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Surviving Menopause, Among Other Things

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None of it sounds like fun. But which aspect of menopause do American women regard as most daunting? That's one of the questions posed in a poll conducted for Parade magazine and Research!America. Presented with a list of unpleasant choices, women gave the most mentions to physical discomfort/hot flashes (33 percent), followed by mood swings (17 percent), depression (8 percent), hormonal changes (7 percent) and osteoporosis (5 percent). But 24 percent said "nothing" about going through menopause concerns them the most—which either means they're unfazed by the matter or that multiple aspects of it seem equally awful. Another of the report's statistics tends to support the more optimistic explanation: Eighty percent of menopausal women experience hot flashes and night sweats, but they're "severe and persistent in only about 10 percent of cases."

In any case, few women seem to fear that menopause marks the end to the enjoyable part of their lives. Asked whether "a woman's quality of life improves or diminishes after menopause," 23 percent said it "strongly improves" and 32 percent said it "somewhat improves." Many fewer said the quality of life "strongly diminishes" (4 percent) or "somewhat diminishes" (14 percent). Women who have reached menopause (or already passed through it) seem to rise to the occasion. When asked to say how well they've coped with the experience, just 10 percent said "not well," vs. 62 percent saying "very well" and 27 percent "somewhat well." Elsewhere in this section of the study, 35 percent of respondents said they've taken such female reproductive hormones as estrogen and progesterone. When these women were asked whether the recent negative news reports about hormone replacement therapy have prompted them to change or stop such treatment themselves, 56 percent of them said "no" and 40 percent said "yes."

Other sections of the survey examined women's health more broadly. As the chart here indicates, women are concerned about all of the obvious life-threatening diseases. It's striking, though, that depression tops the roster of threats to quality of life for women—garnering more mentions than heart disease and obesity combined. At the same time, the poll detected "a growing awareness among women that heart disease is their No. 1 killer." When asked to identify the foremost cause of death among women, 47 percent of the respondents correctly cited heart disease. Another 42 percent pointed to cancer. While women are scarcely oblivious to the threat of skin cancer, many of them are failing to protect themselves adequately against it. Fifty-four percent of the women said they have never gone to a dermatologist. Nearly as many of them (48 percent) admitted that they don't routinely wear sunscreen.