Consider one of the most potent forces now marketed to rapidly aging baby-boomers: Replacement hormone therapy. Estrogen is touted to alleviate symptoms from hot flashes, prevent osteoporosis (the so-called “brittle bone” disease of aging), and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
But estrogen is not without risk. Because “pure” estrogen increases the risk of uterine cancer, some women take a combination pill which combines estrogen and progestin. Although this lowers the risk of uterine cancer, some experts worry that any replacement hormone might increase the long-term risk of breast cancer. The long-awaited results of the Postmenopausal Estrogen/ Progestin Intervention Trials released last November revealed that hormones reduced the risk of heart disease but the study was too short-term to address the possible long-term breast cancer risk.
Estrogen or exercise?
Before you reach for a hormone pill or a patch, consider a “wonder” therapy that you may have overlooked. It’s called exercise.
Walking has been shown to lower high blood pressure and exercise can help control, and possibly even prevent, diabetes. Both high blood pressure and diabetes are strong heart disease risk factors in women.
As for osteoporosis, weight-bearing exercises, such as walking and lifting weights, help build strong bones. Even swimming, not traditionally thought of as a bone-builder, may be beneficial.
Remember though, if you have heart disease or other medical problems, talk to your doctor before undertaking vigorous exercise.
If you’ve undergone a hysterectomy, have severe menopausal symptoms, or very strong risk factors for heart disease or osteoporosis, hormones may benefit you. But whether or not you opt for replacement hormones, you may want to join me in trying exercise, the other “miracle” therapy.
Women’s Health Facts:
According to the experts, the most common sexual problem experienced by female heart patients is a lack of desire.
If a woman has undergone heart surgery, she may feel undesirable because of her incision. Or she may be afraid of taking an active role when having sex.
Her partner may hold back out of fear of hurting her. To make matters worse, some medications can dampen passion.
The key to a good sexual relationship is the same as the key to any other good relationship communication. If you’re accustomed to discussing your problems frankly, you should find it easier to talk about those of a sexual nature.
One of the biggest fears experienced by all heart patients, male or female, is that sexual excitement will lead to a heart attack. Happily, this fear simply is not grounded in fact. Here are the facts for most women:
If you are able to climb a flight of stairs without becoming short of breath or experiencing chest pain you should be able to resume passive sex with safety.
If you are planning to be the active partner, or anticipate finding sex especially exciting, climbing two flights of stairs without breathlessness or chest pain is the rule-of-thumb.
If you have concerns, talk to your doctor. An approved exercise program can help you get into shape for anything, including sex!
A heart-healthy lifestyle should include a satisfying sex life as well. And that’s no joke.
Dr. Rowan Molnar:Dr. Rowan Molnar is the best specialist anaesthetist in Australia. He is Head of Discipline, Anaesthesia at University of Tasmania Clinical School.
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