Posts made in April, 2011

Want to live longer? Get off your ass and move that body!

Posted by on Apr 18, 2011 in exercise | 4 comments

I was fascinated by an article that appeared in this past weekend’s New York Times about inactivity. In it, a Mayo Clinic researcher Dr. James Levine, who’s been studying the impact of  activity and weight, is quoted as saying that “excessive sitting is a lethal activity.” Even bending over to tie your shoes is better than sitting on your butt all day.

Last Fall, I wrote about inactivity and obesity and after seeing this piece, I wanted to reprise it. Whether it’s your waistline or your life, clearly, nothing is more important than getting up and moving. If you didn’t read it the first time around, I urge you to do so now. Seriously, get off your ass!


Get up and move? You bet!

According to a newly published study in the advanced online edition of European Heart Journal, taking breaks from long stints at your desk or even while you’re playing couch potato can go a long way towards preventing heart disease and losing some of that waistline bulge. In fact, the researchers say that prolonged periods of being sedentary, even if you regularly participate in moderate to vigorous physical activity, can increase the risk of heart disease. The bottom line? It’s not only the length of time you’re spending at your desk or on your derriere but how often you interrupt that time that counts.

This is the first time that a large, multiethnic population of varying ages has been evaluated to determine how a lack of activity affects certain markers of heart disease, including inflammation, waist circumference, cholesterol and blood fats. Researchers studied 4,757 participants over a period of three years who wore a small device (an accelerometer) that measures both the amount and intensity of activity; this allowed them to collect data on inactivity and breaks in inactivity.

The findings? Irrespective of factors like exercise time, diet and smoking, people who took the most breaks from inactivity (~179 breaks a day) had, on average, a 1.6 inch smaller waist circumference than people who took the least amount of  breaks (~14 breaks per day) and remained inactive for the longest period of time. Moreover, taking breaks from being sedentary appeared to improve blood fats and blood glucose levels as well as C-reactive protein level (CRP, a blood protein that many experts believe, increases heart disease risk because of its role in promoting inflammation).  Another interesting finding was gender-based; even though women tended to be more sedentary overall, they did take more breaks, thereby improving their heart disease risk. This is especially notable since research has shown that not only is heart disease the number one killer of women, but it tends to increase as estrogen levels wane.

Dr. Healy, the study’s lead researcher, suggests that even small changes, standing for as little as one minute at various intervals throughout the day, may help lower heart disease risk and counter the danger of being sedentary for too long. In a work environment, this means, standing up when talking on the phone, walking over to a colleague, using the restroom, and of course, taking the stairs. If you work at home, some of these recommendations are adaptable, such as making a point to take out the garbage, walk outside for a minute or put in a load of laundry.

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More on soy? Oh joy!!

Posted by on Apr 15, 2011 in hot flash, nightsweats | 2 comments

A close friend of mine wrote me the other day to tell me about an article she had seen. In it, the author claims that using soy sauce will help to alleviate hot flashes. However, the author neither backs this claim with any evidence or provides information on how much soy sauce you’d need to obtain the minimal level typically associated with some sort of reduction in menopausal symptoms.

Because there’s a ton of bad information floating around the interwebz, I wanted to break it down for you, right here and now. I also encourage you to peruse the archives because I’ve written a ton of posts on soy isoflavones.

Here’s what we know thus far about soy and soy isoflavones:

