During Menopause Too
Migraine headaches increase by 50 to 60% as women go through perimenopause and menopause, finds a study that surveyed 3,600+ women, ages 35-65 to determine their history of headaches. For the study, women were divided among 3 groups, premenopausal, perimenopausal and postmenopausal. Eight percent of the premenopausal group reported 10 or more headaches per month as did 12.2% of the perimenopausal group and 12% of the menopausal group. Researchers recognize that premenopausal women with migraine often get them a few days before beginning their periods when estrogen and progesterone levels fall. They believe that decreasing estrogen levels account for migraine in perimenopausal and menopausal women. The study was presented at the American Headache Society annual meeting.
Researchers Find a Link
High blood pressure during pregnancy may lead to hot flashes and night sweats during menopause, find researchers who examined the link between hypertensive diseases in pregnancy and menopausal symptoms in 853 women. Of the participants, 274 had hypertensive disease, such as preeclampsia, during pregnancy. 82% of those experienced hot flashes during menopause vs 75% for women who never had hypertension. Researchers also found that women who were hypertensive during pregnancy suffered more severe and longer lasting hot flashes and night sweats during menopause. Researchers say that while the correlation is not definitive, it indicates a biological link that medical professionals should consider as female patients grow older. The study will be published in the journal Menopause in October.
You Are Getting Sleepy
Hypnosis can reduce hot flashes say researchers at Baylor U, Indiana U and the U of Texas. For the study, postmenopausal volunteers were randomly assigned to hypnotherapy or a control group. The women who underwent hypnosis had 5 weekly sessions concentrating on relaxation and images of coolness. They were also told to listen to an audio recording of a hypnotic induction. The control group had 5 sessions of group therapy and received a recording with information about hot flashes. All of the women kept diaries of the frequency and severity of hot flashes which were also measured by a skin conductance monitor. After 12 weeks, the women who underwent hypnosis reported 75% fewer hot flashes and better sleep than those in the control group who reported a 13% reduction in hot flashes.
Early menopause exposes women to a greater risk of heart attack and stroke, says researcher Dr. Melissa Wellons who looked at 2,509 women enrolled in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis with 693 reporting menopause before age 46. Wellons found that early menopause in European, African-American, Hispanic and Asian women doubled the risk for CV disease. She cautions that her study is observational and definitive conclusions can’t be drawn, “but our findings do support the use of age at menopause as a marker of future heart and vascular disease risk” and says clinicians should ask about menopause when collecting a female patient's medical history." Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among US women. Lifestyle and medical strategies are known to reduce that risk.
Keep Your Cool
The daily practice of rhythmic breathing eased hot flashes in a Mayo Clinic study of symptomatic women. For the study, 92 women learned the meditative technique of rhythmic deep breathing. One group took 6 breaths per minute for 15 minutes twice a day; another took slow breaths for 15 minutes once a day while a third group concentrated on breathing at a normal pace for 10 minutes a day. The women practiced the breathing techniques for 9 weeks and kept diaries of their hot flashes. All of the women reported dramatic decreases in the number and severity of their hot flashes but the group that practiced rhythmic breathing twice a day reported the greatest reduction. Rhythmic breathing has been shown to calm the autonomic nervous system which controls heart rate and sweating.
It’s Getting Hot in Here
Weight loss from a low fat, high fruit and vegetable diet may reduce or eliminate menopausal symptoms, including night sweats and hot flashes, finds a Kaiser Permanente study of 17,473 women. Symptomatic women who lost 10% or more of their body weight on a low fat diet were more likely to reduce or eliminate menopausal symptoms after a year compared with a control group that maintained their weight. "While the mechanism is not completely understood, hot flashes and night sweats are thought to be caused by a complex interaction that involves fluctuating hormone levels, the hypothalamus region of the brain that regulates body temperature, brain chemicals and receptors, and the body's blood vessels and sweat glands," says research scientist and lead author Candyce Kroenke, ScD, MPH.
