This article is medically reviewed by Dr Krishna Nandanwar (MBBS)
The beginning of the reproductive cycle of a woman is embarked by menarche.
And just like everything has an end, the reproductive cycle also has an end.
This end is known as menopause. This is a transition into a new phase of life where now a woman is incapable of reproducing naturally.
Her menstrual cycle stops.
Well, I am sure this is so liberating for most females because we women don’t really love our periods.
While menopause is not a health problem and doesn’t need medical attention.
However, drastic changes in hormones can cause some discomfort.
In this article, we are going to know about menopause meaning, its symptoms, treatments and much more.
Menopause is a time in a woman’s life when her period stops. It usually occurs naturally most often after the age of 45.
Menopause happens because the women’s ovaries stop producing the hormones estrogen and progesterone.
A woman has reached menopause once she has not had a period of one year.
Changes and symptoms can start several years earlier.
SYMPTOMS OF MENOPAUSE
There is a long list of symptoms of menopause let us look at some of them.
- Change in period patterns
- It could be shorter or longer
- Lighter or heavier
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Trouble sleeping
- Vaginal dryness
- Heart palpitations
- Muscle aches
- Sore breasts
- Sensitive skin
- Dry hair and hair loss
- Less hair on hand, more on the face
- Reduced muscle mass
- Reduced libido
- Mood swings
- Difficult to accept that they are no longer fertile
- Trouble focussing
WHAT IS THE AVERAGE AGE OF MENOPAUSE?
The average age of menopause may vary from person to person and even from country to country.
In India, the general menopause age is around 45-52. 
There is a period at least 7 to 10 years before menopause which is known as a perimenopausal period where there are a lot of symptoms and signs which may understand that there are a lot of hormonal changes and they are likely to undergo menopause in a few years to come.
Symptoms of perimenopause
- Hot or cold flashes
- Vaginal dryness
- Mood swings
- Urinary urgency
- Dry skin
- Breast tenderness
- Irregular periods
- Worse premenstrual syndrome
EARLY AND PREMATURE MENOPAUSE
Most of us think that menopause happens to women in their 50s, but that’s not always the case.
Menopause is when a woman stops having her period.
Some women can go through menopause at a younger age.
Premature menopause is when a woman has her final period before the age of 40. 
Early menopause is when it happens between the ages of 40-45.
Up to 8% of women have their last period by the time they are 45. There are several reasons why this can happen.
Primary ovarian insufficiency, also known as POI, is where the ovaries stop working and periods stop. There is often no reason why this happens.
Periods can also stop as a result of chemotherapy or radiotherapy for cancers.
This can cause ovaries to stop working. Periods might also stop because of surgical removal of ovaries.
CAUSE OF MENOPAUSE
The major cause of menopause is the decline in a woman’s reproductive hormones. 
At this time the function of the ovaries ceases and hence no chance of pregnancy.
The reproductive gland is made up of the ovaries, located in the pelvis one on each side of the uterus.
The ovaries produce estrogen and eggs. An egg is released from one of the ovaries during each monthly menstrual cycle.
This egg travels down from the ovary to the uterus through the fallopian tube. The ageing of these ovaries leads to less production of reproductive hormones.
This in turn leads to loss of active ovarian follicles that allows menstruation and fertility. Menopause is induced in some cases. This may be as a result of surgical removal of ovaries or caused by injury.
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can also lead to induced menopause.
HEALTH RISKS OF MENOPAUSE
Due to the loss of estrogen, several health issues may arise as women age. 
Here are some common health complications related to menopause.
- Heart disease
- More wrinkles
- High risk of Alzheimer
- Slow metabolic functions
- Painful intercourse
- Urinary incontinence
- Weaker vision
DIAGNOSIS OF MENOPAUSE
There is no single test for diagnosing menopause.
However, your doctor can carry out a test that will measure the level of FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) in the blood.
The FSH helps to control the menstrual cycle and the production of eggs by the ovaries. An elevated FSH blood level of 30mL or higher combined with 2 consecutive months of no menstrual flow is usually a confirmation of menopause.
It is advisable to talk to your gynaecologist if you are 45 years or younger and you are experiencing disabling menopause symptoms.
HOW TO CURE MENOPAUSE AND LIFESTYLE CHANGES
Mild and moderate symptoms of menopause can be easily treated by some home remedies and with few lifestyle changes.
1. MANAGE YOUR STRESS
Many women have a deep sense of being stressed, anxious or overwhelmed and depressed during this transition. 
In most cases, antidepressants are not the best choice. Stress can be the culprit behind the additional imbalances in hormones and neurotransmitters that affect mood, mental function, thyroid function, digestive function and especially blood sugar imbalances.
So managing stress becomes very important in this scenario.
One of the best ways to release stress is deep breathing and meditation. Take a deep breath several times a day and practice this so that it will reduce your stress. And in turn, it will help you with menopausal symptoms.
2. USE HERBS THAT WILL MIMIC HORMONES
Many herbs and food contain natural hormones and hormone balancing properties that can help you in this transition period.
Many plants and herbs can adapt to the needs of your body. It is possible for them because they have the same molecular features as our hormones, allowing them to support our hormone production, make it slower or even mimic what our own hormones do depending upon the body’s unique needs.
Some herbs that can reduce menopause symptoms are 
- Black cohosh
3. REGULAR EXERCISING
Many women gain weight steadily during their perimenopause and menopause especially around their bellies and abdominal area.
