Menopause is one of the biggest transitions in a woman’s life. For some, it may be a minor change. But most women experience some degree of discomfort associated with the process, and this is certainly normal.
However, while it’s normal, it’s not necessarily harmless. Menopause can have some serious consequences for your health. Edward J. Ramirez, the provider at The Fertility & Gynecology Center - Monterey Bay IVF explains more about the possible health consequences you may experience as a result of menopause.
The difference between perimenopause and menopause
Many of the symptoms we often attribute to menopause are actually due to perimenopause.
Perimenopause refers to the time before your periods end for good. This transitional phase is when your estrogen levels start to decline, which can create symptoms. Perimenopause usually begins as early as in your late 30s, but might not occur until you’re over 40.
For most women, the perimenopausal phase lasts for about 4 years, although it may last for up to 8 years.
Menopause occurs when you haven’t had a period for at least one full calendar year.
The health effects associated with menopause
It’s the loss of estrogen that may make you feel less vital than you once did. You may feel this intensely or just a little. Some of the symptoms associated with low estrogen may include the following:
- Vaginal dryness
- Irregular periods
- Pain during intercourse
- Hot flashes or chills
- Night sweats
- Mood changes
- Trouble sleeping
While each of these symptoms may feel a little uncomfortable, it can also have more serious effects on your long-term health.
The long-term health effects of low estrogen
Having low estrogen does more than just make your periods unpredictable, which can be an issue itself.
Low estrogen can have a profoundly negative impact on your moods, possibly leading to relationships becoming unstable. Some women find that they need to begin taking an antidepressant during this phase, which may not be permanent.
One of the biggest risks of going through menopause is that it increases your risks of cardiovascular disease, including strokes and heart attacks.
Following a good diet and getting regular exercise is always essential for your health, but it becomes even more imperative after your estrogen levels decline. You may find it more likely that you will put on extra pounds if you’re not careful.
Managing your weight is crucial to preventing heart disease.
As you get older, your bones become more brittle. This is a normal effect of the loss of estrogen. Your risks of developing osteoporosis dramatically increase, especially if you don’t frequently engage in weight training.
Don’t worry about getting too bulky or muscular from lifting weights; the female body is generally not at great risk of this. You’re much better off erring on the opposite side.
Another unfortunate effect of losing estrogen is a greater risk of developing urinary incontinence. This may include needing to always find a bathroom everywhere you go because you fear that you might not be able to hold your urine. It’s a bit embarrassing, but it’s not unusual. If it’s becoming troublesome, Dr. Ramirez can do tests of your bladder function to see if you need a prescription for a medication that can help with bladder control.
All of these symptoms are manageable, but you have to let your provider know about them.
Hormone replacement therapy
Hormone replacement therapy uses forms of estrogen to give your body back some of what it’s missing.
You may have heard horror stories about hormone replacement therapy, but, for the most part, studies have shown that it isn’t a serious risk for most women. If you take estrogen earlier — before age 60 — you’re more likely to have a positive outcome from their use.
Hormone replacement therapy comes in many forms. Dr. Ramirez will work with you to find the best one for you. When you’re on the correct dose of hormones, you should feel like you have all the vitality and energy that you did in your pre-menopausal years.
Call or message us today for an appointment at our office in Monterey, California.