Posts made in March, 2012

Wednesday Bubble: Designer What?!

Posted by on Mar 7, 2012 in aging, appearance, sexual health | 1 comment

Rarely do I run across editorials in medical journals that catch my attention at the first sentence. However, this one wins my vote, not only for its candor but also for its attempt to clear the air, so to speak about ‘designer vaginas.’

Designer what?

You may recall that I ran a piece in early February about vaginal rejuvenation and the promise the procedure offers to millions of women who are concerned about their aging va-jay-jays.

Hold on for one sec! You may want to reconsider getting a facelift ‘down there.’ At least according to two physicians from Yale.

Burstable? You bet!

Drs. Alexandra Pencow and Marsha Guess from Yale University School of Medicine say that the purported benefits of female genital cosmetic surgery (FGCS), namely that there is a “normal or standard in vaginal aesthetics,” or that FGCS will “result in improved sexual function” are misleading. They write (in the April issue of the journal Maturitas):

“The ‘designer vagina’ sounds like the name of a ‘Sex in the City’ episode, and may evoke a variety of responses, from enthusiasm for anything that can make the vagina more modern and user-friendly, to mistrust for unproven treatments for conditions that have not been clearly defined.”

FGCS refers to surgical procedures that modify the shape, caliber or length of the vagina and external genitals for aesthetic purposes. They include:

  • Labiaplasty, to reduce labial size or corrects irregularities (if the labia are too large, elongated or assymetrical)
  • Vaginoplasty or vaginal rejuvenation, to narrowsthe vagina and the vaginal entrance
  • Clitoral unhooding, geared towards removing the tissue surrounding the clitoris to enhance sexual and genital sensation
  • Hymenoplasty, a form of ‘revagnation,’ in which the hymen is reconstructed to mimic virginity
  • G-spot amplification, i.e. injecting collagen into the vaginal wall to increase sexual satisfaction/sensitivity

The physicians write that despite the lack of clinical evidence proving benefit, these procedures have increased three-fold or more in both the U.S. and the United Kingdom. They also note that the media, talk shows, women’s magazines and the Internet combined have worked to perpetuate myths about these procedures without properly explaining the reasons why they might be done other than aesthetics. Procedures such as the ones described above can be invaluable following cancer, trauma or pelvic organ prolapse to improve life quality and treat certain symptoms.

Still, when it comes to aesthetics, there is a lack of standards for these procedures to define proper follow up and outcomes. Even more important is the fact that there is no true definition of “normal.” How then does a woman who desires smaller labia or an enhanced vagina temper her expectations?

Sexuality, sexual desire and sexual satisfaction are multifacted and personal, influenced by life stressors, environment, mood, self-esteem, hormones, personality and social and partner support. The new ‘normal’ isn’t supposed to be defined by the medical community and the media, is it? Just as the Menopause Industrial Complex wants to sell you on HRT, so apparently do the Vaginal Patrol wish to convince you that your parts ‘down under’ need a nip, tuck, an ‘Occupy,’ if you will.

Designer vaginas? Evidently, they’re here to stay. The benefits, however? Hard to say.

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Dr. Seuss, omega-3s and brains!

Posted by on Mar 5, 2012 in aging, memory/learning | 1 comment

I am not jumping on the Dr. Seuss bandwagon, I promise! But when I ran across this study on omega-3 fatty acids, the aging brain and memory, the following lines from Oh! The Places You’ll Go came to mind:

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…” —  Oh! The Places You’ll Go. Dr. Seuss

Damn our aging brains, right?! Coupled with waning hormones, daily stressors and even weight gain, and many women of ‘a certain age’ are left with a veritable mindless meld cognitive decline and memory issues that only seem to worsen over time. And there’s nothing that can be done.

