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MenoPause Blog

  • 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.

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  • Your midlife health care just got more affordable

    by Margery Gass | Aug 07, 2012
    On August 2, 2012, portions of the Affordable Care Act kicked in that mean most women will not have to pay out of pocket for services such as:

    • Annual well-women visits, including routine breast and pelvic exams and Pap tests
    • Birth control and prenatal care – don’t dismiss it too quickly – it is still possible for women to get pregnant around the time of menopause. That is why you should not consider yourself protected from pregnancy until you are one year past your last menstrual period with no bleeding since that last period.
    • Interpersonal and domestic violence screening and counseling
    • HIV screening and counseling 
    • Counseling for sexually active women about sexually transmitted infections – yes, even after menopause it is possible to become infected by a partner who is carrying an infection. Some couples in a new relationship agree that both will be tested for sexual infections before becoming intimate.
    Other important benefits for you are in effect already, including no out-of-pocket costs for mammograms if you’re over 40 and screenings for osteoporosis if you are over age 60 (most guidelines suggest screening after age 65). Midlife is a great time to talk with your provider about how to stay healthy for the rest of your life.

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MenoPause Blog

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. 

JoAnn V. Pinkerton, MD, NCMP
Executive Director



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