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Me and 100 women

Paul Andersen
Aspen CO, Colorado

I had a crash course last week in what it means to be a woman.

No, I didn’t have a sex change operation! I reported on a women’s health conference in Aspen sponsored by the Aspen Center for Integral Health and came away with the realization that I’m lucky to be a man.

I don’t mean to sound facetious. What I discovered over a day and a half of women’s health topics is that women are not so fortunate as men as they age, mainly because of hormones.



This is where most guys glaze over. Women’s hormones are to men what men’s sports blather is to women – incomprehensible. On the topic of hormones, estrogen and testosterone are like oil and water.

I was employed to write up the conference, so I paid close attention to Dr. Alan Altman of Harvard as he described a situation where it seems that women today are often treated as test cases for hormone experimentation.




This is because the life expectancy of American women has expanded in the last 200 years by three to five decades. The problem is that evolution has not caught up with the new longevity, so women are deprived prematurely of the hormones that give them health.

The key hormone here is estrogen, which provides women with reproductive capacity and a whole range of other needs. Until recently in our species’ history most humans died in their 30s or 40s, so the female body shuts down most estrogen production long before today’s life expectancy.

Without sufficient estrogen, many women past 50 fall prey to a decline in quality of life. Women live longer, but they have issues with the heart, brain, bones, skin, mucous membranes, genitalia, blood vessels, immune system, and joints. They are subject to mood swings, hot flashes, and sleep disorders.

Aging women continue producing testosterone, but without sufficient estrogen in their systems they suffer a hormonal imbalance that inhibits them from looking and feeling their best. For many, the prospects for a happy, fulfilling old age can be dismal.

Hormone therapy is vital for many women, but the science is relatively new and uncertain. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) must take into account a woman’s individual needs and determine the best way to administer hormones for the most consistent, beneficial results.

That’s why each generation of aging women becomes an experimental population, testing with their own bodies and minds the many hormone applications available – and there are plenty. Longevity, rather than a boon, can become a curse for women who are driven to a plethora of tenuous treatments.

Aside from hormone issues, other ACIH conference presenters offered inspiration for fitness and conditioning as a means to prolonged health and vitality, nutritional guidance in a world of heavily processed foods, tips for greening the average American household, and perspective on the stereotypes that have influenced female beauty throughout the ages.

Since beauty often equates with self-esteem, since health determines life outlook, since social pressure creates conformity on appearance, and since women make the majority of decisions regarding home products and cooking, this conference covered an enormous scope of responsibilities and challenges for women.

Any caring man exposed to what I was exposed to could not help feeling a pang of sympathy for women who are up against it with each year they age past 50. After my weekend with a hundred women I’m ready to go on Oprah and testify that feminism should move beyond a one-gender interest group into a broader issue shared by men.

I might get some ribbing for this at the gym (if I went to one), but men need a feminine perspective. Our concerns ” over losing head hair and gaining it elsewhere, growing a “BOB” (Belly-Over-Belt), and worrying that we’re no longer sexy to girls half our age ” pale when compared to loss of bone density, night sweats, and erratic mood swings.

Perhaps the first step is for men to realize that, compared to women, we have it pretty easy.