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Blog: MenoPause ~ take time to think about it

  • Menopause? Start moving!

    by Margery Gass | Sep 10, 2012
    If you already exercise regularly, great! But if you don’t, now’s the time for so many reasons. Exercise is good for everybody, but it can do even more for you as a woman at menopause. For one, aerobic exercise can ease your hot flashes. You might think that physical activity, which raises your body temperature, would bring hot flashes on, but that’s not the case, shows research published in the NAMS journal Menopause.

    On average, the midlife women in this study had fewer hot flash symptoms in the 24 hours after a moderate-intensity, 30-minute exercise session. Women with lower fitness levels, however, didn’t get as much benefit.

    Exercise also helps beat back the risks that rise for you at this time of life—heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis. The American Heart Association puts being a couch potato right up there with bad cholesterol levels as a heart disease risk. The risk of diabetes goes up, too, but exercise has the power to beat it back and even cure type 2 (adult onset) diabetes, as it has for a number of The Biggest Loser contestants.

    Menopause is also a time when you can lose bone mass, and exercise is one way to keep your bones strong and even make them stronger. One of the latest studies shows that just 2 hours of exercise a week knocks down levels of a hormone that promotes bone loss and pumps up a growth factor that builds bone.

    Go comment!
  • Good for your bones: Mediterranean diet with extra-virgin olive oil

    by Margery Gass | Sep 07, 2012
    You’ve already heard that a Mediterranean diet is good for your heart. Now there’s evidence it could make your bones stronger, too. Researchers in Spain have been looking at the effects of the Mediterranean diet—tweaked different ways—in middle-aged and older people. They found that participants in their study who got intensive diet advice and an extra supply (1 liter a week) of extra-virgin olive oil had higher levels of osteocalcin and other healthy bone markers in their blood than participants who just got the advice or who got the advice and an extra supply of nuts. In fact, blood levels of calcium went down in the last two groups but stayed stable for the participants who got the supplemental extra-virgin olive oil.

    The researchers saw bonus benefits for diabetes, too. All the participants had type 2 diabetes. The ones in the supplemental olive-oil group all retained the ability to secrete insulin. In other words, their diabetes didn’t progress to the point where they had to take insulin.

    The Mediterranean diet is the pattern of the traditional cuisine in Crete, Greece, and Southern Italy. It includes lots of grains, beans, nuts, vegetables, and fruits; small amounts of red meats; small to moderate amounts of poultry and dairy products (usually yogurt or cheese); moderate amounts of alcohol (usually red wine with meals); and fairly high fat consumption (up to 40% of total calories), mostly monounsaturated fat—usually olive oil.
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  • A focus on foods, not calories, can help you lose menopause weight

    by Margery Gass | Sep 06, 2012
    Many women gain weight after menopause and have a tough time losing it. Counting calories is cumbersome—and it doesn’t seem to work for many women.

    A focus on changing just a few food habits—such as eating more vegetables and fruits but fewer sweets and less meat—looks like the simple recipe for success, found researchers at the University of Pittsburgh.

    They studied 481 overweight and obese women after menopause. Some of the women got intensive help—frequent and regular counseling from nutritionists, exercise physiologists, and psychologists, while others just got some occasional advice on general health. But no matter which group they were in, the women who consumed fewer deserts and sugary drinks lost weight in the short and long term.

    Women who lost weight in the short term were also those who cut down on fried foods and eating out and upped their fish consumption. But the women who cut down on the sugar, increased their fruit and vegetable intake, and decreased their intake of meats and cheeses were the ones who were successful in the long run. And that’s a pretty easy recipe.
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  • Good news about hormone therapy if you have had a hysterectomy

    by Margery Gass | Sep 05, 2012
    If you no longer have a uterus, you can use estrogen alone and perhaps use it longer than women with a uterus (who have to use estrogen plus progesterone or a similar compound). For you, the risk of breast cancer doesn’t go up for at least 7 years. In women who need to take both estrogen and progesterone, it goes up sooner—after 3 to 5 years. It is also important to note that all women who are at increased risk for stroke, heart disease, or blood clots are generally advised not to use hormone therapy.
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  • Experts do agree: hormone therapy for treatment of symptoms at menopause gets thumbs up

    by Margery Gass | Sep 04, 2012
    It’s been 10 years since research put the brakes on the combination hormone therapy segment of the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study because the risks looked worse than the benefits. After that, many women and clinicians abandoned hormone therapy completely. NAMS and 14 other top medical organizations came together to cut through the confusion and tell women and their clinicians that hormone therapy is still an acceptable treatment—and a relatively safe one—for menopause symptoms at the time of menopause. It just should not be used indefinitely for the purpose of preventing chronic diseases.

