In my last article I took an overview of menopause and wrote specifically
about peri-menopause. As woman go through the peri-menopause stage and enter menopause, estrogen levels decline and a new set of symptoms appears: hot flashes, vaginal dryness, insomnia and bladder changes.
We need to prepare for menopause early. Lifestyle changes can be as
effective as drugs and sometimes even more so, says Dr. Susan Lark in her book "The Estrogen Decision."
A few years ago, a study was undertaken by the National Institute of Health called, "The Women’s Health Initiative" in which 15,000 women age 50 to 79 were tested for the effect of estrogen on women’s health. It was ended because of the effects estrogen was having on the body. The incidence of breast cancer rose by 26 per cent, stroke by 41 per cent, heart attacks by 29 per cent, cardiovascular disease by 22 per cent. And blood clots by 50 per cent.
Previously in North America, much of our information about estrogen came
from estrogen manufacturers. As a matter of fact, most menopausal conferences were funded by these same companies. The studies were biased. "The Women’s Health Initiative" was the first large study in North America that was funded by an unbiased government agency. So it’s a real caution to all of us that studies done by drug companies involving their drugs may be biased in their favour.
The European studies that have been published for at least two decades substantiated the National Institute of Health Studies. The European
studies were also funded by unbiased agencies.
There are two health risks commonly associated with postmenopausal women: osteoporosis, which is low bone density that leaves women at risk for bone fractures, and heart disease.
Bone density decreases when the body’s calcium is depleted while buffering against the acidic byproducts of a diet high in sugar, protein, and caffeine. It is also decreased by a lack of regular, weight bearing exercise. An English study revealed that 100 years ago women on average had a higher bone density than women living today. In short, osteoporosis may be a culturally induced disease.
Heart disease in women increases with menopause but no study has been done that compares the increase in heart disease with lifestyle factors. So we know that prevention is the key to osteoporosis and heart disease.
Many women will live a third of their lives after menopause. It’s a time to refocus values and plans. In my next column I will continue to discuss the fascinating subject of menopause.
Dr. Paulette Roscoe is a naturopathic physician who practices in Nanaimo. She welcomes your calls at 754-1733.