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  health > women > story page AIDSAlternative MedicineCancerDiet & FitnessHeartMenSeniorsWomen

Alternatives to hormone replacement therapy for menopause

June 4, 1999
Web posted at: 9:32 AM EDT (1332 GMT)

In this story:

Hormone therapy isn't mandatory

Lifestyle changes

Attention to diet


By Theresa A. Reed

(WebMD) -- Imagine this: You're sitting on the exam table telling your doctor about your hot flashes, your vaginal dryness, your irregular or nonexistent periods or any other menopausal concern. Your doctor appears to be listening, then simply writes you a prescription for estrogen. You're told to try this for a while and then make a return appointment. What should you do? You may want to look for another doctor.

Hormone therapy isn't mandatory

Although it's popular in Western medicine to treat nearly everything with a pill, that's not always the best thing to do. For some women, hormone replacement therapy is exactly what the doctor ordered. But for women whose risks for certain cancers or heart disease are increased by estrogen replacement, or who simply don't want to undertake the lifelong commitment required for this therapy to remain effective, it may not be the best option. Decisions about hormone treatment should be made with (not by) your doctor, only after carefully considering and discussing your lifestyle, your risk factors and your personal preferences.

Lifestyle changes

Generally, menopausal women want to prevent future health problems and manage current symptoms. There are lifestyle changes you can make that may effectively address both of these goals. Some of these changes will not surprise you: stop smoking; develop a positive attitude; keep alcohol and caffeine intake low; find and maintain a healthy and comfortable weight; and become physically active, ideally exercising at least three times a week. Women who exercise three to four hours a week drop their breast cancer risk by 70 percent if they've had full-term pregnancies and by 30 percent if they haven't. Yoga is especially useful for women dealing with menopausal symptoms. Exercise can also maintain or build bone density, protecting against osteoporosis -- although a healthy diet is a far more effective shield in the long run.

Attention to diet

We truly are what we eat, and most of us eat high-fat diets that put us at greater risk for many avoidable diseases. When selecting foods for health, a rule of thumb is this: the closer to the natural state, the healthier. Whole grains such as brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, legumes, oatmeal, corn and baked potatoes can be eaten in abundance. Avoid flavorings such as butter, sour cream or alfredo sauce. Instead, add salsa or veggies. Also eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, which are excellent fiber sources, among other their advantages. If you eat meat, cut back on the red meat and emphasize lean cuts as well as fish and chicken.

These are just a few ways you can make menopause more comfortable and healthier -- without hormone replacement therapy. In fact, if you combine exercise and dietary changes, you might find that menopause is one of the best times of your life!

Copyright 1999 by WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved.

Lifestyle Change as an Alternative to Hormone Therapy for Menopause
Beyond Hormones: Other Treatment for Menopause Symptoms
Related Message Board: WebMD Women's Health Place: Menopause Forum

American Medical Association: Menopause FAQs
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