Women discuss 'the change'

Kendrick Brinson/Staff
Barbara Kantrowitz (left) laughs as co-author Pat Wingert motions while she describes the myths of menopause to a group of women at the Augusta Marriott Hotel & Suites. The speakers discussed their research for their book Is It Hot in Here? Or Is It Me? in the event sponsored by MCG Health Inc.

When she began having hot flashes recently and then trouble remembering things, Audrey Brannon thought they might be related. When she asked her doctor's office about it, "they passed on it," said Mrs. Brannon, 48.

 

She was among the more than 400 women who packed a ballroom Monday to hear from the authors of a comprehensive guide to menopause, Is It Hot in Here? Or Is It Me?, in an event sponsored by MCG Health Inc.

When Newsweek writers Pat Wingert and Barbara Kantrowitz began their journey through menopause, they found that there was no authoritative, science-based guide that satisfied them. Everyone has advice for girls approaching puberty and pregnant women, Ms. Wingert said.

"But when women get to midlife, they're really on their own," she said. Add to that the aftermath of the Women's Health Initiative findings in 2002. The study turned on its head the longheld notion that estrogen protects the heart by finding that hormone therapy increased the risk for some women of heart attack and stroke.

"There are a lot of women who became distrustful of their doctors after this," Ms. Wingert said. "They were very upset. And you saw women go and try all kinds of alternative therapies for which there was even less research, because they were afraid to follow their doctors' advice.

"They just don't trust conventional medicine any more," Ms. Kantrowitz said.

The new thinking is that taking hormones to relieve menopause symptoms should be individual to each woman.

"Not all women should be taking hormones," Ms. Kantrowitz said. "There are other things you can do. A lot of women find that lifestyle changes like wearing lighter clothing, exercising, changing your diet, just tracking whatever your hot flash triggers are, that can make a big difference."

Though many people groan when they hear that they need to exercise more, it can help menopausal women on a number of fronts, including weight gain from a slowing metabolism, Ms. Wingert said.

"You might be able to reduce your hot flashes, reduce your heart disease risk, reduce your cancer risk," she said. Exercise can also help with sleep and mood, which many women struggle with during menopause, Ms. Kantrowitz said.

It helps not to approach menopause as an illness but a transition that marks another of life's milestones, she said.

"Men don't have that moment, that sort of alarm bell going off to say, OK, you are no longer young, you have to pay attention," she said. "But women do. And it's kind of a blessing in disguise."

Studies have found that changes now will have an impact into the future, Ms. Wingert said.

"One of the bottom line conclusions was what kind of health you're in at mid-life, that's a predictor of how you're going to age," she said. "So when you realize that, you realize you have to start making these changes now."

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or tom.corwin@augustachronicle.com.

MANAGE HOT FLASHES

There are some simple things women suffering from hot flashes can do that might provide relief without turning to hormones or other prescriptions:

- Add some exercise. This might help not only with hot flashes but with weight control and improving mood and sleep;

- Wear lighter clothing and dress in layers;

- Keep a diary of things that seem to trigger hot flashes and work to reduce them. Spicy foods and caffeine bother some women;

- Stop smoking

- Drink more water

Source: Is It Hot in Here? Or Is It Me? by Pat Wingert and Barbara Kantrowitz