No Fewer Hot Flashes
Pomegranate Seed Oil is marketed as an alternative remedy for menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes, but a study appearing in the journal Menopause finds that the supplement has no more benefit than a placebo filled with sunflower oil. The study, conducted at the Medical University of Vienna, followed 81 postmenopausal women, all of which who were experiencing a minimum of 5 hot flashes a day. In addition to keeping a journal, the women had their hormone levels tested. The researchers found no difference in the participants’ hormone levels before and after the 12-week treatment. While the women did not benefit from fewer hot flashes, they did report better sleep quality while on pomegranate seed oil versus the placebo.
Add to Blood Clot, Cancer Risk
A long-term study that followed 167 postmenopausal women who filled out questionnaires about estrogen use in 1993 found that 47 of them developed urinary incontinence. Of those 47 women, 14.9 percent had taken estrogen for over five years compared to 5.8 percent who did not develop incontinence. Estrogen minimizes vaginal dryness and hot flashes that accompany menopause. Research has demonstrated that estrogen may affect the nerves that control the function of the bladder and it has been postulated that normal aging also plays a role. About 50 percent of women over 45 years old have reported an episode of incontinence. Estrogen therapy also increases the risk of blood clots and breast cancer, and doctors believe this may be another reason to minimize the time it is taken.
Night Sweats Too
Hot flashes and night sweats (HF/NS) persist after menopause for many women, says a study that looked at 10,418 postmenopausal women, ages 54-65. The average age of menopause is 50-51. It’s commonly thought that hot flashes and night sweats last between 2 to 5 years after menopause. Volunteers completed questionnaires about lifestyle, medical history, hormone therapy use and other pertinent questions. While 89.6% of women experienced HF/NS at some time, 54% of volunteers, across the age range reported still experiencing them. “... many older women continue to experience menopausal symptoms and these may vary in severity and how they affect a woman's quality of life.” says Professor Philip Steer, editor-in-chief of BJOG, the journal in which the study is published.
Long-Term Safety Not Tested
Menopause can bring about a variety of unpleasant symptoms, including hot flashes, night sweats and sleep problems. Valerian root is an herb used for centuries as a sleep aid. A new study, published in the September issue of the journal Menopause, finds that the herbal preparation may also be beneficial for women who are experiencing sleep problems while going through menopause. Researchers with Tehran University gave 100 women either two valerian capsules or a placebo every day for one month. At the end of the study, 30 percent of the women taking valerian reported improvement in sleep quality versus only 4 percent of women taking the inactive dummy pill. Most side effects from taking the herb are mild and include headache and upset stomach.
Secondhand Smoke Too
Men who smoke while their partner is pregnant may influence their daughter’s future reproductive cycle and when she hits menopause. Researchers in Japan found that paternal smoking while the female fetus was still in the womb caused women to stop having periods about 13 months earlier than those whose dads were nonsmokers. Women who were smokers hit menopause an average of about 14 months earlier than women who abstained. And for women who have husbands that smoke, menopause hit five months earlier than those with nonsmoking husbands. Dr. Misao Fukuda of the M and K Health Institute theorizes that smoking at the time of conception could affect sperm cells or the embryo’s development. Chemicals from tobacco smoke may also alter glands in the brain that produce reproductive hormones.
Chemical Catalyzes "the Change"
A study of 26,000 West Virginia women drinking water with perfluorocarbons, or PFCs, endocrine disruptors present in products used around the house are more likely to go into early menopause. Women between 42 and 51 years old with blood PFC levels in the top 20 percent were 40 percent more likely to have experienced menopause compared to those in the bottom 20 percent. For women over 51, those with the highest levels were two times more likely to have gone through menopause compared to women with the lowest levels. An indirect correlation between blood estrogen and PCF levels were observed. Decreasing estrogen is linked to heart disease and osteoporosis. One way to reduce PFC exposure is to avoid products that contain them such as fabric treatments and certain cookware.
Lowest Amount for Shortest Time
The side effects of estrogen, which are recommended for women who had a hysterectomy to manage the symptoms of menopause, wane once women stop taking them according to the first long term follow-up. Over 10,000 women taking estrogen for about six years and were examined 4 years after they stopped. The slightly higher risk of side effects such as stroke and blood clots while on the pill became non-existent once treatment is stopped but risked hip fractures went back up because estrogen strengthens bones. Also, women who started the drug earlier did better once they stopped taking it compared to women who started treatment later. These results reinforce the standard approach of giving the lowest amount of estrogen for the lowest amount of time to manage menopause symptoms.