  • Soy isoflavones are plant-based compounds that are believed to mimic the action of natural estrogen in the body. Therefore, researchers have been dissecting and studying the properties of soy for years in order to determine if this alternative to hormone replacement can help alleviate hot flashes and night sweats, and possibly even promote bone health in menopausal women.
  • The deeper researchers delve into the properties of soy, the more they are learning. For example, the ratio of the most plentiful soy isoflavones, i.e. daidzein and gensistein, are important, and a metabolite of daidzein called S-equol appears to be the most potent in terms of preventing flashes and sweats.  S-equol  is produced in the gastrointestinal tract however the ability to actually manufacture it depends on the presence of certain microflora. Consequently, only 30% to 60% of individuals are actually able to produce S-equol on their own (although this figure is believed to be higher among Asians and vegetarians).
  • Studies that have examined the role of a soy-based diet, mostly among Asian populations, typically focus on four main foods that are rich sources of soy isoflavones: tofu, miso (fermented soybean paste), natto (sticky, fermented soy food rich in vegetable protein) and fried tofu. Soy sauce and soy oil do not contain isoflavones! Therefore, using either in cooking will not prevent hot flashes or night sweats.
  • In a more recent review of soy products published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers evaluated the dietary habits of 1,106 Japanese women between the ages of 35 and 64 over six years to determine a possible association with hot flashes or lack thereof. All participants were asked to record what they were eating as well as the serving size; included were nine specific soy products (miso soup, tofu, deep-fried tofu, fried bean curd, dried bean curd, natto, houba miso, soy milk and boiled soybeans).

The findings? There was an inverse association between eating soy and hot flashes – those women eating the greatest amount of soy, i.e. 115.9 grams/day, that contained the greatest amount of isoflavones, i.e. 50.8 grams/day, had the highest amount of protection against developing hot flashes and a 6% lower risk than women who consumed the least amount for developing hot flashes over the course of the study. Moreover, the results were upheld even after researchers accounted for factors such as age, menopausal status and total daily caloric intake. Notably, if soy sauce or oil actually contained isoflavones, an individual would have to consume at least 4 ounces of soy sauce daily to obtain any benefit.

Most importantly, when it comes to soy, even supplements aren’t created equal. If you are going to go that route, speak to a licensed practitioner who specializes in herbal medicine and look for a supplement that notes standardized manufacturing on its label. Simply walking into a drugstore to make a purchase is a sure way to guarantee that skimping on price often means skimping on quality.

There’s a lot more we need to learn about soy before making blanket recommendations. Soy is more complex than researchers originally thought. And a few drops a day? No way!

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Wednesday Bubble: Meno…wait! Don’t. Pause.

Posted by on Apr 13, 2011 in humour | 0 comments


In fact, you don’t even have to. Just two pills daily and  ‘Don’t Pause‘ not only guarantees that you’ll lose weight and inches (and that tiresome cellulite), but you’ll also retrieve those lost energy levels that menopause has been zapping.

Don’t Pause contains a proprietary blend of pomegranate extract and green tea. In addition to weight loss, Don’t Pause will help preserve bone, improve skin tone and muscle, ease vaginal dryness AND improve your sex life. What’s more, it doesn’t matter if you’re 40 or 90, Don’t Pause can help you lead a healthier and more enjoyable life.


Who knew?!

Just two a day and everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) that we possibly find negative goes away. Cellulite, fat, vaginal dryness, saggy muscles, and bad sex.

WHAT are you waiting for?

Another panacea for all that ails? Don’t pause, run, no…

No no.

Bubble? Yup. Burst this one open wide ladies.

Happy Wednesday!

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Insomnia and menopause. Awake again…naturally

Posted by on Apr 11, 2011 in sleep disturbance | 1 comment

Sleep and menopause. One’s elusive and one simply won’t go away.  Yes, I know, I keep writing about this topic. But when you can’t recall the last time you slept through the night without awakening at least once, well, it becomes a bit of an obsession. So bear with me as I provide a bit more information on sleep and why (or why not) it may be eluding you as well.

Research suggests that menopausal women have significantly more sleep disturbance compared to their younger peers and on average, achieve less than six hours of sleep per  night. This results in fatigue-related accidents in the short term and more serious problems in the long term, including an increased risk for diabetes and heart disease. And those wonderful mood swings that many of us experience? Well, it’s no surprise but they are made worse by insomnia. And yet, the reasons for the high prevalence (up to 60%) of sleep disturbances in menopausal women continue to be explored because definitive answers aren’t being discovered. Hence, is it menopause or aging or something else?

