Q: I've been experiencing some of the symptoms of menopause, but I'm only 40. Is this normal?
A: Perimenopause is a condition of several years prior to the onset of menopause when the reproductive system is gearing down and is less reliable. The symptoms of perimeno-pause are similar to those of early menopause but may be more severe. The earliest hints of a normal perimenopause may appear in the mid to late 30s. For most women, the final period occurs between 45 and 55. Symptoms include hot flashes, menstrual irregularity with shorter or longer intervals between periods, mood swings, sleeping problems, sexual dysfunction, bone loss and altered cholesterol levels. If you're experiencing symptoms that interfere with your daily activities, consult a physician. He or she will likely suggest improvements to your diet and exercise routine as part of your treatment. The pros and cons of hormonal options, such as medications containing estrogen and progesterone, need to be discussed and may be prescribed as indicated. View perimenopause as an opportunity to establish the good health habits that will minimize symptoms during the menopausal transition and keep you feeling young for the rest of your life.
- Dr. C. Ann Mashchak, Memorial Health Care System; member, Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society
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