EXCLUSIVE: World Menopause Day 2021: Expert explains how early and late menopause affects women
Menopause, perimenopause or post menopause are stages in a woman's life when her monthly period stops. This indicates the end of a woman's reproductive years.
Perimenopause is the first stage in this process and can start 8 - 10 years before menopause. Menopause is the time that marks the end of your menstrual cycles. It's diagnosed after you've gone 12 months without a menstrual period. Postmenopause is the stage after menopause. Age of menopause is a very important biomarker of not only the loss of fertility but also an increased risk for various mid-life diseases and problems.
It is a natural part of ageing that usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age, as a woman's estrogen levels decline. The average age for a woman to reach menopause is 51 in developed countries.
In India, average age of menopause it was 46 -47years, which is significantly lower than the age in some developed countries, but it is more in urban women than rural women.
Menopause before 40 years of age is known as premature menopause.
Early menopause is open which happens before age 45. Premature menopause happens to about 1 percent of women under age 40. Early menopause, occurring in women under age 45, is seen in about 5 percent of women.
Causes of premature menopause
Most frequently idiopathic- reasons not known.
Autoimmune disorders where there is immune reactions to own body organs like thyroid, ovaries etc.
Genetic causes which might be hereditary.
Infections or inflammatory conditions which damages the ovarian tissues.
Or might be induced due to premenopausal bilateral oophorectomy (removal of both ovaries) or from cancer treatments including chemotherapy and radiation.
The symptoms of premature and early menopause include many of the typical menopause symptoms which includes:
Hot flashes where person feel a sudden wave of mild or intense body heat with sweating.
Vaginal dryness leading to difficulty in having sex and frequent urinary infections.
Emotional changes like mood swings, irritability, crying spells etc
Risks of premature and early menopause
An earlier death.
Various neurological problems including loss of memory
Given the health risks associated with early menopause, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is routinely recommended to all women with premature menopause unless there is a compelling reason it can’t be used. Many of the risks of hormone therapy used after natural menopause are not thought to apply to women who have premature menopause.
Though causes of premature menopause are mostly unmodifiable, it's associated risks can be modified by lifestyle interventions apart from medical treatments.
These are as follows:
Regular visits to doctors and following their advice.
Plenty of fluids.
Diet modifications which include a high protein & high calcium diet and containing antioxidants, supplementations such as Vitamin D, and micronutrients.
Talking to partners and/or friends about emotional changes like irritability.
Keeping cool with cotton dress, avoiding high temperatures, cessation of smoking and losing weight if hot flashes.
If a woman is 55 or older and still hasn’t begun menopause, doctors would consider it late-onset menopause. Late menopause isn’t uncommon among obese women. The prime causes are:
Genetic in families with history of late menopause.
Other endocrine problems like thyroid disorder.
Estrogen producing ovarian cancers.
Pros of late menopause
Lower risk of osteoporosis, stroke and cardiovascular problems
Later age at menopause and longer reproductive lifespan may result in longer life expectancy.
Cons of late menopause
There’s an increased risk of breast, ovarian, and uterine cancer in late-onset menopause. This is due to the lengthened amount of time a woman’s body is producing estrogen.
Many of these diseases can be prevented by timely intervention.
Less fat, high protein high fiber diet rich in antioxidants.
Regular exercises and keeping the weight in check.
Regular mammograms, pap smears, and gynecological exams are especially important.
About the author: Dr C.S. Mythreyi