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Menopause

The time of life when a woman's ovaries stop producing hormones and menstrual periods stop. Natural menopause usually occurs around age 50. A woman is said to be in menopause when she hasn't had a period for 12 months in a row. NIH - National Cancer Institute

About Menopause

The balance of hormones in a woman's body changes during menopause. A lot of processes in the body are regulated by hormones, and it can take some time to adapt to the changes. The hormonal changes are sometimes, but not always, associated with menopause symptoms. This varies greatly from woman to woman.

Around their mid-forties, women's bodies gradually start making less of the female sex hormone estrogen (also spelt "oestrogen"). Their monthly periods become less regular and eventually stop completely. A woman has reached menopause when she has had her last period. The word "menopause" might be misleading because it is not a "pause," but an ending. Women can no longer get pregnant after menopause. The average age of menopause is 51. But it is also normal at a much younger or older age.

The end of fertility often happens around the same time as other important changes in a woman's life:... Read more about Menopause

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Menopause: a review of botanical dietary supplements

Bibliographic details: Low Dog T.  Menopause: a review of botanical dietary supplements. American Journal of Medicine 2005; 118(12B): 98S-108S

Effects of herbal and dietary supplements on cognition in menopause: a systematic review

OBJECTIVE: Many postmenopausal women use herbal remedies and dietary supplements to counteract menopausal symptoms, including the decline in cognitive function. The aim of this systematic review is to evaluate the evidence regarding the efficacy of herbal and dietary supplements on cognition in menopause.

Clinical studies of red clover (Trifolium pratense) dietary supplements in menopause: a literature review

Red clover (Trifolium pratense L., Fabaceae) botanical dietary supplements have received much attention recently for their potential use in the treatment of menopause symptoms, maintenance/improvement of bone and cardiovascular health, and reported benign effects on the breast and endometrium. Literature searches of four computerized databases were run to identify clinical studies of red clover botanical dietary supplements. The manufacturer of the red clover products used in the majority of the studies was contacted for unpublished information and/or clarification regarding the chemical content of their products. Red clover studies were reviewed that pertained to women's health or menopause. Clinical evidence is presently lacking to support the efficacy of semipurified red clover isoflavone extracts for alleviation of climacteric vasomotor symptoms or reduction of low-density lipoprotein levels in the blood. Furthermore, the safety of use of red clover isoflavone supplements in patients with breast or endometrial cancer has not been established. Limited evidence suggests possible efficacy in maintenance of bone health and improvement of arterial compliance, a risk factor for atherosclerosis. This literature review covers red clover botanical dietary supplement clinical studies having a possible impact on the health care of mature and menopausal women, and provides historical perspective regarding the traditional uses of red clover.

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Summaries for consumers

Wellbeing during menopause

Although different women cope differently with menopause, severe menopause symptoms can greatly affect your wellbeing. But the higher risk of certain diseases after middle age is mainly due to increasing age, not hormonal changes.Hot flashes (also called hot flushes), sweats and vaginal dryness are the most common menopause symptoms. Hot flashes and sweats at night can disturb sleep. This can make women have difficulty concentrating and feel tired during the day.But not all physical and emotional changes during this phase of life are due to menopause. Changes in mood, emotional wellbeing, problems with concentration and memory, and physical problems like back ache are not directly related to menopause. They can happen at any other age and be caused by many other things too. The higher risk of diseases such as osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease are also related to growing older.So menopause itself does not usually have any direct health consequences. But it can be a good time to think about how to stay healthy or improve your health in older age.

Menopause: What are the benefits and risks of long-term hormone therapy?

Long-term hormone therapy in women during and after menopause is not a suitable option for preventing diseases. This is particularly true for combinations of estrogen and progestin. Although these hormones lower the risk of bone fractures, they increase the risk of other diseases, including cardiovascular disease and breast cancer.

Relieving menopause symptoms on your own

Women going through menopause often look for ways to do something themselves to get relief from their symptoms or manage them better. Some make changes to their diet, do sports, or try out yoga or relaxation techniques. Others turn to herbal products or “alternative” approaches, which often promise more than they can deliver.Treatment is not always needed to relieve menopause symptoms. Menopause is not an illness. For most women hot flashes and sweats lessen over time even without any treatment, and then go away completely by themselves.Some women simply wait until menopause passes. Others try making adjustments to their lifestyle – for example by changing their diet or getting more exercise – to improve their general wellbeing. This can also help some women cope better with their symptoms.Many women try herbal products or other approaches that are often labelled “alternative.” But most of these remedies do not seem to be as effective as is generally believed. Others have serious side effects that are sometimes underestimated.

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Terms to know

Estrogen
A type of hormone made by the body that helps develop and maintain female sex characteristics and the growth of long bones. Estrogens can also be made in the laboratory. They may be used as a type of birth control and to treat symptoms of menopause, menstrual disorders, osteoporosis, and other conditions.
Hormones
A chemical produced in one part of the body and released into the blood to trigger or regulate particular functions of the body. For example, insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas that tells other cells when to use glucose for energy. Synthetic hormones, made for use as medicines, can be the same or different from those made in the body.
Hot Flashes
A sudden, temporary onset of body warmth, flushing, and sweating (often associated with menopause).
Menstruation (Periods)
Periodic discharge of blood and tissue from the uterus. From puberty until menopause, menstruation occurs about every 28 days when a woman is not pregnant.
Ovaries
The ovaries are a pair of female reproductive glands in which the ova, or eggs, are formed. The ovaries are located in the pelvis, one on each side of the uterus.

More about Menopause

Photo of an adult woman

Also called: Climacteric, Menopausal state, Climacteric state, Menopausal

Other terms to know: See all 5
Estrogen, Hormones, Hot Flashes

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Wellbeing During Menopause

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