Posts made in May, 2008


Posted by on May 24, 2008 in weight gain | 4 comments

Midlife expansion is no myth. J ust ask any woman in her mid-to-late forties and early fifties and she’ll probably tell you that she is having a wee bit of trouble maintaining her usual weight. Ask her where she’s put on a few inches and she’ll inevitably tell you her waist/abdomen. Even my thinnest friends complain!

So what gives? For many women, weight tends to shift during the perimenopausal years. Some folks say that you might gain as much as a pound a year. Yikes! So what can you do?

Well, there’s certainly not a magic pill because if there were, well, I’d be marketing it right on this site and and planning that trip down to the Galapagos or over to Mali. But don’t fret either.

Researchers suggest that contrary to popular belief, declining hormones are not the primary culprit. Rather, a decline in physical activity, coupled with changes in fat distribution, play a huge role. In 6-year study of premenopausal women who became menopausal, study participants lost an average of 6 lbs of fat free mass and experienced increases in fat by 5.5 pounds! Other data suggest that as women go through menopause, resting heart rate declines significantly both due to the natural aging process and declining hormone levels.

Overall, the best “prescription” for weight gain appears to be a change in attitude coupled with an increase in activity. A general rule of thumb is to lower your caloric intake and percentage of fats in your diet and make sure you’re getting in at least 30 minutes aerobic activity plus some resistance/weight-bearing exercise daily. Incorporating weight-bearing exercise especially during the perimenopausal years might help to counteract our natural loss of muscle and bone mass that occurs during the three to five years following menopause.

This bad joke that Mother Nature plays on our bodies can be dealt with pretty easily if we set our minds to it. Like a lot of things, I guess, it’s all about changing one’s mindset!

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How many changes of clothing?

Posted by on May 22, 2008 in apparel, hot flash, nightsweats | 3 comments

How many changes of clothing do women in the midst of hot flash heaven take to work? I’ve heard of numbers ranging from one up to three. Guess it depends on how often you’re flashing, right?

Recently, I ran across this interesting site for COOLMAX apparel. COOLMAX is a wicking fabric that draws moisture away from the body while promoting its absorption. What this means for the wearer is that you will stay cooler despite the sweat. Now mind you, while several sites carry COOLMAX clothing, it tends to run on the more casual side and may not be appropriate as work attire. Nor has it moved into high fashion arena as of yet.

COOLMAX is only one of numerous wicking fabrics that have been used in recent years for athletic gear and are now moving into other markets. Several companies cater to women who experience hot flashes and night sweats and in coming weeks, I’m going to highlight a few (and rate a few as well!).

A quick search revealed a cute tank top to wear under jackets (although the rest of their wares are bit too conservative for my taste!), Sierra Trading Post carries a COOLMAX long sleeved top and a tank that are not bad looking.

Look, this apparel is definitely not geared towards the fashionista and I’m hoping that as more and more women start opening up about what’s going on, that designers will start to listen and accommodate.

In the interim, it may be prudent to start the day with loose, cotton clothing in several layers, if work allows. As you flash, remove a layer or two. And be sure to have an ’emergency’ kit with moist towelettes on-hand so that you can change clothing and feel fresher.

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I forgot…!

Posted by on May 20, 2008 in stress, women's health | 1 comment

[Artwork courtesy of Ann. Make sure to visit her blog! And thanks Ann!]

I ran across an interesting study that suggests that failing memory during menopause is an illusion. Because estrogen is critical to the brain function and signaling, medical experts have long suspected that the decline in estrogen that occurs naturally during menopause is responsible for memory loss.

To examine the association between estrogen and memory more closely, researchers looked at 800 women in various stages of perimenopause, menopause and post menopause over six years, using test score measures as a sign of brain function decline. Funny thing is, the scores didn’t decline!

Consequently, the researchers concluded that lapses in memory that many of us experience during menopause are less the result of hormones and more the result of life stressors. However, they also stated that it is possible that the tests they used in the study did not measure brain function that depends on hormones.

Regardless, this study is interesting as it gives more credence to the need to reduce common stressors during the perimenopause and menopause years. Whether this means incorporating regular exercise, meditating daily, or engaging in deep breathing, well, it might mean the difference between walking into a room with a purpose AND remembering what that purpose is, and walking into a room with purpose, standing there for five minutes wondering why you’re there, and then walking out. Or going to the store without your list and buying everything but what you need (been there, done that!).

