Savard answered: As I mentioned in the segment on GMA today, a woman's ovary can begin to slow down production of eggs and the hormones estrogen and testosterone over a 5-10 year period. As the hormone levels become more erratic and decline, women can experience irregular and often heavier periods, reduced libido or sex drive, night sweats, and even mood changes and palpitations. Dry vaginal and urinary tissues tend to come later. Every women is different. The average age for most women to be at menopause (meaning no period for 12 months) is about 51. If your mother and grandmother went through earlier menopause -- you may as well. On the other hand environmental factors like smoking can bring on menopause about 2 years early. With the onset of perimenopause it is a good time to adopt as many good health habits as possible including adding extra calcium and vitamin D to your diet to minimize the inevitable bone loss -- and ask your practitioner to review your heart risks as well.
Janet from Va., asked: I'm 48 and still getting normal periods. Right before my period I get extremely agitated with a racing/fluttering heart. I sometimes worry that maybe I am having a heart atttack, but am pretty convinced it is a pre-menopausal condition. Are agitation and heart racing a condition of pre-menapause?
Savard answered: The quick and easy answer is YES -- agitation and heart palpitations are common symptoms in women going through menopause. HOWEVER, as I am sure you know, heart disease is also a big concern in 48-year-old women and often can get missed. Before simply assuming your symptoms are all hormonal, I would have your regular physician do a complete check up including test of thyroid function, blood pressure check and a heart assessment.
Madeline from Calif., asked: I went into early and haven't had a period since I was 37. I was on Prempro for 5 years. I am now 47. I was wondering if since I haven't had a period for ten years, and since I went into menopause early will I age more quickly? I no longer have night sweats and hot flashes as I did for about 2 years. I also would like to know what I can do or take to enable a healthy life after menopause.
Savard answered: You experienced what we now cause premature menopause. Heredity and autoimmune conditions such as thyroid disorders and chemotherapy can lead to ovaries reduced function and menopause. Women who go through early menopause before age 40-45 should consider hormone therapy -- which you did. The two years of hormones likely helped you. Hormones help preserve bone mass and reduce future risk of heart disease and even reduced life expectancy for young women. I would recommend that you get a bone density test to evaluate your bone mass and to have your practitioner review your heart risk factors such as blood pressure, lipid levels, etc. Depending on the results you will want to reduce any risk factors as much as you can. We do know that extra calcium and vitamin D with exercise can minimize bone loss ? and a healthy diet, exercise and avoiding smoking and stress can reduce heart risk. Also look to your family history and lifestyle as the biggest clues to your future health. Your age at menopause is only one factor.
Patti asked: If you are on estrogen replacement, how long do you need to stay on it? Is it for the rest of you life or just for a certain time period?