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Menopause and HRT


Introduction to Menopause

Menopause simply means the end of menstruation, but the term is also used to refer to the months and years in a woman's life before and after her final period — a time that may or may not bring with it some physical or emotional changes.

Most women menstruate for the last time at about 50 years of age; a few do so as early as 40, and a very small percentage as late as 60. Women who smoke undergo menopause about two years earlier than nonsmokers. Most women notice some menstrual changes — such as shortening of cycle length (periods occurring closer together), skipped menstrual periods and occasional heavy periods — up to a few years before menstruation ceases.

There is great variation in experience of menopause among women. About 10 percent to 15 percent of women report that menopausal symptoms interfere with their daily life.

More than one third of the women in the United States, about 36 million, have been through menopause. Women now live longer. With a life expectancy of about 81 years, a 50 year old woman can expect to live more than one-third of her life after menopause. So, it is important that you understand what is happening and how to cope up with menopause so that you can spend the last third of your life comfortably.

What Is Menopause?

Menopause is defined as the time when a woman's menses, or menstruation, permanently ceases. After menopause, a woman will no longer ovulate- produce eggs that can be fertilized to develop into a baby. Although much remains to be known about why menopause occurs, it appears to be closely tied to the depletion of follicles, tiny cellular entities found in the ovaries. Each follicle is made up of an egg surrounded by cells.

Menopause is the last stage of a gradual biological process in which the ovaries reduce their production of female sex hormones. The process actually begins about 3 to 5 years before the final menstrual period. This transitional phase is called the climacteric, or perimenopause. Menopause is considered complete when a woman has been without periods for 1 year. On average, this occurs at about age 50. But the onset of menopause varies from person to person. Cigarette smokers tend to reach menopause earlier than nonsmokers.

Next Topic: How Does Menopause Happen?

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