Posts made in June, 2008

A wise man once wrote…

Posted by on Jun 23, 2008 in HRT | 0 comments

The important thing is to never stop questioning.   Albert Einstein

HRT has been highly touted as an elixir for menopausal mood issues. However, a study published in the May/June issue of Menopause journal suggests otherwise.

Researchers examined the influence of hormone therapy on health-related quality of life in 3,102 women participating in the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN is an ongoing investigation of physical, psychological, biological and social changes that occur in women during their middle years and is now in its 11th year.)  Study participants were asked to complete annual questionnaires that addressed hormone use, menstrual bleeding, symptoms, and health related quality of life (i.e. perception of physical and mental health over time).

The results?  Hormone therapy was not associated with overall improvements in quality of life measures in the general study population except in women who were experiencing symptoms at least or more than six times a week.

These findings suggest that although some women may experience improvements in their mental and physical health by taking HRT, a majority will not. Obviously, this is only one study. But it certainly provides some interesting food for thought that raises some interesting questions about the pros and cons of HRT.

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Male what?

Posted by on Jun 21, 2008 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

photo credit: Phil Dente

There’s a misnomer going around (can a misnomer go around?). It’s called “male menopause.” Now mind you, I’ve got no beef with da guyz but to call a gradual decline in testosterone “menopause,” seems a bit extreme. So, what’s the buzz about?

According to the Mayo Clinic, menopause and “andropause” are two, distinct animals. During menopause, women undergo a cessation of menstruation and a rapid plummet in hormone production. On the other hand, men experience gradual declines in testosterone production after age 40. However, some men continue to produce high levels of testosterone well into their older years. What’s more, the problem does not appear to be universal; symptoms of testosterone decline, which may include reduced sexual desire and spontaneous erection, swollen breasts, a loss of hair from the body and around the genitals, loss of muscle mass, depression, and rarely, hot flashes and sweats vary from man to man and some men never experience any symptoms whatsoever.

The medical community is not only in disagreement over “male menopause” but also its treatment.
There’s lots of controversy over testosterone replacement therapy and whether or not it actually helps the symptoms of androgen deficiency. What’s more, research suggests that a large majority of men experiencing symptoms of androgen deficiency do not seek care. (No surprise there, right?!)

So is it real? Or is it a natural result of aging? One might argue that menopause is also correlative to aging so that a distinction should not be made between the sexes. On the other hand, I think that given the choice, many women would choose a gradual decline over the plunge off the cliff any day. For better or worse, menopause is owned by the ladies. And until all the votes are in, I suggest that we stop referring to this age-related problem in men as “menopause.”

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Posted by on Jun 18, 2008 in women's health | 0 comments

Menopause is called “the transition,” a time when the character and frequency of menstrual periods start to change and eventually cease. This transition is often accompanied by a larger life transition, a “crossroads” as you will, one that can make decisions difficult. I know several women around my age whose children are leaving (or have left) the nest, who are going through divorce, who are experiencing self-doubt and are feeling confused about what’s next and how to go about finding one’s way though the obstacles, be they their health, career, or family.

Social media guru Jeff Pulver has an interesting blogpost today about transitions and trusting oneself. I strongly encourage you to check it out.

One of the things that struck me during my conversation with Denise Polacek the other day was the fact that she left a successful, lucrative career as a technology transfer professional to pursue her own path. Using contacts, networking, experience, desire and commitment, Denise created a company, Life Quality Technologies, that is poised to revolutionize the way that women approach the transition and the symptoms that accompany it. Her goal? To provide women experiencing hot flashes with an alternative to drug therapy with one simple idea: cooling.

Denise told that she strongly believes, as I do, that a majority of women are open-minded and willing to explore alternative paths. Jeff Pulver says to trust ourselves. I think that both of these visionaries succeed because trying something new is viewed as a challenge that despite hardships, can yield growth and reveal unexpected surprises,

This transition that many of us are going through — in our bodies, in our lives, in our careers — is universal. Perhaps as we forge our paths, we should remember that it is only one of the many crossroads that we will face in our lives, that there will be good days and bad days and that stumbling (and even falling on our faces) is the rule, not the exception. As Queen wrote, “your every day is filled with sunshine. But into every life a little rain must fall…”

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News flash! A new alternative alternative therapy!

