Posts made in April, 2013

Sleep and menopause – going ‘pausal

Posted by on Apr 29, 2013 in sleep disturbance | 0 comments


When was the last time you got a full night’s sleep? A full 8, glorious hours of zzz’s?

Bet you can’t remember.

When was the last time you went ‘pausal™?

Bet you can remember!

It seems that I can’t stop writing about sleep on Flashfree. Additionally, it appears that I continue to write about depression. And the link; it’s more common than you may imagine.

Let me break it down for you: not only does a third of the population have sleep problems, but, by the time midlife and menopause come along, it’s not out of the range of probabilities that women alone comprise that third. Okay, I exaggerate but I am sure that you can understand where I’m going here.

A number of factors affect sleep, including marital status, general health, lack of exercise and caffeine and alcohol. However, according to a recent study in Sleep Medicine, psychological factors rank amongst the highest. In fact, when researchers assessed self-reported information from almost 150,000 women enrolled in the famous Women’s Health Study, they found that the better that women felt in terms of emotional wellbeing and calmness, the better their sleep. On the flip side? Of all the factors potentially associated with the reverse, i.e., severe sleep disruption, the biggest culprits were:

  • feeling restless during the day
  • depression or poor emotional wellbeing
  • general symptoms of feeling poorly (bloating, clumsiness, stomach issues, dizziness, back pain, nausea)

Moreover, these factors did not need to reach the level where they would have been associated with established psychiatric disease. And, they were most closely associated with wakening earlier than expected and then trying to fall back asleep.

Depression is fairly common in midlife, with as many as 40% of women who are in menopause going through some sort of blue period. Anger and hostility, and the inability to express both, can also contribute to depressive symptoms, as can discontent and resentment. This menopausal rage appears to affect many women and may be related to hormonal shifts, especially in perimenopause when imbalances and extremes occur. The key appears to be finding ways to reinstate balance, both inward and outward, which means working through hormone issues and  personal issues with a licensed health professional or professionals while also maintaining regular physical activity and surrounding oneself with things that help boost an overall sense of wellbeing.

If you look at the list above, the largest culprits in general insomnia appear to be controllable. Start keeping regular tabs on the following:

  • Am I constantly feeling angry?
  • What appears to ‘set me off?’
  • Do I feel blue?
  • Do I feel as though my life is out of control?
  • Am I feeling achy, sick, blah most of the time?
  • Am I falling asleep and awakening? How often am I able to get back to sleep
  • How’s my diet? My physical activity?

It can be difficult to discern the forest from the trees when you are caught up in the daily grind and the emotional rollercoaster of life. Add hormones to the mix and it’s a veritable ‘going pausal™’ waiting to happen. However, take comfort in knowing that you are not alone and there ARE solutions. You simply need to find the best ones for you. Start small and aim big. You may stop counting sheep and dreaming about them again before you know it.

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Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall. Who’s the luckiest of all?

Posted by on Apr 26, 2013 in menopause | 0 comments




[‘Painting: Quattro Stagioni (Four Seasons) – CY Twombly, 1993-94.]

Menopause is seasonal?!!!

I’m as surprised as you. And as a May baby, I have a lot to think about.

According to research published several years ago in Menopause journal, there may actually be a connection between season of birth and certain symptoms that occur during menopause.

Now, before you think I’ve truly lost my marbles, let me share that data have previously connected season of birth to fetal growth rates, human life span, fertility, and even timing of menopause. The season in which we’re born have also been connected to the prevalence of mental health conditions, like schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. And, according to Italian researchers (who performed analyses on 2,451 women attending menopause clinics) scientific scores taken at the time they sought advice actually connected birth season to their symptoms.

The goal of the scale was to measure factors like vasomotor symptoms (flashes, night sweats), psychological conditions (anxiety, depression) and bodily complaints (such as sleep issues or joint pain). Just to be sure that other factors were not influencing the results, factors, for example, that can influence symptoms such as smoking, number of years since menopause and BMI, they made additional scientific adjustments. The results?

If you are an Autumn baby, you may be in luck! Women born during the Fall months were found to be less likely to have psychological issues and fewer bodily complaints. Born in Spring? Not so lucky! In fact, converse to their Fall peers, women born in Spring had the highest scores for psychological and bodily complaints. If you were born during Summer or Winter, you may just win the balance lottery; it appears that these women just fell into the middle range of scores for these complaints. That’s the more general information. But how about actual month? The lowest overall scores were found among women born in November and the highest, among women born in June. For those of you who are astrologically inclined, the Scorpio/Sags are less likely to have psychological complaints than their Taurus/Gemini friends (i.e. November and May). November actually won the trifecta, as these women, again, had the lowest bodily complaint scores while March babies had the highest.

