Menopause, A Universal Female Experience: Lessons from Mexico and Central America
Locklear, Tracie D.
Doyle, Brian J.
Pérez-Sánchez, Alice Lorena
Mahady, Gail B.
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In Mexico and Central America, women typically experience menopause up to 10 years earlier than their U.S. counterparts. This may be due in part to numerous pregnancies, long periods of lactation, poor nutrition, extreme environment, and the heavy workload of the Maya women. Unlike Western culture, there is no stigma associated with aging and the menopausal period in the Mayan culture. In fact, menopause is considered to be a welcome natural phenomenon in Central America that all Maya women, who come of age, will experience. Anxiety, negative attitudes, health concerns and stress for the Maya woman are all events that are commonly associated with pregnancy and childbearing, not with menopause. Maya women perceive the menopausal period very positively, as they are no longer burdened with menstrual bleeding and child bearing, and are more relaxed about sexual activities. Thus, compared with their U.S. counterparts, Maya women have a better overall perceptions and attitudes toward the menopausal transition, have symptoms that appear to be short-lived, do not generally use HRT and appear to have a lower prevalence of osteoporosis. Besides genetics, diet and life-style may play a significant role in the overall impact of menopause in these women, as their diet is primarily plant-based, they get plenty of exercise over a lifetime, and they use primarily plant-based medicines and massage to control menopausal symptoms. Thus, the impact of culture and attitude on the menopausal transition in Mexico and Central America appears to be a positive one. Future research should focus on why the prevalence of osteoporosis is low in Maya women and how women in the U.S. might benefit from this information. In addition, collections of data on cognition, as well as cardiovascular and cancer risk between these groups would be of benefit, considering that Maya women do not generally use HRT.
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