If you are overweight, you may have elevated estrogen levels; fat cells actually produce the hormone, so extra weight can lead to too much estrogen in the body. This can be a serious problem because excess estrogen can fuel breast and uterine cancers. During menopause, on the other hand, all women experience a natural drop in estrogen levels, along with side effects that range from hot flashes to headaches to joint pain.
What You Can Do
I know I sound like a broken record, but if you carry extra pounds, exercising and watching your diet are essential: Losing weight can improve your estrogen balance and simultaneously reduce your risk of cancer. (An overweight or obese postmenopausal woman who loses just 5 percent of her weight could potentially cut her risk of breast cancer by up to 50 percent.) I also suggest that women with too much estrogen avoid foods that are high in phytoestrogens (plant compounds that mimic the hormone), such as whole soy products.
For women going through menopause, there is some evidence that herbal supplements such as hops and black cohosh may help alleviate symptoms. But if the symptoms interfere with your daily life, talk to your doctor to see if hormone replacement therapy is right for you.