Early Menopause And The Related Health Risks

2012-09-20 | |
Last updated: 2012-09-20

Although medical science has significantly increased life expectancy and continues to improve the quality of life of our later years, aging still involves a number of changes to the body that are currently unavoidable. One such inevitable aspect of aging faced by women is the occurrence of menopause. While the onset of menopause has both positives and negatives, the occurrence of early or premature menopause can have negative health consequences.

What Happens Leading Up To Menopause?

Menopause, otherwise known as the “Change of Life”, is the time at which the levels of sex hormones produced by a woman’s ovaries have declined and caused the reproductive system to have no further periods. As hormone levels are decreasing, periods can be sporadic but as of the time of menopause the lining of the uterus will no longer be built up and shed and the ovaries will no longer release eggs into the uterus. This change is what brings an end to female fertility.

Numerous well-known symptoms will occur leading up to menopause. These include irregular periods, the infamous hot flashes, night sweats, memory difficulties, and changes in mood. The exact symptoms experienced by each woman will vary significantly. These symptoms are all the result of the significant changes in sex hormone production.

When Does Menopause Usually Take Place?

One of the theories as to why menopause developed in humans is the idea that a grandmother should not be competing with her daughter in attempting to find a mate and should not compete for resources required to raise children. According to this theory, an infertile female can instead help to care for her own children’s offspring. Another theory is that menopause reduces the risks of dying that are associated with pregnancy at an older age. A key point of such theories is that they attempt to explain why menopause would occur in mid-life.

Menopause occurs in women of first world countries between the ages of 40 and 62 with the average age being 51. In other parts of the world, however, the average age is as low as 44. The exact triggers for menopause are not well understood but genetics is considered to have an important role. Ethnic origins also affect the age of menopause. Those of both African and mixed Hispanic descent generally having an earlier menopause while Caucasians and those of Japanese and Malaysian descent typically have an older age of menopause.

Other factors also affect the age of menopause. Both smoking and being overweight can cause menopause to happen earlier. Treatments for cancer such as chemotherapy or radiation also can cause similar reductions in the age of menopause. Most recently, research from West Virginia University revealed last year that common household chemicals such as those used on waterproof and stain resistant fabrics can also lead to early menopause.

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Category: Disease Prevention, General Health, Health Risks, Medical Research, Symptom Information

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