It is difficult to predict exactly when a woman will enter menopause. Our genes are the number-one determinant of our “reproductive span,” so the best predictors we currently have are our mothers, aunts, sisters, and cousins. If you transition into menopause naturally, there is a good chance that you will have your last menstrual period at about the same age your mother did. However, there are always exceptions to this gauge.

Like so many things in nature, the age at which women in any given population will reach menopause follows the shape of a bell curve. The majority of the women in the population will fall under the peak of the bell’s dome at about 51.7 years of age, and there will also be lots, though fewer, women falling along either side of the average, some entering menopause later, and some earlier.

As defined in medical literature, early menopause is when a woman reaches menopause between ages 40–45. There is also a smaller population of women (about 1% worldwide) who enter menopause before the age of 40, sometimes referred to as premature menopause or premature ovarian failure (POF). The latter occurrence is sometimes associated with autoimmune concerns, which again, are linked to a woman’s genetic blueprint. Geneticists are currently working to develop predictive genetic testing to help women determine their risk of premature menopause.

But genetics aren’t the only determinant. The emerging field of epigenetics is revealing how environment can “nudge” our genes into action when “primed” by certain environmental conditions. Chronic stress, smoking, nutritional deficiencies, poverty, and inadvertent environmental exposures can all lead a woman to transition more quickly into menopause than she might have otherwise.

Some other factors that can bring on menopause sooner include surgical removal of your ovaries or disruption of the blood supply to your ovaries from surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or certain medications.

You can help balance your hormones for a healthy menopausal transition by instituting a core foundation of sound nutrition, taking a high-grade multivitamin/mineral complex daily to fill in any gaps, getting regular exercise, and keeping your stress levels down. Taking these natural measures now will allow you to enter and enjoy menopause in a state of health, at the time Mother Nature intended as “just right” for you.

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