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SALEM COMMUNITY HOSPITAL...Menopause is process of transition not an illness

March 11, 2012
Salem News

For most women, natural menopause occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, with the average age of onset being 51.4 years of age.

Due to increases in the average life span, many women are now spending about one third of their lives in menopause. However, some mistakenly believe that symptoms like mood swings, weight gain, hair loss, fatigue and low libido are just a few examples of the common signs of aging that should be brushed off as "the change of life."

"Menopause is a natural process of transition, not a medical illness," explained David Drake, D.O. "A woman may experience many physical and emotional changes during her transition into menopause. Although some women have a mild transition, others suffer from more significant symptoms, like hot flashes, mood swings or incontinence."

As menopause approaches, women often experience a number of physical and emotional symptoms including:

-Irregular menstrual periods

-Hot flashes and night sweats

-Disturbed sleep patterns, early morning awakening or fatigue

-Anxiety, irritability or depression

-Dry skin

-Vaginal dryness

-Difficulty concentrating

-Frequent urination or leaking of urine

Causes and Stages

"Menopause usually begins naturally when a woman's ovaries start making less estrogen and progesterone," Dr. Drake continued. "During the reproductive years, these hormones regulate a woman's monthly cycles of ovulation and menstruation. In her late 30s, the amount of progesterone a woman's body produces diminishes. Eventually, menstrual periods stop, and she can no longer become pregnant."

Because this process takes place over time, menopause is usually divided into two stages:

-Perimenopause: The normal process leading to menopause, usually lasting about 4-5 years. "This is a time when menopausal symptoms are starting, even while a woman is still ovulating," Dr. Drake said. "Hormone levels rise and fall, with possible hot flashes and period irregularity."

-Postmenopause: The time that follows 12 months since a woman's last period. The ovaries produce much less estrogen and progesterone, and they don't release eggs.

"It's important to see your doctor during both perimenopause and post-menopause for preventive health care, as well as care of medical conditions that may occur with aging," Dr. Drake advised. "Although some problems attributed to aging are unavoidable, others can benefit from lifestyle changes or medical treatment."

Several chronic medical conditions tend to appear after menopause, such as osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. "The two major female hormones, estrogen and progesterone, control the female reproductive system and have an effect on many other systems throughout the body," Dr. Drake said. "As hormone production declines at menopause, bones begin to thin, especially during the first 5 to 10 years. Also at menopause, women begin to lose their natural resistance to heart disease; and by age 65, their risk of heart attack equals that of men."

Managing Symptoms

Fortunately, many of the symptoms associated with menopause are temporary and women can often take steps to reduce or prevent their effects, such as:

- Cool hot flashes by dressing in layers and pinpointing hot flash triggers, such as hot beverages, spicy foods, alcohol, or a warm room.

-If you have trouble sleeping, avoid caffeinated beverages or exercise before bed.

-Strengthen your pelvic floor muscles by doing Kegel exercises, which can improve some forms of urinary incontinence.

-Eat a balanced diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains and limits saturated fats, oils and sugars. If you are over 50, aim for 1,000 milligrams of calcium and 400 to 800 international units of vitamin D a day.

-Don't smoke. Smoking increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer and a range of other health problems and may also increase hot flashes and bring on earlier menopause.

-Get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity, weight-bearing physical activity on most days to protect against cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and other conditions associated with aging

-Schedule regular checkups. Talk with your doctor about how often you should have mammograms, Pap tests, and other screening tests.

March 13th: Menopause On Venus and Beyond

On Tuesday, March 13, Dr. Drake will present a free community program, "Menopause on Venus and Beyond," to help people understand the transitions occurring for both women and men at this time in their lives. Dr. Drake will also discuss ways that women can achieve optimum levels of health; along with new menopause management strategies, such as bioidentical hormonal therapy.

The March 13 program will be held in the Pearce Room at the Salem Community Center, 1098 North Ellsworth Avenue in Salem. Starting at 6:30 p.m., participants will have the opportunity to view educational displays, which will be followed by Dr. Drake's presentation, "Menopause on Venus and Beyond," at 7 p.m. Light refreshments will be provided along with door prizes. Contact Salem Community Hospital's Marketing department at 330-332-7152, to register for this free program.

David Drake, D.O., F.A.C.O.G., is a board certified Gynecologist and one of the most experienced minimally invasive gynecological surgeons in Ohio. He is affiliated with Salem Community Hospital's Medical Staff, and his office is located at Salem Women's Care on the second floor of the Salem Medical Center across from Salem Community Hospital, at 2094 East State Street, Suite A, in Salem, 330-332-1939.



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