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Menopause, Part 1: Six Menopause Facts Every Woman Should Know

by James Haley, MD, FACOG, FPMRS

Dr. Haley photo

Dr. Haley

Menopause facts can be hard to come by, considering that a third – or more – of a woman’s life will be spent in menopause. That is a long time!

They say that with age, comes wisdom, so it is my goal to empower you to make wise decisions about the quality of your life during that phase of your life. Hormone therapy is an important option to consider, a therapy that is becoming more critical for women as their average lifespan continues to increase. I have been helping care for menopausal women for more than 25 years. Over this time, I have seen misinformation or even completely wrong information affect women and keep them from achieving optimal health through hormone use.

To help make sense of this potentially confusing subject, I’ve compiled a list of 6 key menopause facts every woman should know to help you make the best decision possible for you.

  • Women begin to have a decrease in hormone levels starting in their 30’s – 40’s.
  • With decreases in estrogen and testosterone (and in small part progesterone), women start to prematurely age, and a multitude of symptoms and problems will often occur.
  • Most women are candidates for Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) and should be on it once they reach menopause.
  • Although there are many over the counter products, herbs, and supplements that claim they can help with the problems a menopausal women experiences, nothing takes the place of estrogen and what it does for a woman. There is nothing that even comes close. Nothing! HRT is it.
  • Many women think that menopause is just the stage during which they experience hot flashes, night sweats, etc. and when those symptoms disappear, they are “no longer in menopause”. Not true! A woman becomes menopausal when her ovaries quit working (or are surgically removed) and is then menopausal (or postmenopausal – same thing) until the day she dies.
  • Estrogen has NOT been shown to increase the risk of Breast Cancer for women. (The combination of estrogen and progesterone, for some women, has been shown to increase a woman’s breast cancer risk slightly. Knowing that, we strongly recommended women on HRT be very diligent about breast exams and mammograms)

What problems can menopausal women experience?

The problems women experience with menopause can be separated into two basic categories. Know that both types can be helped with HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy).

Day-to-day Symptoms (affect quality of life)

  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats
  • Fatigue/decrease energy
  • Brain fog
  • Memory loss
  • Loss of focus/concentration
  • Dryness of skin, nails, brittle hair or loss of hair
  • Irritability, anxiety
  • Mood changes, depressive symptoms
  • Bone or joint pain
  • Loss of libido
  • Weight gain
  • Vaginal dryness which can result in pain with intercourse

Long Term Health Issues (can significantly impact lifespan)

  • Protection for your heart (# 1 killer of women)
  • Protection for your bones
  • Decrease risk of colon cancer
  • Good evidence suggests it decreases the risk of Alzheimer’s/Dementia

All of these issues can potentially be helped by Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)! Learn all about it in Part Two!

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