Treatments for menopause symptoms have come and gone. Once, hormone therapy was the second most prescribed drug in the U.S. Then in 2002, a major study found problems and doctors backed off prescribing it. Now you hear a lot about both hormonal and nonhormonal treatments for menopause, including bioidentical hormones. What's right for you?
Hormone therapy involves taking estrogen plus, in most cases progestin. Progestin helps lower the risk of getting endometrial cancer from taking estrogen. Women without a uterus usually get just estrogen.
Ask any woman about her least favorite body part, and most of us will point to our middles. And in my experience, bellies can become especially anxiety-provoking when excess fat spills over the top of our jeans. Yes, the dreaded "muffin top."
Any woman can get a muffin top. But women are more likely to gain excess belly weight -- especially deep inside the belly -- as they go through perimenopause and into menopause, when their menstrual cycle ends. That's because as estrogen levels drop, body fat...
To decide which course is best for you, think about these questions:
What's your goal?
Menopause is a natural passage all women go through. Hormone therapy can't improve your overall health or protect your heart or brain, as doctors once thought. Still, many women choose treatments to lessen menopause symptoms that bother them.
What are your symptoms?
Women often use hormones to treat hot flashes and bone changes. Over-the-counter lubricants and moisturizers can treat vaginal dryness that often leads to painful sex. Or you can ask your doctor about prescription oral drugs or vaginal creams and rings.
You may also have trouble sleeping, dry skin, thinning hair, mood swings, and acne. There are different approaches for each of these symptoms. For example, losing weight and learning to avoid hot-flash triggers can help you have fewer of them. More exercise and good sleep habits can help with trouble falling or staying asleep.
Some women swear by over-the-counter herbal products ("botanicals") like soy or black cohosh. Studies have not found them to work, though, and they are not FDA-approved.
How severe are your symptoms?
Some women sail through menopause with few symptoms or none that upset their daily life. One in 4 women, for example, don't feel hot flashes. For mild problems, efforts to cut stress and boost a healthy lifestyle can get you through.
Other women turn to hormone therapy because menopause symptoms disrupt their sleep and daily life. The rule of thumb today is that the risk of health problems is low for most women when hormones are used at the lowest dose for the shortest time -- about 3 to 5 years.