Jeanne Tripplehorn 06.10.1963

Hormone Therapy

A Natural Remedy for Hot Flashes?? If you live in the LA area you might want to be part of this study.

10.22.12

Menopause Mind Proof: Not Losing Memory, But Brain Works Harder

12.8.11

Although we’ve been convinced that the Menopause Mind is real for a while now, hence this blog, finding empirical support for the connection between menopause and memory declines has been as easy as finding those car keys you left in the fridge.

 

Well, it seems like we’re both right and wrong. The Los Angeles Times just ran an piece on the findings of a recent study designed to examine whether or not post-menopausal women complaining of memory problems performed significantly worse on memory tests than women who did not share these complaints.  Researchers at the University of Vermont and Vanderbilt used functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to examine the brain activity of 22 women while they worked on various memory tasks. It turns out that the performance of the 12 women who complained of memory problems on these tests was no different from that of the 10 women who claimed that their memory was fine.

But, the researcher’s also found that the brains of the complainers were much more active than the non-complainers. Specifically, the action was increased in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which plays a role in intellectual functioning and working memory, and the anterior cingulate cortex, which is involved in a variety of autonomic  functions (think blood pressure,  heart rate) and cognitive functioning including decision making, learning and emotion.

 

So, what does this mean for you? Even though you feel like your memory is shot  (the subjective experience of menopause mind), it may not really be that bad (your objective memory ability), but your brain is probably working overtime to compensate for memory slips.  To us, this translates to the following:  if you feel like you have memory problems, they probably exist, but your brain kicks into high gear to make up for them. Keep in mind that this study was done with 22 women, all of whom were post-menopausal. They did not compare post-menopausal women with pre-menopausal women  This does not yet support the theory that physiological changes during menopause cause memory deficits. But it seems we’re one step closer to grasping the workings of the mind’s mysterious metamorphosis during and after menopause than we had been–although not entirely there.

 

The LA Times piece also includes a discussion of the findings from another recent study that examined hormone changes and brain matter. To put it very simply, they examined the brains of women before and after a brief round of hormone therapy (increased estrogen). They found an increase in the density of grey matter after hormone therapy. This suggests that hormones may influence brain’s functioning by playing a role in how much grey matter–the more grey matter, the better your cognitive functioning. But it’s still unclear what exactly is going on.  The University of Vermont and Vanderbilt researchers plan to test hormone therapy as a way to improve memory among the complainers.  Or, maybe they’ll just get them to stop complaining. We’ll keep you posted.

Hot Flashes May be Linked to Reduced Risk of Breast Cancer

2.1.11

Most women don’t look forward to hot flashes…they probably dread them. Well, there is some early evidence from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle that suggests that women who experience hot flashes may be at reduced risk for developing breast cancer–as much as 50% lower risk!


Women betwen the ages of 55 and 75 were asked about their menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes, sleep disturbances, changes in mood, and vaginal dryness. The only symptom statistically associated with breast cancer risk was hot flashes. This lends support to the idea that the higher the estrogen level, the higher the breast cancer risk.


Keep in mind that this is early evidence– which in research speak means that we’ll need more studies to see if there are other factors that may be contributing to the lower risk.  You should still continue screening for breast cancer. But maybe the next time you heat up, this information can give you a little piece of mind.

Hot Flashes, Hot Flushes, Night Sweats: “Hot Women” Takes On New Meaning

5.30.10

 

I will never forget my first major hot flash. I was in my office interviewing a distinguished and very serious couple who were clearly distressed about the wife’s memory problems. As I was addressing their concerns in my most professional manner—WHAMMM! Suddenly my heart began to race, and my whole body was on fire,   I turned bright red and the sweat started pouring down my face.   My wool suit became unbearably itchy and I wanted nothing more than to rip off my clothes and put my head in the sink.  Instead, I calmly took out a tissue, wiped my face and tried to ignore the husband’s horrified expression.


 

Do you know why we have hot flashes during perimenopause? You’re not alone; no one else does either. That’s why there isn’t a pill specifically designed for hot flashes. When a drug company gets close, I’m buying up their stock. Can you imagine the demand?


 

What we call hot flashes, hot flushes and night sweats are all vasomotor symptoms. These vasomotor symptoms occur in about 88% of perimenopausal women and 74% of menipausal women.   For some women they diminish after one year – for some women they last 30 years!!


 

What we do know is that we have a thermostat in our bodies that closely regulates our body temperature.  We have also known for some time that estrogen plays a key role in hot flashes which is why Estrogen Replacement Therapy (ERT) is viewed as the most effective tried and true method for controlling them.


 

Here’s the good news for us “Hot Women”: now that we are beginning to understand how other factors such as neurotransmitters affect our thermostat we have additional ways to combat hot flashes.


 

Anti-depressant medications, specifically those that alter neurotransmitters (such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors – SSRIs) can reduce the frequency and severity of hot flashes by up to 50%.  A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology* reported that SSRIs have been shown to minimize hot flashes, but it seems that citalopram (A.K.A  Celexa or Cipramil) might stand out above the rest. The added benefit is that SSRIs have been shown to improve mood, sleep, anxiety and overall quality of life in menopausal women.


 

Unfortunately, so many women I know refuse to go on SSRI’s because they consider it admitting defeat or failure.  But, like in most areas, women need to let themselves off the hook.  They need to admit that their neurotransmitters are out-of-wack and that it’s not their fault.  The simple fact is that SSRI’s can help to give you back your premenopausal self. So if you’re feeling particularly steamy these days, go make an appointment with your doctor and check out your options.