Posts made in January, 2010

Baby got back

Posted by on Jan 18, 2010 in health, general, heart disease, menopause | 0 comments


Maybe Sir Mix-a-Lot has a point. It seems that a large derriere and thighs may actually extend your life. The reason? Researchers say that fat particles that end up in these areas help trap harmful fatty acids in our diet.

Although they are unsure of the exact reasons why, researchers do say that unlike abdominal fat, which has been linked to metabolic syndrome, lower body fat, i.e., fat that accumulates in the thighs and backside, has actually been confirmed to play a protective role in the body. In fact, it not only stores unhealthy fatty acids, but may also release harmful compounds more slowly than say, abdominal fat.

So if you’ve got back, are you in the clear to eat whatever you want? Not so fast. Even though “back” may offer a protective role, there are other reasons to eat and stay healthy – not only to maintain optimal cholesterol levels, but also to counteract some of the natural effects of declining estrogen, such as weakening bones.

(The study appeared in the January 12 online edition of the International Journal of Obesity.)

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Preventing heart disease in menopause. It’s as simple as L-D-L

Posted by on Jan 15, 2010 in estrogen, heart disease | 7 comments

Aging. It’s associated with all sorts of diseases. In women in particular, heart disease is a big red flag since there is a lot of evidence showing that after age 40, risk for developing heart disease rises and continues to rise.

So, is increased risk due to to aging in general or to menopause in particular? Moreover, is there anything you can do now to reverse the trend?

Researchers have recently solved an important piece of the puzzle, discovering that significant increases in cholesterol coincide with the period right before and immediately after menopause sets in. Coincidentally, at the same time, women experience significant declines in estrogen. In this particular trial, which involved over a thousand women, researchers examined various factors that might contribute to increased heart disease risk (e.g. blood fat levels, blood sugar and blood pressure). They then compared changes in these factors over time and whether they were more in sync with aging or with ovarian changes associated with menopause.

Over the course of three to five years before menopause, a year after, and then three to five years thereafter, substantial changes were noticed in blood fats, namely low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which rose as average of 12 points between the first two time periods and then leveled off a few points higher (from 113 and 116, to 125 to 130. Current guidelines suggest that optimal LDL levels are below 100 and that at the very least, individuals attain LDL cholesterol levels of <130 if they have two more heart disease risk factors (and preferably, lower).

So, what are the take-away messages?

  • First, declining levels of estrogen place women at risk for heart disease as they approach menopause, namely due to significant increases in LDL and total cholesterol.
  • Second, women nearing menopause need to know their cholesterol numbers and insure that that becomes a priority during a normal checkup.
  • Lastly, exercise and diet are key to lowering cholesterol levels, at least initially.

Both the National Lung Blood and Lung Institute and the American Heart Association recommend diets low in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol, and rich in whole grains, fiber, fish, lean meats and poultry. Exercise is essential, at least 30 minutes worth daily. Finally watch those risk factors and talk to your practitioner about those that may be problematic and what you can do to address them.

We may not be able to control declining estrogen but we can take positive steps to make sure that it doesn’t affect our risk for heart disease.

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Wednesday Bubble: Fiagra

Posted by on Jan 13, 2010 in sexual desire, sexual health | 0 comments

Sex sells. Even when it comes to menopause.

There is no such thing as Fiagra. But why not, heck, this manufacturer is hoping to make a mint off of your declining hormones.

For two weeks now, I’ve been a member of a user study examining  aromatherapy for stimulating sexual desire and arousal. I won’t reveal what I have (or have not) experienced until the study is over. However, I have gained a few important insights into sexual desire during midlife and how manufacturers are approaching it.

In the meantime, if it smells like a rat, and looks like a rat, well…

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When it comes to physical fitness, forget the hormones

Posted by on Jan 11, 2010 in exercise, HRT, physical fitness | 2 comments


Hey. We’re all going to get there one day – slowing down, lower coordination, challenged balance, right? Hmm, maybe not. At least I’d like to think that it’s possible to delay or stave off the natural physical decline of aging. So what’s the deal anyhow?

Estrogen strikes again!

Declining levels of estrogen as a women ages are linked to changes within the body that directly affect physical function. And like many other age-related changes that occur, hormone therapy has been overpromised as a panacea for physical functioning. In fact, for years, women have been advised the hormone therapy might benefit and even improve overall functioning. Yet, reports supporting this particular benefit of hormone therapy have been inconsistent, with some showing improvements and other, actually showing detriment.

The latest evidence to emerge against hormone therapy comes from a comprehensive analysis of 2,400 older postmenopausal women who had taken HRT or placebo tablet. The women had all been part of the the Women’s Health Initiative Study, which, as you may recall, was halted when HRT was found to increase the risk for heart attack, stroke, blood clots and breast cancer.

In the analysis, women were assessed for physical function (i.e., grip strength, chair stand – the number of times a woman could stand up from a chair without using her arms and timed walk – the time it took to walk a 6-meter course)  at the study’s start, and at 1, 3 and 6 years.

What they found.

Over the study’s course:

  • Grip strength declined by 12%
  • Chair stands declined by 3.5%
  • Walk pace slowed by 11.4%
  • No differences in physical function were seen in women taking HRT compared to those who had taken placebo

The overall conclusion? Hormones will not slow or benefit physical declines that occur as we age.

So, are we all doomed?

Studies suggest that to stave off physical declines as we age, we need to keep moving! Walking for 30 minutes a day can help to maintain bone strength.  Yoga and bo su can help build and maintain balance.  Tai Chi or Chi Gung can assist with focus and keep those muscles suppple. Whatever you do, it’s a use it or lose it proposition.

What’s your strategy?

Want to read more? Reuter’s Health has an excellent write-up on this study. (Special thanks to Executive Editor Ivan Oransky for pointing me to these data.)

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Got ‘tude?

Posted by on Jan 8, 2010 in emotions | 0 comments

[Used with permission. Thanks to and their seriously fine guitar picks! Rock n Roll!]

Your ‘tude may be affecting how you experience menopause as well as how frequently those flashes occur. What’s more, your environment may also play a role.

In a detailed review of 13 studies examining women’s attitudes before and during menopause, researchers discovered a few choice tidbits:

  • Ya gotta live it to understand it. Apparently, younger women who are premenopausal have more negative attitudes towards menopause than women who are menopausal. In fact, data show that one’s mood state prior to starting menopause may actually affect one’s menopausal atttitudes and experiences.
  • I’ve got all my sisters (and teachers) with me. Research shows that education and social support contribute greatly to having positive attitudes and experiences during the transition.
  • Which came first? The chicken or the egg? Depression  is apparently associated with having more negative attitudes about menopause although researchers haven’t quite figured out the causality, i.e. depression before symptoms or symptoms before depression. Regardless, it might bet helpful to tackle those blues and try to chase them away.
  • It takes a village. The reviewed studies included women from North America, Europe, Asia and the middle east. They showed that cultural attitudes can significantly impact attitudes towards menopause. One of the most discouraging (and telling) findings was that the medicalization of menopause affected Caucasian women in particular, leading to a tendency towards negative attitudes. Say no more!

Overall, the key take-away point is that negative social attitudes + individual negative attitudes = worsening symptoms and poorer experiences.  I believe that we can change this equation for the positive by supporting one another, working on changing our beliefs about menopause and what it is (and isn’t), taking steps to boost mood, whether they be exercise, herbs, antidepressants, or mind-body practices, and by unifying to stop the medicalization of menopause.

What do you say? You in? Got ‘tude?

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