Posts made in July, 2011

Are you rubberstamping the cougar narrative?

Posted by on Jul 29, 2011 in aging | 4 comments

[Image: WildEarth Paw Prints]

Time to reprise an oldie but goodie. And a post that remains relevant for millions of women. The cougar narrative. You know, cougar, a woman who preys on ‘unsuspecting’ younger men.

So, are you embracing your inner cougar? Pimping your hide to expand your pride? Or like me, are you running as far away from the notion as you can?!

I’ve been somewhat amused and a wee bit miffed at the double standards placed upon women who “prey” on younger men. While their sugar daddy counterparts get away with endless forays into the dating world without nary a word, these women are dubbed “cougars” and frowned upon. However, have you ever considered that these younger men don’t feel preyed upon at all but prefer the company of a well-rounded, intelligent, sexy woman who can titillate their minds, souls AND bodies?

Perhaps the cougar ‘narrative’ and its fallacies should be put to rest.

If you have even a wee bit of doubt about what I’m saying, I’d like to introduce you to 73-year-old Rio de Janero resident Lina Merceis. Lina is the star of a documentary short entitled “Bye Bye, Cest Fini,” and the ultimate inspiration for any woman who believes that life ends at midlife and beyond. Lina, having suffered early disappointments in marriage and love, is now dedicating herself to herself. Lina deliberately chooses the single life, claiming that men are too much work. ‘Seductress to a slew of 30 somethings,  she enjoys her lovers, acknowledges her occasional loneliness, and confesses to a good friend (as they sit on the beach eying the candy) that sex and fun are her life prescriptions not options. Not surprisingly, the young men who are fortunate to become one of Lina’s lovers are happy to oblige.

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Wednesday Bubble: diabetes and the ‘pause

Posted by on Jul 27, 2011 in diabetes, menopause | 0 comments

When I saw a post on my Facebook stream linking hormonal imbalance to diabetes, I become intrigued, ever more so when I ran across the following headline in my daily newsfeed:

“Does menopause matter when it comes to diabetes?”

So, does it or doesn’t it?

According to the first piece that resides on the website of the hormone franchise, BodyLogic MD, imbalances of  hormones other than insulin can promote insulin imbalances or resistance that is especially evident during menopause. Their hypothesis? Hormone replacement will correct these imbalances and prevent millions of women from developing diabetes.

In fact, there is evidence that as endogenous androgen levels rise and estrogen levels fall, there is a predisposition to glucose intolerance (i.e. a struggle to convert blood sugar or glucose into energy) and by default, diabetes. Moreover, estrogen therapy has been shown to reduce fasting blood glucose levels in menopausal women (fasting blood glucose or sugar measures glucose levels in the bloodstream and is a test for pre- and full blown diabetes). However, it is unknown if menopause itself is associated with high glucose levels or plays a role in influencing factors such as insulin secretion and insulin resistance that mediate glucose tolerance. Nevertheless, it is possible that menopause status may tip the scales in women who are already at high risk for diabetes or even influence activities undertaken to prevent the condition.

In a soon to be published study (August issue, Menopause journal), researchers compared perimenopausal women to women who had entered menopause naturally and those who had had their ovaries removed. All participants were between the ages of 45 and 58, and part of a larger Diabetes Prevention Program trial, meaning that they already had been diagnosed with having impaired glucose tolerance and fasting glucose levels and were at risk for diabetes. Of the 1,237 women studied, they had either been assigned twice daily diabetes medication (Metformin), twice-daily placebo tablet or an intensive lifestyle intervention to achieve and maintain a weight reduction of at least 7% (through a low-calorie, low-fat diet, and at least 150 minutes moderate physical activity weekly).

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Finish Line for the Big-M Was in Sight. Guest post by Sarah Bowen Shea

Posted by on Jul 25, 2011 in Early menopause | 4 comments

When writer/author Sarah Bowen Shea first pinged me on Twitter about her post, I was a bit skeptical. I had never had a conversation with her nor had she ever been on my radar. And let’s face it; I get a lot of daily solicitations because of Flashfree and my interest in menopause. However, when I clicked on the link, I discovered that not only did I love her writing, but that I loved her post. Moreover, a lot of you have been asking for posts on early menopause. 

I hope that you’ll show Sarah some love after reading this post and head over to her blog, Another Mother Runner and check it out; if you are interested in running, you may find some gems lurking  in the lines!

