Amenorrhea A cessation or absence of menstrual periods.
Androgens Male hormones normally produced in small quantities by the female ovaries and adrenal glands, with the greatest quantities occurring at the midpoint of a woman's menstrual cycle. Androgens are thought to promote a healthy sex drive and are sometimes prescribed as part of a full regimen of hormone replacement therapy.
Andropause See Male Menopause.
Angina A squeezing, heaviness, or tightness in your chest that happens when your heart muscle is deprived of oxygen.
Antioxidants Certain vitamins, including vitamins A, C, E, and beta carotene, found in some brightly colored fruits and vegetables, considered to be important tools in warding off heart disease and some cancers and may even reduce age-related macular degeneration or AMD (age-related vision loss).
Atherosclerosis A blood vessel condition that develops when the buildup of plaque on arterial walls narrows the arterial passage and thus limits the amount of blood that can flow through the arteries to nourish the heart, brain, kidneys, and other organs.
Biofeedback A technique in which individuals are trained to control any bodily function by recognizing feedback from that body function enough to learn to control it. For example, people can monitor their breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure (with the use of various instruments), then change the rate of those functions through relaxation techniques or visual imagery.
Bioflavonoids Naturally occurring plant substances found in many brightly colored fruits and vegetables, such as cherries, oranges, other citrus, grapes, leafy vegetables, wine, and some types of red clover. Bioflavonoids are being studied for the treatment of a number of conditions, including the control of bleeding, hemorrhoids, and varicose veins.
BMI(body mass index) A measurement of a person's percentage of fat, determined by dividing a person's weight by his or her height.
Calcitonin A hormone produced by the parathyroid gland to help regulate calcium levels in the bloodstream, and in so doing, protect bone density. Calcitonin is available in prescription form for the treatment of postmenopausal osteoporosis.
Cardiovascular Disease A term used to describe a variety of heart diseases, illnesses, and events affecting the heart and circulatory system, including high blood pressure and coronary artery disease.
Chemotherapy The use of potent medications to treat cancer, usually by affecting cells that are rapidly growing, such as the cancer cells themselves.
Coronary Artery Disease A common form of heart disease that results when the heart receives inadequate amounts of oxygen-rich blood through its arteries. This disease usually occurs when arteries become lined with heavy deposits of plaque — a substance made up of fat and calcium in a condition known as atherosclerosis.
Dendrites The fine appendages at the ends of brain cells that transmit brain signals.
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) An important hormone in the female body that decreases as a woman ages and declines dramatically after menopause. DHEA is thought to combat memory and bone loss, and it may help to maintain breast and cardiovascular health.
DHEA See Dehydroepiandrosterone(DHEA).
Endometrial Cancer Cancer of the endometrium.
Endometrial Hyperplasia An overgrowth of the lining of the uterus that can be precancerous but is not always. It is typically diagnosed through a biopsy or sampling of the uterine lining, a procedure most doctors perform in their office.
Endometrium The lining of the uterus.
Endorphins Naturally occurring substances released by the brain that resemble opiates and are considered to be the brain chemicals that make you feel happy and content.
Estradiol The main form of estrogen produced by the ovaries, and the body's most efficient and potent estrogen.
Estrogen A class of female sex hormones produced by the ovaries, pituitary gland, and (in small quantities) by body fat. During puberty, estrogen stimulates the development of adult sex organs and the adult female breasts, hips, and buttocks. Estrogen helps to retain calcium in bones, regulates the balance of HDL and LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream and aids the maintenance of blood sugar level, memory functions, and emotional balance.
Fibroids Benign growths of muscle cells that develop within or on the uterine wall.
Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH) Produced by the pituitary gland, promotes follicle development within the ovary, thus allowing certain eggs to mature and the follicle cells surrounding each egg to produce estrogen in preparation for fertilization.
FSH See Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH).
HDL Cholesterol The high-density lipoprotein fraction of cholesterol (“good” cholesterol) that helps prevent heart disease by breaking up and carrying the low-density lipoprotein (LDL cholesterol) out of the bloodstream and into the liver for metabolism and evacuation in the feces.
Heart Palpitations The uncomfortable sensation that the heart is beating rapidly, out of sequence, too strenuously, or in some other abnormal fashion.
