Enjoy Your Menopause!

March 27, 2010

One Hour of Exercise a Day Keeps the Fat Away

According to new findings by Harvard Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, if a middle-aged or older woman with a normal body mass index wants to maintain her weight over an extended period, she must engage in the equivalent of 60 minutes per day of physical activity at a moderate intensity. 

This dispels the previous theory that at least 30 minute of moderate exercise 3 times a week was sufficient.

It’s true–exercise is a key component to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but so is eating less.

While this study may help explain the amount of physical activity a middle-aged woman needs, it fails to address  some other important issues that may or may not play a role in maintaining her normal weight:

1)  At what rate does our metabolism slow down based on our age.  For example, does the metabolism of a 40, 50and 60-year-old slow down at the same pace?

2)  What impact does any medications we take have on our exercise and weight gain or loss?

3)  What role, if any, does a family history play in our ability to lose weight?

4)  How much exercise must we do in order to see definitive weight loss and how long can we expect to sustain it?

5)  Is there a standard caloric intake based on the results of this study?

January 4, 2010

Baby Boomer Women, Menopause and Memory

Some of us joke about not being able to find or remember things during menopause but have you ever stopped to wonder if you could be in the early stages of Alzheimer’s or some other dementia? Do you worry that you are losing your memory, and don’t know what to do about it?

One mental health expert offers these 5 tips to help keep your brain and memory active as you age:

#1. Increase your Fitness

Every time you move your body and raise your heart rate, it increases blood flow to the brain and produces endorphins. Not only are endorphins 50 times more potent than any pain medication, but they also help you feel better. A happier and calmer mind produces lower amounts of the stress hormone, cortisol ( found in high quantities in Alzheimer’s disease). When your mind is quiet, you will retrieve information from your brain more easily. Your immune system is stronger, minimizing your risk of developing degenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Doing a variety of activities – at least 30 minutes, 5-7 days a week – stimulates brain growth, reduces boredom and keeps injury rate down.

#2 Good Nutrition

Do you ever hear the expression…”you are what you eat’?

While researching natural remedies for my rising blood sugars and pressure, I discovered that low-glycemic carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, grains) are key. They reduce sugar crashes, and cravings throughout the day; stabilize moods; boosts energy, and takes away the ‘fuzzy’ mind at the end of a work day. To maintain a constant energy level, eat smaller meals and snacks 5 times a day.

The brain requires a balance of:

1. carbohydrates for energy;
2. good fats (omega 3- salmon, almonds, avocados) to nourish brain tissue (brain is 60% fat by solid weight);
3. protein (lean meats, soy, legumes, nuts) for balancing blood sugars, and building our neurotransmitters – serotonin and dopamine, for mood control. High fiber foods-grains and nuts – are also critical.

The debate over nutritional supplements is ongoing. More research is supporting the benefits of a good multivitamin/mineral to reduce oxidative stresses and to fill the gaps in our diet. Ginkgo biloba, which increases blood flow to the brain, has also been suggested.

Did you know that the brain is 80% water? By drinking 6-10 glasses of water throughout the day, you will feel less fatigue and ‘foggy’ brain moments. Limiting coffee (dehydrating) to 1-2 cups/day, and alcohol, which damages brain tissue, are a good idea.

#3 Brain Exercises

Our brain has a ‘plasticity’ switch – very active in children. When you learn new skills and tasks, it increases the activity in the hippocampus or memory areas. Adults have a tendency to develop routines – drive the same way to work, have tedious jobs, regular daily habits etc.

Turning on this plasticity switch is as easy as brushing your hair or teeth with non-dominant hand; playing a new sport; taking music lessons or using your creativity in a craft. Other ways to stimulate brain cells – puzzles (crosswords, Sudoku, jigsaw); doing simple math, such as mentally adding up your grocery bill while standing in a line-up, or counting backwards from 100 by 2; reading; playing cards; board games…the list is endless.

#4 Meditate, Yoga, Journal

Calming your mind allows you to live in the ‘present’ moment. There are no worries in this moment, allowing you to feel happier and seeing more of the beauty around you.

