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What is menopause?

Menopause is a normal stage in a woman's life when her monthly periods stop. Menopause starts when the ovaries slowly stop making the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. After menopause, a woman is no longer able to become pregnant. A woman who has not had a period for a full year after the age of 45 is considered to be in menopause. Perimenopause is a stage before menopause that may cause signs and symptoms similar to menopause. Perimenopause can last an average of 4 to 5 years.

What are the signs and symptoms of menopause?

The signs and symptoms of menopause can be different from woman to woman:

  • Menstrual period changes such as skipped periods or periods that are closer together, or lighter or heavier than usual
  • Hot flashes (feeling warm, flushed, and sweaty)
  • Mood changes such as irritability or decreased desire to have sex
  • Breast changes such as tenderness or pain
  • Hair changes such as thinning hair or increased hair on your face
  • Vaginal changes such as increased dryness
  • Urinary changes such as increased urinary tract infections (UTIs) or urgency (feeling that you need to urinate right away)
  • Other symptoms such as headaches, trouble sleeping, fatigue, or heart palpitations (strong, fast heartbeats)

What do I need to know about menopause?

  • You can still get pregnant while you have periods. Continue to use birth control if you do not want to get pregnant. You may need to use birth control until it has been 1 year since your periods stopped. Ask your caregiver when you can stop using birth control to prevent pregnancy.
  • Hormone replacement therapy can be used to treat symptoms of menopause. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is medicine that replaces your low hormone levels. HRT contains estrogen and sometimes progestin. HRT has benefits and risks. HRT decreases your risk for bone fractures by helping to prevent osteoporosis. HRT also protects you from colon cancer. HRT may increase your risk for breast cancer, blood clots, heart disease, and stroke. Ask your caregiver if HRT is right for you.

How can I live a healthy lifestyle during and after menopause?

After menopause, your risk for heart disease and bone loss increases. Ask about these and other ways to stay healthy:

  • Exercise regularly. Exercise helps you maintain a healthy weight. Exercise can also help to control your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Include weight-bearing exercise for strong bones. Ask your caregiver about the best exercise plan for you.
  • Eat a variety of healthy foods. Include fruits, vegetables, whole grains (whole-wheat bread, pasta, and cereals), low-fat dairy, and lean protein foods (beans, poultry, and fish). Limit foods high in sodium (salt). Ask your caregiver for more information about a meal plan that is right for you.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Check with your caregiver before you start any weight loss program.
  • Take supplements as directed. You may need extra calcium and vitamin D to help prevent osteoporosis.
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine. Alcohol and caffeine may worsen your symptoms.
  • Do not smoke. If you smoke, it is never too late to quit. You are more likely to have a heart attack, lung disease, blood clots, and cancer if you smoke. Ask your caregiver for information if you need help quitting.

When should I contact my caregiver?

  • You have vaginal bleeding after menopause.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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