At approximately age 45 to 50 estrogen levels begin to fall. When they fall below the levels necessary to signal the uterine lining to thicken and gather blood, the menstrual flow becomes less and/or irregular, eventually stopping altogether.
Take a closer look at Hot Flashes, one of the primary symptoms associated with menopause in industrialized countries. Although there is no empirical proof of the cause for hot flashes, the following explanation may have merit.
An area in the brain’s hypothalamus (the GnRH center) monitors estrogen and progesterone levels. When levels of these hormones decline, this triggers the GnRH which, in turn, stimulates the pituitary to make the hormones, follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). This, then, results in the ovarian production of estrogen and progesterone. The rise in these hormones inhibits further production of GnRH.At menopause, estrogen levels fall and progesterone levels are usually already low. The ovaries, therefore, no longer respond to the FSH and LH prompt. In addition to hot flashes, the heightened activity of the hypothalamus can cause mood swings, fatigue, feelings of being cold, and inappropriate responses to other stressors. Many women will have symptoms of hypothyroidism despite normal thyroid hormone levels.
The GnRH center effectively signals to increase estrogen and progesterone levels.
Elevated estrogen and progesterone inhibit GnRH release.
After menopause the ovaries no longer make estrogen and progesterone.
Lack of estrogen and progesterone response results in increased activity of the GnRH center.
Heightened GnRH activity activates the vasomotor center, causing hot flashes and perspiration.
The Midlife Women’s Health Study – a study protocol of a longitudinal prospective study on predictors of menopausal hot flashes. Ayelet Ziv-Gal, Rebecca L. Smith, Lisa Gallicchio, Susan R. Miller, Howard A. Zacur, Jodi A. Flaws. Womens Midlife Health. 2017; 3: 4. Published online 2017 Aug 17. doi: 10.1186/s40695-017-0024-8 PMCID: PMC6300019
Genetic Polymorphisms, Hormone Levels, and Hot Flashes in Midlife Women. Chrissy Schilling, Lisa Gallicchio, Susan R. Miller, Patricia Langenberg, Howard Zacur, Jodi A. Flaws. Maturitas. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2008 Jun 20. Published in final edited form as: Maturitas. 2007 Jun 20; 57(2): 120–131. Published online 2006 Dec 21. doi: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2006.11.009 PMCID: PMC1949021
Longitudinal Changes in Menopausal Symptoms Comparing Women Randomized to Low-Dose Oral Conjugated Estrogens or Transdermal Estradiol Plus Micronized Progesterone Versus Placebo: the Kronos Early Estrogen Prevention Study (KEEPS) Nanette Santoro, Amanda Allshouse, Genevieve Neal-Perry, Lubna Pal, Rogerio A. Lobo, Frederick Naftolin, Dennis M. Black, Eliot A. Brinton, Matthew J. Budoff, Marcelle I. Cedars, N. Maritza Dowling, Mary Dunn, Carey E. Gleason, Howard N. Hodis, Barbara Isaac, Maureen Magnani, JoAnn E. Manson, Virginia M. Miller, Hugh S. Taylor, Whitney Wharton, Erin Wolff, Viola Zepeda, S. Mitchell Harman. Menopause. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2018 Mar 1. Published in final edited form as: Menopause. 2017 Mar; 24(3): 238–246. doi: 10.1097/GME.0000000000000756 PMCID: PMC5323337