Causes and Risk Factors of Menopause

It is normal to have menopause between the ages of 45-55. Before this age, it's considered to be "early menopause" or "premature menopause." Learn about the causes and risk factors for menopause.
Causes and Risk Factors of Menopause

Written by Maite Córdova Vena, 20 June, 2021

Last update: 20 June, 2021

The causes and risk factors of menopause usually occur from 45-55 years of age. However, it’s good to get to know them in greater detail in order to develop a strategy that can help women to cope with the respective changes in the best possible way.

Throughout her life, every woman experiences various changes in her body. Menopause is one of them. This has often been considered to be something negative, and, in times gone by, it has even been classified as a “disease.” For this reason, people often tend to avoid talking about it openly or even finding out more about it.

What’s menopause?

The causes and risk factors of menopause are specific
Menopause isn’t a disease, however, the hormonal changes typical of this stage of life can cause some health problems.

Unlike what people used to believe in the 19th century, menopause is not a disease. It’s a natural process that occurs as the body ages. It’s estimated that the majority of women experience it between 45 and 55 years of age, although this can vary from woman to woman.

As the authors of an article published in the Climacteric and Menopause magazine indicate:

  • “Menopause is the cessation of a woman’s menstrual periods after 12 consecutive months of amenorrhea.” This means that the woman’s body has now finished its fertile stage.
  • The cessation occurs due to the lack of activity of the ovary’s follicles “and their ability to produce estrogens when stimulated by follicle-stimulating and luteinizing hormones.”
  • Menopause that occurs over the age of 50 is normal. This means that it occurs naturally, without pathological or surgical causes.
  • The different signs and symptoms that women experience in the transition to menopause are called “climacteric syndrome”. The most characteristic are hot flashes and mood swings, although they can encompass many more.
  • And, finally, the diagnosis of climacteric syndrome/menopause is made based on the symptoms reported by the woman in consultation with their doctor.

Although it’s still very common to believe that climacteric syndrome, or menopause, is a “problem” in itself, the truth is that this isn’t necessarily the case.

Although some women experience the transition with intensity, others can go through it hardly noticing it. However, it’s certainly true that many experience uncomfortable symptoms and report some ups and downs related to some of them, but, in general, these are manageable.

“Often, the transition to menopause begins between the ages of 45 and 55. It usually lasts about 7 years, but it can last up to 14 years.”

– National Institute on Aging –

Causes and risk factors of early or premature menopause

The causes and risk factors of menopause explain the early onset of this stage
Some health conditions – especially those related to the gynecological area – can cause menopause to appear early.

As stated in an article published by the Cleveland Clinic experts :

  • When a woman goes through menopause between 40 and 45 years of age, she is considered to have experienced early menopause.
  • And, if a woman goes through menopause before the age of 40, she is considered to have experienced premature menopause.

These conditions can occur as a result of surgery (such as removal of the ovaries) or damage to the ovaries (such as when caused by chemotherapy). They can also occur from certain autoimmune diseases: primary ovarian failure, or chronic fatigue syndrome.

Genetics

According to research published in 2011, the appearance of premature menopause could be related to a woman’s genetics. It was observed that there were four types of genetics that had a significant impact on the chances of a woman having early menopause.

Despite the usefulness of the findings obtained, the authors clarified that the evidence was limited. They consider that more research is needed in order to be able to predict the reproductive life of women with greater precision.

Smoking

Smoking increases the risk of going through menopause earlier than expected (on average 1.5 to 2 years earlier). In turn, this could lead to increased morbidity and mortality from different diseases, as confirmed by studies such as the one published in the J Prev Med Public Health.

High-fat diet

According to a review article entitled Lifestyle and dietary factors determine age at natural menopause, diet can also have some influence on the age you experience menopause.

While this requires more research, it’s generally believed that the higher the diet in saturated fat and carbohydrates, the more likely it is that menopause will occur earlier.

Regarding the consumption of tea, coffee and alcohol, more research is needed, as there isn’t sufficient evidence to draw any definite conclusions about it.

If you have already turned 40, or are close to it, and have concerns about the causes and risk factors of menopause, then don’t hesitate to consult your GP or trusted gynecologist. These professionals will help you learn more about the process and how you should take care of yourself at each stage so that you can cope with them in the healthiest way.

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