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Hot Flashes & Hormones

Unity Hospital Event Has Some Fun with Hot Flashes, Hormones

May 23, 2012   

Written by
Arlene Hisiger
“It’s like a heat wave,
Burnin’ in my heart,
I can’t keep from cryin’,
It’s tearing me apart.”
-- “Heat Wave”, Holland- Dozier- Holland
Remember this Sixties song? Ah, the rollercoaster of love!

Now consider these same lyrics as describing the phenomenon known as hot flashes. Still feeling romantic? I didn’t think so.

While most have experienced the former, only women experience the latter.

What indeed is a woman to do when her inner thermostat prompts her to -- even in the dead of a Rochester winter -- ask for a side order of ice with her hamburger and fries?

A panel of Unity Hospital Health System experts came armed with answers to this most vexing question and all manner of menopause-related issues, at the May 22 Unity Health sponsored “Hot Flashes, Hormones, and Hors D’oeuvres” evening event which was held in Mario’s Restaurant’s event hall in Rochester. The 250 attendees, who came for some straight talk on the subject, were eager to question them.

Following refreshments, attendees had the option to submit their written questions to be read aloud by Julie Albert, N.P., Unity Ob/Gyn, the program’s moderator, or to present their questions directly to the panel. Most chose to submit their questions in writing to the five-member panel of experts comprised of: Dr. Michelle Chin, M.D.; Dr. Sarah Taylor, M.D.; Dr. Alice Hoagland, PhD.; Mary Reisig, W.H.N.P. and Ila Hughes, P.A.

“Hormone Replacement Therapy is not the devil,” Dr. Michelle Chin, M.D., UMG Senior Consultant for Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery, was quick to point out. It’s gotten a lot of bad press, but it can be very helpful. Menopause typically lasts from four to ten years. That’s a long time to suffer. The bottom line is: Don’t suffer silently, we can offer help.”

“Women frequently go through menopause experiencing sleep disorder, this may or may not be connected to menopause but when a woman enters menopause that is when she starts to see significant changes in her ‘sleep architecture’,” said Dr. Alice Hoagland, PhD., Insomnia Clinic Director, Unity Sleep Disorder Center. These changes may manifest as fragmented sleep or sleep apnea. Dr. Hoagland emphasized that while most people think of sleep apnea primarily as a male sleep disorder; in fact, this disorder does affect women as well. And, during menopause the incidence is identical to that in men.

Dr. Susan Taylor, M.D., Cardiologist, Director of Clinical Electrophysiology, Unity Health, stressed the importance of becoming familiar with your pulse rate. “Women often experience palpitations and arrhythmias or abnormal heart rhythms during menopause. This may be a true irregular heartbeat or it may just be an increased awareness due to a shift in hormonal balance,” she said. Getting in the habit of taking your pulse on a regular basis will go a long way toward screening for possible cardio irregularities.

Oprah Winfrey, Suzanne Sommers and Dr. Mehmet Oz, have popularized bio-identical hormones as a means to more effectively alleviate menopausal symptoms. Ila Hughes, P.A., Integrative Medicine Specialist, Unity Ob/Gyn, has extensive experience with bio-identical hormones.

These prescription and/or herbal-based hormones are compounded at a compounding pharmacy and are tailored to the individual. The benefit to using these hormones is that it is easier to adjust dosages and that it is specifically tailored to the individual’s needs. The down side is that often insurance companies do not cover this form of hormone therapy.

Mary Reising, Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP), Unity Ob/Gyn, stressed the importance of diet and exercise as means to maintaining life-long good health, citing the example of one woman whom she encouraged to walk at least twenty minutes a day who lost twenty pounds after one year of walking a mile a day.

The official definition of menopause, the connection between menopause and memory loss, and how to deal with decreased libido were some of the topics discussed.

A brief sampling of attendees proved the forum was well received. Consultant, Yvonne Jackson, shared that she came to the event on the advice of a friend. She was surprised to learn about the negative effect drinking soda has on bone density.

While Kathy Neidert, a social worker, attended the event because she is currently in menopause and was seeking new information. She was very enthusiastic about the Q&A format. Her take-away message was that “it was not all doom and gloom – not hopeless, that with regular exercise it is possible to increase muscle mass and lose weight.”

A video of the program will be available online at www.unityhealth.org on June 13, 2012.