Monday, July 21, 2008

Menopause - Heart Disease and HRT

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women, but because men have higher rates of heart disease it has long been assumed that estrogen is what creates that difference. Heart disease is more prevalent in post-menopausal women than pre-menopausal women, so this has also helped fuel the myth that estrogen has something to do with heart problems. Actually it is probably just due to the fact that post-menopausal women are older.

There has been a clear relationship established between amounts of natural estrogen and breast cancer, osteoporosis and endometrial cancer. The longer you have natural estrogen in you because of early menstruation, drinking alcohol, or certain medications the greater the risk of breast cancer and the lower risk of osteoporosis. However, no clear relationship has been established between natural estrogen and heart disease.

So what does put a woman at risk for heart disease? A family history of heart disease. Levels of lipids, the most common one is known as cholesterol, are also a factor. High levels of an amino acid called Homocysteine have also been shown to increase risk. (Good news is that can be lowered with vitamin B and folic acid.) High levels of C Reactive Protein produced during periods of inflammation increases heart disease risk and this protein is also increased by estrogen. Other factors that increase the risk for heart disease include personality type, diabetes, smoking, being overweight, having high blood pressure and having blood that clots easily.

In terms of Estrogen therapy and heart disease, this means that even though studies have shown that HRT reduces the risk of heart disease in women, the studies have been more observational in nature. Because the studies are observational they really have not yet answered the question if the issue is that estrogen lowers the instance of heart disease or if the instance of heart disease is lower because women who are healthy tend to be on estrogen in the first place. None of the studies done so far have been random controlled blind studies. All the women were of higher social and economic status, highly educated, thinner, non-smokers and also were more likely to have had a hysterectomy. They were more likely to have insurance coverage, therefore more likely to go to a doctor regularly and have had preventive healthcare, lowering their risk of heart disease anyway.

All in all, the evidence showing that HRT can lower the risk of heart disease is circumstantial and considering the recent studies showing links to Breast Cancer and HRT, it would seem that whatever unproven benefit of HRT does not outweigh the risk of taking it. And the American Heart Association recommends the same thing - women with heart disease should not be given HRT to prevent further occurrence and women already on HRT that have heart disease should only continue to take it if the have an additional reason to take it besides heart disease.

There are additional ways to prevent heart disease besides HRT than you can do, like lifestyle changes and drugs that can lower your cholesterol and blood pressure so if the only reason you are considering HRT is for heart disease, it's probably best to pursue those other options first.

Michael Russell

Your Independent guide to Menopause

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Which Menopause Supplements Are Best? Discover an Array of Natural

Picking the right menopause supplements has become an important issue for many women beginning and transitioning through this stage of life.

Natural herbs for menopause are seeing a sharp rise in demand as the numerous risks associated with Hormone Replacement Therapy have become well known, such as an alarming increased risk of breast cancer.

The first thing to note when purchasing menopause supplements is to make sure the company producing them uses what are known as standarized extracts. These tend to be made with not only the highest quality herbs, but it's also a process that ensures you are getting the same amount of ingredients from one capsule to the next.

This is a major problem for many non standarized supplements, which is why you may have read in the media that many supplements do not even contain what's stated on the label -- sometimes it's a lot higher, and sometimes it's a lot lower. You don't want either in a supplement you take, since too much can trigger side effects, and too little will give you no results.

Among the most popular natural herbs for menopause include:

  • black cohosh
  • wild yam
  • dong quai
  • red clover
  • Chasteberry

Many experts believe black cohosh's effectiveness comes from its ability to decrease the levels of a hormone that is produced by the body in high levels during menopause.

The increase of this hormone, which is called luteinizing hormone, is believed to be responsible for numerous unpleasant effects associated with menopause, such as hot flashes.

Red clover extract, although not as widely known as black cohosh, may help mitigate the symptoms of menopause because it contains isoflavones....which are similar to estrogens (the female hormone). Interestingly, the effect seems to differ based on what stage of menopause women are in.

In pre-menopausal women with normal endogenous estrogen levels, isoflavones may have an anti-estrogen effect. In post-menopausal women with low endogenous estrogens, isoflavones are likely to act as weak estrogens.

Chasteberry is used a great deal in Europe in menopause supplements because it contains estrogen- and progesterone-like compounds as well. It may also have a function in regulating luteinizing hormone as black cohosh does.

Dong quai is another of the natural herbs for menopause. Although it has been used for centuries, its effectiveness is less proven than black cohosh. It has a history of use in Native American culture and is believe to have mild estrogenic effects.

Wild Yam is touted as a natural alternative for estrogen replacement therapy. Studies have shown that it may help postmenopausal vaginal dryness and premenstrual syndrome.

