Posts made in June, 2012

Exercise and sleep. Sleep and exercise. Does it? Or doesn’t it?

Posted by on Jun 18, 2012 in exercise, hot flash, sleep disturbance | 4 comments

Among the many repeated themes on Flashfree, exercise and sleep rank highly. After all, exercise and physical activity are musts for women as they age. And sleep? Well, that goes without saying.  However, although study findings have been fairly consistent with regard to connecting regular or vigorous physical activity to a reduction in some menopausal symptoms, the verdict is still out on sleep.

Sleep. Let me tell you; I sure could use some help in that department!

So what’s the latest and greatest? Does it? Or doesn’t it? Well, a study reported last month in the early online edition of Maturitas journal suggests that it might. The researchers write that studies that have evaluated the effects of aerobic activity on sleep are few and far between, and the results, contradictory. Still, they examined what would happen if they took a group of 176 sedentary women between the ages of 43 and 63 and subjected them to aerobic exercise training for six months. The exercise that half the women were asked to do consisted of 50 minutes of walking (or nordic walking with sticks) for two sessions and other aerobic activity for two sessions per week. The degree of the exercise was moderate, corresponding to about 64% to 80% of their target heart rates. The other half of the group remained sedentary. But both were asked to report via mobile phones how much hot flashes disrupted their sleep, and how much they slept every day on a scale of 1 to 5 (5=good, 1=poor).

The findings were pretty favourable. Women who exercised for 6 months experienced a 2% improvement in sleep quality compared to the women who didn’t (whose sleep quality, incidentally, declined by a half percent). Moreover, the exercise group, who had reported having hot flashes disturbing their sleep changed their tune by six to 10 weeks after starting their four times weekly routines and reported significantly fewer episodes than their sedentary peers.

Some may question that methods used to collect information; for example, studies that rely on recall are often called into question for accuracy and mobile phone data collection is uncommon. Still, the study was longer that most and the researchers validated their findings by scientific methods. That aside, since many readers come here to read the bottom line, is that regular exercise may improve sleep. It definitely affects quality of life and has a positive emotional benefit. Whether or not a 2% improvement is enough is really subjective. For me? I am happy to sleep through the night these days!

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Breathe in, Breathe out: Multitasking & Mindfulness Meditation

Posted by on Jun 15, 2012 in memory/learning, stress | 0 comments

Got stress, a lack of focus, too much on your plate? Researchers from the University of Washington report that meditation, namely mindful meditation, can improve focus, benefit memory and reduce stress. What a concept, eh?

Mindfulness meditation is trained meditation. This particular study (reported in the May issue of Proceedings of Graphic Interface) used focused attention, which targets a person’s ability to voluntarily narrow or widen focus, place attention on the present moment, shift focus from one thing to another, and cultivate awareness of breathing and the body. While one group of workers participated in this type of activity, another were actively trained in progressive relaxation, whereby muscle groups are tensed and then relaxed, aided by mental imagery (e.g. “my arms are becoming heavy and warm) , an audio CD and weekly classes. Both of these groups then engaged in multitasking (e.g. scheduling a meeting, finding a conference room, writing an announcement, creating an agenda or eating and drinking). A third group waited 8 weeks, underwent multasking and then were trained in mindful meditation and retested.

The findings? People who were trained in and practiced mindfulness meditation reported lower stress levels during multitasking, were less negative and had less fatigue. Similarly, the group who received mindfulness training later in the study also reported reductions in their stress levels. What’s more, mindfulness meditation also appeared to improve focus (the participants shifted their attention less during a particular task) and memory.

The researchers attribute these benefits to the ability of mindfulness meditation training to help strengthen our ability to notice interruptions without necessarily stopping or diverting attention from the task at hand. Meditation has been associated with enhancing the ability to regular emotions; less stress translates into better recall. This particular domino effect is a win-win-win!

Obviously, more research is needed. But in the interim, it appears to mindfulness meditation may go well beyond hot flashes and attitude adjustments to multitasking, memory and stress reduction.


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Wednesday Bubble: Age Rage. Guest post by D.A. Wolf

Posted by on Jun 13, 2012 in aging | 7 comments

Some of us lie about our age. Others, like me, don’t. But the point is less the lying and more the why. Fellow writer extraordinaire D.A. Wolf weighs in in this guest post….




It isn’t that I don’t worry about it. I do.

It isn’t that I won’t talk about it. I will.

But age isn’t a simple topic, and if you’re a woman, you already know that. At least, you’ll know it sooner or later, and more piercingly than your husband, your brother, your uncle who’s still playing the field, your male boss who continues to climb the corporate ladder, or your 50-something divorced and dating dad.

Aging is unavoidable – if you’re lucky.