Mind you, the results are not the gospel; the researchers were evaluating data that had already been collected on a group of women seeking advice for symptoms. So there may have been bias to begin with. Still, it’s pretty interesting. I am a firm believer that humans are influenced and affected by the tides and the lunar cycles. Why not the seasons too?

But then again, as a May baby, I may actually be completely out of my mind! What about you? When were you born and how are your symptoms?


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Wednesday Bubble: Music as medicine

Posted by on Apr 24, 2013 in aging | 3 comments

Source of Music


I don’t know a single person who doesn’t like music. Not. A. Single. Person. Do you?

Researchers say that not only is music “one of the small set of human cultural universals” but, that the concept of music as medicine has roots that extend deep into human history. Today? Music is used to soothe babies, enhance concentration in surgical arenas, improve attention among workers, promote stamina in athletes (and exercisers), and may be the ultimate drug of choice to regulate mood and arousal.

There is also a growing body of scientific evidence that suggests that musics that music can actually promote health. In fact, some studies show that pleasurable music, when self-selected, was able to induce ‘chills down the spine’ as well as actually alter the parts of the brain that are connected to reward and reinforcement. Listening to music has also been shown to activate parts of the brain that regulate emotional and cognitive functioning and even the part of the nervous system that affects heart rate, breathing, digestion and sexual arousal. It may also positively affect the hippocampus, which plays a role in facilitating and inhibiting defensive behaviour when we become stressed. Better yet, music may actually deactivate the mama of stress hormones – cortisol.

However, not only does choice influence the body’s response to music but it appears that personality may also play a role in its effects. Outgoing in nature? Background music may distract you less than your introverted peers when focusing on a particular task.

Still, experts haven’t quite teased out the ‘how,’ other than to show through imaging studies that the notes in our ears appear to initiate brain responses that are reflexive, such as heart rate, pulse, blood pressure, body temperature and muscle tension. Pay attention the next time you put on that track: dance music will quicken heart rate and breathing while a slow groove will likely produce decreases in the same — even among infants. And in fact, the brainstem may actually fire synchronously with tempo.

And what about immunity? Can music help or hinder that as well, particularly as people age? Researchers point out that “given that music enhances mood and reduces stress,” it may also improve immune function and mitigate the negative effects of age and stress. This appears to work whether it’s a group driven activity (like drumming or group singing) or passive listening (e.g. during surgery).

Researchers still claim that the proof is in the pudding and scientifically rigorous studies are needed to determine once and for all if music is indeed, medicine. To met, evidence or not, I know when it makes me feel good and when it does the opposite. I know what I like to listen to when I want to relax. And I know what I want to put on rotation when I exercise or wish to dance around the house.

“Music gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” – Plato

My medicine? Music. What about you?




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The gift of a lifetime…

Posted by on Apr 22, 2013 in heart disease, weight gain | 0 comments

red heart on the palms of a woman

I’ve been on a bit of a personal rage lately – a rage about weight gain and the ‘pause.

No time like the present to give yourselves the gift of a lifetime: aim for a healthy weight before you hit menopause.

We’ve discussed it time and again on Flashfree; weight gain and menopause go hand in hand like a horse and carriage. And with that weight gains comes an increased risk for developing heart disease, diabetes and the dreaded metabolic syndrome. However, last year, researchers from the University of Ottawa reported that entering full menopause with a healthy body mass index (BMI) actually confers protection.

In the study (which appeared online in the journal Menopause), researchers evaluated and observed 102 premenopausal women for body composition and changes in their cardiovascular health profiles. The women, all of whom were between 47 and 55 years of age, did not smoke, had a BMI between 20 and 29 and had had a stable weight for at least 6 months before the study started, were followed for five years. Each year, the researchers gauged if they had entered menopause, measured body composition (i.e. total fat mass, trunk fat mass and total fat free mass), waist size, the degree of  abdominal fat and took blood to examine glucose, insulin and blood fat levels.

The study’s lead researcher, Dr. Denis Prud-homme explains that by simply observing the women and not imposing any structured interventions (e.g. diet or exercise) they were able to assess changes within a more naturalistic environment. At the study’s end, they discovered that despite significant increases in fat mass, visceral abdominal fat, blood glucose and cholesterol levels, most of which were the natural result of hormone fluctuations and aging, the women did not appear to have any declines in their heart or metabolic profiles that would indicate an increased risk for disease. Dr. Prud-homme says that a possible explanation might be that “even if the area of visceral fat is increased, it is still under the critical threshold associated with cardio-metabolic deterioration.” In other words, by maintaing a healthy lifestyle and BMI premenopausally, these women were able to change their risk equations once they fully entered menopause.

The bottom line is that the present you give yourself now will last long into your later years. Exercise. Eat right. And pay attention to your health.

No time like the present. For a present. Give yourself one.

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Wednesday Bubble: Some things never change…

Posted by on Apr 17, 2013 in humour, Uncategorized | 0 comments


And I thought they called it the change!


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