Having reached menopause, you are by definition experiencing hormone deficiency.
How will Hormone Deficiency Affect Me?
There are hormone-dependent tissues in every organ system in your body. As hormone levels fall these tissues lose their ability to function optimally. When the duration of hormone loss is prolonged or acute, as is the case of a premature menopause or removal of the ovaries, the effect is magnified. Hormonally dependent tissues cannot and do not function optimally or maintain their integrity when the required hormone is absent.
Hormone deficiency causes an increase in the incidence of coronary artery disease, strokes, osteoporosis and possibly Alzheimer’s disease. Fortunately, the increased frequency of these problems can be prevented by appropriate use of HRT.
Does That Mean I Will Definitely Have Problems If I Don’t Take HRT?
It is impossible to predict if a specific woman will experience problems, however, there are a number of factors that significantly increase the risk:
- Heredity: A family history of Osteoporosis, Cardiovascular Disease or Alzheimer’s.
- Surgical removal of the ovaries: Unlike a natural menopause where the fall is more gradual, the decline in ovarian sex hormone production is sudden and complete and so women in this category tend to be at greater risk.
- Early menopause: Early menopause can be due to premature menopause, surgery or ovarian injury. The risks begin once the hormone levels decrease, and they increase with each passing month that the problem is not corrected.
- Lifestyle: Smoking, excess alcohol intake, sedentary lifestyle, high-fat diet and low intake of calcium and other important nutrients all affect the risk factor.
- Concurrent medical problems: There are a number of medical conditions that increase risk, either as an effect of the disease itself or the medication necessary to treat it.
What Types of Medical Problems Increase Risk?
Here are a few examples. Elevated levels of lipids (fats) in the blood, hypertension, obesity, and diabetes increase the risk of coronary artery disease and stroke.
There are also a number of medical conditions that risk of osteoporosis including diseases of kidney function and calcium metabolism, of stomach and intestinal absorption, chronic lung disease, hyperthyroidism, and Cushings disease—a disorder of the adrenal gland.
Medications can also cause problems. Medications called glucocorticoids, such as prednisone given in high doses over a period of time as short as a few months can cause significant mineral loss from bone as can heparin an anticoagulant. Also, thyroid hormone in excess of replacement requirements taken over an extended period of time results in significant bone loss as well.
Will Menopause Change the Way I Feel?
The majority of women experience symptoms which range from mild to debilitating, including hot flushes, sweats, insomnia, problems with memory and/or concentration, headaches, loss of sex drive, mood changes, and muscle aches. A woman may experience some of these symptoms, all of them, or none of them.
Will Menopause Change My Body?
Almost all women will experience alterations in sex hormone-dependent “target tissues” and “organ systems.” This includes atrophy of the vagina, urethra, labia, and clitoris, loss of skin thickness and collagen content, loss of bone mineral content from the skeleton as well as effects on the brain and cardiovascular system. Again, these changes are preventable by appropriate use of HRT.
What Happened to That “You’re Not Getting Older, You’re Getting Better” Stuff?
I know Aunt Sadie lived to 94, was sharp as a tack, had a younger boyfriend she nearly killed with her sexual demands, drove a car, mowed her lawn and was active until the day she died. Everybody thinks it’s great. Hormonally deficient people can function; of course they can. Aunt Sadie did. But that’s not the issue. The point is that no one, regardless of gender, can function optimally, if they are hormonally deficient.