Test Your Menopause Knowledge

By Our Bodies Ourselves | October 3, 2006

Take the Menopause quiz and test your knowledge

True or False?
  1. After menopause, women suffer from estrogen deficiency; we either have estrogen levels that are too low or have no estrogen at all.
  2. If you are having a hysterectomy, the surgeon might as well remove your ovaries too in order to prevent future disease.
  3. Deep breathing techniques can reduce the intensity of hot flashes.
  4. Weight gain is inevitable as we approach menopause.
  5. It is a good idea to get a baseline bone density test at age 50.
  6. Vitamin D deficiency is common.
  7. Estrogen prevents heart disease and stroke.
  8. At the time you experience menopause, your risk of getting breast cancer is 1 in 7.
  9. Bioidentical natural hormones are better than traditional hormone therapy.
  10. If your mother had an easy time with the menopause transition, you should.

1. False. Women dont stop producing estrogen altogether after menopause, but our estrogen levels do become lower. This is not a deficiency but an expected developmental change. Once ovulation and menstrual cycles stop, we still make estrone, a less active type of estrogen, by converting androgen to estrogen in fatty tissue. Estrone continues to provide our bodies with a source of estrogen after menopause.

2. False. For many years, it has been standard medical practice to remove healthy ovaries at the time of hysterectomy in order to eliminate the possibility of the woman developing ovarian cancer. However, this practice may be changing. Recent research indicates that the risk of developing ovarian cancer after hysterectomy without removal of the ovaries is considerably lower than the risk of ovarian cancer in the general population. Moreover, women whose ovaries are removed prior to age 65 have shorter life spans than women who keep their ovaries. This suggests that the benefits of preserving your healthy ovaries will probably outweigh the risks. However, there is ample medical evidence that, even if one or both ovaries remain intact, the trauma of hysterectomy alone may interfere with ovarian function.

3. True. Researchers have found relaxation techniques involving progressive muscle relaxation and deep-breathing exercises reduced self-reported hot flashes by about 50 percent. Objective skin temperature measurements were used to help demonstrate that the women who learned and practiced breathing techniques were most effectively able to reduce the number of hot flashes.

4. False. Whereas our metabolism slows and we lose muscle mass with age, weight gain need not be inevitable. The menopause transition is a good time to make small changes in our diets, like choosing healthier foods more often and limiting junk foods, and to increase the amount of exercise we get — strategies proven to prevent gain and even lead to weight loss.

5. False. No study has ever shown that bone density measurements taken at age 50 accurately predict later fractures. Some studies have shown, however, that bone density measurements at age sixty-five or older have some predictive value. No randomized controlled studies show a benefit for bone density testing.

6. True. Severe vitamin D deficiency characterized by low calcium in the blood or bone deformities known as rickets is now uncommon in most developed countries. However, subclinical vitamin D deficiency (or vitamin D insufficiency) is common and may contribute to the development of osteoporosis and increase the risk of fractures.

7. False. Estrogen with progestin actually appears to increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. Estrogen alone, which is generally taken by women who have had a hysterectomy or oophorectomy, neither increases nor decreases the risk of heart attack, but does increase the risk of stroke.

8. False. The risk of developing breast cancer increases with age until ages 75 to 79; then it decreases. In an average woman, the risk that you will have developed breast cancer by the time you are between 40 and 59 years old is about 1 in 24; by the time you are 60 to 79 years old, 1 in 13, and only by the time you reach 80 or 85 is there as high as a 1 in 7 chance that you will have developed breast cancer at some point.

9. False. There is no evidence that bioidentical hormones are safer or more effective than other hormone therapy. Large research studies have not been conducted on bioidentical hormones, and the compounding pharmacies that prepare and distribute them are inadequately regulated. In the absence of data, women are probably best served by assuming that the potential harms of bioidentical hormones are similar to those of conventional hormones.

10. Unclear. It is not clear if this statement is true or false. There is little evidence from studies of mothers and daughters to determine the role of genetics in menopause. There is evidence that women whose mothers had an early menopause are more likely to have an early menopause. It is uncertain whether daughters of women who had severe problems around the time of menopause are more likely to have a similar experience.