Me? I suffer greatly from the latter! But hey, estrogen decline or not,I can always find something else to do in any room or some other “critical” item at the store!

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A woman’s hell

Posted by on May 19, 2008 in women's health | 0 comments

Seems like menopause was viewed as a “woman’s hell” back in the 18th and 19th centuries. A time when the uterus was thrust into “tumultous state of utmost irritation and disorder.” Contributing to this were bad habits such as premature arousal of sexual desire, reading bad novels, and overly spicy and rich foods. Apparently, it was even exacerbated by lounging around all day and breathing the bad air in salons.

This throws my evening plans right out the window!

A woman’s hell? Medical perceptions of menopause in preindustrial Europe

Historical summary of views of menopause. First paper on this written in 1774, word “menopause” coined in 1812, and first popular women’s guidebooks on the subject in the early 1800s “sold out in a few months”. Early view was that with age the uterus became too weak to expel the vile humors of the menstrual fluid, which backed up to turn to fat, breast and uterine tumors, and many other diseases, creating a “woman’s hell”. Later view was that the menopause was more of a natural process (although a women should be at that point asexual), but that the problem was the perimenopause, when the uterus, felt connected to the nervous system, went through a “tumultuous state of utmost irritation and disorder” which was then transferred to the rest of the body. “She became more sensitive, agitated, and easily afflicted by disagreeable incidents; pleasure was indifferent to her; she became sad and easily grew upset against her children, her husband, those around her, sometimes yielding to violent outbursts.” It was also remarked that simple country women suffered few or no complaints compared to upper-class urban women, who “constantly exposed body and mind to all kinds of disturbances and irritations. The demands of social life, the premature arousal of sexual desire, masturbation and loose sexual mores, the reading of bad novels, the unnatural state of excitation caused by concerts and theater, dances and gambling, and overly rich and spicy food, the abuse of coffee, tea, tobacco, wine and spirits–all this created an unrelenting state of over-stimulation. It was made even worse by a life of idleness spent reclining on cushions and chaise lounges instead of attending to domestic duties, by an unwillingness to breast-feed, and by the bad air in overcrowded salons.”

1999 Bull Hist Med 73;3:404-28

Stolberg, M.

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Posted by on May 18, 2008 in Uncategorized, women's health | 1 comment

I was talking to a colleague/old friend the other day about this blog. She is a few years older than I and we got into this great conversation about generational gaps when it comes to discussing health issues. Perimenopause and menopause in particular, have been huge taboo issues for women for decades.

Take for example, an episode from ‘That 70s Show,’ in which Kitty learns that she is not pregnant but rather, has entered menopause. When she asks her mother (played to a T by none other than Betty White) about her experience, she’s informed that she never went through menopause and has always been “healthy.” It’s funny and sad simultaneously. And definitely well worth the watch. (Fast forward to timecode 3:59.)

As the last of the baby boomers enter middle age, their appetites for health information appear to be ever more insatiable. And yet, some of the savviest and most practical women I know confess that they rarely, if ever, discuss their symptoms, moods or concerns about the changes that they are going through with their friends, let alone their mothers.

I’m fortunate. I have a mother who is pretty open about these sort of topics. And although she’s 70+, she tries hard to maintain an open attitude about certain things. When I approached her a few months ago about what I was going through, she was very forthcoming about her own experiences. And while her experiences were not exactly like mine (let’s face it; no two women’s experiences will ever be exactly the same), being able to talk about it was very liberating, even if I didn’t find “why” behind my own symptomatology.

Janine O’Leary Cobb, a former professor at Vanier College in Montreal, author of Understanding Menopause and founder of ‘A Friend Indeed,” once said that “it seem[s] to be one of the last things women talk about because it’s so entangled with aging and we don’t want to talk about getting older.”

And yet, research suggests that when we do talk about “it” and about getting older, hopefulness and positivity dominates, even as we acknowledge the more negative, i.e. loss and bodily changes, at the same time. And there a majority of women in this study who said that they feel a greater willingness to embrace personal growth and opportunities being presented to them with ease and sense of self as they age, a liberation, if you will.

So, what’s my point? Well, I’m not suggesting that we embrace the sugar-coated version of perimenopause and menopause that many advertisers would lead us to believe. But if we start having conversations with our gal pals and our mothers and colleagues, well, maybe we can begin moving towards removing the stigma that surrounds the “change” and aging once and for all.

Knowledge and exchange are certainly positive, powerful aphrodisiacs for growth.

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