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Research Provides Further Justification For Women To Avoid Smoking

Women who smoke begin menopause a year earlier than nonsmokers, researchers concluded, adding that earlier menopause is associated with osteoporosis and heart disease.

Researchers conducted a meta-analysis of the available data about smoking and menopause, finding 11 studies comprising about 50,000 women, using age 50 as a threshold for early or late age at natural menopause (ANM). Results appeared in Menopause.

In five studies, participants were classified as Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

Rethinking Old Truisms: Menopause And Heart Disease

The idea that heart disease mortality rises dramatically at menopause has been one of the truisms of medicine that spawned a generation of hormone use by women and led to the rise and subsequent fall of Prempro in the Women’s Health Initiative, the end-all-be-all study that failed to prove the truism. The truism is still so strongly believed that research to prove it right continues, using different hormone formulations and different cohorts of women, in the hopes that the hormonal fountain of youth was just misbranded and given to the wrong aged cohort.

Now comes a landmark study that suggests that what we’ve thought all along about heart disease and menopause may actually be wrong.

Dhananjay Vaidya and colleagues at Johns Hopkins and the University of Alabama have re-analyzed mortality data on men and women in the UK and US and concluded that, contrary to popular belief, heart disease rates and mortality do not increase dramatically with menopause, but rather rise more gradually as a function of age in both men and women.

Our data show there is Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Blog That Ate Manhattan*

Lexapro For Treatment Of Hot Flashes

In a well done placebo-controlled study published in this week’s Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), use of escitalopram (Lexapro) reduced hot flashes in menopausal women.

Investigators enrolled 205 women, randomizing them to either Lexapro 10 mg or placebo, with instructions to increase to two pills a day if needed after four weeks. Lexapro users experienced about a 60 percent reduction in hot flash frequency over the eight-week study. About half ended up on the larger 20 mg daily dose by study’s end. The drug’s effect was apparent at about one week of use, and it was well tolerated.

As in almost studies of menopausal treatments, the placebo group also experienced a significant reduction in symptoms — about 40 percent — but the difference between placebo and drug groups was significant. Compared to placebo users, Lexapro users had a bigger rebound of symptoms when stopping their treatment, were more satisfied, and more likely to want to continue the study drug, another validation of the drug’s efficacy. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at tbtam*

HRT: No Wonder Women Are Confused

Confused about hormone replacement therapy (HRT)? I can’t imagine why…

*This blog post was originally published at tbtam*

HRT And Breast Cancer: The Confusion And Debate Continue

A new analysis of long-term data from the Women’s Health Initiative confirms what we already knew the first time around: Use of combination hormone replacement (HRT*) is associated with a small, but real, risk of breast cancer. This new 11-year followup data carries that knowledge out to its not unexpected conclusion — namely, that some (although not most) breast cancers can be fatal, and therefore the the use of HRT can increase breast cancer mortality.

While it may seem a bit of a “duh,” this study was, in fact, necessary to quell the WHI critics who continued to argue that the breast cancers caused by HRT were somehow less aggressive than those occurring off HRT (which they are not.) It was also a wake-up call for many women who were continuing to use HRT and thinking that somehow its risks did not apply to them. A fair number of these women appear to be coming off of HRT, at least in my practice. Others are staying the course and accepting the risks as they have been defined. Either of which is fine with me.

The spin going on around this study — both for and against HRT use — is tremendous and ultimately confusing to women. The pro-HRT crowd (some of whom have relationships to Pharma) is using language like: “The increased risk from using HRT for five years is the same as if your menopause occurred five years later,” which is technically true, but so what?  The bioidentical hormone crowd (usually also selling the same) are using the study to further hype how their regimens are safer than the evil Big Pharma products — based on no data. Which leaves the rest of us to try to find ways to help our patients understand the risks, place them into perspective for themselves, and make a decision about how and if to treat their menopausal symptoms. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at tbtam*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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