How Women’s Health Changes Across Life Stages
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If someone were to ask you what stage of life you are in, what would you say?
Many of us think of life stages simply as childhood and adulthood. Some women might think of menopause. But can our lives really be summed up in these two or three basic categories?
Throughout our lives, we experience drastic changes and major milestones. From the day we are born, we are constantly learning, growing and developing, and so is our body and its hormonal balance.
Similarities and Difference in Hormone Cycles
Males and females have, relatively speaking, the same basic hormones in their body – but the levels differ, often enormously and the way that the levels change is also very different.
While men and women both have hormonal cycles, a man’s cycle is over a 24-hour period and a woman’s cycle is over a 28-day period- the menstrual cycle.
Because of the normal patterns of fluctuation during the menstrual cycle, females often experience physical symptoms – these occur much less frequently with males, such as mood swings, breast tenderness, migraines and fluid retention,” Rebecca says.
The female cycle is much more complex than the men’s, meaning that week from week a woman is likely to feel differently depending on where they’re at in the cycle, in comparison to males feeling differently at various points in the day.
With this post we want to highlight the phases of a woman’s life and describe them beyond the 28-day cycle.
Infancy and Childhood
Infancy and childhood are considered the first two stages of a girl’s life. And while major milestones like walking and talking occur, hormonal influences are minor.
Puberty and Adolescence
Puberty is the time when most children and their parents notice changes in their body and brain. For girls, it is often associated with the first period. On average, periods start at age 12-13. However, this varies greatly when factors such as ethnicity, social class, and diet are considered. 200 years ago, the average age was 16.5 years. In Senegal and Nepal, this is still the case. It usually takes a few years for the body to get regular periods, regardless of the age at which the period starts. The first periods are often light and irregular, causing little cramping. In the mid teens, moodiness, cramps and migraines are added. Bleeding becomes heavier and more regular. In general, the length of the cycle changes with age.
Did you know that most women menstruate for about 40 years in their lifetime? (That’s about four times the average length of marriage, by the way.)
Many women pay attention to their habits, for example, a healthy diet, when they are pregnant. This is good and right. However, lifestyle is important to women’s health, independent of their desire to bear a child.
Good advice is to follow general recommendations, such as being active and choosing complex carbohydrates, high-quality fats and lean protein. However, it is even better if women can receive individualized recommendations and additional guidance, such as blood sugar monitoring with the Hello Inside App.
As women approach their forties, they may find that their cycle begins to do its own thing. 28 days, 40 days, 21 days, 75 days, etc.
Bleeding may become heavier in the first two days or almost stop altogether.
Welcome to perimenopause!
Menopause is a common experience that all women go thorugh at some point in their lives. A women is said to have gone through menopause after 12 months without a period.
After this women are said to be post- menopausal, which can be up to a third of a women’s lifetime. Before menopause, occurs periomenopause.
This can last anywhere from a few months to many years, but it’s usually about 7-8 years.
Unlike the menopause it’s not always super obvious when a women is going through the periomenopause, and the symptoms may be attributed to something else.
In perimenopause, women get more and more frequent periods in which they don’t ovulate. These are called anovulatory cycles.
During perimenopause, sex hormones do not gradually decline in a nice linear way to allow a woman to prepare. But they fluctuate as they decline. These upsa and downs contribute to the often unpredictable physiological symptoms that women experience during this time from hot flashes, headaches, sleep disturbances, low libido and low mood.
However, not all women suffer from these symptoms, and some women get through menopause just fine. Until menopause, however, women are relatively well protected from heart disease – similar to men at the same age. After menopause, however, the risk of heart disease increases. This is also the time when the traditional risk factors for heart disease in women start to move in the wrong direction:
- Women exercise less after menopause.
- Women oftentimes gain weight.
- The distribution of body fat shifts from the hips and buttocks to the abdomen.
- Blood pressure increases more in women after menopause than in men.
You now have the knowledge to understand how the female body changes, and understand the cornerstones of a woman’s health, and fertility. Much of this is within their control through the lifestyle changes they make, and controlling their blood sugar is beneficial in every stage of their life. This is also a good reason for you to check your blood glucose levels regularly, as your hormones, microbiome, and lifestyle factors and influences change over time – and so does your health and what your body actually needs. We recommend that you check your body and do a few blood sugar experiments about once a quarter.