Menopause is a natural lowering in reproductive hormones when a woman reaches her 40s or 50s and is signalled by it being 12 months since her last menstruation.
The years leading up to that, when women may have changes in their monthly cycles like bladder control issues, hot flashes or other symptoms, are called the menopausal transition or perimenopause.
The female reproductive cycle
Menstruation or period is a monthly normal vaginal bleeding as part of a woman’s reproductive cycle. When a woman gets her first menstruation, it signifies the capacity to bear a child.
The menstruation cycle starts when the lining of the uterus, called the endometrium, is shed. Every month during a woman’s cycle, the endometrium readies itself for a fertilised egg so a placenta can develop and sustain a growing fetus.
In order for the endometrium to prepare itself, estrogen and progesterone levels increase to thicken the walls. If fertilisation does not happen during that time, the enriched lining is shed, with blood and mucus exiting from the vagina and creating the menstrual flow.
The average menstrual cycle can take up to 28 days. Counting begins on the first day of the previous period and ends on the first day of the following menstrual period. In terms of the length of a woman’s cycle, it differs from one woman to another. Some women’s cycles are as short as just 21 days, whereas others, those who only started menstruating a year or two ago. may find they experience delayed cycles of anything lasting up to 45 days.
Generally, the typical age for women to have their first menstruation is when they reach 12 years old. Some signs that a woman is nearing her first period are growing breasts, pubic and underarm hair and acne. Health experts recommend that young women seek professional advice if they have not experienced their first menstruation by 15 years old .
What is perimenopause?
If menstruation is the beginning of a woman’s capacity to give birth, menopause signals its ending. Menopause is a life phase when a woman stops having her monthly period.
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This stage in life is a normal part of aging that commonly occurs when a woman reaches her 40s or early 50s, as the reproductive cycle will start to slow down with age. The reproductive system has started to count down to the menopausal stage the first time you get your menstruation during puberty. That is why some women who got their first menstruation at an early age usually experience menopause early.
The definitive sign that you may have hit the menopause is when you don’t get a period for 12 months straight; this period is medically termed perimenopause, when a woman’s body is going through its natural transition to menopause. It is also the time when women get the worst menopausal symptoms. When your reproductive system’s estrogen and progesterone change their levels, you may feel hot flashes and vaginal dryness.
When nearing menopause, the ovaries produce fewer estrogen hormones. This decreasing process can cause the menstrual cycle to change – it may either become irregular or suddenly stop.
However, several factors can cause you to stop menstrual bleeding, even if you are not yet menopausal. These are hormonal birth control, high prolactin, overactive thyroid, radiation and surgical removal of the ovaries.
Some of the symptoms of menopause transition are:
- Hot flashes (a sudden feeling of warmth felt throughout the body)
- Night sweats or cold flashes
- vaginal dryness or discomfort during intercourse
- Urinary urgency (a pressing need to urinate more frequently)
- Difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
- Emotional changes (mild depression, irritability, mood swings)
- Dry skin, dry eyes or dry mouth.
There are also possible symptoms of:
- Breast tenderness
- Worsening premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
- Irregular periods or skipping periods and periods that are heavier or lighter than usual.
Others also experience:
- Increased heart rate, headaches or migraines
- Joint and muscle aches and pains
- Changes in libido or sex drive
- Lack of focus
- Hair loss
- Weight gain
All the mentioned symptoms can be due to less estrogen in your reproductive system and hormonal fluctuations.
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Understanding hormones during menopause
During menopause, your ovaries do not produce the same hormones as they did in your younger years. Moreover, ovaries are the reproductive organs that contain eggs and release them into the fallopian tubes.
These ovaries in women’s reproductive systems also produce three significant hormones: estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Estrogen and progesterone hormones control your menstruation.
In addition, estrogen is responsible for calcium usage in your body and the maintenance of your cholesterol levels in the blood . With these hormonal changes during your menopausal stage, many physical changes, such as facial hair growth and weight gain, may also occur.
Effects of menopause on weight gain
There is a close connection between menopause and weight gain because muscles significantly decrease in bulk when women age, and metabolism becomes slower. When this happens, a menopausal woman may gain weight.
Furthermore, hormonal levels of estrogen can affect body fat distribution. Numerous women who experienced the menopause transition had been observed to gain fat mass when estrogen decreased .
Besides a drop in estrogen levels, other factors determining why there is weight gain during menopause are:
- Lack of physical activities
- Loss of muscle mass
- Children produced
- Family history of obesity
- Certain medications, such as antidepressant drugs, antipsychotic medications and chemotherapy
- Low metabolism
- Bad eating habits
Menopausal weight loss and how to keep it off
Over one billion women worldwide are expected to step into their menopausal stage by 2025. Half of the population is also reported to be experiencing an average weight gain of at least 9.9lb during menopause.
Women in their 50s may have difficulty losing weight – however, there is a 53-year-old woman who has successfully lost 70 pounds. Her name is Rachel Silber, a Lactation Consultant and Nurse.
Rachel weighed around 240 pounds and underwent different surgeries before losing significant weight. Her weight loss journey during her menopausal stage was not easy, as she used to exercise and diet a lot but still could not hit her weight goal.
She just nearly lost 20 pounds within eight months. Her strategy when she lost 70 pounds in just one year was to use Lumen, a technological device that could track her body’s energy source.
Lumen for menopausal weight loss
Lumen is a device that can optimise your health in the palm of your hand. This gadget believes that the right and proper metabolism is the key to helping your body lose weight. You only need to breathe into a Lumen device to determine the source of your body’s energy, whether these are fats or carbs.
When Lumen essentially identifies your metabolic data, it will automatically create a customised nutrition plan program suitable to your body and accessible to your phone with their app. Yes, with just your breath, the device can evaluate your health. This personalised plan includes insights into your sleep, workouts and meal schedules.
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Furthermore, with Lumen’s insights, you can train your metabolism to use your food intake efficiently. Utilising Lumen’s focus on metabolism instead of restrictive or unsustainable diets can aid with the loss of excess weight and maintain your body in its appropriate weight and size.