Monday, June 30, 2008

Women's Health, Hormones, Sun & Postpartum Depression

About 12 minutes long, this clip is a good primer for women who want basic information about hormonal health (particularly about postpartum depression -- towards the end of the video).

Test Your Menopause I.Q.

From developments at Wyeth (pending lawsuit in Canada and a new menopause drug -- Pristiq-- being readied to enter the market), recently released research studies about women and HRT (fewer are taking it), and the general confusing din about "HRT: good or bad?", I've decided to go back to basics... What is going on inside my own body? How can I use the resources I already have (my diet and nutritional choices, my ability to go outside and exercise, etc.) to make myself feel more in balance and ready for whatever changes come as I age? How can I keep my mind-set positive and upbeat -- and does state of mind really matter?

If you, too, need to be recentered in the midst of all this swirling confusion, here's a enlightening Test Your Menopause I.Q. quiz from Women to Women. There are so many myths and misunderstandings floating around out there about menopause, which ones are you still believing?

B.C. court clears path for HRT class-action suit

Oh, Canada! In British Columbia, a judge has just cleared the way for a class action lawsuit against Wyeth-Ayerst International. The lawsuit is being filed after hundreds of B.C. women claim they got breast cancer from taking the Wyeth-manufactured drugs Premarin and Premplus.

Officially, the lawsuit has one plaintiff so far. Dianna Stanway is the representative plaintiff in the court action that first must be certified by the court as a class action, allowing the other women to join.

Stanway alleges she got breast cancer after taking Premarin.

The drug's maker, Wyeth-Ayerst International, asked the court to dismiss the legal action, saying the Canadian women didn't have jurisdiction to sue the American firm.

But Justice Miriam Gropper refused to release the international firm from responsibility.

"I find that the U.S. defendants' admitted engagement in activities in relation to the Canadian companies and to consumers in Canada is sufficient to establish a real and substantial connection,'' she said in a written ruling released Monday.

More from here

Exercise as a Tonic for Aging

Skimming the headlines, this might seem like yet another exhortation for older Americans to be more active. No news there, Americans of all ages have grown steadily more sedentary over the past few decades. The New York Times, however, manages to uncover some new facts and recommendations specifically for the aging boomer crowd. What's the scoop? Aerobics is still in, but its time to add weight training and strengthening, stretching, and balancing activities (yoga) to reap the full benefits of physical fitness. More from the Times here.

Will Women Give Hormone Maker a Second Chance?

"Can Wyeth win back the 40 million Premarin and Prempro users it's lost since 2002 -- along with $1 billion a year in profits -- with a new menopause drug? Or will the once-bitten women who have filed more than 5,000 lawsuits claiming the hormones gave them cancer feel fooled twice?" asks Martha Rosenberg at, in this look at Wyeth's hope of marketing Pristiq as the first nonhormonal treatment for menopause symptoms. Basically, instead of synthetic hormones, now they're pushing anti-depressants as the ultimate cure for hot flashes.

File this one under, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again".

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Older Women Less Likely to Use HRT

According to a recent study by the Canadian Institute for Health Information, fewer older women in Canada are using hormone-replacement therapies (HRT) to treat symptoms of menopause, turning instead to natural remedies. As reported in the Vancouver Sun and other media outlets, researchers have found that only five per cent of women in five provinces who are 65 years and older use hormone-replacement therapies -- a drop from 14 per cent six years ago (when a report found the risks of using the menopause therapies outweigh the benefits).
From the Vancouver Sun piece, here's some HRT background and the specific stats contained in the study:

The first reports that estrogen-only hormone-replacement treatment could put women at higher risk of endometrial cancer began to emerge in the 1970s, leading to the development of combination therapies containing both progestin and estrogen hormones. Later studies, such as the 2002 Women's Health Initiative study, then uncovered important additional risks with the combination therapy, such as higher chances of developing coronary heart disease and stroke.

In Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, the use of hormone-replacement therapies declined each year between 2001-2002 and 2006-2007. The highest average annual rate of decline, 30 per cent, occurred in the two-year period after the publication of the Women's Health Initiative.

My gut reaction to this news? Bravo to those women reviewing the evidence, making choices, and following their own path healthy aging, despite attempts by the pharmaceutical industry to have them fall in lock-step with the drumbeat of HRT. In increasing numbers, we are awakening.

One note: The article indicates that many of the women declining HRT turn to natural methods of menopausal symptom relief instead. I would love to see some follow-up as to what these natural methods are -- and what are the results? Are most, all, some of the women taking BHRT (bioidenticals) or something else?
For those new to this topic of "HRT: good or bad?", here are some links to a few older posts written by Sue that go into this topic -- as well as some sites I've found helpful in my own quest for hormonal balance...