Despite being the one behind our sometimes-outrageous TMI Tuesday status updates (hotel sex, anyone?) on our Facebook page and writing the chapter in The Book about peeing, pooping, passing gas, and periods, I’m hesitant to pen this post. It’s about…menopause. My top three excuses? 1. My mom never had “The Talk” with me, so I’ve never been fully comfortable talking about, ahem, menstruation (or lack thereof). 2. There isn’t enough good slang for menopause (let’s rectify that, ladies!). 3. I am not 100% comfortable with being 45 years old…and getting dogged with early onset menopause. (There, I typed it. A first step, right?)

But I’ve decided to broach the topic because several fans have told us they wish we’d talk about it. Here goes: I’ve suspected for several years that early onset menopause  might be coming my way because I had secondary infertility due to elevated FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) levels. My doc said the two aren’t necessarily linked but they often are. Always a glass-half-full kinda gal, I didn’t dwell or worry—until last summer, when I started bleeding like crazy. If I’d gone swimming in shark-infested waters, I would have been fish-food: Heavy bleeding for a week, then 10 days off, then another heavier-and-longer period, then an 8-day reprieve, then another bleeding session…you get the bloody (literally) picture. Never one to rush in for medical advice, I merely grumbled, contemplated buying stock in Playtex, and fared forward until a good running friend urged me to see my OB/GYN. The doc did some bloodwork and said nothing was wrong except that, well, lookie there, my hormone levels showed I was already in menopause. (Gulp!) But she said menopause was a slippery thing: The real marker was absence of a period for one year.

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Flashes and body composition and age, oh my! What’s the relationship?

Posted by on Jul 22, 2011 in aging, hot flash | 0 comments

For some time now, experts have made the connection between body mass index (BM() and hot flashes during menopause, theorizing that body fat offer protection against hot flashes since androgen hormones are actually converted into estrogens in body fat. On  the flip side? Women with lower BMI should have more frequent hot flashes. However, this hypothesis — formally known as the “thin hypothesis” – has recently been questioned, especially among researchers whose studies have shown the opposite: that a higher BMI leads to more hot flashes because the fat acts to insulate the body and prevent heat dissipation. In the middle of this argument are women, overweight, underweight, normal weight, who may have an opportunity to prevent hot flashes before they worsen or at least ameliorate them.

To more thoroughly tease out the underlying causes of hot flashes as they relate to body composition, researchers evaluated a subset of 52 women participating in the larger Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN, an ongoing trial at seven sites across US that are examining women’s health in middle age). These women were African-American or non-Hispanic Caucasians between the ages of 54 and 63, mostly overweight, in menopause and reported experiencing hot flashes or night sweats. None were taking hormones or antidepressants, and still had their uterus.

In the study, published online in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, broad measures of central abdominal fat/total percentage of body fat, BMI and waist circumference and blood hormones were taken. Over two, 48-hour periods, participants also wore a monitor to evaluate the frequency and severity of hot flashes and were asked to both complete electronic diaries and press buttons on their monitors that would notate when they were experiencing symptoms.

The result? A higher percentage of body fat, BMI and waist circumference were associated with a reduction in the frequency of hot flashes only in women who were 59 or older. Moreover, this association was restricted to Caucasian women in the study compared to their Black peers.  However, in so far as the interaction between estrogen levels (and sex hormone-binding globulin) and body composition, researchers found that higher levels reduced but did not fully eliminate the distinctions in hot flashes and age.

So, why the differences compared to other studies? Others have looked as self-reported hot flashes via questionnaires while this one actually took physiological measures of hot flashes via the monitors that the women were wearing. The researchers also looked specifically at the link between size, weight and proportions of the women and hot flashes rather than risk factors of any or no hot flashes.

Importantly, data are starting to emerge that show how BMI/adipose fat and the relationship to reproductive hormones varies by age and menopause status, with higher estrogen levels related to older, menopausal women and lower to younger women. What’s more, while body fat may act to produce estrogen in older women to play a role in regulating body heat and dissipation, it seems to play a different role in younger, overweight women, predisposing them to hot flashes. Finally, wellbeing also appears to play a role in symptoms: in this case, women who were anxious reported more hot flashes and hot flashes tended to increase anxiety.

Should you care?

