Since the sudden halt of the National Institutes of Health clinical study of the effects of the hormone Prempro, more women than ever are interested in how to create midlife health without the use of synthetic hormones. The Women's Health Initiative study was terminated in July 2002 because Prempro, which combines estrogen with progestin, appears to increase a woman's risk of breast cancer as well heart disease and stroke.

"The NIH finding was unexpected. It has been a real negative for women, driving them to consider options besides hormone-replacement therapy," says Susan Lark, M.D., one of the nation's leading authorities on the use of lifestyle and nutritional approaches to women's health.

Further fanning the flames was the release of a study in March 2003 (from the same Women's Health Initiative) showing that conventional hormone-replacement does not significantly improve mood, mental ability, sexual function or menopausal symptoms.

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Here's the good news, though. There are effective "do-it-yourself" alternatives to conventional-hormone formulations for easing the physical and emotional symptoms of perimenopause, the 10-15 years before menopause when a woman's monthly period comes to an end. Below is a "master plan" from which to create your own program for perimenopause relief.

Here, Discovery Health Online presents top solutions for seven common perimenopausal symptoms from three leading women's health experts: Susan Lark, M.D., nutritionist Ann Louise Gittleman, Ph.D., and Christiane Northrup, M.D.