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Understanding menopause: Signs, symptoms and health concerns related to menopause

Many people are familiar with what menopause is: they know it happens to women of a certain age group and that it’s associated with certain symptoms, such as hot flashes. What many don’t realize is the impact that menopause can have on women and that it’s important for women to receive proper medical care when they enter menopause.

What is menopause?

Menopause begins when a woman has not had a period for a full year. It is known as the end of menstruation and the start of specific changes to a woman’s body and hormone levels. The Canadian Women’s Health Network defines menopause:

Menopause is the end of menstruation. The word comes from the Greek mens, meaning monthly, and pausis, meaning cessation. Menopause is part of a woman's natural aging process when her ovaries produce lower levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone and when she is no longer able to become pregnant.

Unlike a woman’s first menstruation, which starts on a single day, the changes leading up to menopause happen over several years. The average age for menopause is 52. But menopause commonly happens anytime between the ages of 42 and 56.

Every woman experiences menopause in a different way, so the symptoms can vary. Some women experience very few issues, while others find that their symptoms get in the way of day-to-day life.

Signs and symptoms of menopause

When a woman starts noticing changes in her body as she gets older, it’s likely that she’ll wonder whether she is in menopause.

Experiencing symptoms of perimenopause is an indication that menopause is on the way. menopauseandu.ca explains perimenopause:

“During perimenopause, menstrual periods become less predictable—happening more often than monthly or infrequently, becoming heavier or lighter. Other, ‘vasomotor’ symptoms often appear in perimenopause. These signal your body’s preparation for menopause, and usually disappear over time.”

Common symptoms include:

  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats
  • Insomnia
  • Joint pain
  • Dry eyes and itchy skin
  • Heart palpitations
  • Weight gain
  • Dizziness and nausea
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Anxiety attacks
  • Mood swings

Symptoms may be moderate or severe. You may experience very few, some or all of these symptoms.

Health concerns for women in menopause

Women entering menopause are at increased risk of experiencing several health issues:

  1. Osteoporosis: Approximately two million Canadian women are living with this disease. As women age and approach menopause, their estrogen levels drop, increasing their risk of developing osteoporosis.
  2. Bladder health: “10 to 30 percent of post-menopausal women experience some form of urinary incontinence, often during exercise or with laughing or sneezing,” according to menopauseandu.ca.
  3. Cancer: The risk of developing endometrial and breast cancer increases slightly as women enter menopause.
  4. Sexuality: Women may experience issues related to sexuality, including decreased confidence or sex drive, and vaginal dryness.

Being proactive is an important factor in dealing with the symptoms and possible health issues associated with menopause. Part of taking a proactive approach is understanding how to compare medical insurance plans, assessing your need for health insurance if you’re over 50, and making sure you can deal with any issues associated with menopause.

Blue Cross offers flexible health insurance plans, regardless of your age or stage in life, ensuring you have coverage for various health care costs.