Can Doctors predict the start on menopause

Scientists at University of California, Los Angeles have developed a new method of testing which uses a woman's age, menstrual bleeding patterns and hormone levels to predict when she will have her final menstrual period and enter perimenopause. Perimenopause lasts for a year after the last period. After a full year without a period, women are considered to have been "through menopause." Postmenopause follows menopause and lasts the rest of a woman’s life.

Menopause is a normal part of life, just like puberty. It is the time of the last menstrual period, but symptoms can begin several years earlier. Changing levels of estrogen and progesterone, which are two female hormones that come from the ovaries, can lead to these symptoms. Menopause is usually reached between the ages of 45 and 55 with an average age of onset of 51.

Using this new method, researchers could help women and their doctors gauge the onset of menopause-related bone loss, which generally begins a year before her final period. The researchers measured levels of estradiol (E2), a hormone produced by the ovaries, and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), which comes from the pituitary gland and triggers the production of eggs.

FSH increases and E2 decreases about two years before the last menstrual period, or about a year before bone loss and cardiovascular risk factors rise. The study found that the levels of the two hormones could be used to estimate whether women were within two years of beginning their final menstrual period, within one year or beyond their final period.

Dr Gail Greendale, professor of medicine in the division of geriatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA who led the study said women who are approaching menopause often ask their health care providers when they will be done with their periods, but the information is sometimes more telling than women realize.

"Being able to estimate when the final menstrual period will take place has taken on importance beyond just helping women gauge when they will stop having periods," she said.

"We know that potentially deleterious physiological developments, such as the onset of bone loss and an increase in cardiovascular risk factors, precede the final menses by at least a year," she said.

The study used collected for 11 years on 554 women, including Caucasians, African Americans, Hispanics and those of Chinese and Japanese descent, participating in the multi-site, multi-ethnic Study of Women's Health Across the Nation.

The women were between the ages of 42 to 53, had an intact uterus and at least one ovary, were not using medications affecting ovarian function and had experienced at least one menstrual period in the prior three months.

Study co-authors were Mei-Hua Huang and Dr Arun Karlamangla of UCLA and Dr Shinya Ishii of the University of Tokyo.

The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism

Women today are living longer and healthier lives than ever before. An American woman can now expect to live on average about 1/3 of her adult life after menopause. For many women, those years are a time of growth and opportunity.

Middle-aged women today are attractive, feel good, exercise, are full of vitality, and enjoy fulfilling sexual relationships. Many embark on new careers, enter academic programs, and take on volunteer responsibilities, or return to work if they stayed home to raise children. At the same time, many are coping with the psychological and physical challenges of menopause.

Menopause and the symptoms associated with it can severely disrupt your quality of life.

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