This is common because fluctuating estrogen levels tend to cause your body to hold the fat and fats actually produce estrogen which creates even more fat. Therefore this cycle keeps on continuing like this. 
Exercise can work wonders in reducing menopausal symptoms and helps in increasing the quality of life in menopausal women. 
Exercising not only boosts your serotonin levels that improve your mood, but it also improves your appetite, helps you in sleeping better, helps you to balance hormones naturally.
Exercise has a very positive effect on cognitive functioning.
Exercises also help in maintaining your muscle mass which is important for preventing weight gain. It also strengthens your bones to combat osteoporosis.
This is the common condition that comes along with menopause.
You can also do swimming, walking or whatever form of exercise that you enjoy.
Moving your body has a major impact on your weight and other menopausal symptoms and your overall health.
DOs and DON’Ts of exercising during menopause
- Drink plenty of water
Water just comes into everything.
But yes drinking water is really important. If you are doing regular exercise and you are sweating or you are getting hot, you will get dehydrated.
Falling estrogen will also affect your body’s ability to keep itself hydrated so if you don’t drink plenty of water, you can end up being severely dehydrated.
As a result of this dehydration, you may find that your symptoms get worse.
- Give yourself time to rest
You must give yourself time to rest and recuperate.
Many women have this habit of rushing to achieve a certain weight goal.
But do understand that you need to rest during menopause. Don’t end up being fatigued.
Practice only those exercises that you truly enjoy.
- Don’t just do one-routine exercises.
In menopause, to keep your body functioning well, you need to look at different areas.
Include cardio exercises like
- Brisk walking
- Dancing or Zumba
Include strength exercises to help promote bone-building and also to help to keep your muscle mass. Muscles burn more energy than fat so the more muscles you have and the better shapes that your muscles are, your metabolism is going to work that much better.
Strength exercises include
- Lifting weight
- Push-ups, pull-ups, squats
- Working with resistance bands
Stretching and balancing exercises
With age, some movements get restricted, so stretching exercises such as
- Tai chi
4. TAKE CALCIUM, VITAMINS AND PROTEINS SUPPLEMENTS
Low levels of estrogen in the body would make you feel physically exhausted and mentally stressed throughout the day.
In some cases, hormonal imbalance can lead to osteoporosis, therefore it is considered imperative for a woman nearing menopause to take calcium supplements daily to keep their bones strong and healthy during this period. 
You can opt for over the counter OTC calcium supplements. On the other hand, you can opt for foods rich in calcium for the same purpose.
Dairy products (low fat) can provide your body with the necessary amount of calcium it needs to remain strong during menopause.
Milk and buttermilk are two dairy products that are an excellent source of calcium.
Be sure to take vitamin D along with calcium to make sure your body absorbs the calcium properly.
Protein supplements would also help to keep the body fit and healthy during menopause. So opt for OTC protein supplements or consume foods rich in protein daily for maximum benefits.
Vitamin E supplements can effectively deal with and reduce the effects vaginal dryness, hot flashes and mood swings etc. 
The standard dosage is about 400 mg two times every day.
Before starting any supplements, consult your doctor especially if you are suffering from other medical conditions like hypertension, or injury-prone skin.
5. YOUR DIET
The most effective medicine is the food that you eat.
What we put in our body has a huge impact on our menstrual symptoms. 
Try to eat a balance of good fats, complex carbohydrates and proteins. Also, make sure to have plenty of fruits and vegetables.
The most important thing to remember is to reduce carbohydrates, especially refined carbs and sugars.
Consume fewer calories overall to maintain your weight. Limit the empty calories by reducing your intake of packaged or processed food, added sugar, refined carbs, sugary drinks and refined oils.
Fill up with high fibre foods to control your appetite.
Fibre-rich food improves digestion and benefits your heart.
Try to avoid caffeine, because caffeine can trigger hot flashes, cortisol levels and therefore increases sleep problems.
Drink plenty of water and stay hydrated
BEST FOOD TO EAT
Tofu is known to contain high amounts of phytoestrogens which contain estrogen-like properties that help to balance the low levels of estrogen in the body during menopause.
Eating tofu every day can therefore help balance out the hormones in the body, thereby reducing the symptoms of menopause to a great extent.
Flaxseeds also contain high amounts of phytoestrogens that help offer relief from menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes, vaginal dryness etc.
Grind a small number of flax seeds to form a coarse powder.
Add two tablespoons of this powder to a bowl of yoghurt or cereal and have it for breakfast for extended relief.
Soy products contain substances called isoflavones which belong to the phytoestrogen family. Consuming a small number of soy products every day can effectively reduce menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, vaginal dryness and other skin related issues.
ESTROGENIC FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
Adding fruits, vegetables and seeds containing natural estrogens or estrogenic substances to your regular diet can effectively help to increase the estrogen levels in your body and reduce the symptoms of menopause to a great extent.
- Sesame seeds
- Sunflower seeds
These foods also contain other essential nutrients like minerals, vitamins and fibre which are extremely essential for overall good health as well.
A woman in her entire life is busy taking care of others but menopause is a time when she needs to take care of herself more than anybody else.
The fluctuation in hormones takes a toll on a woman’s body and the only care is a good diet, good exercise and overall a good lifestyle.
And of course lots of love and care.
Make your spouse and children aware of menopause and the changes you are going through.
Communicate your needs clearly so that they can help you.
And do share with your fellow women so that even they can understand menopause and take proper care of themselves.