A woman fights ageing in a way which men do not. There is something deeply psychologically important to a woman in her looks and the alteration in physical beauty that accompanies the transition into middle age and beyond is often disturbing and humiliating for her. Yet celebrity figures like Elizabeth Taylor, Raquel Welch and Joan Collins have shown that traditional beliefs in when a woman looks her age have to be revised considerably.
The battle against ageing really begins before the menopause. And as I advise all patients, anti-ageing is really only about good general health. To the degree you eat the right foods, take adequate nutritional supplements, minimize stress, exercise regularly and form good sleep habits, to that degree you are engaged in anti-ageing. But there is one extra dimension for a woman – hormones!
A woman’s life is controlled by hormones in a way which is much more pronounced than the male. Imbalances can wreak havoc with a woman’s psyche, persona and physical well-being. Traditionally, this has been ignored or written off as mere “womanish” things; scorn or impatience has more often been handed out than sympathy and effective care. Science has, until recently, largely failed the fair sex. Self-prescribing and the search for “alternatives” is a sure sign that the mainstream is out of tune with the problem.
We understand things a little better now. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT), though seen as a menace by some, has transformed many women’s lives from hell into something more normal. It is our certain belief that we will come to understand more and more about this aspect of health physiology and that the benefits will increase as we do so. It is an especial interest for many scientists and doctors that we try to find as many natural regulatory methods as possible.
In the anti-ageing context, HRT has already made significant inroads. Use, however, is concentrated on the immediate post-menopausal period. It is a somewhat adventurous doctor that tries to use his or her understanding of physiology to help a woman in her sixties or beyond cope with the manifestations of declining hormones.
Most doctors take the attitude “Why should we bother. Age and the accompanying symptoms are inevitable and we shouldn’t interfere”. This is just another failure to bring aid under the guise of science.
With the steadily rising life expectancy and the emergence of the science of anti-ageing, we have been forced to review many attitudes and standards. With countless examples of people being happy, healthy, energetic and sexually active into their 70s, 80s and even beyond, it is no longer valid to leave people to suffer unwanted symptoms on the phoney grounds that they are somehow “supposed to” have them.
Age is not a prison or a penance (even though it has been viewed that way in the past).
We come back to HRT.
With the advance of years, women suffer a decline in their vital sex hormones, oestrogen and progesterone. After giving due attention to establishing and maintaining good general health and vigour, it makes sense to restore levels of these hormones to more youthful levels. Oestrogen-like activity in particular is important, in that it protects against loss of bone density and heart disease. Diminished secretion of oestrogen may result in a degree of masculinization, which is unacceptable. More importantly, it may mean the woman is assuming a male risk profile of heart attacks and stroke.
The trouble is that oestrogen is perceived as dangerous, owing to the role it plays in stimulating certain tumours. This is only half scientific; you will readily see that women in their teens and twenties, with floods of these “dangerous” hormones in their blood, do not have a higher incidence of cancer of the cervix or breast.
However, we know for sure that after the Women’s Health Initiative Prempro study, published in 2002, breast cancer rates in the US fell by a dramatic 15%. This is almost certainly because women millions of women stopped taking Prempro, a synthetic meonpausal hormone replacement therapy. The WHI study, a large clinical trial looking at Prempro, made by Wyeth, found that women taking the estrogen-containing drug had higher breast cancer rates and more heart attacks, strokes and blood clots. Within six months, the drug’s sales had fallen by 50 percent.
Following this (the very next year), the incidence of the all breast cancer types, started to downturn and dropped by 7 percent in 2003, or about 14,000 cases, according to a recent report by the National Cancer Institute. This is the first time that breast cancer rates have fallen significantly since 1945. Up till now, the rates had climbed steadily (despite all the propaganda that we were supposed to be “winning” the Cancer War!)
The biggest decrease overall was seen in women ages 50 to 69. That is the group most likely to have been taking menopausal hormones.
Predictably, the Wyeth spokesperson Candace Steele was quickly on the case, trying to fudge the issue by arguing that “breast cancer is a complex disease and the causes are not known.”
And, Steele added, “clearly, more studies are warranted.” Too bad they didn’t do these extra studies years ago then, when they started selling Prempro!
Until 2002, as many as a third of American women over age 50 were taking menopausal hormones. The drugs could relieve symptoms like hot flashes, and were thought to protect against heart disease. Because the pills were known to slow bone loss, some women used them to prevent osteoporosis. Some women and doctors also believed, without any good evidence, that the pills could keep skin youthful, preserve memory and make women energetic.
The use of estrogen to treat menopause took off in 1966, when a doctor, Robert Wilson, wrote the best-selling book “Feminine Forever” and flew across the country promoting it. He insisted that estrogen could keep women young, healthy and attractive.
He was wrong; he made his millions. And women died. Remember that when you are tempted to buy Suzanne Somers’ book, with the fake touched up photo on the cover. Given the context, I take deliberately removing signs of her aging, which are clearly present when you see her in person, to be little more than lying to get more book sales. It’s the “Feminine Forever” story all over again but under a different guise.
She is promoting that so-called “bio-identical hormones” are a valid replacement. Most plant exatracts are a fraud and have little effect. Soy isoflavones, for example, tested double-blind with strict scientific vigor, had no benefit over the placebo. Black cohosh has little mroe than zero effect but is dangerous to the liver.
However, a new wonder substance has suddenly emerged and is getting alternative doctors who care about this issue (including me) quite excited. It saves me having to explain all other herbal sources!
It’s called Pueraria mirifica, a new wonder herb from Thailand. In fact someone has jokingly called it H.R.T = herbal remedy from Thailand!
Rather than repeat myself, let’s go to this new page and talk some more about it: pueraria mirifica