Meditating (10-20 minutes/day) is relaxing and clears the pathways for information to flow through your mind effortlessly.

Yoga teaches deep, diaphragmatic breathing – increasing oxygen supply to your body and improving lymph flow, which carries away toxins.

Gratitude journal (writing 5 things you are grateful for every day) helps to focus more on the ‘abundance’ in your life. According to the Universal Law of Attraction – whatever you predominantly think about, you will attract more of it.

#5 Have Fun – Laugh

More than once, I have heard that I am the average of the 5 people whom I spend the most time with. Everyone emits energy – some people are more positive than others. If you want to feel happier and energized, spend time with friends who are more optimistic, and fun to be with. It is refreshing to watch children play and laugh. Why do we have to give that up just because we are grown-ups?

Laughing releases endorphins…happy mind = healthy brain.

It is difficult not to continue writing more tips – such as sleeping 6-8 hours/night (I couldn’t resist adding another one) – but I will save those for another time. The number of baby boomers diagnosed with early onset (before age 65) Alzheimer’s and dementia is rising steadily every year. The good news…research and personal experience are showing that, regardless of our age, we can do something to raise the lid on our brain’s potential.

It takes 21 days to establish a habit. Why not start weaving some of these tips into your life today?

July 20, 2009

Urinary Incontinence

Urinary incontinence is one of those annoying symptoms of menopause.  Like vaginal dryness, women don’t really want to talk about it–not even to their doctors.  But it is something that should be addressed because it can be a very embarrassing situation if it happens at an inconvenient time. 

Urinary incontinence is the inability to control the release of urine from your bladder. Some people experience occasional, minor leaks — or dribbles — of urine. Others wet their clothes frequently.

Types of urinary incontinence include:

  • Stress incontinence. This is loss of urine when you exert pressure — stress — on your bladder by coughing, sneezing, laughing, exercising or lifting something heavy. Stress incontinence occurs when the sphincter muscle of the bladder is weakened. In women, physical changes resulting from pregnancy, childbirth and menopause can cause stress incontinence. In men, removal of the prostate gland can lead to this type of incontinence.
  • Urge incontinence. This is a sudden, intense urge to urinate, followed by an involuntary loss of urine. Your bladder muscle contracts and may give you a warning of only a few seconds to a minute to reach a toilet. With urge incontinence, you may need to urinate often, including throughout the night. Urge incontinence may be caused by urinary tract infections, bladder irritants, bowel problems, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, injury or nervous system damage associated with multiple sclerosis. If there’s no known cause, urge incontinence is also called overactive bladder.
  • Overflow incontinence. If you frequently or constantly dribble urine, you may have overflow incontinence, which is an inability to empty your bladder. Sometimes you may feel as if you never completely empty your bladder. When you try to urinate, you may produce only a weak stream of urine. This type of incontinence may occur in people with a damaged bladder, blocked urethra or nerve damage from diabetes and in men with prostate gland problems.
  • Mixed incontinence. If you experience symptoms of more than one type of urinary incontinence, such as stress incontinence and urge incontinence, you have mixed incontinence.
  • Functional incontinence. Many older adults, especially people in nursing homes, experience incontinence simply because a physical or mental impairment keeps them from making it to the toilet in time. For example, a person with severe arthritis may not be able to unbutton his or her pants quickly enough. This is called functional incontinence.
  • Gross total incontinence. This term is sometimes used to describe continuous leaking of urine, day and night, or the periodic uncontrollable leaking of large volumes of urine. In such cases, the bladder has no storage capacity. Some people have this type of incontinence because they were born with an anatomical defect. This type of incontinence can be caused by injuries to the spinal cord or urinary system or by an abnormal opening (fistula) between the bladder and an adjacent structure, such as the vagina.

When to see a doctor
You may feel uncomfortable discussing incontinence with your doctor. But if incontinence is frequent or is affecting your quality of life, seeking medical advice is important for several reasons:

  • Urinary incontinence may indicate a more serious underlying condition, especially if it’s associated with blood in your urine.
  • Urinary incontinence may be causing you to restrict your activities and limit your social interactions to avoid embarrassment.
  • Urinary incontinence may increase the risk of falls in older adults as they rush to make it to the toilet.

