Living means coping with a constancy of changes. There are many life changes that people face. Women and men, transitioning from youth, cope with aging. For women, it is known as menopause. Menopause is a radical biochemical change that signals the conclusion of the reproductive years. Men and women lose muscle and gain fat. Menopause is a central issue as baby boomers from post World War II age within a population that is living longer. Menopause or change of life offers many things to consider. Everyone, one day, will encounter menopause.
The aging process has been a dilemma for thousands of years. As more people live longer than average, those changes are examined and studied. Women go about major hormonal changes at around age 50. This period is called menopause. Recently, male menopause came to light, particularly as a marked reduction in testosterone. As we age, hormone production seems to shift to low gears. Lean muscles give way to fat, stiffness, and atrophy. Bones and joints express the pains of wear and tear. Cognitive changes are observed. While youth had many challenges, aging beyond 50 can exhibit an entire new set of adversities that seem beyond challenge. Living well beyond age 70’s may be very rough as indiscretions of youth start creeping up and showing themselves.
I am reminded of a little known tale by the Grimm Brothers, from the 19th century, about the Duration of Life:
When God created the world and was about to determine the duration of life for all the creatures, the donkey came and asked, “Lord, how long am I to live?”
“Thirty years,” answered God. “Is that all right with you?”
“Oh, Lord,” replied the donkey, “that is a long time. Think of my tiresome existence carrying heavy loads from morning until night, dragging bags of grain to the mill so that others might eat bread, only to be cheered along and refreshed with kicks and blows! Spare me part of this long time.”
So God had mercy and gave him eighteen years. The donkey went away satisfied, and the dog made his appearance.
“How long do you want to live?” said God to him. “Thirty years was too much for the donkey, but you will be satisfied with that long.”
“Lord,” answered the dog. “Is that your will? Just think how much I have to run. My feet will not hold out so long. And what can I do but growl and run from one corner to another after I have lost my voice for barking and my teeth for biting?”
God saw that he was right, and he took away twelve years. Then came the monkey.
“Surely you would like to live thirty years,” said the Lord to him. “You do not need to work like the donkey and the dog, and are always having fun.”
“Oh, Lord,” he answered, “so it appears, but it is different. When it rains porridge, I don’t have a spoon. I am always supposed to be playing funny tricks and making faces so people will laugh, but when they give me an apple and I bite into it, it is always sour. How often is sorrow hidden behind a joke. I cannot put up with all that for thirty years!”
God had mercy and gave him ten years. Finally man made his appearance. Cheerful, healthy, and refreshed, he asked God to determine the duration of his life.
“You shall live thirty years,” spoke the Lord. “Is that enough for you?”
“What a short time!” cried the man. “When I have built a house and a fire is burning on my own hearth, when I have planted trees that blossom and bear fruit, and am just beginning to enjoy life, then I am to die. Oh, Lord, extend my time.”
“I will add the donkey’s eighteen years,” said God.
“That is not enough,” replied the man.
“You shall also have the dog’s twelve years.”
“Still too little.”
“Well, then,” said God, “I will give you the monkey’s ten years as well, but you shall receive no more.”
The man went away, but he was not satisfied.
Thus man lives seventy years. The first thirty are his human years, and they quickly disappear. Here he is healthy and happy; he works with pleasure, and enjoys his existence. The donkey’s eighteen years follow. Here one burden after the other is laid on him; he carries the grain that feeds others, and his faithful service is rewarded with kicks and blows. Then come the dog’s twelve years, and he lies in the corner growling, no longer having teeth with which to bite. And when this time is past, the monkey’s ten years conclude. Now man is weak headed and foolish; he does silly things and becomes a laughingstock for children.
Personality, ideology, and general changes of life has been bring up a unique, new marriage/divorce statistic that may be rising with increased age spans. We have heard of the 7-year itch and many marital breakups during the first 10 years. Now a 25-year itch is emerging. In 1990, only 1 in 10 divorces were people 50 and older. In 2013 it’s 1 in 4. The rate has elevated from 10% to 25%. The change seems so radical that Catholicism and other religions observe this as a challenge and redefinition to traditional, moral values.