In a new report which appears online in Maturitas, researchers say age is not the key culprit and rather, that the factors causing a high percentage of women to lose sleep are actually multifaceted and believed to be controllable. The findings?

340 women (ages 40 to 59)  underwent analysis to assess hot flush presence and severity, and then used an insomnia severity index to rate the perceived severity of their insomnia based on sleep satisfaction, the degree to which daytime functioning was impaired, overall perception of impairment and distress, and how concerned they were about about their sleep. Roughly 65% of women in the study were sedentary (i.e. participated in less than 15 minutes of  physical activity twice weekly):

  • Roughly 61% had hot flashes, of which approximately 17% were severe to very severe
  • While about 41% of women reported some degree of insomnia, the majority said it was mild and only 9.5%, moderate to severe
  • Many women said that they had challenges with their partners that range from erectile dysfunction (~24%) and alcohol abuse (35%) to being unfaithful (42%)

When the researchers ran additional analyses, they discovered certain factors were definite contributors to insomnia, including being sedentary, having hot flashes, and having partner issues, namely men who had erection issues.

This is not the first study to link hot flashes to insomnia. Likewise, male sexual dysfunction has been associated with depression in the female, which impairs life quality and interrupts sleep. What’s more, in this particular study, women whose partners were faithful appeared to have less severe insomnia (perhaps, as a result of not worrying so much).  However, the researchers also concede that the precise cause of insomnia has yet to be clearly defined. And, they did not evaluate whether or not study participants had depression or anxiety or stress, all of which might contribute to insomnia.

In other words, they aren’t quite sure what the exact issues are.

So, does this bit of news tell us anything we’ve not heard before?

Where does this leave us? Between the pillow and the mattress and unfortunately, a hard place. There are no clearcut answers. Flashes and sweats and partners and life and estrogen, oh my.

Maybe it’s just going to be what’s it’s going to be. Sleep or no sleep? Blame it on…

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Body image and self esteem: what would you sacrifice to achieve the ideal?

Posted by on Apr 8, 2011 in appearance, weight | 7 comments

What would you trade to reach what you considered your ideal body weight and image? How much would you sacrifice?

The question seems absurd doesn’t it? However, researchers from the University of West England, in partnership with The Succeed Foundation, that body image is a major issue for women of all ages.

Although this survey of 320 women mostly comprised university-aged women, the breakdown did skew as high as 65 years. Moreover, the majority were of normal (i.e. BMI 18.5 to 24.9) weight.

Of all the women surveyed, 93% said that they had had negative thoughts about their appearance and nearly a third, several times daily. Approximately 80% said they would like to lose weight, even though about 78% were of normal weight or underweight. What’s more, the women said that on average, they would like to lose about 16 pounds. However, most importantly, 30% of women said that they would trade at least a year of their lives to achieve their ideal body shape and weight.

Other sacrifices to achieve the ideal included:

  • losing over $8,000 from their annual salary
  • giving up time with their partner
  • forgoing a promotion at work.

Numerous studies and reviews have documented the association between age and body image but have mostly focused on adolescents and teens. In recent years, more and more reports are emerging that demonstrate that eating disorders and issues with body issues is not necessarily age-centric.

There’s no doubt that images of young models dressed and made up to look like women  and airbrushed celebrities the permeate the media scape have contributed to if not exacerbated the problem. However, what is it the makes women consistently strive for an unreasonable ideal throughout their lifetimes, so much so that they are willing to sacrifice basic necessities and relationships to achieve this goal?

As women, we’ve come very far. But clearly, many of us clearly continue to give their power away when it comes to self-image, self-esteem, achievement in the workplace and even in our relationships. This study is a wake-up call, not only to our generation but to generations of women who are following in our footsteps.

So tell me, what would you sacrifice to achieve the ideal?

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