***Part of this article is courtesy of the Mayo Clinic website.***

March 5, 2009

How Your Marriage Affects Your Heart

Filed under: health and wellness — Beverly Mahone @ 8:44 pm
Tags: ,

Women in strained marriages are more likely to feel depressed and suffer high blood pressure, obesity and other signs of “metabolic syndrome,” a group of risk factors for heart disease, stroke and diabetes, University of Utah psychologists found.

The same study found men in strained marriages also are more likely to feel depressed, yet – unlike women – do not face an increased risk of metabolic syndrome, which is characterized by five symptoms: hypertension, obesity around the waistline, high blood sugar, high triglycerides and low levels of HDL, which is “good cholesterol.”

Women who reported experiencing more conflict, hostility and disagreement with their spouses would be more depressed, which in turn would be associated with a higher risk of heart disease due to metabolic syndrome.  

Heart disease is the number one killer of women. 

So what’s the answer?   Try getting along better and enjoying each other more, which should improve your mood.  If that doesn’t work, get a divorce!

December 31, 2008

Marriage & Menopause

Women who have a poor relationship with their spouse may face a serious bout with depression during menopause according to some medical experts.

Women in distressed marriages have higher levels of stress, less physical activity, and may find themselves isolated from the public more often than not.

According to researchers at Ohio State University, the increases in stress and other problems that come with a distressed marital relationship can have real health consequences. 

Symptoms of depression can range from physical signs to obvious emotional feelings. Many women suffering from depression suffer from cognitive problems including poor concentration and memory loss; while others find that their bodies require more or less food or sleep. Emotional symptoms may include increased anger as well as feelings of malaise and hopelessness.

 

One of the first steps should be to get a complete physical examination and discuss with your Primary HealthCare provider the symptoms and effects of the depression you are suffering from. Once that is accomplished the two of you can then decide on a course of treatment.

Whether your depression is brought on by the circumstances in life or the chemicals affecting the neurotransmitters in your brain, you can manage and conquer depression caused by Menopause.

December 28, 2008

Menopause and Smoking

Filed under: health and wellness,menopause — Beverly Mahone @ 7:03 pm
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Studies show female smokers are more likely to experience unusual vaginal discharge, bleeding and irregular periods. Smoking can also cause women to reach natural menopause one to two years earlier than non-smokers or ex-smokers. Menstrual abnormalities and early menopause may be caused by a toxic effect on the ovaries or by the significantly lower levels of estrogens noted in many studies of women smokers. The likelihood is related to the number of cigarettes smoked, with those smoking more than ten cigarettes a day having an increased risk of an early menopause. Beginning to smoke as a teenager increases a woman’s risk of early menopause three times.

December 16, 2008

Hot Flashes not be Menopause-Related

I had an appointment this morning with my gynecologist, Dr. Katrina Avery.  I was telling her how my hot flashes felt like they were intensifying and she told me something I didn’t know.

She said your hot flashes aren’t always related to menopause.  A thyroid disorder can also trigger them.  I suffer from Hypothyroidism in addition to being in full-blown menopause.  

According to information from the New York Thyroid Center, Hypothyroidism occurs most frequently in women entering menopause, which typically occurs in their late 40s and early 50s. However, women with hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism may have an earlier onset, or premature, menopause (occurring before age 40) with infrequent or absent periods. Often symptoms of hyperthyroidism, such as irregular or absent menses, heat intolerance, “hot flashes,” insomnia, and mood swings may overlap with and be confused with symptoms of menopause.

If you suffer from hot flashes and you’re too young to be in menopause, it’s best to get your thyroid checked and then discuss with your doctor the best course of treatment.    But remember this, if hot flashes don’t interfere with your life, you don’t need treatment. If you choose to take medication or a supplement to help ease your symptoms, periodically re-evaluate your need for continuing it. For most women, hot flashes fade gradually and require no treatment.

You know what? I have a very smart doctor who takes really good care of me.

