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Postmenopause is a time when most of the distress of the menopausal changes have faded. Hot flashes may seem milder or less frequent; energy and emotional levels may seem to have stabilized.

It is generally believed by most clinicians that the postmenopausal phase begins when 12 full months have passed since the last menstrual period. Another typical guideline is to measure the level of the follicle stimulating hormone. A rising FSH level indicates to the clinician that the pituitary is working overtime in a futile effort to stimulate the ovaries to produce eggs which no longer exist. Most researchers use a 35-50 FSH level as the gauge whether a woman has reached postmenopause. This high FSH level continues for the rest of a woman’s life unless HRT is started, but this continuing high level is not harmful.


Another major change

Another major change that occurs after menopause is that estrogen production shifts from the ovaries to the fat cells in a woman's body. The chief estrogen of postmenopause is estrone (E1) which is converted from androgens (i.e., androstenedione) produced mainly by the adrenal glands. Some estrogen continues to be produced by the adrenals but in a lesser amount. The ovaries have now begun to shrink in size, although they never disappear and, in fact, they still have quite an important role in postmenopause since some hormones (ie. testosterone) continue to be produced there.

Hopefully, by the time a woman reaches postmenopause, she will have practiced good health habits throughout her life and, consequently, approaches this time of life well-prepared both physiologically and emotionally. Ideally, the menopausal woman will have built up bone mass during her younger years, so that if bone loss now occurs it won’t be as devastating as it might be if she has been very casual about good health measures. However, if this is not the case..


It is not too late

It is not too late to begin a good wellness regimen. The healthy woman passes through menopause with fewer problems than one who has not prepared herself. There is more time now for women to take care of themselves. Childbearing and childrearing years are past, and most women are no longer faced with major career decisions.

Postmenopausal measures for good health should be a continuation of premenopausal strategies, i.e. a nutritious diet containing calcium-rich foods, weight-bearing exercise, seeking hormone replacement or herbal aids for menopausal symptoms if necessary, and getting regular medical checkups, including bone density scans.

Women who began hormone replacement (HRT) during perimenopause may decide to continue it through the postmenopausal years. Still others may wish to utilize alternative remedies for relief of persistent symptoms during this time. Those with with cancer, osteoporosis, and heart concerns will want to research their options and discuss these with their doctors.