Body & Fitness

Premature menopause

Going through menopause early can be a devastating experience. Not only can it be tough psychologically but it can have a long-lasting impact on your health, and it seems to be affecting more women than ever before.

Going through menopause early can be a devastating experience. Not only can it be tough psychologically but it can have a long-lasting impact on your health, and it seems to be affecting more women than ever before.

For many years it’s been estimated that around one or two in every hundred women go through menopause before they turn 40. But now a new study has found that in fact one in every 20 women may be experiencing early menopause for no known medical reason.

The British researchers followed the progress of nearly 5000 women born in 1958 and found that more than seven percent of them had gone through menopause before their 40th birthdays (it usually starts at about 50).

For about a fifth of those women there was an obvious cause, such as surgical removal of their ovaries, or ovaries that stopped producing eggs because of chemotherapy. But for the rest, their early menopause could not be explained.

The scientists say that as well as being more prevalent among smokers, early menopause was more common among women from lower socio-economic backgrounds, but they don’t know why.

Early menopause is a worry because it can lead to health issues. These include:

Infertility

once your ovaries stop working and no longer release eggs, you can’t get pregnant.

There is currently no way of stopping ovaries shutting down earlier than they should, or reactivating them, although a small number of women who go through premature menopause do begin ovulating again of their own accord. Losing your fertility can be devastating for women who haven’t yet started a family, and at the moment the only way they can have a baby is to use donor eggs.

osteoporosis

oestrogen helps calcium to be absorbed by the body, so when levels of this hormone fall because of menopause, it affects the amount of calcium in your bones. This can result in osteoporosis and all the risks that come with brittle bones, like fractures and a Dowager’s hump.

Women whose periods have stopped early should have their bone density monitored regularly, and may be advised to take oestrogen replacement therapy and calcium supplements. A calcium-rich diet and regular weight-bearing exercise can also help to slow bone loss.

Heart disease

oestrogen can help to protect against some causes of heart problems like arteries hardening. Women have a smaller risk of having a heart attack than men until they go through menopause, then their lower levels of oestrogen make them just as vulnerable.

Women with premature menopause need to be particularly aware of their risk of heart disease. Exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet can help reduce that risk.

Depression

Going through early menopause can be very distressing, and the mood swings linked with a drop in oestrogen don’t help. The distress is often due to infertility, but can also be the result of feeling like you’re no longer young or have lost your femininity. oany women go through a grieving process and may suffer depression. Counselling may help.

**Health watch:

**

  • An unhealthy lifestyle can affect your sex life. Danish researchers have found that people who are overweight, don’t exercise, smoke and drink large amounts of alcohol are more prone to sexual dysfunction. Recreational drugs can also have a severely detrimental affect on the ability of both men and women to perform in bed.

  • Being smug may be good for you. A Harvard University study of thousands of civil servants has found that the more self-satisfied they were, the fewer problems they had with their hearts. They’re not sure why this was, but say the findings still stood even when factors such as weight and blood pressure were taken into account.

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