World Menopause Day takes place every year on October 18th with the aim to raise awareness around this important topic impacting every woman at some stage in their life. Although menopause often is minimalized by women, the hormonal imbalance associated with it opens a gateway to the risk of developing certain medical conditions. In this article we’ll dive a little deeper into menopause and the association with other conditions.
All women will be affected by menopause at some stage in their lives. It is a natural biological process resulting from a change in hormones produced by the ovaries. At some point in the life of women, the ovaries decrease their production of estrogen and progesterone, two sexual hormones that play a role in menstrual cycle and fertility. This process takes place gradually usually around the mid-40’s (perimenopause), to eventually lead to its definitive status (complete menopause) around early to mid-50’s.1 There are many symptoms accompanying these hormonal changes, such as:
- Irregular periods
- Vaginal dryness
- Hot flashes
- Sleep problems
- Mood changes
- Slowed metabolism and weight gain
- Changes in hair and skin
- Sagging breasts
These symptoms vary from woman to woman and might be perceived as being very subtle to extremely impacting one’s life. It is highly individual.
In some cases, ovaries may need to be surgically removed for certain medical reasons. This sudden removal will lead to immediate menopause. Because of the abrupt change in hormonal status – no more production of sexual hormones from one day to the next – this may consequently cause all the above-mentioned symptoms to be more severe because of the absence of any gradual adaptation.
Certain medical treatments such as cancer therapies can induce menopause on purpose. Chemotherapy or radiation therapy are examples of such treatments, which may sometimes be reversible after treatment has been stopped.
Estrogen harmone level.
How is menopause linked to other conditions?
[/caption] As previously said, menopause constitutes a change in hormonal balance. The human body displays an intricate network of hormonal interactions and a lack, surplus or inefficiency in hormone levels invariably impacts other biochemical processes in the body. Besides being the responsible hormone of development of the female body characteristics and functions, estrogen also has a big impact on2:
- Increasing bone formation and reducing bone resorption: this explains in part how the lack of estrogen is a well recognized cause of osteoporosis.
- Estrogens are necessary in various metabolic processes such as the synthesis of proteins, production in the liver of binding proteins, and coagulation proteins. This partly highlights their role in blood clot formation.
- Estrogens increase good HDL cholesterol, decrease bad LDL cholesterol, and increase triglycerides and promote fat deposition. They also cause sodium (salt) and water retention.
- Lack of estrogen is a contributing factor to atherosclerosis, and there is evidence that estrogen treatment during early menopause has a beneficial effect on atherosclerosis prevention.3
It is clear that menopause impacts other processes and therefore it is adviseable to talk to your doctor in order to minimize the effects off hormone disruption during menopause. References: