Menopause and Me: Ireland’s Minister for Health, Mary Harney, today published "Menopause and Me," hailed as the largest ever study in Ireland on awareness, attitudes and experiences of menopause. The Women’s Health Council carried out the study, and it’s available online.

Here’s an excerpt from The Irish Times:

Some 59 per cent of women aged 35-54 said they wanted more information on the menopause. Just 8 per cent said the menopause had "no effect" on their lives.

The top four menopause symptoms were hot flushes, night sweats, irritability and mood swings.

According to the research, the majority of women found it difficult to identify when exactly their menopause began. Two in every three women aged 40 and over attended their GP to confirm their menopausal status.

Hormone replacement therapy remains the most effective treatment for menopausal symptoms. A total of 19 per cent, or nearly one in five, menopausal women in Ireland are using or have used HRT. The majority of these women (69 per cent) used the treatment for less than four years.

Continue reading the media coverage or go directly to the report’s website, which also includes a forum and useful links.

Are You Vitamin D-Ficient?: Vitamin D, which comes primarily
from the sun, has long been touted for helping calcium build strong
bones. Now as more research points to vitamin D’s role in helping to
prevent colon cancer, multiple sclerosis, diabetes and heart disease,
some doctors are concerned we’re not getting enough. From the Miami Herald:

Blacks and Hispanics with darker skin are more susceptible
to D deficiency because it takes two to five times longer for them to
absorb D from the sun.

Also vulnerable: Adults older than 50 because as we age, the human body
can’t synthesize vitamin D efficiently and the kidneys are less able to
convert D to its active hormone form. Infants who are exclusively
breastfed also are at risk because D requirements cannot be met by
breast milk alone.

Lifestyles play an important factor, too. Anyone who spends most of
their time indoors and does not take vitamin D supplements is
considered to be at risk. Even clothes can make a difference. (A study
in Kuwait found that veiled women had lower D concentrations.)

The story includes an audio interview with Dr. Silvina Levis,
director of the University of Miami Osteoporosis Center. There’s also
sidebar information on vitamin D research and examples of foods rich
in vitamin D — know that to get recommended 800 to 1,000 units of
vitamin D daily, you’d have to eat 50 eggs. One tablespoon of cod
liver oil does the trick.

Plus: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports on a new method for assessing bone fracture risk that takes many factors into
account instead of relying
mainly on results from a bone mineral density test.

"Something like 10 million
Americans have osteoporosis [a significant loss of bone mass], and
another 33 to 34 million have low bone mass [or osteopenia] and are
also at risk for fractures," said Dr. Ethel Siris, president of the
National Osteoporosis Foundation, and a professor of clinical medicine
at Columbia University in New York. "We know that one in two women and
probably one in five men will fracture a bone because of
osteoporosis-related issues after age 50."

Take Two on Time Off: "This year marks the 15th anniversary of the landmark Family and Medical Leave Act, which made it possible for many workers to take unpaid job-protected time off to care for their newborn children or sick relatives," writes Nancy Trejos at the Washington Post. "But instead of celebrating, workers’ rights advocates and the Bush administration are battling over what would be the most sweeping revisions ever to the law."

Protecting Your DNA Information: Last week we wrote about the availability of genetic testing. The decision to go forward carries many questions, but at least one worry has been removed: By a 95-0 vote, the Senate Thursday passed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, which protects people who learn through genetic testing that they might be susceptible to certain diseases from losing their jobs or their health insurance. From the AP:

The bill, described by Sen. Edward Kennedy as ”the first major new civil rights bill of the new century,” would bar health insurance companies from using genetic information to set premiums or determine enrollment eligibility. Similarly, employers could not use genetic information in hiring, firing or promotion decisions.

”For the first time we act to prevent discrimination before it has taken firm hold and that’s why this legislation is unique and groundbreaking,” said Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, who sponsored the Senate bill with Sens. Kennedy, D-Mass., and Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.

Drug Disposal – No Easy Answers: Judith Graham, writing at the Chicago Tribune health blog Triage, attempts to make sense of recommendations for disposing of leftover medication, but it’s not easy when the government says one thing and environmentalists and pharmacists say another.

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