Prevention & Recovery

Women's health: What are hormones like in your 40s?

Women's health: What are hormones like in your 40s?

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Prevention & Recovery

Women's health: What are hormones like in your 40s?

Perimenopause, the natural hormonal transition that occurs five to 10 years before menopause, begins. Hormone levels can vary greatly, prompting an uncomfortable health roller-coaster for some, especially individuals who are overweight or have undiagnosed thyroid problems. However, some women report little to no discomfort during perimenopause.

Energy level
If you're feeling tired, your hormones aren't solely to blame. "Energy is related to our overall health and vitality," says Blake. "Hormones have only a little involvement, but the most notorious [culprit] is the thyroid." If your thyroid hasn't been checked for irregularities, now may be the time.

Sex drive
Fluctuating hormone levels may dampen your sex drive, but most women are still keen and able to participate.

Menstrual cycle
The opportunities for pregnancy naturally decrease as ovulation winds down. Estrogen may rise earlier in your menstrual cycle as you approach menopause, prompting changes in its length. "Cycles may get shorter, so instead of every 28 days, they're 25 days," says Dr. Wendy Wolfman, director of the menopause unit at Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital.

Decreasing estrogen and progesterone levels can fuel uterine fibroids, breast lumps and excessive bleeding. If menstruation is overwhelming, consult your physician to rule out endometriosis, cancer and anemia.

She may prescribe iron to counter the blood loss or a low-dose birth control pill or IUD to curb bleeding. A naturopathic doctor may recommend DIM, indole-3-carbinol and calcium D-glucarate.

Body and weight
Declining testosterone and progesterone, and fluctuating estrogen, mean a loss of muscle mass. At this age, weight gain occurs mostly around the waist. This extra fat creates more estrogen, causing a vicious circle that makes losing weight hard. Exercising and eating a nutritious diet are key for maintaining a healthy body mass index.


Hair and skin show more visual consequences of hormone variations. "Estrogen's protective effect is being lost," says Searles. "Hair may become brittle and thin on the scalp. Acne can be a problem too."

Over-the-counter conditioners and topical acne creams can help treat these issues. Losing skin elasticity and gaining wrinkles? Don't blame your hormones. "It's caused by aging, sun exposure and genetics," says Wolfman.

This story was originally titled "The Truth About Hormones" in the March 2013 issue.

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Women's health: What are hormones like in your 40s?