From My Menopause Blog
Breast Cancer and HRT: As HRT use falls, so do breast cancer rates.
Review of The New Menopause Book: Sue points out this book -- written by someone trained in both Eastern and Western medicine -- as a good starting point for women who want to understand the complexities of HRT research. I agree- it's a great book!

My own recommendation: Comprehensive women's health site for natural approaches to menopausal support. Two must-read articles, especially for those just beginning to consider the possibilities, include Perspectives on HRT Risk and Test Your Menopause I.Q.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Bursting for Beginners

Last month I wrote a bit about "bursting", the theory that frequent short bursts of exercise provide the body with as many -- if not more -- benefits as a longer workout. I was referring to the "Common Health Myths" article on -- the first place where I read about this type of exercise. Well, ever since then, I seem to have read about bursting in almost every checkout aisle magazine and women's health website I've visited! Seems like this idea is really starting to catch on. From one magazine article, here is an easy way to give your day a "burst" of energizing exercise:

1. Walk at an easy pace for 5 minutes.
2. Go fast for 15 seconds by increasing speed and pumping arms. Do this on a hill or incline to achieve maximum intensity. As you become accustomed to bursting, try to stretch the fast power walk to a full minute.
3. Slow down -- but don't stop -- for 30-60 seconds.
4. Keep alternating between fast and slow intervals.
5. Exercise for a total of 20-30 minutes. Shoot for exercising 3-5 days per week. Add in abdominal exercises for a total body strengthener!

Mind/Body Connection: Depression causes Type II Diabetes?

Fresh off the wires, the revelation of a mind-body connection linking two of the most common diseases 21st century men and women face: depression and Type II diabetes. According to study reported by Reuters Health news, people with depression have a higher than normal risk of developing the most common form of diabetes. What's more, the study indicated that the relationship between type 2 diabetes, the form of the disease closely linked to obesity and sedentary lifestyle, may be a bit like a two-way highway. Not only can diabetes lead to depression, as has been well established, but depression can also lead to diabetes.that sheds light on the interplay between the two conditions.

Is stress our big problem?

In a recent article from the Orlando Sentinetal, an experienced neurosurgeon reports that almost 75% of all his patients develop physical problems due to mental stress. Here's more on the surgeon's mind-body observations...

FORT WAYNE, Ind. - Neurosurgeon Rudy Kachmann understands how the brain works, how billions of nerve cells send signals to the body, coordinating movement, sensation and speech. He has removed tumors from the brain, probed deeply into structures where electrical misfiring occurs and uncovered hidden anomalies that can burst and cause sudden death.

But Kachmann, 71, of Fort Wayne, Ind., says the longer he engages in the art and science of medicine the more he recognizes the connection between emotions and disease. "Being a surgeon for 40 years has taught me that 70 to 75 percent of what people see a physician for is stress-related," he says.

Helping people understand the connection between mind and body has culminated in the Kachmann Mind Body Institute, inside Fort Wayne's Lutheran Hospital. The hospital does not operate the institute but rents the space to Kachmann, who is its medical director.

"I teach mind-body medicine," Kachmann says. "I tell patients I'm their coach."

More here...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Must-Do List for Healthy Aging

Many recent articles and news reports have recently featured tips on how to live to be 100+. Over at the Natural Holistic Health Blog, aging tips are boiled down into succinct bullet points. Here are a few below, the rest can be read here. I suspect this is a general list intended for both males and females.

Must-Do List for Healthy Aging

Calcium - (1,200 mg daily)
  • Protects bone mass
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Improves Insulin’s effectiveness at processing blood sugar

Chromium - (200 mcg daily)

  • Helps the body process blood sugar
  • Lowers Cholesterol
  • Aids weight loss efforts

Multivitamin/ mineral - (daily)

  • Prevents vitamin and mineral deficiencies
  • Reduces the risk of several diseases, including Heart Disease and osteoporosis

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Should women really “have no fears” about using HRT?

Wendy at Menopause - the Blog posted a great summary of what went down at the recent Global Summit on Women's Health. As you've probably already read or heard in the news, attendees at the health conference deemed HRT to be safe for perimenopausal women. But, as Wendy so astutely points out, the Global Summit meeting of experts was held “with the assistance of unrestricted educational grants” received from three pharmaceutical companies that manufacture and market hormones; Wyeth, Bayer-Schering and Novo Nordisk Femcare.

Says Wendy, "This diminishes, in my view, the value and integrity of the panel’s recommendations and they unfortunately missed an opportunity to move the HRT debate forward despite the research, analysis and debate that took place."

Visit Menopause the Blog for the entire entry and to leave your comments to Wendy's provocative questions about the relationship between pharmaceutical sponsorship and medical integrity. It's an important point to ponder.