Menopause is the time in a woman's life when she ceases to menstruate. This is a natural process that results when the ovaries stop producing estrogen, ending the monthly release of an egg. The production of estrogen usually stops between ages 40 and 55, with the average age being 51. In normal menopause, the menstrual periods may be scant and infrequent before ceasing altogether. Up to 25 percent of women experience few or no side effects from menopause. Many, however, notice slight physical and/or mental changes, including hot flashes, short-term memory loss, vaginal dryness, increased P-M-S, joint pain, frequent urination, and headaches. In a few women, these symptoms may be severe. The transition is usually more abrupt when menopause occurs after a hysterectomy, than when it comes on naturally over a period of one or two years. Your doctor may prescribe hormone replacement therapy or other medications to help ease these symptoms. Due to the loss of estrogen, which helps keep calcium in the bones, post-menopausal women are at increased risk for developing osteoporosis (OSS-tee-o-pore-O-sis). To help guard against this, it's a good idea to eat a balanced diet that includes plenty of calcium, or your doctor may recommend a supplement. The risk of heart disease also increases after the menpause, so your doctor may also recommend hormone replacement therapy for this reason. Although menopause signals the end of the childbearing years, a reliable form of birth control should be used until you are certain you are through the menopause. For more information regarding menopause, consult a health care professional.