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sad woman right smSome 15 million Americans experience depression each year, and the majority of them are women. One out of four women will suffer from depression during their lifetime, but two-thirds of them won't ask for help, in part because so many myths persist about what depression is and how to treat it.

Depression is a medical illness and a biological condition that occurs when key brain chemicals that carry signals between nerves are out of balance.  While female hormones can affect these brain chemicals, depression in women isn't something simply caused by menstruation, pregnancy or menopause.

Depression is not self-pity or something that you can cure yourself by sheer will. Anyone can develop depression, whether it's caused by difficult personal experiences or it just appears.  According to the National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms of depression can include:

  •     Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” feelings
  •     Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
  •     Irritability, restlessness, anxiety
  •     Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or helplessness
  •     Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
  •     Fatigue and decreased energy
  •     Difficulty concentrating, remembering details and making decisions
  •     Insomnia, waking up during the night, or excessive sleeping
  •     Overeating, or appetite loss
  •     Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
  •     Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that don't respond to treatment


If these symptoms persist for more than a few weeks, you may be suffering from depression and it's time to see your doctor. Certain medications, and some medical conditions such as viruses or a thyroid disorder, can cause the same symptoms as depression. If these are ruled out, your doctor can conduct a psychological evaluation or refer you to a mental health professional.

There are also online mental health screening tools available to help you evaluate yourself and recommend steps for follow-up care. These brief  questionnaires are completely anonymous and confidential.

The good news is that treatment for depression can be effective quickly. Antidepressant drugs can begin to work in four to six weeks, and for mild to moderate depression, talk therapy can work as well as drugs. A National Institute of Mental Health study found that 70% of people suffering from depression became symptom-free through medications, though not always with the first medicine. Studies also show that the best treatment can be combining medication and talk therapy.


woman handweightsThroughout life, your bones are constantly being replaced as the body breaks down old bone cells and builds new ones. Bone turnover begins to outpace new bone production when estrogen levels start to fall during menopause. But you're not destined to a live an older life with frail bones and a higher risk of fractures. There are steps you can take now to build better bones, no matter your age.

Lifting weights and exercises that you do while standing up, like walking, running, jogging, dancing, or step aerobics are an excellent way to build bone density. Aim for 30 minutes on most days for stronger, denser bones.

Make sure you have plenty of calcium in your diet. You'll find it in dairy products like low-fat or fat-free milk, and fish such as salmon. Green leafy vegetables are also rich in calcium. If you’re not getting enough calcium from your diet, talk to your doctor about supplements.

While you're adding calcium, be sure that what you're drinking isn't working against you. Caffeine flushes calcium from your body, so watch out for regular coffee, tea, and caffeinated soft drinks, and skip those high-caffeine energy drinks.

Likewise, moderate your alcohol intake, because it can keep your body from absorbing calcium. If you drink, limit yourself to one glass per day. Salty foods can also cause you to lose calcium and that can speed bone loss.

Vitamin D is important to building strong bones, and the good news is that it's easy to get. Exposure to sunlight helps your body replenish its stores of vitamin D. Many foods are fortified with vitamin D, and calcium supplements for women often include this vitamin as well.

As menopause arrives, you may want to talk to your doctor about osteoporosis drugs that that can help increase your bone strength. These medications slow your bone’s reabsorption rate, so you lose less bone. These can be delivered orally or as an IV and on schedules that range from weekly doses to annual treatments.

Whatever your age, make a point of eating a well-balanced, healthy diet with lots of dairy, fish, fruits, and vegetables and maintain a healthy weight. The stronger your bones are now, the better off you’ll be when bone density begins to decline.


menopause ahead signMaybe it's still years away, but many women worry about moving into menopause and what effect it will have on their lives. The good news is that you can do more than just wait for those hot flashes, night sweats and irregular periods to start.

Menopause occurs when a woman has not had a period for 12 consecutive months. Perimenopause is the time when symptoms begin, and it can last for five to 10 years.  Your doctor can help you make decisions to ease you through this time, but you can take steps yourself to minimize symptoms later.

Menopause doesn't cause weight gain, but the change in hormones that occurs can make it harder to maintain a normal weight.  To get a head start on controlling weight gain in menopause, try to achieve a healthy weight now. Find an exercise plan that you can stick with and control your calories and food portions if your weight starts to rise.

Estrogen helps a woman's bones stay healthy, and the brittle bone condition known as osteoporosis can occur when estrogen levels drop. You can build stronger bones now by by getting enough calcium and vitamin D. Weight-bearing and resistance exercise can also improve your bone strength. Your doctor can test your bone density now to see if you'll be at higher risk for osteoporosis as you get older.

And if you're a smoker, try to kick the habit soon. Research has linked smoking to earlier menopause and more severe menopause symptoms, and women who smoke may be twice as likely to have hot flashes. If you stop smoking before you start menopause, you can reduce your symptoms.


older woman sleepingIf you're finding it difficult to get enough shut-eye during menopause, you're not alone. About two out of three menopausal women report having trouble sleeping, but there are ways to beat those odds and get a good night's sleep:

talking about your sex lifeWomen's health covers a lot of topics, from fertility to osteoporosis and hot flashes to stretch marks. But the one constant in every phase of a woman's life is her sexuality, and it's a subject that often goes unmentioned in conversations between women and their health care providers.

In a recent survey, less than 10 percent of gynecologists said they spoke to their patients about sexual issues, and only 28 percent offered appointments solely for sexual health problems. The subject of sexual health isn't completely ignored. The Journal of Sexual Medicine reports that gynecologists tend to ask women about their sex lives and sexual health after childbirth, at the start of menopause, following gynecological surgery, or when choosing a new birth control method. Even though sexual problems are regarded as an important issue in gynecological care, the study concluded that addressing a patient's sexuality on a regular basis is still not part of routine practice.

Northline Women's Health Center Locations:

15675 Northline Road

Southgate, MI 48195

(734) 282-3600
(734) 282-3603 - Fax

23050 West Road, Suite 210

Brownstown Twp., MI 48183

(734) 362-7000
(734) 362-7077 - Fax