menopause

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menopause

(mĕn`əpôz) or

climacteric

(klīmăk`tərĭk, klī'măktĕr`ĭk), transitional phase in a woman's life when the ovariesovary,
ductless gland of the female in which the ova (female reproductive cells) are produced. In vertebrate animals the ovary also secretes the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone, which control the development of the sexual organs and the secondary sexual characteristics.
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 stop releasing eggs, ovarian production of estrogenestrogen
, any one of a group of hormones synthesized by the reproductive organs and adrenal glands in females and, in lesser quantities, in males. The estrogens cause the thickening of the lining of the uterus and vagina in the early phase of the ovulatory, or menstrual, cycle
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 and other hormones tapers off, and menstruationmenstruation,
periodic flow of blood and cells from the lining of the uterus in humans and most other primates, occurring about every 28 days in women. Menstruation commences at puberty (usually between age 10 and 17).
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 ceases. It results from declining ovarian function due to aging of the ovaries and is usually a gradual process. In the United States, natural menopause occurs at age 51 on average. Premature menopause (due to premature aging of the ovaries, debilitating disease, or infection) and artificial menopause (due to destruction of the ovaries by surgery, irradiation, or purposeful hormone therapy, as in severe premenstrual syndromepremenstrual syndrome
(PMS), any of various symptoms experienced by women of childbearing age in the days immediately preceding menstruation. It is most common in women in their twenties and thirties.
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) may occur much earlier.

Menopause may pass with no signs other than cessation of menstruation, or it may be accompanied by menstrual changes (heavy or erratic periods), night sweats, hot flashes, and vaginal dryness. There is some debate as to whether emotional symptoms and "mood swings" are any more common during menopause than at any other age. Lower levels of estrogen following menopause may be accompanied by a variety of physical changes. For example, the risk of osteoporosisosteoporosis
, disorder in which the normal replenishment of old bone tissue is severely disrupted, resulting in weakened bones and increased risk of fracture; osteopenia results when bone-mass loss is significant but not as severe as in osteoporosis.
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, in which the bones lose elasticity and become brittle, increases. In addition, levels of high-density lipoproteinslipoprotein
, any organic compound that is composed of both protein and the various fatty substances classed as lipids, including fatty acids and steroids such as cholesterol.
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 (HDLs) decrease as low-density lipoproteins (LDLs) increase, arteries lose elasticity, and more body weight is redistributed to the waist area—all heightening the risk of heart diseaseheart disease,
any of several abnormalities of the heart and its function in maintaining blood circulation. Heart disease is the cause of approximately half the deaths in the United States each year.
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. Other possible estrogen-related changes include stress incontinence due to loss of muscle tone in the pelvis, loss of elasticity in the skin, and hair thinning.

Estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) is a controversial treatment introduced in the 1970s for bodily changes that occur in menopause; beginning in the 1980s progestins were added to reduce the risk of uterine cancer. Although ERT eases hot flashes and other physical changes and appears to decrease the risk of osteoporosis, it has been linked to increases in breast cancerbreast cancer,
cancer that originates in the breast. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women (following lung cancer). Although the vast majority of the cases occur in women, some men also get breast cancer.
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, heart disease, and stroke.

Other approaches to dealing with the physical changes include exercise to help circulation, increase bone density and HDL levels, and lower stress; lubricants for vaginal dryness; avoidance of smoking and excess alcohol; and dietary changes limiting protein and fat and increasing fiberfiber,
threadlike strand, usually pliable and capable of being spun into a yarn. Many different fibers are known to be usable; some 40 of these are of commercial importance, and others are of local or specialized use. Fibers may be classified as either natural or synthetic.
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 and calciumcalcium
[Lat.,=lime], metallic chemical element; symbol Ca; at. no. 20; at. wt. 40.078; m.p. about 839°C;; b.p. 1,484°C;; sp. gr. 1.55 at 20°C;; valence +2. Calcium is a malleable, ductile, silver-white, relatively soft metal with face-centered, cubic crystalline
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. Natural remedies such as vitaminsvitamin,
group of organic substances that are required in the diet of humans and animals for normal growth, maintenance of life, and normal reproduction. Vitamins act as catalysts; very often either the vitamins themselves are coenzymes, or they form integral parts of coenzymes.
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 E and B6 or ginsengginseng
, common name for the Araliaceae, a family of tropical herbs, shrubs, and trees that are often prickly and sometimes grow as climbing forms. The true ginseng (Panax ginseng
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 and other foods that contain or mimic estrogen are sometimes recommended, but research as to their efficacy has been limited.

See also uterusuterus,
in most female mammals, hollow muscular organ in which the fetus develops and from which it is delivered at the end of pregnancy. The human uterus is pear-shaped and about 3 in. (7.
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.

Bibliography

See publications of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development; J. E. Huston and L. D. Lanka, Perimenopause: Changes in a Woman's Health after 35 (1997); Boston Women's Health Book Collective, Our Bodies, Ourselves for the New Century (1998).

menopause

[′men·ə‚pȯz]
(physiology)
The natural physiologic cessation of menstruation, usually occurring in the last half of the fourth decade. Also known as climacteric.

menopause

the period during which a woman's menstrual cycle ceases, normally occurring at an age of 45 to 50
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