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Blog: MenoPause ~ take time to think about it

  • How much (or how little) salt do you need?

    by Margery Gass | May 16, 2013
    New research says there’s no good reason for most Americans to limit their total sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg per day (about a teaspoon) and for Americans at high risk of heart disease and stroke to 1,500 mg per day (about 1/2 teaspoon)—the levels now recommended by government guidelines.

    However, the American Heart Association is still concerned about the large amount of salt in processed food. Most Americans actually get about 3,400 mg (about 1.5 teaspoons) of sodium per day, partially because of their intake of processed and prepackaged foods. These folks should still lower their intake.

    For those at higher risk (people over 50, African Americans, and people with high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease), cutting sodium intake is more important, but moderation is important—the Institute of Medicine points out that sodium intake must not be too low or it can actually increase risk of heart attack and health problems. Sodium is needed in the body to transmit nerve impulses, contract and relax muscle fibers, and maintain balance of fluids.

    What to do:
    If you’re under 50 with normal blood pressure (under 120/80 mm Hg) and in good health, you probably don’t have to worry about sodium intake—around 2,300 mg per day is a safe amount for you.

    If you are high risk, 1,500 mg per day remains a good limit. Just don’t go too low! Eat mostly fresh foods, watch the salt content of condiments, read labels, take care when eating in restaurants, and use nonsalty spices to liven up your meals.
    Go comment!
  • Angelina Jolie and genetic testing for breast cancer

    by Margery Gass | May 15, 2013
    Angelina Jolie has shared her personal decision-making process regarding her genetically increased risk of breast cancer in a New York Times op-ed. Her experience and decision provides an opportunity for all women to consider their family health history and how that history may impact their own breast caner risk. 

    Who should be tested for the high risk gene? Experts have researched this question and provide solid recommendations for all of us. Women with a relative who has a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation and women who appear to be at increased risk of breast or ovarian cancer because of family history should consider genetic counseling to learn more about their risks and about BRCA1 and BRCA2 tests. The full recommendations can be found at the following links:

    National Cancer Institute
    US Preventive Services Task Force
    Go comment!
  • Results of our survey on nonhormonal treatment for menopause symptoms

    by Margery Gass | May 14, 2013
    Do women really need more nonhormonal options to treat hot flashes? Last February we asked you and the answer was a resounding yes. In addition, we learned that most of you had already tried to combat your symptoms without hormones. No wonder you said you need something more!

    Here are the results of our poll, which we presented to the Food and Drug Administration Advisory Committee in April.

    • 88.6% of respondents experienced hot flashes
    • 49.4% of hot flashes were moderate, 34.2% were severe, and 16.3% were mild
    • 89.6% of respondents believed women need a nonhormonal prescription therapy for menopause symptoms
    • When asked why, 84.9% responded that it was because traditional hormone therapy (HT) was unsafe, 29.8% because they had experienced an adverse reaction to traditional HT, and 37.6% had a contraindication to HT
    • Women had previously tried lifestyle changes (71.5%), over-the-counter products (52.8%), HT (41.3%), compounded HT (12.9%), other prescription drugs (10.8%), or nothing (10.7%) to combat their symptoms
    Thanks to all who responded to the survey!






    1 Comment
  • Why women should not douche

    by Margery Gass | May 09, 2013
    In truth, the vagina is like a self-cleaning oven—it doesn’t require any special cleaning method to stay healthy and you shouldn’t put any products or creams inside of it (unless you are prescribed a medication by your healthcare practitioner). Yet many women still practice douching to clean their private parts, which can paradoxically cause infection.

    Douching means washing out the vagina with water or other mixtures. Some women were raised to believe they should douche monthly to wash away period blood or prevent odor. Some believe it will prevent STDs or pregnancy (not true).

    Douching can change the acidity and bacterial makeup of the vagina, causing infections, which may spread to the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. It has been associated with bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, pelvic inflammatory disease, and adverse events in pregnancy.

    A recent study showed that 81% of respondents douched or put products like sexual lubricants, petroleum jelly, oils, or antifungal creams into the vagina. Women who used petroleum jelly intravaginally during the previous month were 2.2 times more likely to test positive for bacterial vaginosis.

    Ladies, there’s no need to douche or apply products internally. You can keep your vagina healthy by simply washing of the vulva with water during your daily shower or bath.
    Go comment!
  • Do you know a menopause superhero?

    by Margery Gass | Apr 30, 2013
    Does your healthcare provider deserve an award? Tell us! We are pleased to announce the availability of 46 awards and scholarships for menopause-related research, media, excellence, and education.

    Recipients of our Recognition Awards will each receive complimentary registration to attend the Society’s Annual Meeting being held October 9 to 12, 2013, at the Gaylord Texan in Dallas. They will also be honored at an Awards Reception during the meeting.

    Winners of the scholarships for medical residents, fellows, or doctors of nursing practice will each receive reimbursement for travel expenses, complimentary registration to the NAMS Annual Meeting, and many other benefits and special programs during the meeting, ensuring that the next generation of clinicians is prepared to care for midlife women.