New and evangelical Christian movements blame the proliferation of women’s rights in the 20th century as the cause of increasing divorce rates and moral degradation. Although it is only a splinter group, more new Christian couples delve through the biblical foundations to prove that God has defined roles for women. Men are required to discipline wives to the order of happiness. Outside these groups, more rational thinkers and scientists are exploring the symptoms, responses, and regulation of menopause, an its affects on marital cohesion.
Female menopause studies observe the cessation of certain hormones that were key t reproductive functioning. Male menopause is similar in that it is associated with reduced testosterone levels and erectile dysfunction. In men, the hormonal changes are thus far seen as gradual.
Thousands of years ago, Aristotle observed that menopause began at age 40 and the history of menopause brought many theories. Promises of longevity bring new focus perspectives to menopause. While dominantly a female issue, science and sociology are examining the gender crosslinks in new, progressive ways. Therapeutic changes evolve faster and, in relationships, prove consequential. In addition, how you cope and deal with menopause may give way to disease sensitivities that were generally unobserved.
In the U.S., the average age of onset for “natural” menopause is near 50. The first evidence is the cessation of the menstrual cycle. Around that time, many women indicate they feel hot flashes, surges of heat. Hot flashes occur when the blood vessels near the skin’s surface dilate to cool. This produces the red, flushed look to the face. A woman may also perspire to cool down the body. These surges of heat also may disturb normal sleep patterns and dream cycles, leading to daytime exhaustion and cognitive impairments. It has been studied that long-term memories are “filed” during dream cycles.
In addition, some women experience a rapid heart rate or chills. This rapid heat rate may be mistaken as a cardiovascular disease indicator. It may not be so. Heart rate may normalize post-menopause.
Frequent mood changes are often discussed. Mood changes have been observed in up to 23% of menopausal women, during and after. Additionally, symptoms of anxiety—tension, nervousness, panic, and worry are evident. The loss of sexual desire has been linked to periods of depression. It is often difficult to infer whether the depression is a cause or response. A woman’s loss of desire may contribute to her depression, yet she also may see her desire decline as an effect of depression.
Perhaps one of the mood effectors might be noticeable weight gain or softening of the contours. Menopause does not result in weight gain among women, however, hormonal adjustments are linked to a difference in fat distribution, which increases belly fat. Many see a growth in belly and rear fat leading to larger dress sizes. Menopause weight gain studies are seriously addressed by menopause research advocacy groups. This is something evident to women as well as men. Apart from slowing metabolic rates, one doctor writes his hypothesis that hormonal estrogen dominance plays a significant role for women and for men. Dr. Christiane Northrup, popular author and speaker, also cites that reduced progesterone levels engage an estrogen dominance that brings forth lists of symptoms.
Among fitness and nutritional experts and gurus, approximately 1.5 billion adults are overweight worldwide – 300 million of them are obese females. Most high levels are due to diet and inactivity.
In a body that is so complex, one can not belittle the changes in hormone levels in menopause and middle-age that attribute to less activity and body weight gains of 10% to 25%. Adrenaline or epinephrine is both a hormone and an important neurotransmitter, produced by the adrenal gland, and is associated with your body’s response to stress. Adrenal substances are part of that “get-up and go” process and glandular production declines with aging. The decline of adrenaline production and other key neurotransmitters may be associated with lower activity drives and weight gain values. Yet, fitness experts and health practitioners try to motivate people over 50 to exercise. Exerting exercise is positively linked to activating the adrenal gland to work harder.
In a woman’s menopause, three key hormones are shifting production – progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone – along with another called FSH. Hormones are naturally produced chemicals that play key roles in how your body functions and matures.
FSH (follicle stimulating hormone), a hormone produced in the anterior pituitary gland, increases, and estrogen levels decrease. An FSH test should be added to your normal series of routine blood tests to indicate hormone and lipid changes. It is an important predictor of menopause.
