Women in their 40s (and even late 30s) start to experience some changes in their body. It’s common for women to wonder if the symptoms they are experiencing are due to hormone changes. It’s very possible that these changes are actually signs of perimenopause. There isn’t a lot of education for women on the signs of perimenopause, so most think they are “too young” to be entering this stage. However, it is important to recognize the signs and symptoms to better prepare for this major life transition. By educating yourself, you can gear up for the changes coming and help maintain your health long-term.
What is Perimenopause?
First, some quick definitions for you:
- Menopause = the stage in life when you no longer have menstrual cycles. Menopause officially begins once you have gone 12 months minimum without a period. This is caused by low estrogen and progesterone levels.
- Perimenopause = the years leading up to menopause. Hormone levels start to decline and symptoms may begin to become noticeable.
- Postmenopause = all the years of your life after you go through menopause. Your hormone levels will continue to stay low.
The average age of menopause in the United States is 52 years old. However, the perimenopause stage can begin around age 35-40. Perimenopause lasts an average of 8 years before you go through menopause. If you are currently in your 40’s (or close to it) it is likely that your body is starting to undergo some of the changes that occur with perimenopause. However, most women don’t recognize some of these signs of perimenopause right away.
Signs of Perimenopause
It’s important to learn the signs of perimenopause. That way, you can be more aware of when you start to experience them. The reason this is important is because there are significant health implications once you transition through menopause and it is best to establish some healthy habits before menopause occurs.
The most common signs of perimenopause are:
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Sleep disturbances such as early waking and difficulty falling asleep
- Decreased libido and lubrication (and possibly painful sex)
- Cognitive changes such as memory difficulty
- Hot flashes and/or night sweats
- Irritability and worsening mood disorders
- Weight gain
Long-term Health Implications of Menopause
Many women are unaware of the long-term health impact menopause can have. Most think that the worst part is the transition through perimenopause. They assume that once you get through it, things will be smooth sailing because some of the obvious side effects, such as hot flashes, tend to dissipate. On the contrary, some more serious symptoms can occur after menopause. These long-term health issues may include:
- Cardiovascular disease, along with high cholesterol and blood pressure
- Weight gain
- Higher risk for diabetes
- Osteoporosis from loss of bone mineral density
- Cognitive impairments that can mimic dementia
- Sexual dysfunction
- Pelvic floor dysfunction
Sure, every woman is different and the degree of impact varies for everyone. But one thing is clear: the better your health baseline is coming into menopause, the less likely you are to have these long-term issues. That’s why it is crucial to recognize if you are starting to go through perimenopause and to make some healthy lifestyle changes in order to prepare for the health issues that come long-term from low estrogen levels.
If you want to learn more about how to minimize long-term health implications during and after menopause, check out our “Hormone Balancing Virtual Clinic.” We spend time with clients to design a custom plan that incorporates nutrition, exercise, pelvic floor, and natural solutions to help balance your hormones.