Age rage? In this culture? Maybe that’s unavoidable, too.

No, I’m not taking to the highways in a pickup with a shotgun. I’m not planning on packing pistols and going postal over the AARP invites arriving weekly. But I will stand up and proclaim that age discrimination is alive and well – more subtle than we’re willing to admit, and increasingly pervasive.

The worst part?

It feels like we are the “haters.” Women. The ones who make snide remarks about others “showing their age.” The ones who fight tooth and nail at the first sign of laugh lines, gray hair, or traces of soft excess that no amount of dieting will eradicate, where we once carried babies in our bellies.

We aren’t doing ourselves any favors – not at 30, not at 40, not at 50 or any age – viewing the natural process of aging as the enemy.

Aging: It Creeps Up On Us

It isn’t that I don’t feel it – the proverbial march of time in my limbs, in the small of my back, in my shoulders and neck after a long day at the computer. It isn’t that I don’t see it in my face, when morning forces me to look – and I scrutinize – then reach for the moisturizer.

It isn’t that I don’t suffer from a sense of invisibility that comes from walking down a street like a ghost. This is midlife. A transition. But it’s more than that – a parade of days as potentially routine or vibrant as the thousands that have come before, and the thousands that I hope stretch ahead.

For now, I can paint the gray, gloss my lips, line my eyes and I’m done. I can crank up the bounce in my step – especially in hot heels – in order to maintainsome visibility as a woman. But none of this changes the fact of my age. It doesn’t change the perceptionof who I am when someone knows my age, which may have little to do with the reality of who I am as a person, or the life I lead.

All of which is to say – it’s the assumptions and misconceptions that anger me. I find them absurd. I consider them dismissive. We are individuals. We age differently. And we ought to be allowed to approach the aging process accordingly.

And yes, there is a sense of loss – for some of us, it’s loss when we can no longer bear children, loss that we don’t appear or feel as “perky” as we once did, sorrow as we come to accept certain physical limitations or simply additional maintenance. Many women refuse to speak of the sadness, to grieve aspects of their younger selves, as though to do so is to admit some terrible truth.

I say – to hell with that!

Aging is a mixed bag, but it’s also more of the same – the same joy and challenge in meeting life as it is, the same excitement and risk in chasing your dreams, the same sweetness in finding love, mischief, humor, beauty.

Why Women Lie About Their Age

Do I lie about my age?

You bet. When it suits me. But more than that, I do so when it’s a necessity.

A necessity for getting work. A necessity for being seen as “valuable” – regardless of how I see myself. A necessity in the dating world, if you find yourself widowed or divorced.

Do I long for a culture in which age would be viewed as one more interesting fact – of no particular importance except perhaps to your physician?

Believe it.

So tell me. Do you lie about your age?

I bet you would – in the right circumstances. To get a job, and keep it. To have a shot at a few dates, and not be discarded as a viable potential “candidate” for a relationship.

Look Around. Age Estimates?

I’m an older mother, though this is no longer unusual. I gave birth in my mid-late thirties, and strangely, having kids older has kept me young in some ways, and aged me in others.

There are advantages in terms of experience and patience. There are disadvantages – not so much when dealing with babies and toddlers, butmidlife motherhood when kids are fighting? Going through your own hormonal changes as teenagers are bouncing around inside their bodies?

Sound proof the walls!

Thinking back to my childhood, I recall family members of all ages at social gatherings – intermingling and joining in the discussion. When I’ve lived in Europe or visited friends, the parties I attended included 20-somethings through 80-somethings. To me, this seemsnormal.

Consider this. Watching old movies from the 1940s and 1950s, note the generational mix in scenes of night clubs, at concerts, around the dining table. You’ll observe everyone from 20-something through middle age to “older” people (sixties? seventies?) all socializing. In films that offer business settings, while the women generally play a Girl Friday or wife, do note that you see men who are young, and plenty who older.


When’s the last time you socialized with people who were 20 years your senior? Look around your workplace. Is there anyone who appears to be over 50?

As I recall my last in-office contracting gig, there wasn’t a single manager or team member even close to 50 – out of a group of considerable size.

How Many Shades of Gray?

Everyone may be talking about the latest book to make waves – all those shades of gray in intimate relationships. My preoccupation with shades of gray?

There’s the expense of coloring my hair, which is an irritation. As my skin remains youthful, I paint the gray and pull off whatever age it is that I pull off… in person.

But the fact remains that a man with silver hair is perceived as distinguished, and a woman – with a few notable exceptions (Helen Mirren comes to mind) – is considered to be letting herself go,someone who has given up on dating, and consequently, a woman past a sex life.

Live Fully, Live Well

Am I taking to a bullhorn in my quiet neighborhood?


