FEMALE ANATOMY AND PHYSIOLOGY: MENOPAUSE

Just as menarche signals the beginning of a female’s potential reproductive years, menopause -the permanent cessation of menstruation – signals the end. Generally occurring between the ages of 40 and 60, and at age 51 on average, menopause results in decreased estrogen levels, which may produce troublesome symptoms in some women. Decrease in vaginal lubrication, hot flashes, headaches, dizziness, and joint pains have all been associated with the onset of menopause. Since estrogen plays a protective role in women by guarding against heart disease and osteoporosis (loss of bone mineral density), postmenopausal women may not only reduce some of the symptoms associated with menopause but also regain some protection against heart disease and osteoporosis by going on hormone replacement therapy (HRT), or estrogen replacement therapy (ERT). Unfortunately, HRT is not without potential risk. Increased risk of endometrial cancer (the lining of the uterus), gallstones, and breast cancer has been reported in some women. All women need to discuss the risks and benefits of HRT with their health care provider and come to an informed decision. Certainly lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise and a diet low in fat and adequate in calcium, can also help protect postmenopausal women from heart disease and osteoporosis.*6/277/5*

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