First come the hot flashes and night sweats. They ruin your makeup, soak through your shirt, wake you up from a peaceful sleep and require the use of fans and the wearing of layers.
Next you start to notice other symptoms such as weight gain out of nowhere, more joint pain, worse mood swings, painful sex, memory issues, and changes in your cycle.
Eventually, your period goes away and magically ... never comes back. You start to celebrate, wear white pants with ease and throw out all of your feminine products because after twelve months without a cycle, you are officially postmenopausal!
Unfortunately, researchers found in the 2012 October edition of Menopause, that those who go through all of this BEFORE their 46th birthday are at a higher risk for heart attack and stroke.
According to the National Institute on Aging, the average woman will be done with cycling by 51 years of age. Having your last period by 46 years years of age or sooner is known as early menopause.
While many may be happy to be done in their forties (either naturally or from surgery) the increased risk for coronary heart disease requires some serious attention.
What can you do?
Unfortunately, the age at which you go through menopause naturally is usually pre-determined, and those who had their ovaries removed earlier in life had good reason. Therefore the best you can do is along the lines of prevention.
The authors of the menopause article specifically recommend smoking cessation. Along with doing damage to your whole body, smoking can also push you into menopause earlier by two years.
If you have been smoking for years the prospect of quitting may seem overwhelming. If you just smoke during social situations, you may feel that it's not enough to warrant change.
But whatever your situation, the time to stop is now to improve your health. Ask your health care provider about smoking cessation options and enlist the help of your friends and family.
Other risks for heart attack and stroke include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, excess weight, lack of physical exercise, diabetes/pre-diabetes, and alcohol intake.