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Mary Beth knows the menopause script all too well. Although none of her friends are experiencing her symptoms, at 45 Mary Beth finds herself immersed in the worst of it. She has several hot flashes during the day and they awaken her at night. Her periods are gone for three or four months at a time. Then they return vigorously, only to leave as abruptly as they arrived. She cries a lot, and her mood swings alienate her family and friends from her when she needs them the most. She has not done anything to gain weight, yet her waistline seems to have disappeared, and her hips are wider than they were after childbirth. Mary Beth is miserable, and she cannot believe she is already menopausal.

Susan is 56, and her periods slowly trickled to nothing. She can count on one hand the number of hot flashes she had in the past six months. Her weight gain is negligible, and her “shifting sands” of fat have not caused her any alarm or emergency trips to the department store. She is happy and outgoing, showing none of the symptoms that Mary Beth is experiencing. Yet, Susan is no less menopausal than Mary Beth.

Menopause is a different experience for every woman, ranging from severe and oppressive hot flashes and mood swings to nothing. Some women cannot tell that they are going through “The Change of Life.” Their bodies are not changing any less than those challenged by the effects of menopause. They are just lucky, that is all. A woman of 45 is undergoing the same biological changes as a woman of 56 if both are menopausal. Menopause is a hormonal event, announcing the end of fertility.

The ovaries stop producing the hormone, estrogen in menopause. They also stop ovulating during this time. Some estrogen remains in the woman’s body though. Fat cells assume the responsibility of regulating it, and redistribute themselves closer to the ovaries. Some women increase their girth around their waists, while others become larger about the hips and thighs. As metabolism slows, fat will naturally accumulate on the fat pads of the back, upper arms, and inner thighs. This is not an unnatural event; this is supposed to happen.

While a menopausal woman may not attain the figure she had when she was in her twenties, she can do a lot to keep herself in good health. First, see the doctor, preferably a gynecologist. A simple blood test will indicate if hormone replacement therapy is needed, and if so what kind. This has become an area of contention recently. Some women protested the use of pregnant horse urine to make their estrogen replacement. Herbal replacements are viable alternatives many women turn to.

Whatever the choice, HRT may reduce the symptoms of menopause and allow more comfort. A healthy diet, daily exercise, and vitamins are also useful strategies for easing into the autumn of life. There is no reason to suffer from menopause, a completely normal event in a woman’s life.

This is the time to rejoice in the knowledge gained in a lifetime, and to share those experiences with other people. Women have earned this position in society, and they deserve respect as learned individuals of life’s lessons and consequences. Sisters, hold your heads high, wipe your brows of today’s toils, and rightfully demand control of your air conditioner. You deserve no less!