Menopause is a stage at which the woman stops going through menstrual cycles. It is only considered menopause if you have not had your period for at least 12 months. In the US, the average age for it to occur is 51, but it can start as early as your 40s. It is a biological process that occurs naturally but, due to certain symptoms it causes, it can lead to disruptions in your daily schedule and life.

Stages of menopause

Menopause has three different stages, as given below.

  • Perimenopause

Before the actual menopause starts, the women’s body goes into the process of shifting from natural menstruation and ovulation cycle to permanent infertility. This stage is known as perimenopause. It generally starts in your 40s, but some women may experience it in their 30s too. The symptoms include irregular periods, sleep problems, and hot flashes.

  • Menopause

If you have not had your period in one year, then the perimenopause is over, and the actual menopause stage begins. You cannot get pregnant once you enter this stage.

  • Postmenopause

The years that follow are the postmenopause stage. The physical and emotional symptoms of menopause start to subside in most cases. You start to regain your energy levels and feel more emotionally stable. However, as the estrogen level in your body decreases, you will be more vulnerable to diseases like osteoporosis, bladder and vaginal changes, and heart disease.

Diagnosis

If you reach the right age for menopause and start to experience the symptoms, then it could be a sign that you are already menopausal. Generally, hot flashes and irregular periods are clear signs of it. However, you may contact your doctor for additional confirmation. Your gynecologist will collect your blood sample to check the estrogen and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) levels. Decreased estrogen and increased FSH levels indicate the stage you are at. The doctor will also test for the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH disorder can lead to similar symptoms as those of menopause, making it is necessary to rule that out. You can also use the home kits for an FSH test. However, they may not always be conclusive. The menstrual cycle can cause a change in FSH levels too.

Managing menopause symptoms

Menopause is a natural part of life and it cannot be prevented. However, you can manage the symptoms, so you do not have to suffer due to any related complications. The decrease in estrogen levels can result in weight gain, which causes a variety of other health issues. Hence, you must be careful with your diet to keep the weight under control. Eat healthy food, including fresh fruits and vegetables regularly, and make sure to eat when you feel hungry and not when you feel lazy. Also, avoid processed food and foods that are rich in sugar.

Being physically active is also important, during this time, to remain healthy. You should exercise regularly, including moderately intense aerobics for at least 150 minutes a week. Maintaining your bone strength is another effective way to stay healthy during menopause. Following a vitamin D and calcium-rich diet can help with the same.

Keep in mind that the key to remaining healthy during the years of postmenopause is taking good care of your overall health.