    Review the available awards and eligibility criteria here, then complete the online Nomination Form. Nominations are due by May 31, 2013. Winners will be notified by July 12, 2013.

    If you have any questions, please contact Mary Nance, NAMS Director of Outreach, at 440/442-7845.

    2 Comments
  • Just the facts about weight loss

    by Margery Gass | Apr 29, 2013
     A group of nutrition and diet experts laid out evidence-supported facts about weight loss in a recent New England Journal of Medicine article, as well as several myths. Here are the facts they presented regarding reaching or maintaining a healthy weight:

    1. Genetics do play a big role in obesity, but your genes aren’t your weight destiny. Changing your lifestyle can promote just as much weight loss as the medications used for this purpose today.

    2. Reducing your calorie intake can help you lose weight, but trying to go on a specific “diet” doesn’t work well in the long term —it’s the calorie reduction that counts.

    3. Exercise makes you healthier, no matter how much you weigh or whether you lose weight.

    4. You can’t go on a diet, lose weight, and go back to your old habits. You have to maintain changes to maintain your weight loss.

    5. Greater structuring of your meals and use of meal-replacement products promotes more weight loss than simply attempting moderation.

    6. Some medications can help you lose a substantial amount of weight and keep it off, but only as long as you take the medication.

    7. Weight loss surgery, if it’s right for you, can result in long-term weight loss and keep diabetes and more dire consequences of obesity at bay.

    Go comment!
  • Eye spy: All about dry eye

    by Margery Gass | Apr 17, 2013
    My eyes are dry and burning — what’s going on? Dry eye syndrome is characterized by symptoms such as dryness, pressure, a sandy feeling, burning, scratchiness, light sensitivity, blurriness, or problems wearing your contacts.

    The continuous production and drainage of tears is important for eye health because tears keep the eyes moist, help wounds heal, and protect against eye infection. As women age, their eyes usually produce fewer tears. Studies in animals suggest that this is partly due to the effect of decreasing levels of hormones, especially androgens, on the lacrimal (tear) gland. When tear glands don’t work well, dry eye syndrome may occur. The eyes of affected women may produce even fewer or lower-quality tears and be unable to keep the eye surface lubricated, comfortable, and resistant to inflammation.

    How can I prevent dry eye? There are lifestyle events that might contribute to symptoms of dry eye. These include exposure to climates with dry air; looking at a computer screen or reading a book for long periods without enough blinking; wearing contacts that absorb fluids; and having laser eye surgery (which may interfere with the nerve supply and reduce the impulse to blink).

    Many medications may cause or worsen dry eye symptoms. These include diuretics, antihistamines, nasal decongestants, antidepressants, and tranquilizers. If you suspect a medication may be the underlying cause of your dry eye, be sure to discuss this with your healthcare provider. It's possible that changing to a different medical treatment may be all that is required.

    Autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s syndrome, and thyroid disease are associated with dry eye. It's also possible that allergies or other problems that cause eye inflammation may be the culprit. A complete physical examination will help diagnose and appropriately treat any underlying diseases or conditions.
     
    I’ve tried drops, cold compresses...nothing helps. A variety of therapeutic options are available. Some require consultation with your health provider but some you can do for yourself. Treatments include:

    • Eye lubricants such as drops or gels
    • Sterile ointments applied to the eye (typically used at night)
    • Humidifiers to increase moisture level in the air
    • Wearing wraparound glasses when outdoors
    • Avoiding windy or very dry conditions
    • Procedures that block the opening through which tears drain from the surface of the eye into the nose with collagen or silicone plugs
    • Anti-inflammatory medications such as topical cyclosporine (Restasis)
    • Topical corticosteroids

    It’s important to be evaluated and treated for symptoms of dry eye syndrome. If left untreated, your eyes could become ulcerated or seriously infected, or the cornea (eye's clear surface) can be scarred.

    4 Comments
  • Physical and household activity improve sleep

    by Margery Gass | Apr 04, 2013
    Getting a good night’s sleep isn’t always easy for women at menopause. Exercise may help, but women have tough time carving out leisure time for it. The good news from a sleep and exercise study published online in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society, is that higher levels of physical activity from housework and caregiving may be the more important key to a better night’s sleep for many women who have hot flashes or night sweats. It is good to know that an active daily routine can have benefits.
    Go comment!

MenoPause: the blog!

Posts to our Blog are written by NAMS staff members and Dr. Margery Gass. All posts are reviewed and edited by Dr. Gass. We strive to bring you the most recent and interesting information about various aspect of menopause and midlife health. We accept no advertising for our website. We want you to have accurate, unbiased, evidence-based information. 

Margery L.S. Gass, MD, NCMP
NAMS Executive Director

An internationally recognized leader in the field of menopause, Dr. Gass became Executive Director of The North American Menopause Society in 2010. Dr. Gass has been an investigator on numerous research projects, including serving as a principal investigator for the Women’s Health Initiative, and has published and presented on a wide range of topics related to menopause, including osteoporosis, sexual dysfunction, and hormone therapy.

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