Menopause typically occurs between the ages of 45 – 58 and marks the end of menstruation cycles.
These cycles will usually change in the years leading up to menopause due to a shift in estrogen levels. Estrogen levels begin to shift in the years leading up to menopause, which causes a change in menstrual cycles. This time frame is referred to as perimenopause, and can last for as long as eight years. During this time, periods can become unpredictable in length, intensity, or frequency.
Women's periods end completely once the ovaries stop producing estrogen. Menopause sets in once a woman has missed her period for 12 consecutive months.
The symptom most associated with menopause is the hot flash – a sensation of heat that overwhelms the face and upper body. These flashes can last anywhere from seconds to minutes and they’re usually accompanied by sweating, reddening skin and an accelerated heart beat.
Vaginal dryness and urinary tract infections may also occur in relation to menopause.
These symptoms can be treated through simple lifestyle modifications and certain medications, but the most important step women can take to prepare themselves for menopause is to maintain good health. Regular exercise, healthy eating, regular checkups, and increased calcium and Vitamin D intake can counterbalance the hormonal changes that occur during menopause, which include fluctuations in weight, and an increased risk of osteoporosis and heart disease.