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What Menopause Means

MENOPAUSE, also know as the change of life, is the end of the woman's menstrual period. In general, it occurs to women from the late 30s to early 60s. Menopause starts when the ovaries no longer respond to the controlling hormones released by the pituitary gland of the brain. As a result, the ovaries fail to produce the female hormones oestrogen and progesterone.

Many women experience symptoms of menopause and irregular periods for several years leading to menopause. This is called "perimenopause" and it represents the gradual decline in regular function of the ovaries. Periods become erratic in spacing and amount.

Every woman has a different menopause experience. The transition is gradual and accompanied by a range of symptoms:

* Hot flushes and sweating - occurs when the automatic controls of the nervous system become erratic. This triggers the blood vessels to open and signals the sweat glands to be more active.

* Sleep disturbance - this may include problems falling asleep, restlessness or night-time sweat. Some women sweat so heavily that they need to change the sheet at night.

* Psychological changes - mood swings, depression, tiredness, headaches, absent-minded and irritability. These changes are distressing to yourself and the people around you.

* Physical changes - skin becomes thinner and losses elasticity. The lack of oestrogen will mean that the glands do not produce as much lubrication and at the same time, affects the bladder. The falling level will also cause unfavourable changes in cholesterol and fat levels in the blood. This will also cause a gradual rise in the risk of heart attack and stroke.

* Osteoporosis - thinning of the bone is also associated with menopause. Oestrogen normally stimulates the bone-building cells. Women tend to lose bone mass and strength for several years following menopause. Ultimately, this can make the bones more like to collapse or fracture.

How to make menopause easier?

Menopause is not an easy part of life. Neither will the right attitude make it a joyous part of it. However, according to Fitness First experts, certain actions can make life generally better and menopause, an easier stage to go by.

* Regular exercise such as walking for 20-30 minutes for three or four times a week can improve your health and add years to your life. Exercise strengthens your bones; increases wellbeing and can help make sleeping easier.

* Eating the right food is also important. For healthy bones, the body needs about 500mg calcium each day from dairy products.

* Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables as these provide the necessary minerals and vitamins for good general health and also help to protect against cancer and heart disease.

* Soy flour or other foods rich in "plant oestrogen" can reduce menopausal flushing.

* Smoking is never good for health. The biggest single move anyone can take to improve health is to stop smoking.


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