Think again. Researchers say that low levels of omega-3 fatty acids may accelerate the rate at which our brains age and even cause lapses in thinking and memory. This latest bit of information comes from an analysis of from 1,575 women participating in the ongoing Framingham Study. Women in this portion of the study (who were, on average 67 years old) had their blood drawn and examined for concentrations of omega-3s in red blood cells, underwent brain MRI, and participated in battery of cognitive-psychological tests. The findings? Those with the lowest levels of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) had lower brain volumes compared to women who had higher levels. According to one of the lead study investigators. Dr. Zaldy Tan, this distinction “is equivalent to about two years of structural brain aging.” Moreover, lower DHA and ecosapentoic acid (EHA) levels were also linked to declines in the ability to solve problems, multitask and think abstractly – all of which are tied to visual memory and so-called “executive function,”  a concept that refers to the ability to connect past experiences with present action. Humans use executive function to plan, organize, strategize, focus and remember details and manage time.

These findings are critical because they add to a growing body of research that show that omega-3 fatty acids are essential for brain health, possibly due to their positive actions on blood vessels in the central nervous system. In fact, clogged arteries and stroke are associated higher risks of dementia and cognitive decline, so the benefits of omega-3s may relate to how they can help to lower blood pressure, reduce stroke risk, decrease inflammation and reduce blood fat levels. The ongoing question is always diet versus supplements. And while diet is sure to improve the body’s concentrations of omega-3s, it can be difficult to maintain the three times a week regimen.

Personally? I have gravitate towards Krill oil because it doesn’t cause the ‘burps’ and is environmentally friendly. But as a dietician friend recently pointed out to me, the levels of DHA in Krill oil are relatively low, meaning that if I want to slow down my aging brain, I may need to find sources of DHA to supplement what I’m already taking (e.g. from seaweed or coldwater fish).

Dr. Seuss made it abundantly clear that we have choices and it is those choices that will steer the direction we go. Want to save your brain? It looks as though the addition of omega-3s might help.

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What woman has changed your world…or hers’?

Posted by on Mar 2, 2012 in Inspiration, women's health | 3 comments

[Credit: Chau Doan/ Oxfam America]

When it comes to advocacy, I’ve got soft spot in my heart for women. That’s why I’ve spent at least three days a week since 2008 advocating for women’s health, for women to take care of themselves and for women to take care of one another. So, when a friend asked me if I would help support Oxfam America’s International Women’s Day campaign, I couldn’t say no.

This year, Oxfam America is hoping that you will help them honor women who have made a difference in your community. Or in your life…simply because women become stronger and more resilient when we support one another.

According to recent statistics:

  • 66% of the world’s work is done by women and yet they earn only 10% of the world’s income
  • The majority of the earth’s population that are living in poverty (more than 2.5 billion people in total) and surviving on less than $2 a day are women and girls

Time and again, I’ve written about how the foundation for the health and wellbeing starts and ends with social support. Indeed, research has shown that women’s innate ability to nurture and nourish ties, coupled with overall satisfaction with work significantly predicts wellbeing especially during midlife and over the menopausal transition. It may even affect how long we live. Nowhere is this more important than in the communities where we reside because as much as many of us complain about how busy we are, there is a deep, soul stroking satisfaction in taking a moment to pause, acknowledge and help one another.

Consequently, this week and next, I am challenging you to think about the woman (or women) in your life that has changed your world? Or hers’. And, encouraging you toTo support Oxfam America’s goal to end world hunger and empower women through their GROW campaign. Women are hungry and to combat that hunger. Oxfam’s GROW campaign urges all of us to make smarter investments in small-scale farmers, especially women, whose efforts can help find sustainable solutions to hunger. Women like my oldest and dearest friend, Susan Ujcic, co-founder and co-owner of Helsing Junction Farm in Olympia, Washington.

This isn’t about money; it’s about gestures, such as:

  • Sending an International Women’s Day eCard to a woman you know, to say thank you for all that she does. Better yet, send it to several women who’ve made the world a better place.
  • Giving the Oxfam America International Women’s Day 2012 award to a woman you think has made a difference to the world. She could be a teacher, your mom, a non-profit leader, a woman entrepreneur, the neighbor who always checks up on you when you’re ill… the possibilities are endless.
  • Joining Oxfam’s Sisters on the Planet initiative.

One email, one award, one woman at a time. Imagine the difference a simple gesture can make.



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