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Menopause (cont.)

Is There a Test to Diagnose When a Woman Has Reached Menopause?

Blood testing: To determine if a woman is in the perimenopause, a health-care professional may check the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) level through a blood test.

Bone testing: The standard for measuring bone loss, or osteoporosis, associated with menopause is the DEXA (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry) scan. The test calculates bone mineral density and compares it to the average value for healthy young women. The World Health Organization defines osteoporosis as more than 2.5 standard deviations below this average value. A condition known as osteopenia indicates less severe bone loss (between 1 and 2.5 standard deviations below the average value).

  • The DEXA scan is usually performed before a doctor prescribes medications for osteoporosis to rebuild bone mineral density. The test is a special X-ray film taken of the hip and of the lower bones in the spine. The scan is repeated in one and a half to two years to measure response to treatment.
  • Simple bone screening can also be done in ultrasound machines that measure the bone density of the heel. This is merely a screening device. If low bone density is detected, follow-up with a complete DEXA scan may be required.

Heart risk testing: Postmenopausal women may be at risk for heart disease. A doctor can measure cholesterol levels with a simple blood test. If cholesterol levels are high, the doctor can advise women about ways to decrease their risk of heart disease.

Treatments for Menopausal Symptoms

Menopause is not a disease that has a definitive cure or treatment. Health care practitioners, however, can offer a variety of treatments for hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms that become bothersome. Many prescription medications exist to prevent and control high cholesterol and bone loss, which can occur at menopause. Some women do not need therapy, or they may choose not to take medications at all during their menopausal years.

Lifestyle Changes To Ease Symptoms

Hot flashes: Several nonprescription treatments are available, and lifestyle choices can help.

  • Many women feel that regular aerobic exercise can help reduce hot flashes, but controlled studies have not proved any benefit.
  • Foods that may trigger hot flashes, such as spicy foods, caffeine, and alcohol, should be avoided.

Heart disease: A low-fat, low-cholesterol diet helps to reduce the risk of heart disease.

Weight gain: Regular exercise is helpful in controlling weight.

Osteoporosis: Adequate calcium intake and weight-bearing exercise are important. Strength training (not just lifting weights, but any exercise where you bear your own weight, such as walking, tennis or gardening) can strengthen bones.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/29/2017

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