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Menopause for Dummies

Understanding the changes in your body, mind, spirit

Adapted for Australia & New Zealand by Dr Lily Stojanovska, Assoc Professor; Marcia L. Jones, PhD; Teresa Eichenwald, MD

Published by Wiley Publishers

Menopause for Dummies Menopause for Dummies is a very welcome addition to the stable of "For Dummies": popular books for beginners.

In picking up the familiar yellow and black jacket book typical of the "For Dummies" series, the reader is immediately struck by the front cover photo of an attractive older woman reflecting beauty, warmth, and a sense of wisdom and serenity. It also signals the intended primary readership demographic for this book, the menopausal woman.

The authors deserve to be commended for undertaking the challenge of dealing with the complex subject of menopause in the "For Dummies" format.  The end result is a book that can be read either cover to cover, or by selective chapters of interest within which are cross-references to thematically related material in other chapters.

Crucial information is emphasised by repetition throughout the book in either prose or point form to reinforce understanding of the topics covered. The glossary is comprehensive and accessible, more than ably demystifying medical jargon - an important consideration for the general reader. Additionally, the thoroughly researched appendices list excellent other books and reputable websites that allows the more inquisitive reader to access additional information. A nice touch of humour is provided by the cartoons at the beginning of each major section of the book. They provide apt insights into very real issues that affect women in the latter part of their lives.  In keeping with the "For Dummies " format the authors have been able to cover all aspects of the menopausal transition in simple easy-to-read language, without the essence of the message being lost whilst maintaining accuracy of information and providing sound suggestions and guidelines for the general reader. Special mention should be given to the "language " used in this publication. In keeping with the "For Dummies " format throughout the book, everyday familiar analogies are used to explain medical concepts. Contemporary visual imagery is conjured up when phrases such as "ovaries are jumpstarted", "ovaries undergoing a career change" and "Team Hormone" are used!

The authors draw on their extensive experience both as academics and clinicians and their own personal life experiences that helps ground their comprehensive coverage of menopause in terms of a woman's everyday living. The material is thematically structured into four major parts. The first part defines the biology and psychology of menopause.  Part two deals with the effects of the menopausal transition on the body and mind as a whole as explained by the individual chapters on reproduction, breast cancer, osteoporosis, sexuality and cardiovascular disease. Part three moves on to providing a detailed analysis of hormone replacement therapy, alternative and complimentary therapies and includes helpful suggestions regarding self-management to prevent the onset of osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. Lifestyle issues in relation to "the change" are addressed in part four of the book. Good health is promoted by encouraging the reader to manage their weight and general level of fitness and wellbeing.

Whereas previous books on the topic of menopause have also dealt with the above-mentioned themes, a welcome feature of this book lies in that it includes a whole chapter that focuses on the menopause from a cultural perspective - the social perceptions and attitudes towards the menopausal phase of a woman's life. This will appeal to an even wider reading audience, be they medically trained or not, as contemporary societies in most countries of the world today are multicultural.

Particular note should be made of the fact that the authors underline that menopause is not to be regarded as a separate "entity" but as part of the continuum in the hormonal cycles of life. Of particular interest is the chapter on  "Surfaces and Sinuses: your Skin, Hair and Nasal Cavities". As some readers may have not made the connection that the changing hormonal status affects the whole body not just the reproductive organs, then this chapter is enlightening with its discussion of bodily changes that are not normally seen to be associated with menopause.

Perhaps surprisingly for some, even the male of the species is not forgotten, with  sections of chapters, and indeed a whole chapter, devoted to the topic of Male menopause/Andropause. They would benefit from reading not only that section but also about menopause in general. Not only would they find answers to the more troublesome questions regarding health in the older male, but also gain a better understanding of their female partners.

Many medical reference books written for the lay public outline a particular condition, its treatment and management and conclude by advising the reader to "go see a doctor". The authors of this book have excelled by including throughout the book analyses of doctors' answers where they explain why doctors may give a patient diverging and at times puzzling answers to frequently asked questions posed by patients regarding menopausal issues. This is always followed by advice as to where appropriate medical attention can be obtained.

The controversy surrounding the Women's Health Initiative trial (July 2002), triggered by the media frenzy due to the results being released to the lay public before the medical profession's assessment of them, is exhaustively analysed. A similar degree of attention has been given to hormone management post-WHI with particular emphasis on breast cancer and cardiovascular disease.

In conclusion, though the title of this book is " Menopause for Dummies," anyone reading it could certainly not call themselves a "Dummy" after reading this book! This comprehensive yet thorough book focuses on normalizing, debunking and demystifying most of the misconceptions held about menopause. Indeed I would go so far as to say that it motivates the reader towards better health outcomes and quality of life for the reader. Personal glimpses into the authors' private lives where they appear to practise what they preach adds credibility and authority to this book. Regardless of what stage a female reader is at in relation to the menopausal transition, they will find fascinating insights in this "Dummies" book to assist them in their own personal journey through menopause - and men would be the wiser to better understand this journey of their partners.

Dr Olga Ostrowskyj, MBBS

Hunter Women's Health and Menopause Centre

154 Lambton Road, Broadmeadow, Newcastle, NSW 2292

Content Updated 24 February, 2008

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