Progesterone plays a role in maintaining pregnancy and is produced in the ovaries.As you grow older and enter perimenopause (the menopause transition phase, which can last six years or more and ends one year after your final menstrual period), your hormone levels fluctuate and decrease, causing irregular ovulation and menstruation, as well as bothersome symptoms like hot flashes.
Estrogen is another hormone associated with the reproductive cycle. Estrogen also plays a role in bone formation, blood clotting and other body functions. The hormone also affects the brain, and studies also show that chronically low estrogen levels are linked with reduced mood. Men produce estrogen as well, but at lower levels than women. In men, estrogen is thought to affect sperm count.
Testosterone is usually associated with males but females also have it. Excess female testosterone levels are attributed to smaller breast sizes and body hair. Its role in menopause may be caused by the testosterone receptors becoming less receptive, while the amount of free testosterone in the body decreases. The decrease is due to an increase in a blood protein that binds with the hormone, rendering it useless. A gradual fall in the testosterone levels (from 30 to 40 percent) is common in men between the ages of 48 and 70. As testosterone levels drop, men may experience a loss in muscle strength and function, increase in body fat, decrease in body density and a decrease in sexual function and drive. Subsequently, as female testosterone levels are reduced, there is loss of muscle strength and increases in body fat and size.
Hormones are chemicals that the body responds with. Your hot flashes, mood swings, lack of motivation, and increases in fat correspond with reduced hormone levels during the normal aging process. As the over-50 crowd aims to lead active, productive lives for several more decades, hormone replacement therapy has gained significant popularity. Yet, whenever you intervene in coverting the body’s balance, there are going to be detrimental effects. Such therapies have been reported to trigger heart and cancer problems. Sometimes trying to fix one thing may result in having to deal with side effects. Chemicals and chemical formulations for hormone and neurotransmitter re-balancing offer more questions than answers.
Yet some hormone replacement therapies have been shown as effective helpers in hip replacements and other bone surgeries. Research is emerging that may help attack possible cancers that may have been associated with synthetic hormone replacements. Adversely, certain hormone replacement therapy formulations may contribute to increased heart attack and stroke incidences. Dietary combinations with certain hormone replacements may lead to possible tumor growths.
Part of the formation of side effects may arise from how the replacement was given, either by pill or by topical cream. Part of the causes may have been patient errors through overdosing to get faster results. A new method uses medicinal patches to provide a steady, slow, graduated stream. A hormone replacement therapy patch is being touted as a possible method to help control side effects.
Despite the risks associated with hormone replacement therapy (HRT), an overwhelming number of women are attracted to its benefits. When you’re suffering from fatigue, headaches, hot flashes, mood swings, weight gain, loss of sleep, and skin dryness, the possibility of relief seems sensible. HRT helps suppress the loss of sexual desire and reawakens passionate feelings. This may be one of the causes of the 25-year itch syndrome and rising divorce rates over the past twenty years. Single or joint psychotherapy may help. HRT does treat menopause but users must make certain that they see their doctor for tests, at least three times per year, to help avoid the emergence of life-threatening illnesses. HRT is not to be taken lightly. Be under the care of a physician you trust.
A change of life, menopause may be disheartening. The cessation of what many call the monthly curse brings consequences that many prefer to ignore. It’s attitude that helps you ride the tide and surf through the transition. Age 70 no longer means death. It’s closer to age 90. That’s many more productive and enjoyable years to go after you turn 50. It’s all about how you adapt to circumstances. AARP is one of the organizations that help along the way.
Aging and menopause may seem like drags. Most complementary therapies are promoting exercise and diet to help wear the (so called) normal symptoms of aging. In a way, it makes sense that mental and physical stimulation, together, help coax your body to produce hormones that are beneficial to overall health and wellness over the years. While Hormone Replacement Therapy may seem like the easiest alternatives to achieving happiness, the consequence is monitoring physiochemical responses through frequent blood tests that may or may not be covered by health insurance policies. We see more people living well and productively to ages of over 100. At ages of 50 or over, your lives may, instead of being reborn, be happily revised for future happiness.
When it comes to dealing and coping with menopause, it’s being healthy, happy, and positive that helps chart a better course ahead. Live long, love, and prosper.