The report, A Guide to Women's Health Fifty and Forward, is available for $18 from health.harvard.edu/special_health_reports.
Dr. Celeste Robb-Nicholson, medical editor of the report, says "one thing I'm learning from my patients is that every woman is unique, not only in her genetic endowment but in her life experiences as well. And each woman ages differently. As a result, your health concerns aren't likely to be the same as they were 30 years ago, nor are they likely to be identical to those of your friends."
Among the most interesting sections in the book is one labeled "managing bothersome problems."
These include persistent menopausal symptoms. And while estrogen was prescribed for decades for these problems, by the late 1990s studies were showing the hormone therapy might actually increase the risk of heart attacks.
Non-hormonal approaches to menopausal symptoms the study suggests include:
- Dressing in layers to easily shed clothes and alleviate hot flashes.
- Sleeping in a cool room to avoid sleep disturbances from hot flashes.
- Using lubricants and moisturizers to relieve dryness and vaginal itching.
- Use prescription antidepressants to relieve depression and hot flashes.
- Regular exercise, such as brisk walking, has been shown to improve memory and help sleep problems in women 50-63 years old.
Of course, the report also includes understanding such health risks as Alzheimer's and stroke. Meanwhile, for all women - even those beyond menopause - the report suggests 10 steps to a longer and healthier life.