When choosing menopause supplements, you need not choose a formula with all of these ingredients, but it should definitely contain some of them, and especially black cohosh.

And, all of the herbs for menopause in the formula should be of standardized extracts.

Katie Smith is an editor of the informative Visit us to learn about our recommended product containing natural herbs for menopause.

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Thursday, July 3, 2008

Peri Menopause Symptoms and Relief

Peri menopause may be a new term for you. It simply means the time ?around? menopause. Peri menopause symptoms are caused by changing hormonal levels during the years that lead up to menopause. They may last as little as a few months or as long as ten years. Every woman is different. These differences may be related to nutrition, diet, exercise regimens, prescription medications or genetic factors. It may be that the ovaries gradually begin to produce less estrogen or estrogen levels may change suddenly from month to month. Much is unknown.

As early as their thirties, some women begin to experience changes in their menstrual periods. They may become heavier or irregular. Some women begin to experience premenstrual syndrome for the first time in their lives. Some doctors recognize these changes and refer to them as peri menopause symptoms, helping to educate women about what they can do to reduce symptoms. Other doctors leave it up to the women to educate themselves. And others suggest a variety of prescription drugs, which may or may not help.

To help regulate menstrual periods, thus relieving those types of peri menopause symptoms, some doctors recommend birth control pills. Women who take birth control pills may have less symptoms of shorter duration, but this is not always the case. Some women cannot and should not take birth control pills, because of the risks associated with them. Many women prefer not to take them, if they are not needed for contraceptive purposes. Birth control pills have known benefits and known risks. To learn more about them, a good website to visit is pill.htm.

Worsening PMS symptoms may also be peri menopause symptoms. PMS symptoms vary greatly among women, from non-existent to severe. It may be helpful to keep a journal for a while, noting when symptoms like mood swings and breast tenderness appear. There are at least 100 different symptoms associated with PMS; thankfully most women do not experience them all. Women who take birth control pills do not experience PMS, because they do not ovulate, but may have similar symptoms related to varying hormone levels. Anti-depressants are commonly prescribed to relieve PMS and peri menopause symptoms, but may have side effects, including headache, drowsiness and sexual dysfunction. Regular exercise is one of the best PMS relievers, but without proper nutrition, you may not have the energy for it. A good daily multi-vitamin in addition to a healthy diet that is low in salt, fat, sugar, alcohol and caffeine will help increase energy levels and reduce PMS symptoms.

Hot flashes and night sweats may be the most frustrating peri menopause symptoms. Antidepressants may increase night sweats in some women. These symptoms are directly related to changing estrogen levels. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was at one time considered a safe treatment for all of the symptoms of peri menopause and menopause, but research has shown that those women using HRT had an increased risk of heart disease, breast cancer, stroke and Alzheimer?s.

All peri menopause symptoms, including the ones mentioned here and others are believed to be related to decreased levels of estrogen. Birth control pills and hormone replacement therapies contain synthetic estrogens, thus relieving symptoms, but increasing risks associated with synthetic hormones. Certain plant components have estrogen like effects. These components are referred to as phytoestrogens. Found in plant foods like soy and herbs like black cohosh, phytoestrogens can help relieve PMS and peri menopause symptoms, naturally without side effects.

Insomnia and other sleep disturbances are sometimes experienced in women during peri menopause. Night sweats are sometimes a major sleep disruption, but many women find that a full night?s sleep is just not possible. If you have a doctor that readily writes prescriptions and you tell him about all of your different symptoms, you may end up taking sleep aids, antidepressants and a variety of other drugs. I have known many women who were taking six or seven different prescription medications during peri menopause and still had problems.

Serotonin is one of the compounds circulating in the blood stream believed to regulate sleep and mood. It is regularly sold as a natural sleep aid, but precursors (those substances that the body uses to create serotonin) are more effective and safer for long term use. Tryptophan was heavily marketed at one time, but also had safety issues. 5-HTP is the newest alternative.

Derived from an African plant, 5-HTP is a serotonin precursor that in studies has been shown to act like a prescription antidepressant, without the side effects. It is recommended for use by women with PMS and peri menopause symptoms for many reasons. It promotes healthy natural sleep, without causing grogginess. It improves mood, without the side effects associated with prescription drugs or other herbal remedies. Studies have shown its effectiveness for migraine treatment. Women, who experienced migraines during puberty, often see them reappear during peri menopause.

To learn more about 5-HTP and other natural remedies for menopause, peri menopause and PMS, please visit

Patsy Hamilton has more than twenty years experience in health care and more than 40 years experience as a woman. Currently she writes informational articles for the Menopause and PMS Guide. Read more here.

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