Posted by on Jun 16, 2008 in hot flash | 4 comments

As promised in my post last week, I tracked down Denise Polacek, Ph.D., Founder and CEO of Life Quality Technologies to learn more about the device for hot flashes that she is developing. We chatted about how and why she invented the product and more importantly, what it means for women in menopause who for one reason or another, don’t want to take hormone replacement therapy.

Her background? Denise has not spent her lifetime as a career inventor but she has spent years in a field called technology transfer (assisting scientists with patenting and commercial licensing of inventions). So she understands the ins and outs of development. What’s more, she has a broad scientific research background and a few patents under her belt already, although she says that these are based in cardiovascular genomics and not targeted to her current interests.

No stranger to hot flashes, a few years ago Denise found herself attacking the thermostat in meetings every time her internal thermostat rose a degree. “After about the fifth time, a colleague pulled me aside and suggested that the problem was me,” she explained. “So, I went to the gynecologist and immediately started hormone replacement therapy.”

While the hot flashes stopped within 24 hours, her interest in research didn’t. She felt that if she was going to take hormones, she better understand what she was taking. While delving deeper into the published literature, she learned about the association between HRT and incidence of blood clots and heart attacks. The cost-benefit ratio was not worth it, she says. So she stopped the drugs immediately. And became a guinea pig for her own experimentation with thermoelectric cooling.

Denise likens her own patented invention to a cooling fan in a computer; when the compressor starts overheating, the fan kicks in. She says that she soon realized that as soon as she got into the cold, her hot flashes would stop and that she could attenuate the symptoms within seconds. “I used those blue ice paks commonly reserved for injuries,” she says. And by experimenting on different parts of the body, she discovered that certain areas were more sensitive to cold than others and could literally halt the flash in a very short period of time.

Although the new device does not have a name or a final design as of yet, there is a prototype that’s been tested successfully on numerous colleagues. The results thus far have been exciting. “Cooling is mostly immediate and instantaneous” she says.

Denise expects the yet unnamed device to be on the market sometime in 2009. She emphasizes that the final product will be lightweight, portable, discreet, and worn under clothing near the waistline, “like lingerie.”

This is a lady who was not afraid to take some risks and follow her own path when the path in front of her has too many potholes. She’s networked like crazy and her efforts are paying off – not just for herself but those perimenopausal and menopausal women for whom drugs are not the answer. Denise told me that while she has a few other ideas for her new company, she is first and foremost dedicated to menopausal women and breast cancer sufferers plunged into premature menopause. “Menopause is not a disease,” she says, and “shouldn’t be treated like one.”

The possibilities are endless. And here’s a new pioneer who’s created innovative solution for millions of women who suffer from hot flashes. Cool!

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Posted by on Jun 15, 2008 in hot flash, Meditation/mindfulness therapy | 0 comments

Can meditation ease hot flashes? Dr. James Carmody, an assistant professor in the Division of Preventive and Behaviorial Medicine at the University of Massachusetts School of Medicine, has conducted research that suggests it can.

This small study enrolled 15 women experiencing at least 7 moderate to severe hot flashes daily to test the hypothesis that stress and hot flashes are linked. For 7 weeks, study participants attended mindfulness-based stress reduction classes that included meditation and kept a daily hot flash log during and 4 weeks after classes ended. Participants were also evaluated for menopause-related quality of life before the start and after the conclusion of mindfulness classes. The results? There was a 40% decline in weekly average hot flash severity and quality of life increased significantly.

Dr. Carmody evidently believes in these findings so much that he is currently recruiting hot flashers for a larger clinical study.

Meanwhile, I ran across this guided meditation for hot flashers on the web.

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