Menopause is the cessation of the monthly female menstrual cycle. Women who have not had a menstrual period for a year are considered postmenopausal.
Most commonly, menopause takes place when a woman is in her late forties or early fifties. Women who have gone through menopause are no longer fertile. Menopause is not a disease and cannot be prevented. Many hormonal changes occur during menopause. Postmenopausal women are at higher risk of heart disease and osteoporosis, presumably because of a decrease in the production of estrogen or other hormones.
Sedentary women are more likely to have moderate or severe hot flashes compared with women who exercise.1, 2 In one trial, menopausal symptoms were reduced immediately after aerobic exercise.3
Cigarette smoking may be related to hot flashes in menopausal women. Preliminary data have shown that women who experience hot flashes are more likely to be smokers.4 Another preliminary study found that new users of hormone replacement therapy for the relief of menopausal symptoms were more likely to be current cigarette smokers than were those who had never smoked.5
Acupuncture may be helpful in the treatment of menopausal symptoms. Animal research suggests that acupuncture may help normalize some biochemical changes that are associated with menopausal disturbances of memory, mood, and other functions.6 One preliminary trial in humans demonstrated a significant reduction (more than 50%) in hot flashes in menopausal women receiving either electroacupuncture (acupuncture with electrical stimulation) or superficial acupuncture (shallow needle insertion).7 Other preliminary trials support these results8, 9 and suggest additional menopausal symptoms may also respond to acupuncture.10 However, no placebo-controlled trials have been done to conclusively prove the effectiveness of acupuncture for menopausal symptoms.
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The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2014.