For most women, menopause occurs between the mid-40s and mid-50s. As estrogen and progesterone levels drop, menstrual periods become more irregular and a host of physical and emotional symptoms may occur. This pre- or perimenopausal phase can last up to eight years, leading up to and including the year following the final menstrual period.
Two Stages of Menopause
Menopause is generally divided into two phases. Perimenopause includes the years leading up to the final period, and postmenopause includes the years following the final menstrual period.
The first stage of menopause is perimenopause, which can begin eight to 10 years before the final menstrual period. Symptoms during this phase range in severity, but usually include irregular menstrual cycles, hot flashes and erratic sleep patterns.
After one year following your last menstrual cycle, you are considered to have reached menopause. The years following are considered postmenopause.
Signs and Symptoms of Menopause
Signs and symptoms of menopause include hot flashes, erratic sleep patterns, irregular menstrual periods, lowered fertility, thinning hair, an increase in abdominal fat, mood swings, and a loss of fullness in the breasts.
Managing Menopausal Symptoms
During the stages of menopause, be sure to eat a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals, and exercise regularly. Healthy habits can help ward off illnesses and conditions that become more prevalent in postmenopausal women, including osteoporosis and heart disease.