Stick with Symptom Relief
While taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for symptom relief around the time of menopause may still be supported, taking HRT after menopause for disease prevention isn't recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which reaffirmed their 2005 guideline for use of HRT (estrogen alone and combination with progestin). While HRT may reduce the risk of broken bones for women past menopause, the increased risks outweigh benefits for chronic disease prevention. Those using HRT after menopause may have increased risk of strokes, heart attacks, breast cancer, dementia, urinary incontinence, gallbladder disease, and blood clots in the lungs and legs. Yet, the study may not apply to women who take HRT for a short time for hot flashes, or to women under 50 who have surgical menopause.
Risks Outweigh Benefits
Healthy women who've already gone through menopause shouldn't take hormone replacement therapy (HRT) medication for the prevention of heart disease, dementia and bone loss, advises the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. The recommendation is published in Annals of Internal Medicine. Los Angeles Times reports that the decision may have detractors among doctors who think that the risks of HRT for menopausal women have been overblown. While the task force recommendation doesn't apply to women who use HRT to reduce hot flashes, vaginal dryness and night sweats during menopause, a report by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality will soon address whether this group of women should use HRT.
Hormones Hell on the Gut
Results from two studies found that younger women on the pill tripled their risk of Crohn’s disease and post-menopausal women taking hormone replacement therapy were 1.7 times more likely to develop ulcerative colitis. Crohn’s disease results when the lining of the small and/or large intestines becomes inflamed to the point of bleeding. Ulcerative colitis is inflammation of the colon or rectum can lead to diarrhea, abdominal cramps and bleeding of the rectum. Researchers stressed that these studies did not show a cause-and-effect relationship, but the strong association of Crohn’s and the pill do concern them, especially in young women with a family history of the disease. Previous animal studies have demonstrated that estrogen makes the colon more susceptible to inflammation.
Half of a group of 110 women with at least 5 bothersome hot flashes a day had a two and a half hour mindfulness class in which they meditated, stretched and focused on body awareness and got CDs they could take home. The other half was put on a waiting list for the same class but never took it. All the women were asked about their hot flashes, sleeping and issues with anxiety and stress before and after the study. After eight weeks, those in the class reported that their anxiety and stress levels decreased and they slept better. Although they had the same number of hot flashes at the end of the study, they found they were not as bothered by them. Researchers believe this would allow women to handle hot flashes better instead of using hormone replacement therapy to get rid of them.
Stick It to Menopause
Fifty-three postmenopausal women were split into two groups, one receiving traditional acupuncture and the other group got sham treatments for 10 weeks. Those who received acupuncture experienced less severe hot flashes and mood swings compared to women who got the sham treatment but did not decrease the rates of other problems. The acupuncture was independent of the changes in hormone levels that lead to menopause and the symptoms women experience. Researchers believe that acupuncture should be offered to women who are unable or unwilling to use hormone replacement therapy. The complete study can be found online at Acupuncture in Medicine.
Increases Mortality Risk Too
A new Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) report indicates that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) increases a postmenopausal woman’s risk of developing invasive breast cancer as well as increasing her risk of death from breast cancer. "This report, which expands on earlier results of the WHI study, followed these women for an average of 11 years," says researcher Jean Wactawski-Wende. "The data show that, with further follow-up, there remains an increased incidence of breast cancer in women taking estrogen plus progestin. The study, which included 40 US clinical centers, was based on 12,788 women and showed that combined HRT increases the incidence of invasive breast cancer and that, often, the cancer spreads to the lymph nodes, indicating a poorer prognosis.
Is There Such a Thing?
Is there such a thing as male menopause and can its symptoms be successfully treated with synthetic testosterone? Not necessarily, says the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin (DTB). Unlike female menopause, where estrogen levels fall dramatically, testosterone levels in males drop about 1 to 2 percent a year after the age of 40. However, says DTB, low testosterone is not a consequence of aging. Half of men in their 80s have testosterone levels that fall within the normal range. In addition, low testosterone levels do not necessarily produce symptoms. DTB also questions the benefit of hormone therapy in treating symptoms commonly thought to be associated with male menopause including depression and low sexual function which also appear in men with normal testosterone levels.