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.
Affliction of Vaginal Atrophy
To mark World Menopause Day on October 18, the Int’l Menopause Society (IMS) has issued new treatment recommendations and is calling upon the medical community to inform patients about a common but rarely talked about syndrome. Vaginal atrophy (VA), characterized by vaginal dryness, painful intercourse, itching and an increased tendency for infection, occurs in up to half of postmenopausal women who often live with the disease for an average of three years before seeking medical help. If left untreated, VA can lead to incontinence and other urogenital conditions, yet only one in four women will speak with her doctor about VA. Dr. David Sturdee, lead author of the Recommendations, hopes the new recommendations will help doctors broach the subject and offer advice and guidance.
Lowers Risk Significantly
Women who see their dentist regularly have a significantly lower risk for heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular problems, finds a new study from UC Berkeley that indicates the risk is reduced by as much as 30 percent. The study of 7000 people, ages 44 to 88, did not find a similar benefit for men. "We think the findings reflect differences in how men and women develop cardiovascular disease," said study co-author Dr. Stephen Brown. "Other studies suggest that estrogen has a protective effect against heart disease because it helps prevent the development of atherosclerosis. It's not until women hit menopause around age 50 to 55 that they start catching up with men." The study considered risk factors such as tobacco and alcohol use and high blood pressure, among others.
The Clock Is Ticking
"If this were men thinking about sex, it would never be correlated to trying to reproduce!"
- Hot Flash in the comments
Women have a heightened sex drive in response to their waning fertility and are more inclined to engage in a variety of sexual activities, find researchers from the University of Texas, Austin who grouped 827 participants into three categories, based on age. Women with low fertility, ages 27-45 were more likely to have thoughts about sexual activities, more frequent and intense sexual fantasies and more active sex lives than their younger counterparts, ages 18-26. "Our results suggest there is nothing special about the 30s, but that instead these behaviors manifest in all women with declining fertility. It may be more difficult to conceive past the age of 35, but our research suggests women's psychology will continue to motivate them to try until menopause," said researcher Judith Easton.
A Menopause Timetable Test
Woman who don't want to be surprised by the onset of menopause may soon have a better idea of when it will arrive. Using a simple blood test it's believed doctor's will one day be able to determine when menopause will arrive, with woman as young as 20 years old being able to take the test. The test is being validated with further studies and could help more accurately determine reproductive decisions as woman enter the later part of life when reproductive capabilities can falter. Authors of the study are expected to reveal their findings on Monday at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology. According to CNN, the study worked by measuring the amount of anti-mullerian hormone (AMH) in women's bodies. AMH is proportional to the number of viable eggs left in the ovaries.
Helps Treat Hot Flashes
Oral micronized progesterone relieves menopause symptoms as effectively as estrogen replacement without side effects, finds a new study. Hot flashes and night sweats are experienced by most women during menopause. About five to 10 percent of women are highly symptomatic and experience sleep disturbances, fatigue and a lower quality of life. The new progesterone therapy, sold under the brand name Prometrium in the US and Canada, is available only by prescription and is manufactured from a steroid found in yams. Says Dr. Jerilynn Prior, presenting author of the study, “Women improve very quickly on oral micronized progesterone. The improvement is apparent within the first 4 weeks." The study is being presented this week at The Endocrine Society's Annual Meeting in San Diego.
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.
Billions to Treat Baldness
In the last few decades, many normal health conditions have become "medicalized," or treated as medical problems. Examples of these conditions include male pattern baldness, normal sadness, normal pregnancy, menopause, erectile dysfunction, ADHD, infertility, sleep disorders and more. Brandeis University sociologist Peter Conrad led researchers in a study to estimate costs of treating 12 conditions defined as medicalized by medical organizations. They found that we spent $77.1 billion in 2005 on medicalized conditions like male pattern baldness and menopause. "We spend more on these medicalized conditions than on cancer, heart disease, or public health," said Conrad. While $77 billion is a big sum, Conrad doesn't see the figure as a "key driver of skyrocketing health care costs."