MANAGING THE MENOPAUSE WITHOUT HRT

Hormone replacement therapy isn’t right for every woman. Some can’t take it because of medical conditions they either have or are at risk of having; some are completely turned off by the various side-effects; others don’t want to take it because they believe it is unnatural, interfering with nature. Women who spent most of their reproductive years on the Pill may now want to have a break from all hormones; and many don’t want to ‘pop a pill every day’ to prevent conditions they haven’t got and may never have.

If you are in the lucky 20 per cent who sail through the menopause with hardly a symptom to complain about, you will probably not give HRT a second thought. Osteoporosis and heart attacks seem far away on life’s distant horizon. However, if you feel you are at risk of developing either of these conditions, then HRT is a form of prevention you should think about – it is not just for treating hot flushes.

Of the remaining 80 per cent who get menopausal symptoms, only a very small proportion at present take HRT, although their number is now growing steadily as women understand more about it, and doctors feel more confident about prescribing it. Even so, many women are still unable or unwilling to receive hormone treatment, so what else is available for diem at this time?

There are many and varied ways of coping with the different symptoms that afflict menopausal women. Some involve taking medication of different types, others involve making lifestyle changes. None of them is a true replacement for oestrogen, and it really is worth keeping this thought at the back of your mind, especially if you want to protect yourself from osteoporosis and coronary heart disease.

As we get older, we must work at being healthy. We can no longer abuse our bodies and expect to get away with it. The teenager or young woman who smokes, drinks and takes no exercise probably won’t notice the effect for many years; for the older woman it is different – suddenly these habits affect her life now.

Smoking, coffee and alcohol all make vasomotor symptoms (hot flushes and night sweats) worse; alcohol and tobacco lower the oestrogen supply; alcohol also interferes with the body’s effective use of calcium; taking no exercise increases the risk of getting osteoporosis and a heart attack. Isn’t it unfair!

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