In medical terms, menopause is the stage in a womans health when the ovaries stop producing estrogen and the reproductive cycle begins to wind down. The most common age for the onset of menopause is around 50 years old, although women who have had cancer, diabetes, thyroid disease or other auto immune deficiencies can have the onset of menopause as early as 40 years old. For a very small number of women, menopause can begin at as early as 30 years old. Menopause can also come about as a result of surgery, such as a hysterectomy where the ovaries are removed.

Menopause represents a dramatic change in a womans hormone levels, and results in a number of side effects, some of which can cause a far bit of discomfort and disruption in a womans life.

The most common symptoms are hot flashes and night sweats. Menopause can also cause urinary problems, such as increased urgency or frequency. The change in hormones can cause joint pain, and most troubling, speed up the onset of osteoporosis. Even more worrying, menopause can have a large effect on a womans psychological health. A woman going through menopause will often feel tired and irritable, with a lowered sex drive and even memory loss.

The most common way to deal with menopause is with hormone replacement therapy (HRT). A HRT treatment reduces many of the common symptoms of menopause by giving the body a synthetic estrogen. This approach is particularly useful for women at heightened risk for osteoporosis because it slows the reduction of bone mass. However, while many health professionals still recommend HRT as an important treatment, some studies have shown that it can increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes and breast cancer. Some women also object to treating menopause as a disease that needs to be cured with drugs.

Regardless of uses HRT or not, a key component of any attempt to deal with menopause is exercise. Indeed, all women should exercise at least 30 minutes a day to help prevent many of the problems that can later be associated with menopause. The younger a woman starts exercising, the lower her risk of osteoporosis. Along with a active lifestyle, women should also have a healthier diet, focusing on foods low in fat and cholesterol. Women should also ensure that they are getting large amounts of Vitamin D and calcium.

While there is no way to make the symptoms of menopause go away, women can adopt strategies to deal with them. If a woman is having trouble falling asleep at night, she should avoid caffeine in the evening, and establishing a set routine for bed times. Women effected by mood swings can try relaxation techniques such as yoga, while women dealing with memory problems can keep her mind fresh with memory exercises. If a woman is experiencing hot flashes, (a common complaint), they should pay attention to what they are eating or what else is going on in their lives could be triggering the flashes. Caffeine, alcohol, spicy foods and stress, for example, have all been found to trigger hot flashes in some women.