Physiological Changes

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The lack of estrogen and progesterone causes many changes in women's physiology that affect their health and well-being. These changes include:

menstrual cycles: the build-up and sloughing off of the lining of the uterus in women commencing at puberty and proceeding until menopause menopause: phase in a woman's life during which ovulation and menstruation end hormone: molecules produced by one set of cells that influence the function of another set of cells estrogen: hormone that helps control female development and menstruation genetics: inheritance through genes menopausal: related to menopause, the period during which women cease to ovulate and menstruate physiology: the group of biochemical and physical processes that combine to make a functioning organism, or the study of same cholesterol: multi-ringed molecule found in animal cell membranes; a type of lipid coronary heart disease: disease of the coronary arteries, the blood vessels surrounding the heart calcium: mineral essential for bones and teeth osteoporosis: weakening of the bone structure basal metabolism: level of body energy consumption and chemical processes in the absence of exertion cardiovascular: related to the heart and circulatory system fatigue: tiredness anxiety: nervousness cancer: uncontrolled cell growth aerobic: designed to maintain adequate oxygen in the bloodstream phytoestrogen: plant-derived estrogen compound legumes: beans, peas, and related plants

  • Elevated levels of total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol, which increases the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) in women. During the reproductive years, estrogen prevents increased levels of blood cholesterol and maintains the activity of estrogen receptors in women, thus preventing the risk of CHD.
  • Calcium loss from the bones is increased in the first five years after the onset of menopause, resulting in a loss of bone density. This bone loss then tapers off until about the age of seventy-five, when calcium loss accelerates again. This predisposes women to the risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures.
  • The body composition of menopausal women also changes, with the percentage of body fat increasing and muscle mass decreasing. The increase in body-fat percentage is believed to be partly due to decreased physical activity.
  • Decreased muscle mass reduces the rate of basal metabolism, which may be responsible for weight gain at this period of a woman's life.
  • The abdominal-fat storage that occurs in women at this stage increases the risk for cardiovascular disease.
  • The tissues in the urinary tract and reproductive organs atrophy.

Some other transient but unpleasant symptoms of menopause include hot flashes, fatigue, anxiety, sleep disturbance, and memory loss.

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