Hippocampus The part of the brain responsible for creating, storing, and retrieving memory.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) Therapy consisting of estrogen or a combination of estrogen and progestin designed to replace the loss of these hormones in menopause and thus combat the effects of this deficiency, including bone loss, vaginal atrophy, hot flashes, and other conditions. See also Menopause Hormone Therapy (MHT).
Hot Flashes (Flushes) Hot flashes or flushes can be mild or severe, but in general, they involve a fast-spreading sensation of warmth through the face, neck, and shoulders. Hot flashes are the result of fluctuating hormone levels, but their triggers, intensity, and frequency vary from woman to woman. Hot flashes that occur during sleep are often known as night sweats.
HRT See Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).
Hypertension High blood pressure that occurs when arteries become too inflexible to allow an ample supply of blood to circulate, especially under periods of exertion or stress, thus causing excess pressure against arterial walls. Severe or ongoing high blood pressure can lead to damage of the body organs, including stroke and other life-threatening conditions.
Hysterectomy The surgical removal of the uterus, which may or may not also be accompanied by the removal of the cervix and/or ovaries. If ovaries remain, the hysterectomy doesn't necessarily cause menopause, though menstrual bleeding ceases.
Induced Menopause A cessation of menstrual cycles that occurs when a woman has her ovaries surgically removed in a procedure called oophorectomy,or when a woman's ovaries cease to function prematurely as a result of medication, radiation, or disease. With treatment and intervention, some non-surgical types of induced menopause may be temporary. See also Temporary Menopause.
Insomnia An inability to fall and/or remain asleep that occurs three or more nights a week.
Isoflavones A type of plant estrogen found in soybeans, red clover, and (in much lower quantities) green tea, peas, pinto beans, lentils, and other legumes, that may have benefits in treating some symptoms of menopause.
Kegel Exercise An exercise designed to strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor to improve vaginal muscle tone, enhance sexual response, and limit involuntary urine release due to stress urinary incontinence.
LDL Cholesterol Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) is transported through the arteries by a complex of lipids and proteins. In high concentrations, this cholesterol is associated with an increased risk of atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease.
LH See Luteinizing Hormone (LH).
Luteinizing Hormone (LH) A hormone produced by the pituitary gland, LH has multiple functions, one of which is prompting ovulation.
Major Depression An emotional disorder characterized by extreme or prolonged feelings of sadness, despair, guilt, or hopelessness so debilitating that they affect one's normal quality of life and/or work performance.
Male Menopause Known as andropause in the medical community, male menopause is associated with an age-related decrease in male hormone levels in men; symptoms can include lethargy, depression, mood swings, insomnia, hot flashes, irritability, and decreased sexual desire and function.
Mammogram A low-dose X-ray of the breast used to screen for or examine lumps that may signify breast cancer.
Menarche The first menstrual period.
Menopause The permanent end of menstruation and fertility. See also Natural Menopause, Induced Menopause, and Temporary Menopause.
Menopause Hormone Therapy (MHT) Using a combination of hormones to treat the symptoms of decreasing estrogen and progesterone. The hormones may include estrogen, progestin, and variations of either, alone or in combination. See also Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).
Migraine Headaches Intensely painful headaches thought to be associated with spasms that constrict blood vessels in the brain. Women who suffer migraines describe them as pounding headaches that can produce nausea, vomiting, and a painful sensitivity to light, noise, and odors.
Natural Menopause The cessation of all periods resulting from the halt of ovarian hormone production that is spontaneous and not the result of other physical or pathological conditions or treatments; natural menopause is diagnosed when a women has had twelve months of amenorrhea.
Night Sweats See Hot Flashes.
Nutraceuticals Although no legally determined or internationally accepted definition exists for this term, in the marketplace the term is used to describe foods or dietary supplements that claim to deliver some sort of medication or compound designed to offer a specific medical benefit.
Obesity A condition of being more than 30 percent over your ideal weight, or having a body mass index (BMI)of 25 or higher.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids Essential fatty acids, found in cold-water fatty fish, nuts, flaxseed, tofu, and in soybean and canola oils, that help nourish the hair and nails and offer a number of benefits for cardiovascular health.
Oophorectomy The surgical removal of one or both ovaries.
