Premature Menopause---Causes and Ways to Prevent It
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Premature Menopause--Causes and Ways to Prevent It

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December 1, 2010
By MUIREANN PRENDERGAST, Contributing Columnist

So, you have all the traditional symptoms of menopause: hot flushes, night sweats, loss of libido, vaginal dryness, diminished and irregular menstrual flow, but youíre only thirty. How can this be? Isnít menopause something that grandmothers go through? No, is the short answer.

Premature Menopause, also referred to as Premature Ovarian Failure (POF), affects approximately 1 in a 1000 women between the ages of 15 and 29 and every 1 in a 100 women between the ages of 30 and 39 according to The American Pregnancy Organization.

The International Premature Ovarian Failure Association reveals that overall it affects between 250,000 and 1 million women in the United States today. Indeed, it is a worldwide issue affecting many ethnic groups according to a 2001 study based in Rush Medical College, Chicago, which noted its prevalence among 1.0% of Caucasian women, 1.4% of African American women, 1.4% of Hispanic women studied.

Given the widescale nature of premature menopause it is worthwhile to look into it to see what causes it and if there are there lifestyle changes we can make to prevent it. Premature menopause is, after all, an often devastating condition for young women who, as a result of it, are left unable to conceive children naturally.

Causes of Premature Menopause

Premature menopause has numerous causes. The International Premature Ovarian Failure Association tells us that it can be caused by certain medical treatments and medication, such as chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Surgery, when the ovaries are wholly or partly removed, can also be a cause. There can also be hereditary factors, maybe the mother and/or grandmother of a sufferer also had early onset menopause as a result of chromosomal conditions like Turner Syndrome or Swyer Syndrome.

Other medical conditions and illnesses can also shorten out fertility cycle. These include enzyme defects and metabolic disorders such as Galactosemia, Thalassemia major treated with multiple blood transfusions and Hemochromatosis. Viral infections can also induce premature menopause as can autoimmune diseases such as thyroid dysfunction, adrenal insufficiency, Diabetes, Vitiligo and Lupus.

However, naming these conditions might give us a sense that there is nothing we can do to prevent premature menopause, when this is not the case. Certain lifestyle changes can reduce our risk of premature menopause.

We have scoured our medical resources to bring you a comprehensive list of them. Here are the Top 10:

10 Ways to Help Prevent Premature Menopause or Premature Ovarian Failure

1. Stop Smoking to Prevent Premature Menopause

A 2001 study carried out by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital found that smoking can induce early menopause. The toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke accelerate the death of egg cells in the ovaries. So, if you are anxious to preserve your fertility it is a good idea to stop smoking.

2. Avoid Chemicals (or At Least Try To Reduce Your Exposure to Them)

A 2009 study based in University of Illinois found that women in certain professions that are exposed to chemicals such as hairdressing could be more at risk to premature ovarian failure than women in other professions where the exposure to chemicals is less severe. If avoiding premature menopause is something you are anxious about, it is advisable not to embark on one of these careers.

3. Keep Your Sugar Levels Healthy

A 2000 University of Pittsburgh study found that women with Type 1 Diabetes were more prone to premature menopause than women without it. This suggests that keeping sugar levels healthy and frequently monitored is important in preventing early menopause.

4. Keep Your Heart Healthy

The 1995-1997 National Institutes of Health-funded SWAN, Study of Womenís Health Across The Nation, found that heart disease was linked to premature menopause. This suggests that keeping your heart healthy is key to preventing menopause.

5. Keep Weight at a Healthy Level

A 1998 study carried out by New York University School of Medicine found that women with lower Body Mass Index had an increased chance of premature menopause.

6. Eat a Balanced Diet with Some Meat

A 2002 Polish study found that individuals who eat a balanced diet with moderate meat intake have a later menopause than their vegetarian counterparts by on average 2 years. The exact relationship between meat and menopause has not been entirely explained but it is known that vegetarian diets lower hormones like androgens in the womanís body which can induce early menopause.

7. Have An Occasional Drink

The same Polish study revealed that an occasional alcoholic drink can delay the onset of menopause. This is due to the effect of the liverís processing of alcohol during the metabolism process which increases the presence of the female hormone Estradiol in the body.

8. Reduce Stress to Prevent Premature Menopause

It might be easier said than done but to avoid premature menopause try to reduce your stress levels. A 2007 pan-India survey conducted by the Bangalore-based Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISEC) found that modern stresses faced by women to economically support themselves and help sustain their families have put increased physical and mental stress on women, something which can disrupt their menstrual cycles and even contribute to the onset of premature menopause.

9. Educate Self With Regard To Nutrition and Your Health

This same Indian study found that rates of premature menopause declined in educated women. Twenty percent (20%) of women had premature menopause among the illiterate group while this figure fell to 11.1% among women with at least a graduate degree. Educated women know better about nutrition and also how to keep their bodies healthy with regular exercise and doctor visits and as such are less likely to have menopause early, found the study.

10. Live At Low Altitude

A 2002 Ecuadorian study revealed that living at high altitude can induce premature menopause again due to their reduced production of hormones such as androgens. This is a good reason to move to a lower altitude.

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