Wed, Sep 07, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Menopause, osteoporosis a concern: experts

BY JENNY CHOU  /  STAFF REPORTER

Life after 50 would be a lot easier if more women took the trouble to look after themselves before the onset of menopause, medical experts said at a seminar hosted by a dairy-products distributor yesterday.

"Prevention, rather than treatment, is the key," said Chou Hui-Cheng (周輝政), a gynecologist at Taiwan Adventist Hospital.

Menopause is a trying period for women accross the world, and manifests itself with an array of physical and psychological symptoms.

Rather than occuring at a single point in time, menopause is spread over a period of a few years, from before the end of menstruation to a few years after women stop menstruating.

The average age at which menopause starts is around 50. Some common symptoms include mood changes, hot flushes, sleep disturbances, changes in sexual activity and heart palpitations. Whilst these symptoms are certainly troubling for women, Chou said that they were not the real concern, as they would pass.

"What women need to be most concerned about are illnesses and deterioration which comes with aging," Chou said. He referred to these as "silent killers," which include osteoporosis, a disease where bone density steadily decreases.

In menopausal woman, calcium loss is up to three times greater than usual, a major reason being a decrease in secretion of certain hormones in the body.

Prevention of osteoporosis, Chou said, includes maintaining adequate levels of calcium, getting enough sunlight, doing exercise, eating foods with high levels of calcium such as milk and dried fish, and avoiding the use of steroids or smoking. Adult women should maintain an intake of 1,000mg to 1,500mg of calcium per day.

While many physical symptoms are the result of menopause, psychiatrist Wu Jia-hsuan (吳佳璇) from National Taiwan University Hospital said that many of the psychological symptoms of menopause are caused by problems which occur at this stage of their lives such as children leaving the nest, familial tensions or marital problems, rather than being a direct result of menopause itself.

According to Chou, what makes it even more important for women to look after themselves is that people live longer than ever.

"Whilst the average woman in the past died around the age she would begin menopause, the average life expectancy of women now is 82," Chou said.

"Women across the world spend their lives looking after their husband, their children, their parents; everybody but themselves. It is a time to look after yourselves," Chou said.

Chou compared menopause to a second "puberty," signalling entry into a second stage of a woman's life.

"This is a chance to do what you have always wanted to do: To live out the dreams you had of being an actor or a painter," Chou said.

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