Menopause Overview

Don't feel like your old self? You are not alone.

In 2010 about 25 million women entered menopause. In the US alone, about 3500 women enter menopause every day! At this rate, according to the World Health Organization, we can expect by the year 2030, the world population of postmenopausal women to increase to 1.2 billion. At that time, 47 million new women will be entering menopause each year. That's a LOT of hot flashes!

Women often ask me questions about menopause, symptoms and hormone therapy options, benefits and risks : "What are hormones? Am I in menopause? What therapy is right for me? What does this article (blog , book) I read mean?"  They are searching for information and education to help make the decisions that are right for them .

In this , the first of several posts, we'll go over some basic definitions and information on different types of hormone replacement therapy. We'll talk about all these things in more detail later.

This is just a VERY short discussion about a VERY complex issue. We'll talk more, but if you really want to start digging, I recommend you pick up a copy of "What You Must Know about Women's Hormones" by Pamela Wartian Smith, MD . She goes into a lot more detail about each hormone and how they affect your whole body, not just menopause, in a very clear and concise manner. You can find it in our Amazon Store.

I also highly recommend you visit ZRT Labs, for a ton of info on hormones, saliva testing and more.

Let's begin with some definitions, so we're all speaking the same language.

Menopause--First of all, menopause IS NOT a disease (no matter how you feel!) It is medically defined as the final menstrual period and is confirmed when a woman has not had her period for 12 consecutive months. Yea! No more periods! The price we pay for that luxury varies from women to women in number, strength and duration. It can be induced surgically, when ovaries are removed, or occur naturally. In North America, it most commonly occurs naturally between the ages of 40 - 59.

Perimenopause- Eek! That hormone roller-coaster time before actual menopause, when your body , oh so thoughtfully, provides you with little clues, hints and reminders that you're getting close! Perimenopause does not have a clear beginning, and women may have symptoms for years before actual menopause.

Hormone- Hormones can be thought of as chemical messengers-- they deliver very specific instructions to specific cells. Most hormones are produced by a group of glands known collectively as the endocrine system. Hormones are extremely potent substances with only a minute amount needed to deliver their message. Hormones are secreted into the bloodstream by the glands. From there, they travel to all parts of the body. The body produces hundreds of different hormones.

In menopause, the hormones we most often concentrate on are estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and DHEA, although we will see in further discussions that cortisol, thyroid, and others come into play as well.

Receptor- Think of a receptor as a plug, like the electrical outlets in your wall. Go look at one. You see how it has a very specific shape? Two long slots and a little sorta half circle. Look closer...see how one slot is a little longer than the other? If you're trying to plug in a lamp, you have to put the plug in a certain way to get the electricity to your lamp in order to get light. Hormones work the same way: each hormone has a unique shape, and must fit perfectly into its own receptor to deliver its message. Much like you can't plug your lamp into your dryer outlet (you can't-- they are WAY different shapes), hormones cannot plug into any receptor other than their own if they are to function properly.

Bio-Identical- a scientific term that simply means a substance is identical- exactly the same chemical structure and shape-- as what is made by your body (the "bio" part). If you take bio-identical progesterone from a medication and progesterone from your body and compare them with chemical analysis there is NO DIFFERENCE.

HRT- stands for Hormone Replacement Therapy. For the purposes of our conversations, when referring to HRT, I mean the type that uses synthetic hormones such as brand names Premarin and Provera.

BHRT- stands for BioIdentical Hormone Replacement Therapy, using Bioidentical hormones, chemically identical to the hormones your body makes. Usually compounded, but can be found in some commercially available products such as the brand of progesterone called Prometrium.

Okay, that's a lot for one sitting. Subscribe to this blog so you can be notified about posts on each hormone, studies, news stories and other hormone replacement therapy topics.


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