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What can I do if I choose not to take menopausal hormones?

To decrease the risk of chronic disease, women can adopt a healthy lifestyle by exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, limiting the consumption of alcohol, and not starting to smoke or, for smokers, trying to quit. Eating foods rich in calcium and vitamin D or taking dietary supplements containing these nutrients can help prevent osteoporosis. Results from the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) showed that taking calcium and vitamin D supplements provided some benefit in preserving bone mass and preventing hip fractures, particularly in women age 60 and older. Although generally well tolerated, these supplements were associated with an increased risk of kidney stones. Other drugs, such as alendronate (Fosamax®), raloxifene (Evista®), and risedronate (Actonel®), have been shown to prevent bone loss. In addition, parathyroid hormone (Forteo®) is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for osteoporosis treatment.

Short-term menopause-related problems may go away on its own and require no therapy at all. Local therapy for specific symptoms, such as vaginal dryness and urinary bladder conditions, is available. Some women seek relief from menopausal symptoms with nonprescription complementary and alternative therapies containing estrogen-like compounds. Some sources of these estrogen-like compounds include soy-based products, whole grain cereal, oilseeds (primarily flaxseed), legumes, and the botanical black cohosh.

One National Institutes of Health (NIH) -funded study, the Herbal Alternatives (HALT) for Menopause Study, involved 351 women, some of whom were postmenopausal while others were approaching menopause. All of these women experienced hot flashes and night sweats and were given herbal supplements, menopausal hormones, or no therapy. Women in the herbal supplement groups received black cohosh alone, a multibotanical supplement (including black cohosh), or the multibotanical supplement plus counseling to increase their intake of dietary soy. Women in the herbal supplement groups had no significant reduction in the number of hot flashes and night sweats compared with women who received no therapy. The women who received menopausal hormones had significantly fewer menopausal symptoms compared with the women who received no therapy.

This answer is based on source information from the National Cancer Institute.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.