From the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gyencologists:
• Menopause is defined as the time when the ovaries cease functioning and menstrual periods stop, marking the end of the reproductive years. A woman is considered to have reached menopause when she has stopped having a monthly period for 12 consecutive months. The average age of US women at menopause is 51.
• While life expectancy has increased over the years, the age of menopause has not changed during the past few centuries.
• Menopause is the culmination of a process that can begin several years before the final menstrual period. The transitional stage leading up to meno- pause is called perimenopause, which lasts about four years but may be longer or shorter.
• No link has been found between the age of natural menopause and use of oral contraceptives, socio- economic or marital status, race, or age at menarche. Smoking has been identified as lowering the age at which natural menopause occurs.
Number of Women Reaching Menopause
• An estimated 6,000 US women reach menopause every day. By the year 2020, the number of women who will be older than 55 is estimated to be 46 million.
• With increasing life expectancy, many women will spend up to 40% of their lives in the postmeno- pausal stage. Half of all women who reach age 50 will live to be at least age 80.
• A major effect of menopause is a significant decrease in estrogen, which can cause vaginal dryness, night sweats, and hot flashes. It is unknown why some women pass through menopause with mild or no symptoms, while others struggle with more bothersome symptoms.
• Approximately 55% of women going through menopause don’t do anything at all to treat symptoms.
• Approximately 75% of women experience hot flashes and night sweats at some point during perimenopause.
33• About two-thirds of North American postmenopausal women experience hot flashes, and an estimated 10–20% of postmenopausal women have severe hot flashes. Most flashes last between 30 seconds and five minutes.
• Approximately 25% of women who experience hot flashes and night sweats have them for more than five years.
• Estrogen loss can also increase the risk of certain diseases, such as osteoporosis, which leads to hip, wrist, and spine fractures. Approximately 80% of the 44 million Americans with osteoporosis or low bone mass are women. Approximately 50% of women older than 50 will suffer an osteoporosis-related bone fracture, and one-third of white women ages 65 and older will have a fracture of the spine in their lifetime.
Hormone Therapy (HT)
• According to IMS Health, in 2010 more than 38 mil- lion prescriptions for HT were dispensed in the US. Of these, more than 26 million were for estrogen- only products; more than 5.2 million were for estrogen-progestin products; more than 5.3 million were for progestin-only products; and 1.4 million were for androgen-estrogen products.
• In 2003, one year after the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study results were released, there were just over 76 million HT prescriptions dispensed, com- pared with nearly 129 million prescriptions in 2000.
• Approximately 65% of women on HT stopped therapy after the 2002 WHI study results were released. In 2004, reports suggested that about one in four women who stopped HT went back on it.
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. www.acog.org Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. www.cdc.gov IMS Health®. www.imshealth.com North American Menopause Society. www.menopause.org