But that doesn’t mean that I don’t feel infuriated when I’m dismissed without a second look, when professional experience is ignored in favor of quick, cheap, and disposable, or when men my own age won’t give me a second glance – even before they’ve met me.

But I long for a little common sense. Aging is inevitable, and anti-aging propaganda is just that – propaganda. That doesn’t mean we don’t have choices in products and services, but what about a healthy glow as a mature adult? Doesn’t that sound refreshingly good to some of us?

On that note, I’ll pop my Over-The-Counter calcium with my salad and yogurt. I’ll remind myself to stay focused on the basics – continuing to nourish my mind with constant learning, and my body with healthy food in moderation. I’ll attempt as much sleep as I can manage (tougher for me), and daily walking, which is all about discipline.

Senior Sex and Sensibility?

Jane Austen, move over. Sense and sensibility? Let’s go with sex and sensibility instead.Safe sex, of course.

I’m not quite at “senior sex” just yet – not that I would know where to make that distinction. But sensuality and sexuality don’t evaporate as we grow older. At least, they don’t have to.

Do our intimate lives change? Sure. But my personal Rx involves a steady dose of sizzling sex with a man I love – with or without his shades of gray, or my own. And let’s face it – that’s a hell of a cardio. What could be better to soothe the Age Rage?

  • Do you unknowingly discriminate against those over a certain age – before you’ve met them?
  • Has your impression of what is “old” changed as you’ve grown older?
  • When’s the last time you engaged in conversation with someone who is 70+ or 80+ years old?
  • Are you worried about getting older, and fighting it tooth and nail?


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Move it to lose it

Posted by on Jun 11, 2012 in depression, exercise, hot flash | 6 comments

I mean it! New research suggests that if you want to hit that fatigue, depression, flashes and mood swings in one fell swoop, you may not have to resort to HRT. And  the solution may be relatively simple: move.

I can’t stress the importance of physical activity as we age enough. From bone health to heart health to mental health, it is the one accessible, equal opportunity strategy, regardless of income or geography. Because even if you don’t have entry to the gym, you can walk, run, bike, step, or engage in other activities that don’t require a membership or a monthly fee.

In face, researchers are reporting that simply engaging in vigorous physical activity, i.e. 7 days of a combination of moderate intensity/intense activities that add up to 3000 MET minutes a week) can significantly decrease menopausal symptoms, in particular fatigue, depression, insomnia and hot flashes.  (Activity level is scientifically measured by units known as METs, or metabolic equivalents; vigorous activity is equivalent to 8 METs and moderate activity to 4 METs).

In a study of over 300 women between the ages of 45 and 60, the most active had about 75% lower menopausal symptom scores. Yet, exercising only moderately(e.g. 3 or more days a week of vigorous activity for at least 20 minutes daily or 5 or more days of moderately intense activity for at least 30 minutes a day) can also reduce strong menopausal symptoms, just not to the extent that more intense activity does.

The reasons behind the benefits of physical activity are pretty simple: your endorphins play a role in vasomotor symptoms and low levels are associated with increased release of luteinizing hormone (a hormone produced by the pituitary gland that is involved in ovulation), leading to hot flashes, heart racing, sleepless ness, anxiety and muscle discomfort. By raising your endorphin levels, even in light of declining estrogen, you stand a better chance at placing a roadblock in front of this process. However, this is only part of the story; body composition, mood and how well your themoregulatory system is functioning are also important.

Still, the message is clear: Move it to lose it, “it” being those trouble menopausal symptoms.

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In the Flash…a new forum

Posted by on Jun 8, 2012 in Uncategorized | 0 comments


For some time now, I’ve kicked around the idea of adding a space on Flashfree where readers can ask questions, exchange information, collaborate and commisurate. So when a few trusted colleagues asked if such a place existed, I assured that it did. Except on Flashfree.

There are a lot of forums kicking around the interwebz, some active, some inactive, some refreshing, some mundane and some a complete waste of time. What is missing in a lot of them are Flashfree readers, passionate individuals who care about their health and wellbeing and are seeking informed answers that make sense for them.

And so, I give you In the Flash, a forum for you to be shaped by you.  It’s an open book at the moment, just waiting for the first thought, word, question, emotion, complaint, rant and honesty, you name it. I want to add categories that you want to see and need some feedback in that regard, so don’t be shy! Mostly though? It’s my gift to you, a safe haven for you to go to when you may not feel that there is anywhere else to turn, or when you don’t know where to turn. And that includes men who are trying to figure out what their significant others may need and feeling a bit helpless in the process.

p.s. The ground rules are simple: no flaming, no spamming, no product promotion and be thoughtful.

Well, what are you waiting for?! Go!

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