December 12, 2008

Smoke Now Pay Later

For the past couple of years, I’ve been blaming the pudge around my waisteline on menopause.  Everything I’ve read indicates menopause is a culprit that causes weight gain as the result of a slower metabolism.

But today I am learning that menopause may not be the lone cause for middle-age spread.

According to a report released today out of Finland,  teen smokers are more likely to experience obesity as adults.  Even though I didn’t smoke as a teenager, I did pick up the nasty habit in my early late 20s and continued until my early 40s.   

According to the Finland study, girls who smoke 10 cigarettes per day or more are at greatest risk, particularly for abdominal obesity. Their waist sizes are 1.34 inches larger than nonsmokers’ waists are as young adults.  

But smoking in adolescence did not necessarily predict weight problems for men, according to the study.

Scientists know a correlation exists between women’s weight and smoking,  but they don’t know why smoking doesn’t necessarily affect a man’s weight. 

The young women who smoked more than 10 cigarettes per day were 2.32 times more likely to become overweight than nonsmokers, according to the study.

Researchers say the difference could be either biological or cultural.  Biologically, it might be that tobacco and gender specific hormones interact differently in girls and boys in ways that affect appetite and fat distribution.

“My hunch is that women are more likely to smoke for weight control, especially in adolescence,” said Sherry Pagoto, assistant professor in clinical psychology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. “When people do quit smoking, one of the reasons they gain weight is that they increase their consumption of foods. They’ll start snacking at the times they used to smoke.”

December 10, 2008

Sex and Heart Disease

Filed under: health and wellness,Uncategorized — Beverly Mahone @ 2:18 pm

People who have a chronic illness — which may include heart disease, diabetes or asthma — may have ongoing pain or fatigue that can hinder a healthy sex life. 

The American Academy of Family Physicians offers suggestions for how to enjoy sex, despite having a chronic illness:

  • Figure out what time of day you feel healthiest and most energized, and plan sex around those times.
  • Try to get plenty of rest, and make yourself feel as relaxed as possible.
  • Don’t have sex within two hours of eating.
  • If you take pain medicine, take it at least 30 minutes before having sex.
  • Drink only limited amounts of alcohol, and don’t use tobacco. Both can affect sexual performance.

November 30, 2008

Finding the Right Doctor for Menopause

Finding the right doctor is one of the most important decisions a woman can make as she is entering into menopause. This transition of life is one that requires a physician who will candidly discuss what it all means as well as offer all of the alternative forms of treatment. Often times, treatment of menopause results in anti-depressive medication or unnecessary hysterectomies.

Years ago, menopause was as taboo as mental illness. There was a stigma attached to women going through “the change.” In his book, (published 1966), Dr. Robert A. Wilson wrote, “Many women endure the passing years with cow-like passivity and disinter; and a disturbingly high number take refuge in sleeping pills, alcohol and sometimes even in suicide…The tragedy of menopause often destroys her character as well as her health.” It was that kind of attitude, from a so-called expert, that forced many women to suffer in silence, for fear of being ridiculed or labeled as crazy because of their hormonal imbalance.

But in this day and age, there is no reason women have to sit back and suffer in silence. The menopausal years are a time for us to take charge of their lives. When deciding on the right doctor, you should ask the following questions:

1) What is your Health Care Practioner’s training in menopause and in aging?
2) How knowledgeable is he or she about the menopause transition?
3) What classes on menopause and on aging have they attended or taught recently?
(You want a health care professional who’s up to date on current treatments)
4) Can you talk to your doctor openly?
5) Does he or she explain things in a way you can understand?
6) Is he/she willing to consult with other professionals on alternative treatments?
7) Does your health care provider give you information to help increase your
knowledge about menopause?
8) Does he/she review the pros and cons of Estrogen Replacement Therapy and
Hormone Replacement Therapy?
9) Does he/she discuss the side-effects of synthetic drugs?
10) Is your health care provider readily available? Having to wait a month or
more may not help you.

Remember, it’s your body. Keep asking questions until you get the answers you’re seeking so you can make a wise decision about your healthcare.

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