LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Sara Renaud has a spring to her step.
The 40-something from Hollywood seems to be the picture of health, but life in her early 30s painted a much different picture. That's when she encountered some mysterious health symptoms, including fatigue, severe depression, nausea, night sweats, brain fog and joint pain.
Renaud told CBS2/KCAL9's Amy Johnson the symptoms plagued her for years.
"I didn't know what it was, and neither did the doctors," she said.
Then she saw a new gynecologist and finally got the answer: Renaud was in peri-menopause.
"My estrogen was low, my testosterone was low, my progesterone was low, was out of my balance," said Renaud.
Renaud was prescribed hormone creams and started seeing changes in just weeks.
Her gynecologist, Prudence Hall, says Renaud's case wasn't surprising.
"It's coming earlier than most of us expect, and it's not talked about or discussed, so women don't know what's happening to them," Hall said.
Peri-menopause typically starts in a woman's mid-30s, according to Hall, and while it can start earlier, "Certainly by a woman's early 40s, she's mostly experiencing peri-menopause."
Hall says Renaud's symptoms were also typical and can also include rapid weight gain, thinning or hair loss, interrupted sleep, low libido, trouble remembering and an overall feeling of being overwhelmed.
"One of the messages [is] we don't have to go through this as women, we know how to identify it and how to treat it," she said. "You shouldn't have to see 10 doctors."
Hall, founder of the Hall Center in Santa Monica, treats her patients with bio-identical hormones to bring a woman's hormone levels back where they should be and replacing what we lose as we age.
She believes the bio-identicals, unlike synthetic hormones, protect a woman against cancer and can prevent diabetes, heart disease and dementia.
"It's not only feeling better, it's living longer and healthier," Hall said.
While peri-menopause can last about 10 years leading up to menopause, Hall says women shouldn't ignore it or try to muscle through it, but instead get help as early as possible.
"One of the reasons I'm always talking about peri-menopause and menopause is when women know what the symptoms are, they're going to identify it within themselves and they're going to go to their doctors and say, 'Hey, I think I'm in peri-menopause; I need treatment," said Hall.
Some women are going through peri-menopause 10 years earlier than their mothers, and 15 years earlier than their grandmothers because of stress factors and chemicals we're exposed to, like mercury and lead, according to Hall.
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