Page 2- What happens during the menopause?
Most women in the UK tend to start the menopause in their 40s or 50s, with the average age being 51 years. Hormonal changes, particularly a fall in oestrogen production, mean that periods are less regular and gradually they stop altogether. The fall in oestrogen levels can also cause menopausal symptoms.
Most common symptoms are:
- hot flushes and night sweats.
Other symptoms include:
- psychological problems (e.g. anxiety and depression);
- problems with memory and concentration;
- vaginal dryness;
- urinary problems;
- lack of interest in sex;
- sleep disturbances;
- and joint and muscle stiffness.
These typically last for about 4 years after your last period though about 10% of women will experience symptoms for much longer. If you are suffering from unpleasant menopausal symptoms you are not alone - 80% of women in the UK suffer one or more symptoms during this time. Menopausal symptoms can be treated with medication and/or cognitive therapies so speak with your GP for individual advice if your symptoms persist.
In the long-term, oestrogen depletion can cause changes to bones and the cardiovascular system which means that post-menopausal women have an increased risk of certain chronic health complications, such as cardiovascular disease (i.e. heart disease and strokes) and osteoporosis (thinning of the bones which increases the risk of breakage).
The good news is that a healthy varied diet and a healthy lifestyle, including not smoking, limiting alcohol consumption, doing physical activity and maintaining a healthy bodyweight, can help to reduce the severity of menopausal symptoms and protect against long-term health problems associated with loss of oestrogen, such as cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.
Read on to find some useful tips on eating a healthy diet during and after the menopause.