Hormonal changes during menopause and its potential impact on health

New Delhi: Menopause is a natural life stage for women, usually occurring between the ages of 45 and 55, and marks the cessation of reproductive capacity. Menopause, defined as the absence of menstruation for at least 12 months, marks the end of the fertile phase. This biological transition, which typically occurs in the late 40s to early 50s, involves significant hormonal changes, particularly a decline in estrogen levels, and potentially affects cardiovascular health through a variety of mechanisms. Early menopause can also occur when a woman’s ovaries are affected by treatments such as radiotherapy or chemotherapy, or when her ovaries are surgically removed.

Hormonal changes during menopause:

Menopause causes hormonal changes that affect women’s physical, emotional, mental and social well-being. Symptoms include vasomotor problems such as hot flashes and night sweats, as well as vaginal dryness and painful intercourse. Sleep disturbances, mood swings, and weakened pelvic floor support leading to uterine prolapse and urinary incontinence are also common. Declining estrogen after menopause has long-term effects that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease due to the hormone’s protective effect. In addition, decreased estrogen contributes to the loss of bone density, leading to a higher incidence of osteoporosis and fractures, especially hip fractures.

It is important to raise awareness about menopause among perimenopausal women. Understanding the physiological aspects of menopause and emphasizing healthy lifestyle choices such as dietary adjustments, regular exercise, and cessation of smoking or alcohol consumption can greatly improve the menopause journey.

Both nonhormonal and hormonal treatments, along with counseling, can provide relief from both premenopausal and postmenopausal symptoms.

Dr. Rashmi Dharaskar, Surya hospital Mother and Child Super Specialty Hospital, Pune discussed the impact of hormonal changes during menopause on bone health, cardiovascular health and general well-being:

Bone Health: A significant drop in estrogen levels after menopause has a direct impact on bone health. Estrogen plays an important role in maintaining bone density by inhibiting bone resorption and promoting bone formation. With a decrease in estrogen, it can overcome the formation of bone resorption, which gradually leads to a decrease in bone density and an increase in the risk of osteoporosis. Fragile, fragile bones are indicative of osteoporosis, increasing susceptibility to fractures, especially in the wrist, hip, and spine.

Cardiovascular Health: Reproductive hormone production, especially estrogen and progesterone, decreases during menopause, affecting various body systems. In particular, estrogen, as mentioned earlier, protects the cardiovascular system. After menopause, decreased estrogen increases the risk of heart disease, hypertension, adverse lipid profile changes, and blood vessel dysfunction. The collective effect of these factors increases the likelihood of developing cardiovascular diseases after menopause.

It’s important to remember that each person’s risk is different, depending on things like genetics, lifestyle, and general health. Some of these risks can be reduced by living a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, a nutritious diet, quitting smoking, and managing stress. In addition, medical professionals may recommend hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to treat specific symptoms of menopause and possibly reduce cardiovascular risk, but the choice to take HRT should only be made after carefully weighing the risks and benefits. Maintaining cardiovascular health during and after menopause requires regular checkups and consultations with medical professionals.

General well-being: Hormonal changes caused by menopause can also affect a woman’s overall well-being. Many women experience symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, vaginal dryness and sleep disturbances. These symptoms can affect physical, emotional and psychological well-being. Mood swings, irritability, and increased susceptibility to mood disorders such as depression and anxiety can be attributed to hormonal fluctuations during menopause. Sleep disorders can exacerbate these problems.

Skin problems during menopause:

Dermatologist, Surgeon, Aesthetic Doctor, founder and director of ILAMED & Dermalyn Aesthetics, Dr. Ajay Rana talked about skin problems that women can face during menopause:

  • Dryness and dehydration of the skin: Estrogen, an important component to maintain skin moisture, supports the production of hyaluronic acid. As estrogen levels decrease, the skin’s ability to retain moisture decreases, resulting in dry, flaky, and dehydrated skin.
  • Formation of wrinkles and fine lines: Estrogen affects collagen and elastin, which are important elements for the elasticity and firmness of the skin. Reduced estrogen levels lead to reduced collagen production, contributing to wrinkles, fine lines and sagging skin.
  • Thinning Skin: Hormonal changes associated with menopause can cause a decrease in skin thickness due to a decrease in collagen and elastin fibers. Thin skins are more susceptible to bruises, tears and other injuries.
  • The formation of acne and pimples: Surprisingly, some women experience acne or increased acne during menopause. Fluctuating hormone levels can stimulate sebum production, clog pores and cause breakouts, especially around the jawline and chin.
  • Uneven Skin Tone and Dark Spots: Hormonal fluctuations can trigger excess melanin production, leading to uneven skin tone and the appearance of dark spots, commonly known as age spots or hyperpigmentation.

The importance of self-care during menopause:

Menopause is an important chapter in every woman’s life, introducing profound hormonal changes that affect her physical, emotional and mental well-being. During this time of transformation, prioritizing comprehensive self-care is critical to preventing potential health problems. From dealing with physical discomforts to emotional upheavals and psychological stress, the spectrum of problems a menopausal woman can face is wide. Between her roles and responsibilities, a woman must make time for self-discipline and ease the journey through menopause.

Tamanna Singh, menopause coach and founder of Menoveda, sheds light on the importance of self-care during menopause.

Unexpected effects of menopause on well-being:

Menopause brings a number of unexpected challenges that can affect both personal and professional spheres. Self-care is emerging as a powerful tool for strengthening the mind and body against these challenges and building resilience.

Dealing with Insomnia and Workplace Stress:

Insomnia, a common companion of menopause, can disrupt sleep patterns, leaving a person tired and unproductive during the day. By incorporating self-care practices such as meditation, reading, or soothing music into your nighttime routine, you can foster improved sleep quality and greater daytime vitality.

Finding comfort in hot flashes:

The sudden onset of hot flashes, a symptom of menopause, can cause discomfort, as can an unexpected increase in heat and sweat. Navigating these episodes tests one’s composure, emphasizing the importance of managing these symptoms to restore balance.

Balancing mood swings and interpersonal relationships:

Menopause causes mood swings that manifest in unexpected ways, potentially straining personal and professional relationships. Mindfulness emerges as a powerful ally in maintaining emotional balance, reducing the impact of these fluctuations.

Self-Care Education: Practical Guidelines

Adopting these self-care strategies during menopause is invaluable for dealing with physical discomfort and emotional turmoil:

  • Take up Yoga and Meditation: Practicing daily yoga and meditation sessions can help restore mental calm, alleviate anxiety, mood swings and depression, among other challenges.
  • Seek support: Instead of internalizing emotions, seek comfort from those close to you, share your feelings to gather understanding and necessary support.
  • Develop nutritional habits: Opt for a clean and healthy diet, recognizing the key role nutrition plays in managing menopausal symptoms.
  • Maintain an active lifestyle: Regular physical activity not only keeps your muscles engaged, but also boosts your overall well-being by boosting blood circulation.

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