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Blog: MenoPause ~ take time to think about it

  • Does grapefruit juice interact with your medication?

    by Margery Gass | Dec 20, 2012
    Do you take hormone therapy, birth control pills, or one of the other 85 medications listed here? If so, you must be careful to avoid too much grapefruit and grapefruit juice because they can cause your body to absorb higher levels of your medication.

    Grapefruit contains natural chemicals that alter how the body processes certain medications, so that you can end up with much higher levels of a drug than intended. For some drugs, higher levels can lead to inadequate breathing and dangerous increases in heart rhythm. You can learn more about how grapefruit affects your medicines from the FDA.

    If you are taking any medications by mouth, check the list to see if you should avoid grapefruit. Be safe!



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  • Women live longer — here's how they can achieve best health as they age

    by Margery Gass | Dec 13, 2012
    On Monday, the Census Bureau released a report noting that of the 53,364 Americans age 100 or above, over 80% are women, based on data from the 2010 Census.

    While we can’t predict who will reach centenarian status, living a healthy lifestyle is beneficial no matter what your age. You can review our tips for keeping healthy at menopause and beyond.
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  • Daily steps add up for your health

    by Margery Gass | Dec 10, 2012
    Moving 6,000 or more steps a day—no matter how—can add up to a healthier life for you. We already knew that exercise programs can cut the risk of diabetes, which is a risk for heart disease. But a new exercise study from Brazil published online in the NAMS medical journal Menopause shows that you don’t necessarily have to go out for sports. You can be active through your daily activities, such as work, chores, or leisure activities. As long as the women in this study took 6,000 or more daily steps, they were much less likely to be obese or have these other health risks than the inactive women. And it didn’t matter whether or not they were taking hormone therapy. For midlife women, the journey to fitness can start with 6,000 steps.
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  • Early menopause link to endocrine disrupting chemicals

    by Margery Gass | Nov 30, 2012
    New research links endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) to an earlier menopause. EDCs are chemicals that can interfere with human hormones in the body. They include pesticides, plasticizers, and even natural chemicals found in plants.

    The research found that women exposed to two types of EDCs had an earlier menopause. Menopause was 2.5 years earlier with exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and 2.3 years earlier with exposure to phthalates. PCBs were banned in 1979 but can still be found in older products. Phthalates are found in many products including cosmetics.

    Exactly how EDCs change the age of menopause is not known so further research is needed. These findings were weak but suggested a trend that deserves further study.

    EDC exposure can have other effects. EDC exposed women had elevated breast cancer risk in another study. Increased exposure to certain chemicals, such as phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA), led to thyroid irregularities in women in one study. These chemicals are found in common containers like plastic bottles. Women exposed to high levels of flame retardants have been found to have reduced fertility. Flame retardants are used in many products — foam cushions in couches, carpet padding, clothing, electronics, etc. They can accumulate in fatty tissues, salmon, butter, cheese, ground beef, household dust, and waste water treatment plant runoff.

    How can you reduce risk of exposure?

    • Educate yourself
    • Eat organic food
    • Avoid pesticide use
    • Know where the fish you eat comes from and check with your state and local government about contamination in those waters
    • Avoid heating food in plastic containers or storing fatty food in plastic containers or wrapping
    • Support research and education about EDCs
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  • Get positive about body image during menopause

    by Margery Gass | Nov 21, 2012
    Did you know that we publish articles about menopause with More Magazine every month? (Here's the full archive of our writing on menopause help and education on their website.) Our latest piece is about body image during menopause and it has just been posted online — just in time for Thanksgiving. To all of our readers, we thank you and wish you a healthy and happy holiday this week!

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  • Exercise Rx: 10 minutes, 3 times a day

    by Margery Gass | Nov 09, 2012
    A new exercise prescription makes it easier than ever to keep your blood pressure under control. And it works better, too, than trying to huff and puff for 30 minutes straight every day. A study of exercise and blood pressure from the Healthy Lifestyles Research Center at Arizona State University showed that walking briskly for 10 minutes 3 times a day was even more effective than one 30-minute session a day at controlling blood pressure. The study volunteers had “prehypertension,” that is higher than normal but not over the hypertension line—but it predisposes people to full-blown hypertension, which can put you at risk of strokes, heart disease, and more. The easy-to accomplish, 10-minute sessions sent the volunteers’ average daily blood pressures down and cut the number of blood pressure spikes above 140/90.

    See more on menopause and exercise in our online magazine Menopause Flashes.


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  • Supplement safety: black cohosh & menopausal symptoms

    by Margery Gass | Oct 31, 2012
    Many women use botanical supplements like black cohosh during menopause. In this post, I'm going to briefly summarize research, possible risks, and how to be a smart consumer regarding this herb. Black cohosh (Actaea racemosa, also called Cimicifuga racemosa) is a popular non-drug treatment for menopause symptoms. Evidence about the effectiveness and safety of black cohosh for treatment of hot flashes is mixed: some studies show improvement of menopause symptoms and some show no benefit. There are no long-term safety studies yet, and most are shorter than 6 months. Future black cohosh studies should give us more information about the proper and safe use of this herb.

    Meanwhile, there have been over 50 reports of liver damage such as hepatitis and liver failure with use of black cohosh-containing products. Cause and effect is difficult to prove in these situations, but the number of similar reports is concerning. Because black cohosh is harvested from plants grown in the wild, there is a risk of use of the wrong plant species and adulteration with harmful materials from other wild plants. The US Pharmacopeia states that any product containing black cohosh should carry the following statement: "In rare cases, black cohosh has been reported to affect the liver. Discontinue use and consult a healthcare practitioner if you have a liver disorder or develop symptoms of liver trouble, such as abdominal pain, dark urine, or jaundice."

    Here at NAMS, we recommend that you buy black cohosh from a reputable company and use it for a short time if it lessens your menopause symptoms. If it is not effective for you, do not use it. The most common side effects of black cohosh are stomach upset and headache.

    How can you find the safest source of black cohosh? The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is unfortunately not required to inspect supplements. It is up to all of us to look out for our safety when using them. Can seals of approval help? For an interesting discussion of the potential value of seals of approval for supplements, read Kaiser Permanente's message to its members. Additionally, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine is a wonderful source of accurate information about alternative therapies. I encourage you to check it out. Note that there is an entire section on herbal products entitled "Herbs at a Glance," including specific information about black cohosh. Other excellent resources for consumers are the Office of Dietary Supplements and the FDA's overview of supplements and safety.
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  • The power of suggestion: hypnotize your hot flashes

    by Margery Gass | Oct 26, 2012
    A new study about the effect of hypnosis on hot flashes published in the NAMS journal Menopause shows that hypnosis can help cut hot flashes by as much as 74%. One group of women in the study got five weekly sessions of hypnosis where they received hypnotic suggestions for mental images of coolness, a safe place, or relaxation — whatever their preference — and they also got a recording to practice with daily. Their hot flashes were reduced by 74% and their severity was also lessened. 

    Another group of women in this study had five sessions with a clinician where they could talk about their symptoms, and they got a CD to listen to daily that had general information about hot flashes. This group reported only a small reduction in hot flashes: 13%.

    This study is the best one so far to test the value of hypnosis for hot flashes because it pitted hypnosis against a similar “treatment” thought not to have much effect, similar to the way drugs are tested against dummy placebo pills. We hope to see these results confirmed by other researchers.
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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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