Osteoporosis The reduction in bone density 2.5 standard deviations below the average bone density of a thirty-year-old woman. This loss of bone mass results in porous, fragile bone that is prone to fracture. An age-related disease in menopause, osteoporosis can manifest itself sooner in women who have risk factors.
Ovulation The release of a mature egg from a properly developed ovarian follicle.
Pap Smear A cell sample taken (as a swab) during an internal vaginal exam to test for precancerous cell changes and cervical cancer.
Perimenopause The period of transition to natural menopause during which the body undergoes endocrinologic and biologic changes resulting from declining ovarian hormone production; symptoms can include irregular menstrual periods, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, insomnia, and mood swings. Perimenopause is highly variable and can last many years (four years is aver-age), and ends after twelve months of amenorrhea.
Phytohormones Natural substances found in some herbs and other plants that may help to regulate plant growth. Some types, referred to as phytoestrogens,can bind to the human body's estrogen receptors and may act like an estrogen or an anti-estrogen on the body, depending upon their particular type and dosage.
PMDD See Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD).
PMS See Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS).
Polyp, Uterine Small, tag-shaped growths of uterine tissue, attached to the lining of the uterus. Polyps can cause irregular bleeding; doctors remove them to confirm there is no precancerous change.
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) A debilitating premenstrual syndrome that can include symptoms such as severe depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and fatigue in addition to a wide range of physical disturbances. Though premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and PMDD differ in severity, diagnosis, and treatment, both seem to be linked to the way the body processes and responds to reproductive hormones and possibly to serotonin.
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) A condition occurring ten to fourteen days before the onset of menstrual bleeding and involving physical and emotional symptoms that include bloating, water retention, pelvic pressure or cramping, headaches or migraines, irritability, mood swings, difficulty concentrating, and food cravings.
Progesterone A female sex hormone, produced in largest amounts during and after ovulation, that prepares the uterus for the implantation of a fertilized egg.
Progestin A chemical name for various types of synthetic progesterone. Progestin is used in HRT to balance the effects of estrogen on the endometrium and prevent endometrial hyperplasia and cancer.
Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators (SERMs) A class of drugs that act like estrogens on some body tissues and anti-estrogens in other body tissues. They are being studied for possible roles in both prevention of bone loss (an estrogen-like action in the bone) and reduction of breast cancer risk (an anti-estrogen type action in the breast). Raloxifene is one example of a SERM.
SERM See Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators (SERMs).
Statins Cholesterol-lowering drugs.
Stress Urinary Incontinence The unpredictable and involuntary loss of urine caused by weakened sphincter muscles (the muscles that surround the urethra) and often triggered by an event such as a sneeze or cough.
Temporary Menopause An interruption of the ovarian function that prevents the production of hormones that accompany the maturation and release of oocytes(eggs). Temporary menopause can follow chemical or radiation therapies or disease. When the contributing condition stops, ovulation and menstruation begin again. See also Induced Menopause.
Triglycerides A type of fat found in the blood; other types of this fat include butter, margarine, and vegetable oil. Tri-glyceride levels are checked in total fasting lipid profiles (blood tests, sometimes called coronary panels, that check levels of HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides).
Urethra The tubular structure connecting the bladder to the outside of the body allowing the bladder to empty.
Urge Incontinence The loss of urine associated with the urge to void. The urge may be triggered by water, key in the lock (anticipating entry to the bathroom), or by nothing.
Urinary Incontinence See Stress Urinary Incontinence.
Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) Upper or lower tract infection of the bladder or kidney, or both. Bacterial infections in the bladder result from ascending bacteria from the perineum, especially when defenses are lowered. Another common cause of bacterial infections is the urethral atrophy that often occurs after menopause.
UTI See Urinary Tract Infections (UTI).
Vaginal Atrophy A condition characterized by the thinning and flattening of the vaginal wall. The decreased total surface area of the vagina leads to decreased transudate secretions, and this leads to vaginal dryness. Over time, the vaginal wall becomes less flexible and can actually shrink and these changes can lead to the risk of tears or cracking.
Vaginitis An inflammation of the vagina. It may be due to infection from bacteria, yeast, or other pathogens, resulting in discomfort, itching, and/or abnormal discharge.
Vasomotor Symptoms Hot flashes or night sweats that result from hormonal fluctuations in menopause and perimenopause.