Menopause is How Long?

3 minute read

By: Sharon D. Malone, MD|Last updated: November 2, 2022
Woman sitting on stairs outside her home resting her head on her hand. AW505

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but, like diamonds, menopause, is forever. Once you have had your last period, which for most women happens around the age of 51, you will be menopausal for the rest of your life. Simply put, women will spend about a third of their lives in menopause with all of the rights, privileges, and annoyances therein.

Although we have talked excessively about the hot flashes, mood swings and sleeplessness, these symptoms typically get better with time. How much time you might ask? It varies tremendously from person to person, but regardless of whether your symptoms persist for months, years or not at all, you are menopausal from the time of that last period.

Now is a good time to talk about some of the things that happen post-menopause that you may not be aware of.

Prior to menopause, women have a much lower risk of developing heart disease than men. After menopause, the risk for cardiovascular disease increases substantially. There are multiple reasons for this. Lowered estrogen levels after menopause are associated with worsening lipid ratios (elevated total cholesterol and lowered HDL), which brings an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, hardening of the arteries, and an increased deposition of visceral fat, commonly known as belly fat. This increase in cardiovascular risk makes it vitally important to eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, minimize weight gain, get a good night’s sleep, and for goodness sake, stop smoking if you do.

Those thirty plus years after your last menstrual period can also lead to symptoms of genitourinary syndrome of menopause, which can include vaginal dryness, painful sex, vulvar itching and burning, and urinary urgency, frequency, and frequent UTIs. These symptoms may show up months or years into menopause, even if you did not experience them during the transition. The good news is that these symptoms can be easily treated and averted with topical vaginal estrogen cream.

The bottom line is that women should treat the symptoms of menopause when they happen, for their comfort as well as their health. Systemic estrogen for women who are experiencing hot flashes and sleep disturbances could quite possibly stave off some of the known risk factors for future cardiovascular disease. And this we know for sure: The symptoms of the genitourinary syndrome of menopause only worsen with time, and vaginal estrogen cream is safe, easy to use, and virtually risk-free.

The postmenopausal years, better known as the rest of your life, should be a time of freedom and joy, a time to use all that acquired wisdom to be our best selves. So don’t settle for less. If you’re struggling, get help. Remember, at Alloy, we got you.

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