Department of “no kidding,” Part One: We love it when scientists spend years and millions establishing what most of us already knew. Tasked with looking into the mystery of postmenopausal libido, Seattle researchers discovered after studying 341 peri- and postmenopausal women, ages 45-55: “Factors associated with diminished libido in midlife are complex but include depression, disturbed sleep and night sweats.”  We’re still waiting for the new sex-positive spin on this, Swim With Me All Night Long (Or at Least at 4 A.M.).

What over what? Wendy at Menopause: The Blog was startled by some recent news about blood pressure in women over 45, and decided to consult some experts.

I came across a startling fact in this month’s Berkeley Wellness Letter. Apparently, hypertension drugs have replaced hormone therapy as the No. 1 medication for women age 45-64.

Another article, this one in The Mayo Clinic’s Women’s HealthSource, about blood pressure changes in women as they age, stated that women’s systolic pressure – that’s the top number in a BP reading and the one that’s more closely associated with heart disease risk and stroke in people over age 50- increases by about 5 millimeters of mercury with menopause.  So, is there a correlation between rising blood pressure and declining estrogen levels? I asked Dr. Sharonne Hayes, Director of the Women’s Heart Clinic at the Mayo Clinic….

Another strike against HRT: After last month’s snow-shower of unsurprise about HRT’s benefits for sleep and mood, other studies are telling us the kind of news no one wants to hear:

Women who take hormones to relieve symptoms of menopause have a higher risk of developing symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Also, women who use selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs), used to treat breast cancer and osteoporosis, also have a higher risk of developing reflux, according to a study in the Sept. 8 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Almost two-thirds of the population experience GERD during the course of a year, while 20 percent to 30 percent have problems weekly or even more often…

The authors of this study reviewed information on 51,637 postmenopausal women enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study. Participants had provided information on both postmenopausal hormone use as well as symptoms of GERD every two years from 1976 through 2002. Women who had used hormones had a 46 percent higher risk of having symptoms of GERD, compared with women who had never used postmenopausal hormones. Women currently using estrogen only had a 66 percent raised risk while those currently using combined estrogen and progesterone had a 41 percent increased risk.

The chances of developing GERD symptoms were higher with higher doses of hormones and longer duration of use. Current SERM users had a 39 percent increased risk, while women taking over-the-counter preparations had an increased risk of 37 percent.

Department of “no kidding,” the good news: Rather than rely on even rich anecdotes and testimonials, British researchers decided to perform one of those double-blind studies on what makes a healthy lifestyle. In particular, they looked at how moderate exercise and nutritional supplements could work together:

Some groups undertook low-resistance exercise once a week; others undertook high-resistance exercise twice a week. Within each group, some of the volunteers took protein and carbohydrate supplements while others did not.

The results suggested that older people would derive the most benefits if they took appropriate supplements coupled with low-intensity exercise. “Maintaining muscle performance and arresting muscle wastage can offer older people real improvements in their quality of life,” says Dr Gladys Pearson, who led the research. “Though we still need to assess precisely what level of exercise gives the best results, we believe we’ve shown that regular low-resistance exercise complemented by the right nutritional supplements could boost the well-being of the UK’s ageing population.”

— Chris L.

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