Recent pan-India surveys conducted have brought an alarming new phenomenon of premature menopause among Indian women to light. This is increasingly becoming a source of consternation among the medical community. Changing Dynamics in society is leading to increased pressure which, coupled with the lack of proper nutrition and education is ringing in such a thing among women.
Indian women invariably feature at the bottom of global health and wellness surveys. But that’s not all. A recent survey now shows that they are at a phenomenally high risk of suffering from ‘premature menopause’ with many experiencing this biological transition even before they’ve hit the third decade of their lives! One such survey shows, on an average nearly 4% of Indian women are already menopausal between the ages of 29-34 years, one of the lowest thresholds for menopause in the world. The natural age for menopausal onset is between 45 to 55 years with a mean age of 51 years, worldwide. A higher numbers of illiterate women experience premature menopause as against those who are educated the figures being 20 % as opposed to 11.1% respectively.
Interestingly, women who marry and have children late have less reason to worry as they experience a delayed onset of menopause.
What is a distorted menstrual pattern?
Menopause is the strongest biological transitory phase in a woman’s life accompanied by volatile physical changes. The ovaries stop producing eggs, menstrual activity ceases and the body decreases the production of the female hormones (estrogen and progesterone) which play a catalytic role in conditioning the body for uniquely female functions such as pregnancy and child-bearing.
By stimulating skeletal growth, estrogen and progesterone help maintain healthy bones, protect the heart and veins by upping the body’s ‘good cholesterol’ (HDL or high-density lipoprotein) and lowering ‘bad cholesterol’ (LDL or low-density lipoprotein). But with the onset of menopause, and the subsequent dip in the levels of these hormones, a woman’s overall health, including her libido, gets impacted. The plummeting estrogen levels trigger increased blood flow to the face, neck, chest and back thereby resulting in the famed ‘hot flushes.
Mood swings, decreased libido and vaginal dryness are also caused by this hormone dip. “The thinning of the vaginal wall tissues leads to vaginal dryness. In some cases, many physiological changes during menopause may go undetected. For instance, osteoporosis (loss of calcium in bones causing bone fragility) is often not diagnosed till a bone fracture actually occurs. So it is advisable for menopausal women to be in regular touch with their doctors.
- The increasing number of fertility treatments – As women delay motherhood, many opt for fertility treatments when they cannot conceive. This can reduce the ovarian reserve and hasten menopause
- Cancer treatments – Chemotherapy and medication given to patients who get organ transplants are toxic to the ovary. As these treatments get more commonplace, the incidence of early menopause also increases
- Hysterectomies – Most women finish having children by 25. So they opt for a hysterectomy. Women are getting their ovaries removed to prevent cervical cancer.
- Unhealthy lifestyle – Smoking is a big reason for early menopause. Heavy smokers reach menopause five years earlier than normal, while passive smokers hit the stop button three years before time.
- Stress – It found that more than eight per cent of women were infertile because of premature menopause. They were all in the age group of 30 to 32 years.
After menopause the body stops producing oestrogen and progesterone — the elixirs of youth for women. An early Menopause increases the chances of
- Cardiovascular problems and osteoporosis in women.
- Hot flushes,
- Problems in having sex
- Urinary tract troubles
- Sleep disturbances, trouble falling asleep, or if awakened, going back to sleep
- A lack of oestrogen accelerates the ageing process.
- Women suffer from skin dryness, hair fall and frontal balding
- Their body image too takes a beating
- Emotional setbacks such as anxiety, depression and irritability.
Sangita Kau could not understand why she was ageing so fast. The 26-year-old Chandigarh-based KPO professional noticed that her skin was becoming loose and that she had started balding. Worse, newly-married Sangita found her sex drive nose-diving.
A chat with me further dented Sangita’s psychological state. She was diagnosed with premature menopause. A combination of excessive smoking and obesity had led to early menopause.
Sangita’s wasn’t a one-off case of untimely menopause. “In the last six months, I have seen 35 women with premature menopause. While the number of such patients is increasing, their age of menopause onset is decreasing. Till seven years ago, the patients were in their 30s. Now I get 25-year-olds hit by menopause. The average age for natural menopause among women in India is 46 years.
- Hormone therapy
- Diet can, in fact, play a crucial role in combating the emotional, physical and mental stress of menopausal and pre-menopausal years.
- A high-fibre, low fat and low-carb diet incorporating herbs,
- Minerals and vitamins in one’s daily diet can work wonders.
- One should eliminate tea, coffee, alcohol, caffeine, spicy foods and smoking during this period.
- This automatically eliminates food cravings often experienced by women during this period. Also, one ought to keep one’s weight under check as being overweight augments these symptoms. Including soya, Vitamin E and herbal supplements in one’s diet also helps.
- A menopausal nutrition plan usually includes lots of vegetables, fruits, fibre and whole grains. Focusing on lean proteins such as fish and chicken is a good idea. Eating five small meals per day rather than three huge ones is recommended as this helps keep blood sugar levels from fluctuating.
Clearly, countless young women are paying a heavy price for leading stressful and unhealthy lifestyles — often with the untimely demise of their youth itself.