It's important for women over 40 to know how to recognize menopause. Very simply, menopause is a clinical diagnosis based on not having had a period for 12 consecutive months, provided there's no other reason, such as being pregnant or nursing.
The average age for menopause onset is 51. Women have menopausal symptoms beforehand if they undergo menopause earlier or experience perimenopause -- an approximate two- to 10-year time span of having periods along with some menopausal symptoms.
Common symptoms associated with perimenopause and menopause include missed periods, hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, forgetfulness, low libido, and mood swings. Sleep disturbances, an often-overlooked symptom, also are common.