Coping with Menopause: Part 2

Nearly a third of all American women are between the ages of 40 and 60; they are baby boomers and they are facing menopause.

The baby-boomer women are facing menopause with the same savvy that they have used to face civil rights, the women's lib movement and rock music - with open minds and lots of questions.

Women going through menopause today are better educated than any generation before them.

It used to be that a woman started menopause and was immediately placed on hormones.

Today, they are looking for options as they cope with menopause.

“A lot of women were saying, ‘don't go on it, especially if there is a history of breast cancer,’ and there's breast cancer in my family, so I was skeptical," said Cathy, who finally could not live with the hourly hot flashes that left her drenched and robbed her of her sleep.

Cathy continued by saying, “it reminds me of having children, you know those first weeks and months when you never get any sleep. You get depressed and tired."

Cathy is not alone, as more than 75% of American women suffer from hot flashes during menopause.

“For some women that's not a big problem, they might not have it everyday, it's not severe. For other women, they can have it up to 20 times a day, drenching their clothes, even forcing them to change clothes to cope with it and disrupting their sleep all night long,” explained Dr. Ilana Kirsch.

Many women also experience significant mood changes.

Sitting in the quiet of her garden, Chris Wukovics barely remembers her stormy moods.

She says her family suffered the most.

Chris says she probably should have tried medication, but by the time she recognized how irrational she had been, it had ended.

Kirsch's first recommendations for women with menopausal symptoms are behavioral changes.

If you are a smoker, you should stop.

Exercising can also help to stop hot flashes and improve moods.

Layering clothing is also helpful because if a hot flash comes on you can remove layers – this tip is also helpful with bedding because you can remove blankets at night.

Another helpful tip is to avoid alcohol and spicy foods.

And what about the natural, over-the-counter remedies we hear about?

“Nothing, including soy has ever been shown in a randomized controlled trial to be better than a placebo," said Dr. Kirsch.

Kirsch continued by saying that "black cohosh has been studied and has been shown to be better than placebo in terms of treating hot flashes."

But because it mimics estrogen, Dr. Kirsch says it should not be used for more than six months.

The question remains, what about hormones?

In 2002, the National Institutes of Health abruptly ended a study when it showed women taking estrogen and a progestin were at higher risk for breast cancer, stroke, blood clots and heart attacks.

Since then, the researchers involved in the study made new recommendations for hormone therapy.

"Women should use hormone for the shortest amount of time in the lowest possible dose to treat their symptoms," explained Dr. Kirsch.

Cathy said that hormones ended her hot flashes and gave her her life back.

Chris, another baby boomer in menopause, is taking menopause philosophically: "You have to understand that when a door closes another one opens and you have a new chapter in your life."

Experts predict baby boomers will approach menopause with the openness that the generation is known for – by educating themselves, talking about menopause.

Understanding that how women cope with menopause will help both physically and emotionally in the years to come.

Doctors also say the antidepressant Effexor has been shown to stop hot flashes in many women.


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