I know estrogen might seem like an usual topic for my blog, but stick with me on this one. Because I am guessing that more than 50% of the readers of this blog are women. And the rest of the readers are somehow related to, working with or living with a woman. So, the topic is pretty relevant to everyone.
So, last week my doctor recommended the book Estrogen Matters to me.
At some time in a woman’s life, she will have the opportunity to decide whether or not to take estrogen—whether it’s making the choice to take birth control pills (which contain estrogen) or to take estrogen later in life when she begins to go through menopause.
Like many baby boomers, I was on birth control pills for more than 30 years (from college until my early 50s). But when I started to go through menopause, my doctor suggested that I take hormone replacement therapy (HRT—a combination of estrogen AND progesterone). My doctor (at that time it was a male doctor) assured me that it was safe, that it would keep my moods even, eliminate those pesky hot flashes, and help keep my skin soft and “young looking.”
But each year when I went to see my doctor, I would ask him if I should continue taking my HRT. Was it safe? Especially after my sister Jackie was diagnosed with breast cancer 11 years ago, my doctor and I had many conversations. I was aware of the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study that took place more than 20 years ago, and some of the results were interpreted to imply that taking estrogen could increase the risk for breast cancer.
My male doctor retired a few years ago, and my new doctor (a woman this time) and I continued these discussions each year. She assured me that the research showed that, in fact, the benefits of taking estrogen after menopause were significant. Especially for heart and brain health. Plus, it helps keep your skin looking young (and that is something I really appreciate).
But about six months ago, one of my annual health tests had a somewhat unusual result. And I got scared. I decided that I should stop taking my HRT. My doctor told me it was my choice, but warned me of the side effects: most notably, frequent and extreme hot flashes and insomnia. And some extra muscle aches and pains.
And that’s what I have been experiencing for the last six months: raging hot flashes several times a day and insomnia many times a week.
So last week, when I went back to see a different doctor and mentioned that I stopped my HRT a few months ago, she told me she would not have recommended that to me. She gently suggested I read the book, Estrogen Matters: Why Taking Hormones in Menopause Can Improve Women’s Well-Being and Lengthen Their Lives—Without Raising the Risk of Breast Cancer. On my way home that day, I downloaded the book on Audible and started listening to it.
I could not stop listening to the book, narrated by two authors: Avrum Bluming, MD, and Carol Tavis, PhD. I appreciated the detailed and balanced research that Dr. Tavis included, and it was compelling to hear Dr. Bluming give personal examples of his debates with other physicians.
The two scientifically proven benefits of estrogen that got my attention the most may inspire you to get the book and read it for yourself. Estrogen is proven to maintain and improve:
1) brain health (think memory loss and Alzheimer’s prevention), and
2) heart health (think stroke and heart attacks)
Those two things alone (brain and heart health)—which are always top of mind as we get into our 50s, 60s and 70s—made it an easy decision for me to go back on my hormone replacement therapy. I’ve already re-ordered my prescriptions and can’t wait for them to arrive.
If you have an interest in improving women’s well-being and lengthening their lives, either for yourself or a loved one, get this book. It’s an easy read, and it’s great to have the history and the facts about why estrogen matters.