Updated: Apr 5
How to find your way through the maze the myths and misinformation.
When it comes to women's health, conflicting information exists at every turn. It’s overwhelming. And it often feels impossible to connect all the dots in order to choose the right journey.
Once upon a time, health “facts” were disseminated via the doctor’s office.
Now, with mass (mis)information at our fingertips, the volume of health decisions based on search-optimized headlines has never been louder. “Dr. Google” is a feeding ground for confusion.
Sadly, offline conversations are not any better as 59% of women aged 45-54 leave their medical appointments feeling either dismissed or disappointed—especially when the reason for their appointment is concerning menstruation or menopause. [InHerWords.ca study by BC Women’s Health Foundation, 2019]
Women’s health is paying the price for this derailment. And the “who to trust?” question is becoming even harder to answer.
In order to be an informed health seeker, the first person to trust is yourself.
·TIP 1: Ask yourself: “Is what I’m thinking actually true?”
Remember when we thought eggs were bad for us?
We carry long-held perceptions without question.
For example, you might assume hair loss is a part of aging.
But is that actually true?
We can do a better job of communicating the top two reasons for hair loss: iron deficiency and thyroid imbalance (and both are easily treatable!)
A glaring example of the misinformation highway is the long and twisted road known as hormone therapy.
Next year marks the 20th anniversary since the infamous 2002 Women’s Health Initiative Study (WHI) came to an early, abrupt halt and declared hormone therapy dangerous.
Poor research structure and poor dissemination of the study’s findings in 2002 left women fearing potential risks of hormone therapy without fully understanding all the benefits.
The fallout continues 20 years later as women try to fight through a maze led by under-informed media, marketers and sometimes, a not-so-well informed medical community.
So let’s draw a line in the sand.
Hormones are natural. And even though we’ve been conditioned to treat the word “hormones” like it’s a swear word (i.e. “She’s so hormonal!”), hormones are responsible for hundreds of important jobs in our bodies. It’s just that a woman’s body was designed to live to 50. Now we expect to reach 85 or 100—which means we are asking our bodies to do those same important jobs for another 3-5 decades without all the same ingredients we had in our 20s, 30s and 40s.
Hormone therapy is a prescription-based protocol designed to restore hormone balance, provide relief from mood swings, brain fog, hot flashes and more. And they can choose hormone therapy as an investment in their long-term brain, bone and heart health too.
Because every woman is at a different age and stage, and because our own hormones are constantly fluctuating, hormone therapy requires an individualized approach and the guidance of a hormone balance expert.
This means that what is right for your friend may not be right for you. The type of hormone therapy, its length, dosage and mode of delivery will vary, requires regular monitoring and often requires tweaking.
What about all the headlines that say hormone therapy is risky?
Check the date and source of what you’re reading.
Stop using Google to fact check.
Hormone therapy was once regarded as the gold standard for women’s midlife health. Then in 2002, the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study was stopped three years early. Researchers had been studying Premarin and Provera (brand names for non-bioidentical hormone therapy; bioidentical hormone therapy was not studied) and determined they were dangerous.
What the headlines and researchers failed to tell us at the time was that women in the study ranged from age 50-71. Hence, the study’s early results: propensity for blood clots, heart disease, stroke and breast cancer—should have been expected! Women in this age range are more susceptible to heart disease and breast cancer based on age alone!
The findings rocked the gynecological world leaving many physicians to discontinue the hormone therapy their patients had relied on for decades. But the researchers did not allude to any flaws in the study, so the damage was done.
Ideally, the WHI wanted to enroll 250,000 50 year-old participants, give them randomized treatment vs. placebo, and follow their health for 30 years.
But it was impossible to recruit that many women willing to be part of this experiment for that long. They settled for half the desired participants, with two-thirds 60+!
This flaw was never communicated with the “hormones cause breast cancer” headlines, and we are still living with the study’s misconceptions today—even though in 2017, the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) released an updated positioning statement on hormone therapy declaring it safe when an individualized risk assessment is conducted. Their guideline recommends women begin hormone therapy within 10 years of menopause (the 12-month anniversary of your final period) and before the age of 60.
TIP 2: Don’t make health decisions based on hearsay.
Women come to the MenopauseChicksCommunity.com convinced that hormone therapy causes breast cancer because their mother’s sister’s neighbor said so.
Yet, they are unconcerned that seven times as many women will die of heart disease this year than breast cancer.
Please don’t make health decisions based on hearsay.
Check with a reliable source, or member of your health team, for clarification, and then choose the journey right for you.
[from Estrogen Matters, Bluming & Tavris]
There is no current way to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia—except estrogen, sleep and quality omega 3s
Hormone therapy is regarded as the most effective treatment for any hormone imbalance that causes a disruption to the quality of a woman’s life. And the protective qualities of hormone therapy are now being recognized as an important investment in heart, brain and bone health for women post-menopause.
There is no evidence to support taking lowest dose for the shortest period of time. Women need the right hormones, administered at the right doses for their age and stage, and this can change over time.
Women who take hormone therapy live seven years longer, on average, than those who don’t.
One-in-three women will break a bone due to osteoporosis and hormone therapy can cut that risk in half.
TIP 3: Stop crossing your fingers and hoping for the best is not a health strategy.
Being your own health advocate takes work (and you are worth it!)
We are the first generation to reach 50 and have 50 more years to plan for.
However, to steer clear of osteoporosis, dementia, and incontinence, for example, it’s best to create a health plan today.
Seek the expertise of a hormone balance expert.
Ask your pharmacist to explain something you’ve always wondered.
Take a course.
Read a book.
Do one thing today that will put your health on track for the next 3-5 decades.