Although the sample size is small, the is first time that researchers have considered how age and race affect the way that obesity may affect hot flash frequency. It’s worthwhile filing it under “useful information,” especially when it comes to perimenopause and preparing to deal with full blown symptoms as you enter menopause.

A special thanks to my pal Ivan Oransky, executive editor of Reuters Health and author of Retraction Watch  for giving me a heads up on this study. Thanks Ivan!

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Wednesday Bubble: Are you invisible?

Posted by on Jul 20, 2011 in aging, Inspiration | 6 comments

Early last year, I wrote a post for Women Grow Business based on an interview I had conducted with the incredible Author/Chef Mollie Katzen. Entitled “The Incredible Disappearing Woman: Lessons on Dealing with Ageism,” the post focused on ageism in our culture and the fact that as women age, they often undergo a culturally-driven disappearing act in both their personal and professional lives.

During our interview, Mollie discussed a five-step strategy to insure that women continue to matter, a strategy that is self-respectful, empowering and focuses on playing up one’s strengths without resorting to smoke and mirrors. Hence, I was a bit dismayed to run across a post on Talent Zoo the other day that addresses a similar theme but in less empowering vein. Mind you, I was not dismayed because of the topic but rather, because of the content, which for the most part, encourages women to play up their sexy and physical appearance while mostly ignoring their inner core. A few examples:

1) Expand your group of friends…by hanging out with people who with different perspectives.

That’s great advice, right? However, the author offers “because different perspectives will make you a more interesting person, and that’s sexy, which always gets noticed.” Hmmm, “sexy always gets noticed.”

2) Become friends “with a bit of lycra in your fabrics and dresses that need nothing more than a cool scarf to be a complete outfit.”

While you’re at it, since 40+ is obviously old and over the hill and subject to gravity, why not grab that Spanx and corset? Just sayin’.

3) “Innocently flirt.”

Flirting, the author says, makes others feel good about themselves and you should practice this even on people you don’t find especially attractive.

4) Be a real grownup in order to embrace “cool confidence.”

Okay, admittedly, I don’t even know what this one means.

5) “Work out with weights,” and, “lift a lot more than you think you can” since “nothing will get you fit faster and give you more body confidence than some muscle tone, and that means lifting real weights way past your comfort level.”

Wow. Just wow!

Let’s try this one again, shall we? Mollie-style:

From a social perspective:

  • Posture! The first sign of “older” is often stooped shoulders. Standing tall conveys confidence and strength. “Anyone who is not attracted to that is someone you don’t need in your life.”
  • Keep a focused gaze. “Looking sharp sharpens, Mollie explains. “Glazing over glazes you over.”
  • “A smile is the best and cheapest face lift. Especially when it is genuine; your smile, not theirs.”
  • Breathe deeply. Then speak. “When you do speak, let your voice come from your abdomen and be fueled by that deep breath.” (This isn’t easy, btw.)
  • “Don’t ask your sentences unless they are questions.” (Remember Valley Girl by Frank Zappa?)
  • “Try to find the love in all situations.” Mollie explains that in most cases, this needs to come from within. “Recognize that sometimes that love can take the form of putting up a boundary. Recognize also, that putting up that boundary can be cloaked in warmth and humor, even while you are being assertive.”  She adds that “true personal power can be a warming and loving representation.
  • Develop your own centeredness and use that for balance.

And, in business:

  • Stay centered in your “standard,” meaning you should anticipate what other’s need and provide it. The customer matters as much as you do.
  • Don’t drink the Kool-Aid. Buck societal aversion to age by avoiding dogma and overcoming prejudice. Rather than giving in, evolve your business in ways that positions you for longevity.
  • Leverage your power to empower. The more that women are able to embrace and not tear down, play up one another’s strengths and share wisdom, the likelier the total universe of women is to be empowered and enabled.
  • Look in the mirror…often. This is what you look like at 40, 50, 60 and that image is not based on preconceived notions. In other words, the buck stops at your insecurity and no one elses’.

At the age of 40, I felt better than ever — more self assured, comfortable in my own skin and comfortable in my career. I hardly felt invisible. At the age of 50, I am realizing that I don’t care as much anymore, that I’ve worked hard to earn my rite of passage. And that in some ways, I look and feel better than ever.

Trust me, you don’t need the tricks to stay in the any game. Use your knowledge, self-worth and inner beauty to solidify, maintain and stay visible.

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