Why does menopause occur?
What are the bare essentials we need to survive? Food, water and shelter. As for nature, there is one more important thing that ensures that our species survives- Procreation. Do you remember those biology lessons from school? All species in nature have a natural drive to eat, drink, sleep and procreate. These actions are in accordance with a natural law for the survival of the species.
The same law applies to humans. Nature starts making both men and women ready to procreate after a certain age. For women, this readiness is seen once they start their "periods".
What are periods?
It is a cycle of an egg developing in the ovary, while at the same time, the womb gets ready for nurturing a child. When there is no pregnancy, the womb sheds the nutrition it created for the would-have-been child- which we call as periods, or menses. Then the body incessantly starts the same work all over again- day after day, month after month, year after year...
The headquarters of all this are in the brain- in a small area called the hypothalamus and a pea shaped gland called the pituitary. The hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis controls the hormones responsible for this “procreative function”.
While numerous hormones are at work in this process, let us see 2 of the most important hormones- estrogen and progesterone.
Estrogen is secreted by the developing eggs in the ovary. It helps to prepare the womb for the child. This estrogen, although, wears many hats. It has a lot of work to do apart from just being a part of the woman's menstrual cycle.
Estrogen works on the brain, the heart, the skin, the bones and helps all these organs to function properly. It helps the brain to remember, the heart to beat well and helps your bones be strong.
Progesterone is a pregnancy hormone. It starts getting secreted in the second half of the period cycle and then goes on to play an important role in pregnancy. The withdrawal of this hormone in absence of a pregnancy is what makes the lining inside the uterus unable to hold and the shedding of this lining is what we call “periods”
Nature is kind
Once the woman ages, stopping this whole cycle of procreation- or menopause, is nature's way of protecting the ageing body from the work of reproduction.
The ovaries are signaled by hormones in the brain to stop their work, in turn the uterus stops it's work of creating the nurturing lining for the would-be child and the woman stops her periods.
With the ovaries stopping their work, the estrogen levels start falling. The effect of low estrogen is felt by all- the brain, the heart, the skin, the bones… And it is primarily this falling level of estrogen that gives rise to all those unwanted symptoms of menopause.
How should I prepare myself?
Preparing for these changes beforehand goes a long way in helping reduce the impact of menopause. Research has shown that regular exercise, a balanced and healthy diet, a maintained weight all help in reducing the severity of menopausal symptoms. Obesity increases the occurrence of hot flushes, metabolic disease, diabetes, joint pains etc. And a normal body mass index and a low waist circumference help not only to reduce hot flushes, but also reduce the chances of a heart attack, diabetes mellitus and high blood pressure.
The preparation for midlife and menopause begins way before you actually arrive there. In today’s world of instant gratification, fast food, ask google and swiggying your food, we must know that health does not have any short cuts. It is only consistent efforts that give results where health is concerned. The earlier we change our lifestyle and adopt a healthy one, the better are the results going to be.