r. Christiane Northrup, one of American women's most trusted medical advisers, challenged conventional wisdom in Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom by arguing that common medical problems are often rooted in the basic circumstances of women's lives and can be addressed by listening to their bodies. Now, in The Wisdom of Menopause, Northrup once again contests the axiom that menopause is a collection of physical ailments to be fixed through drugs or herbs. Rather, she contends that this stage in a woman's life is an opportunity for growth not available since puberty. Instead of dreading menopause, the book urges women to understand that Midlife is when we hear the wake-up call that demands that we start honoring our own needs. This new book stresses how the choices a woman makes at midlife, from the quality of her relationships to the quality of her diet, either ensure or confound her emotional and physical health into old age.

Much of the advice in The Wisdom of Menopause is presented in a reassuring manner designed to give confidence to those approaching or going through menopause. Northrup offers a piece of common sense that binds all the advice in the book together: Our state of health and happiness depends more upon our perception of life events around us than upon the events themselves. By integrating the latest in medical techniques (hormone replacement) with the best natural remedies (diet, exercise and herb therapy), Northrup's holistic, mind/body approach offers guidance on choosing the right avenue for almost every aspect of this important time in a woman's life.

Intimate case histories from Northrup's practice and her own life illustrate how menopause literally rewires the brain, triggering a shift of priorities from caretaking and nesting to personal growth and more outward focuses. This rewiring occurs, according to the book, whether the change has come about naturally, surgically or pharmaceutically.

In addition to outlining the kinds of alterations a woman's body undergoes, the book elucidates how the body adjusts naturally to changing hormones; how to make personalized decisions about hormone replacement therapy and alternative supplements; how to rebalance metabolic shifts and prevent middle-age spread; how to prevent long-term health problems such as heart disease, hormone-related cancers and memory loss; and how to deal with the myths and realities of sexual changes and appearance issues. Ultimately, listening to the wake-up calls inherent in women's cyclic nature allows them to hear the true messages their bodies are sending: that menopause is a time of personal empowerment and positive energy, a time for women to break free and thrive.

Kelly Koepke writes from Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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