Experts say the brief, five-visit insurance-reimbursed program helps a woman beat middle-aged spread, lowers her disease risks, and reduces episodes of hot flashes.
The program is detailed in an article just published online in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society.
Everyone knows that making lifestyle changes is a difficult task. Programs that have successfully helped women lose weight and reduce their other heart disease risks have been long and intensive — and they work as long as the program goes on.
Most primary care providers, be it an ob/gyn or a family medicine physician, do not have the time to spend on developing a plan to aid health behavioral intervention. And, even if they did, many plans will not reimburse the provider for the consultations.
The new pilot program, called WAIPointes (WAI stands for “who am I”), totaled five visits that all were reimbursed by insurance.
Researchers found that the intervention kept the participants engaged in achieving their health goals by showing them that they could reduce their menopause symptoms, in addition to their long-term disease risks, with healthy lifestyle changes.
The 83 women who completed the six-month program ranged from 35 to 55 years old, and most were in perimenopause or menopause.
At an orientation, the women learned about menopause and the health risks that come with it and were told they have the opportunity to get their personal health risks assessed if they joined the program.
At the first visit, they answered questionnaires and got assessments of body weight and fat and menopause status, and went home with a pedometer and a health diary, educational materials and goal-setting worksheets to develop their personal health goals.
From the second to the fifth visit, each woman had health assessments including waist measurement, blood pressure, menopause symptoms, mammograms, and bone density tests if needed, and blood tests to look for inflammation, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
Once a woman had her goals set, she discussed with the health care providers how to reach those goals, what obstacles stood in the way, and how to overcome them.
If distressing menopause symptoms were obstacles, the providers offered the women treatment options, such as lifestyle modifications or medications, to overcome them.
“Empowerment through education is a cornerstone of our intervention,” wrote the authors.
Subsequent surveys of the participants and ongoing health assessments show that approach is effective.
Researchers found that by the end of the program, the women understood their health risks better, and they had already made significant progress toward achieving their health goals.
Participants trimmed their waistlines by an average of an inch and a half and lowered their diastolic blood pressure by two points.
What’s more, their hot flashes and other menopause symptoms, such as energy, libido, mood, and vaginal dryness, had all improved significantly.
And each woman had a “life action plan,” with personalized recommendations, to continue working toward their health goals.