Hormones have many benefits, may have effect on Alzheimer's

People's Pharmacy

February 11, 1997|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

My doctor is urging me to take hormones. She says that estrogen will help me through menopause, keep my bones strong and prevent heart disease. I don't like taking pills, but when she told me estrogen could also ward off Alzheimer's disease, she got my attention.

My grandmother is in a nursing home and cannot remember who we are. It breaks my heart. If estrogen can prevent that, then I am ready.

Are there any side effects? My doctor makes hormones sound very appealing, but she never talks about problems.

Your physician is right about the benefits of estrogen. It eases menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness.

In addition, this hormone can strengthen bones and protect the heart. And preliminary research does suggest that estrogen may delay or perhaps even prevent Alzheimer's disease for some people. But it is still too soon to know for sure whether estrogen will truly protect most women from senile dementia.

As with all drugs, estrogen can cause side effects for some people. Headaches, blood clots, gallbladder disease and nausea are just some of the possible complications.

Cancer of the uterine lining is a real risk, but can be counteracted with progesterone. Unfortunately, progesterone may cause blood clots, migraines, lowered libido and depression.

The most controversial issue regarding estrogen is the risk of breast cancer. Some studies report a 30 percent to 40 percent increase. More research is needed.

For a copy of our "Guide to Estrogen: Benefits, Risks and Interactions," send $2 with a long, stamped, self-addressed envelope to Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. W-299, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, N.C. 27717-2027.

You have written many times about the adverse interactions of grapefruit with some medications. Because I take no prescription medicines, I generally skip past those questions and answers. However, I recently began to wonder if there might be a similar detrimental interaction with nutritional supplements -- vitamins, minerals and herbs.

As far as we can tell, there is no research on this issue. It seems unlikely, though, that grapefruit would affect your vitamins or minerals. Herbs may be another story, but there is no way to predict which ones.

For 30 years I used to drink four to six beers nightly. I have just discontinued this habit. How long should I wait before it is safe for me to take Tylenol without risking liver damage?

Congratulations on making such a big change. Your liver should return to normal within a few weeks or months. As long as you keep your acetaminophen (Tylenol) intake below the maximum recommended on the label, you should be safe shortly.

I am a pharmacist and recently a customer came in with a prescription for Tagamet to get rid of warts. I've never heard of this. Can you enlighten me?

A preliminary report in the June 1996 Archives of Dermatology described 80 percent success with Tagamet (cimetidine) eliminating warts.

Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist. Dr. Teresa Graedon is a medical anthropologist and nutrition expert.

Pub Date: 2/11/97

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