is not related to the age of menopause onset.
- Symptoms of menopause can include abnormal vaginal bleeding and hot flushes, vaginal and urinary symptoms, and mood changes.
- Complications that women may develop after menopause include osteoporosis and heart disease
- Treatments for menopause are customized for each woman.
- Treatments are directed toward alleviating uncomfortable or distressing symptoms.
The average age of menopause is 51 years old. But there is no way to predict when an individual woman will have menopause or begin having symptoms suggestive of menopause. The age at which a woman starts having menstrual periods is also not related to the age of menopause onset. Most women reach menopause between the ages of 45 and 55, but menopause may occur as early as ages 30s or 40s, or may not occur until a woman reaches her 60s. As a rough “rule of thumb, women tend to undergo menopause at an age similar to that of their mothers.
Perimenopause, often accompanied by irregularities in the menstrual cycle along with the typical symptoms of early menopause, can begin up to 10 years prior to the last menstrual period.
Certain medical and surgical conditions can influence the timing of menopause. The surgical removal of the ovaries (oophorectomy) in an ovulating woman will result in an immediate menopause, sometimes termed a surgical menopause or induced menopause. In this case, there is no perimenopause, and after surgery, a woman will generally experience the signs and symptoms of menopause. In cases of surgical menopause, women often report that the abrupt onset of menopausal symptoms results in particularly severe symptoms, but this is not always the case.
The ovaries are often removed together with the removal of the uterus (hysterectomy) If a hysterectomy is performed without removal of both ovaries in a woman who has not yet reached menopause, the remaining ovary or ovaries are still capable of normal hormone production. While a woman cannot menstruate after the uterus is removed by a hysterectomy, the ovaries themselves can continue to produce hormones up until the normal time when menopause would naturally occur. At this time a woman could experience the other symptoms of menopause such as hot flushes and mood swings. These symptoms would then not be associated with the cessation of menstruation. Another possibility is that premature ovarian failure will occur earlier than the expected time of menopause, as early as 1 to 2 years following the hysterectomy. If this happens, a woman may or may not experience symptoms of menopause.
Depending upon the type and location of the cancer and its treatment, the types of cancer therapy (Radiation AND Chemotheraphy) can result in menopause if given to an ovulating woman. In this case, the symptoms of menopause may begin during the cancer treatment or may develop in the months following the treatment.
Premature ovarian failure is defined as the occurrence of menopause before the age of 40. This condition occurs in about 1% of all women. The cause of premature ovarian failure is not fully understood, but it may be related to auto-immune diseases or inherited (genetic) factors.
Isoflavones are chemical compounds found in soya and other plants that are phytoestrogens, or plant-derived estrogens. They have a chemical structure that is similar to the estrogens naturally produced by the body, but their effectiveness as an estrogen has been estimated to be much lower than true estrogens. Two types of isoflavones, genistein and daidzein, are found in soya beans, chick peas, and lentils, and are considered to be the most potent estrogens of the phytoestrogens.
Studies have shown that these compounds may help relieve hot flushes and other symptoms of menopause. In particular, women who have had breast cancer and do not want to take hormone therapy (HRT) with estrogen sometimes use soya products for relief of menopausal symptoms.
There is also a perception among many women that plant estrogens are “natural” and therefore safer than HRT, but this has never been proven scientifically. Further research is needed to fully characterize the safety and potential risks of phytoestrogens.
Some women report that vitamin E supplements can provide relief from mild hot flushes, but scientific studies are lacking to prove the effectiveness of vitamin E in relieving symptoms of menopause. Taking a dosage greater than 400 international units (IU) of vitamin E may not be safe, as in some instances it can cause some heart problems if used in high doses and for long periods.
In my opinion black cohosh is extremely useful when it comes to alleviating the symptoms of menopause, especially hot flushes, also wild yam, licorice and dong quai are also very good,
I personally would not recommend Hormone Replacement Therapy, because of the high risk of breast cancer; these natural remedies are far safer. Women in Japan and most other Asian countries hardly ever suffer from menopause symptoms this is mostly because of the soya-based foods they eat,
Black cohosh is an herbal preparation that has been popular in Europe for the relief of hot flushes. This herb has become more and more popular in the U.S., and the North American Menopause Society does support the short-term use of black cohosh for treating menopausal symptoms,
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