Menopause and HIV
August 12, 2015
There are other therapies available to treat menopausal symptoms. However, these may also have unwanted side effects or interact with HIV drugs. Many complementary therapies are not regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and therefore are not held to the same requirements for evidence of effectiveness as standard therapies. If you choose alternative therapies it is best to consult a skilled practitioner and let your regular health care provider know exactly what you are doing.
Other treatments may include:
- Traditional Chinese Medicine (e.g., acupuncture, Chinese herbs)
- Herbal or botanical supplements (e.g., soy, red clover, dong quai, kava, ginseng)
- Antidepressant drugs and/or counseling
- Mindfulness training
Your risk of bone loss, bone fractures, heart disease, and other conditions goes up as you age. Women living with HIV may face a higher risk of these diseases if they are experiencing metabolic changes, such as high cholesterol and triglycerides, and glucose (sugar) related problems.
Things you can do to stay healthy after menopause:
- Eat a healthy diet (see The Well Project's article on nutrition)
- Have your bone health checked and ask your health care provider if you need specific treatment to prevent bone loss:
- Calcium supplements (the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends that women under 50 take at least 1000 mg of calcium daily and that women over 50 take at least 1200 mg of calcium daily). Calcium supplements may interfere with certain HIV drugs, so it is important to speak to your health care provider before taking them.
- Prescription drugs to prevent bone loss (e.g., Fosamax, Actonel, or Boniva)
- Have your vitamin D level checked and take supplements as instructed by your provider
- Quit or try to cut down on smoking
- Use alcohol moderately (no more than one drink per day)
- Be physically active:
- Do some aerobic, or cardiovascular activity for 30 minutes five times a week (e.g., brisk walking) to prevent cardiovascular disease
- Include muscle-strengthening activity two times a week to prevent bone loss (for more information, see The Well Project's article on physical activity)
- Have a mammogram every one to two years (experts differ on how often women should get a screening mammogram; talk with your health care provider to make the right choice for you)
- Continue to have a GYN exam at least once a year with a cervical cancer screening test (for those who have a uterus)
- Remind your regular health care provider to check your cholesterol and triglycerides regularly
Each woman experiences the transition or "change" of menopause differently. It is important to remember that menopause is a normal, natural process. Menopause may signal the end of your fertility, but it is not the end of your femininity or sexuality. Some women experience symptoms that are mild and tolerable. For others, the symptoms are so severe that they impact quality of life. Decisions about treatment options are yours to make. Discuss your concerns and questions with your health care provider. He or she can help you weigh the risks and benefits.
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