If you are a woman between the ages of 48 and 54 and your last period was six months ago, you are probably in menopause. If you've had a complete hysterectomy or are taking estrogen blockers for breast cancer, you are also in menopause, even if you are younger.
About fifteen percent of women experience no symptoms at menopause. If you are one of those lucky few, it's likely that your hormones have declined gradually as your periods tapered off and you have neither too much estrogen—leading to cystic breasts, excessive bleeding, anxiety or insomnia—nor too much progesterone—leading to depression and fatigue that are often misdiagnosed.
You may see a slight increase in weight, and a slight rise in your cholesterol level and blood pressure. You will want to maintain a good exercise regimen, and eat a diet of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables that contain antioxidants and other critical vitamins and minerals, and avoid caffeine, sugar and saturated fats. It's a good idea to get a bone mass index test and take calcium and vitamin D supplements to ward off osteoporosis.
If your last period was six months ago but you are not between the ages of 48 and 54 and have not experienced a medical or surgical procedure to explain your symptom, you may be in premature ovarian failure or be experiencing very early menopause, or ovulation may have stopped for other reasons.
Tests that will assist you and your physician in figuring out what is happening in your body include tests for FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) levels, which are usually high when a woman is in menopause. You may also want to have tests for anemia, thyroid function, blood sugar and liver function, as well as a pap smear.
The rest of menopausal women typically experience some or all of the following symptoms. Here are some explanations for what's causing them and what can be done to relieve them.