    These are the major points the experts do agree on:

    • Hormone therapy is okay for relatively young (up to age 59 or within 10 years of menopause) and healthy women who are bothered by moderate to severe menopause symptoms. You and your clinician need to weigh your individual risks and benefits.
    • If you still have a uterus, you need to take progesterone or a similar product along with estrogen to prevent cancer of the uterus. If you no longer have a uterus, you can take estrogen alone. If you are taking a low-dose vaginal form of estrogen, you will probably not need to take progesterone, but be sure to report any bleeding.
    • Both estrogen alone and combination therapy increase the risk of blood clots and stroke, but the risk is rare in women ages 50-59.
    • The risk of breast cancer goes up a small amount with 3-5 years of combination estrogen/progesterone therapy and decreases after hormone therapy is stopped.
    • If vaginal dryness or discomfort with intercourse is your only symptom and lubricants do not solve the problem, then the best treatment for you may be low-dose vaginal estrogen, but check with your provider.
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  • The jury is still out on calcium supplements

    by Margery Gass | Aug 16, 2012

    Recently, women trying to keep their bones healthy by taking calcium supplements got what seemed like bad news. Last May, a widely reported study linked calcium supplements with an increased risk of heart attack. Then in June, the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) put out a draft recommendation on calcium and vitamin D supplements that did not send a positive message. Women started calling their menopause practitioners asking if they should stop taking their supplements. But only days later, another widely publicized study concluded that calcium and vitamin D supplementation cut the risk of death.

    So who’s right? Well, maybe that’s the wrong question because, even though these events made big news, we can’t draw firm conclusions yet. So don’t stop taking your calcium supplement just yet. Perhaps take a cue from the conclusion that the National Osteoporosis Foundation drew from this and much more research—that you try to meet your daily calcium needs through diet first and take a calcium supplement if you aren’t getting enough.

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  • Chalk up another aspirin benefit?

    by Margery Gass | Aug 13, 2012
    Taking a daily aspirin helps reduce your risk of dying from cancer, especially from cancers of the gastrointestinal tract, shows a new study from the American Cancer Society. But the 15% reduction this study found is a much more modest figure than the 37% in a study that made a big news splash last March. Still, it’s good news for women who are 65 and older who have been advised to take an aspirin a day for their cardiovascular health. Some younger women who already have cardiovascular disease or who are at high risk also fall into this category.

    Does this good news mean everybody should start taking an aspirin a day? No, aspirin is a medication that also has side effects that need to be considered. It can cause stomach irritation, bleeding from the stomach that can lead to anemia, ringing in the ears, stroke, and other undesirable effects.  So if you’re younger than 65 and are interested in using aspirin for cancer prevention, talk first with your clinician to weigh the benefits and the risks.
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  • A toast to your bone health?

    by Margery Gass | Aug 08, 2012
    Do you enjoy an occasional glass of wine with dinner or a nightcap? Your moderate drinking may benefit your bones. Recent research in Menopause shows that moderate drinking (1-2 drinks/day) increases bone mineral density by slowing bone loss a bit in menopausal women.

    But do alcohol and menopause really mix? You’ve probably heard that moderate drinking is good for your heart. But you’ve probably also heard that it’s a danger for breast cancer and that it might trigger hot flashes. There is a balance of risks and benefits that you will have to consider before ordering that drink.

    The most important thing is how much you drink. The benefits come with moderate—big emphasis on moderate—drinking. Heavy drinking can actually lead to osteoporosis that cannot be reversed. It’s also a risk for fractures.

    If you drink alcohol, enjoy yourself, but make sure your drinking is light to moderate.

    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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