What Did the Study Show? 02 ( By TIME - Jul. 22. 2002 )

BREAST CANCER The WHI proved definitively what 30 earlier studies could not: HRT does indeed raise the risk of developing invasive breast cancer. Doctors note, however, that further research is needed to determine whether other types of estrogen used in HRT--the WHI studied only one combination--in different doses and combinations are associated with more or fewer breast-cancer cases.

--Bottom line: If you are concerned about breast cancer, HRT is out. Mammograms and self-exams are, of course, still in

STROKE As blood vessels age, they become less flexible, leading to a buildup in blood pressure that can cause strokes. Estrogen, with its tendency to promote blood clots, can add to this risk. Keeping blood pressure down with medication or relaxation programs such as yoga or meditation is a good way to fend off strokes.

--Bottom line: Get your blood pressure down, breathe deeply, and say no to hormones

ALZHEIMER'S Early studies hint that estrogen may help ward off Alzheimer's disease in older women. Some surveys have shown that women who take HRT are less likely to develop the disease, while others have demonstrated that women suffering from Alzheimer's can improve their short-term memory. More complete trials, including one that is part of the WHI, are under way to see if hormone therapy can help prevent or treat the disease.The WHI's results are expected in 2005.

--Bottom line: It's too early to say whether estrogen is helpful

What About Menopausal Symptoms? HRT works best for flushes, flashes and moodiness, but there are alternatives

HOT FLASHES --What they are When estrogen levels drop suddenly, as they do at menopause, the hypothalamus instructs the body to reset its thermostat. Sweating and flushing are the most common symptoms of this transition stage.

Options Natural remedies containing plant-based estrogen, including black cohosh, soy products and wild yams, may provide some relief.

VAGINAL DRYNESS --What it is When tissues, including those in the vagina, are deprived of estrogen, they lose their suppleness and become dry and irritated. Itching and discomfort may worsen with time.

Options Vaginal creams and flexible rings that are placed in the vagina to release low doses of estrogen can alleviate some discomfort. Vitamin E, taken orally or applied topically as a cream, may also help.

MOOD SWINGS --What they are For reasons that are poorly understood, the drastic drop in estrogen levels can cause irritability and depression. Lack of sleep from night sweats may also contribute to tiredness and changes in personality.

Options Relaxation exercises such as meditation or massage can reduce irritability, while antidepressants may be needed for more severe and enduring mood changes.


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