IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Reader mail: Dr. Reichman takes your pulse

We love to hear from you! In this week’s column, Dr. Reichman addresses some feedback from “Today” viewers and Web site users.

I love getting questions and comments arising from my appearances on the “Today” show and from this column.

Periodically, I will respond directly to some of them here. (Unfortunately, I cannot respond to them all.) You can write to me by using the form found at the base of this page.

------------

A 37-year-old woman from Fort Worth, Texas, wonders when she will stop getting her period — she has heard “it depends on when your mother’s ended.”

There is some truth to this, since hereditary factors govern many of your body’s traits and functions. But your menstrual history will not always mirror your mother’s. And you certainly will not be able to gauge the onset of menopause if your mother had a hysterectomy.

The average age of menopause for American women is 51.7. So, at the relatively young age of 37, you will likely have regular periods for at least another 10 years.

You may then go through irregular cycles (early periods, late periods, or spotting) three or four years before the final period, which is defined as menopause.

But you won’t know it’s the final one until a year has passed without an episode of bleeding. When the year is over, the term post-menopausal applies.

Another commonly-held belief — that if your period started at an early age it will stop at an early age -- is also not true.

------------------------------------------

Another viewer writes that she controls heavy bleeding, cramps, mood swings and other unpleasant menstrual symptoms with birth control pills. But now, in her late 30s, her doctor insists she stop taking the pill. She wonders whether this cease-and-desist is valid.

This is a case of outdated information insinuating itself into modern medicine and preventing the use of an appropriate and even healthful therapy.

More than a decade ago, it was thought that women over 35 should stop taking the pill because of concerns about heart attack and stroke. This risk is valid only for women over 35 who smoke or have uncontrolled high blood pressure.

We now know that if you don’t smoke and don’t have risk factors for heart disease or stroke (high blood pressure, blood-clotting abnormalities or severe migraines), you can take the pill until you’re menopausal.

Continuing the pill in your 40s not only helps your menstrual symptoms but evens out the fluctuating hormone levels of perimenopause and helps you cope with hot flashes and mood swings.

What’s more, the longer you stay on the pill, the more you decrease your risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer. If your doctor refuses to extend your prescription, you might want to get a second opinion.

-------------------------------------------

A reader wonders whether Vitamin C supplements help when you have a cold. (I mentioned on the show that it depends on the level of Vitamin C in your body.) He also asks whether it’s possible to determine your level of Vitamin C.

Supplemental Vitamin C can help — but only if you are deficient in the first place.

So, unless your diet is devoid of the Vitamin C found in fruits and vegetables, supplements will not prevent or treat a cold.

Because C is a water-soluble vitamin and the excess is excreted in urine about four hours after consumption, testing your level would be useless.

Your diet should include 75 to 90 mg of Vitamin C a day. This amount is easily attained through a glass of orange juice, an orange or a grapefruit. (Add some strawberries — they’re in season.)

A warning on megadoses: Supplements of more than 1000 mg a day can make you susceptible to kidney stones or, in rare cases, damage to other organs.

Dr. Judith Reichman, the “Today” show's medical contributor on women's health, has practiced obstetrics and gynecology for more than 20 years. You willl find many answers to your questions in her latest book, "Slow Your Clock Down: The Complete Guide to a Healthy, Younger You," published by William Morrow, a division of .

PLEASE NOTE: The information in this column should not be construed as providing specific medical advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand their lives and health. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician.