Posts made in August, 2008

Wednesday Bubble – Cherry Tomatoes

Posted by on Aug 13, 2008 in Inspiration | 4 comments

In last Wednesday’s post, I mentioned that I would be devoting Wednesdays to shedding light on a popular misconception about a menopausal treatment or symptom, discussing research that proves or disproves a theory or simply highlighting an important thought for the day.

This morning, the Universe gave me the inspiration.

Cherry tomatoes.

When I was growing up, one of the two restaurants I liked to frequent for a special birthday dinner was down the Jersey shore. It was called the Lobster Shanty and was in Toms River. (Evidently, all these decades later, it’s still in business.)

One of my last memories of eating at the Lobster Shanty was during a Summer break from college. My parents and I were enjoying our meals when suddenly, a cherry tomato become lodged in my throat, cutting off my air supply. Fortunately, the incident didn’t result in any headlines, but for years thereafter, I didn’t eat cherry tomatoes.

This morning, a cherry tomato, again, became lodged in my throat. I will spare any squeamish readers the gory details but I’m here to write this so needless to say, all’s well that ends well.

Twice in a lifetime.

Not many of us are given more than one opportunity. Truly I consider myself lucky to have lived both times. This morning’s episode (and its aftermath) wasn’t pretty.

Last week, fellow blogger Tim Walker wrote a beautiful, inspirational post on living richly every day because life is too often, unexpectedly shortened. In only a moment.

In a moment, cherry tomatoes can become lodged in one’s throat. In a moment, someone you love may be diagnosed with a chronic terminal illness. And in a moment, this wonderful thing we call life can be stolen away.

Tim’s writings resonated with me but at the time I didn’t know why. This morning, I learned the lesson that they were meant to impart:

Life’s present is to be present.

In the moment.

Thanks Tim.

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The Top 100

Posted by on Aug 12, 2008 in Uncategorized | 4 comments

News Flash!

Flashfree has been featured in the list of the Top 100 Women’s Health Blogs!

Check out the list; you may find some interesting and useful health tidbits in some of these sites!

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Hung Out To Dry

Posted by on Aug 10, 2008 in sexual health | 0 comments

[Credit: Raphel Bunuel]

Vaginal atrophy affects up to 40% of postmenopausal women in the United States. It refers to the thinning of vaginal tissues as a result of estrogen depletion. And it can lead to vaginal dryness, burning, itching and painful intercourse.

Physicians have traditionally prescribed estrogen replacement, along with over-the-counter lubricants and moisturizers to counteract the problem. Now researchers are touting the benefits of a new agent called Ophena.

Ophena is a type of drug known as a selective estrogen receptor modulator or SERM.  SERMS mimic the action of estrogen in the body without necessarily causing some of its harmful effects, such as increasing the risk of breast and uterine cancer. The only other SERM that is available is Evista, which is indicated to treat osteoporosis and has been shown to reduce breast cancer risk but does not improve vaginal atrophy.

In a recent 12-week study reported at the 12th World Congress on Menopause this past May, one or two Ophena tablets daily were shown to significantly improve vaginal dryness and painful intercourse symptoms. Reports claim that Ophena was well tolerated, although I’ve not seen the actual data.

Are SERMS really safer than estrogen?

The first SERM to be introduced to the market was Tamoxifen.  Tamoxifen is breast cancer treatment that has been associated with increased risk for uterine cancer and blood clots. Evista, the second SERM to be approved in the US, does not act on the uterus so it is not linked to an increased for uterine cancer. But it has been associated with an increased risk for stroke.

Newer SERMS, such as Ophena, are in various stages of clinical testing. However, based on prior experience with its predecessors, it appears that the jury is still out when it comes to using these agents for menopausal symptoms.

If you are looking for an alternative, there is some indication that regular sexual activity actually helps to increase circulation to the vaginal tissues and pelvic area. Avoiding products (e.g., soap, detergents, feminine hygiene spray) that increase dryness may also help. And of course, there are many types of OTC lubricants available at your local pharmacy.

What is your experience with SERMS? Good, bad? Let me know!

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Losing Your Mind?

Posted by on Aug 8, 2008 in women's health | 3 comments

[Pictured: Lakshmi, Parvati and Saraswati. Hindu godesses]

Researchers would have you believe that being single has something to do it.

Musings of a Midlife Diva posted this story earlier this week and I was curious enough to see if I could delve a bit deeper.

Evidently, researchers from Sweden have found that maintaining regular social interaction as one ages is one of the keys to optimal brain health and potentially, decreasing the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease. However, they attribute brain health to the intensity of social and intellectual stimulation that accompanies married life and couple relationships.

In this study, presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference last month in Chicago, 1,449 individuals were examined at midlife and then 21 years later. The findings showed that people living with a partner in mid-life were less likely to be cognitively impaired,and had a 50% lower risk of developing dementia in later life. What’s more, persons whose spouses died before they reached middle age and who did not remarry had a more than six-fold higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

Delving a bit deeper, I learned that the reason for living alone is key. In fact, study participants who were widowed or divorced were worse off than those who were single.  What’s more, an interaction was found between carrying the gene for Alzheimer’s and being/staying widowed although the researchers could not explain why.

There’s a hidden lesson in these study findings: sisterhood.

As Mid Life Diva emphasizes in her post, the researchers did not address the importance of community, especially sisterhood. Indeed, the degree of intellectual and social stimulation that can be derived outside a marriage was not accounted for in these findings.

As we move through the transition and changes in our midlives, it becomes more important than ever to celebrate our friendships and our connections. Afterall, a marriage of like-minded souls is what fuels our imaginations, stimulates our senses and keeps things fresh and new. While I agree that intimacy fulfills needs that friendships can’t, at the end of the day it’s my sistahs who will ultimately see me through and keep me sane.

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Wednesday Bubble

Posted by on Aug 6, 2008 in herbal medicine, hot flash, nightsweats | 0 comments

I’m starting a new feature on Flashfree called the Wednesday Bubble. Every Wednesday, I plan to shed light on a popular misconception about a menopausal treatment or symptom, discuss research that proves or disproves a theory or simply highlight an important thought for hump day.

Onto today’s bubble!

In a recent post, I posted evidence debunking the beneficial effects of HRT with regard to pain during intercourse. Now, a Chinese herbal preparation has been shown to be ineffective.

Researchers from the Chinese University of Hong Kong have confirmed that the Chinese medicine herbal preparation, Dang Gui Buxue Tang (which contains the herbs Dang Gui and Huang Qi), has little effect on menopausal vasomotor symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats.

Chinese herbal medicines containing Dang Gui and Huang Qi are commonly used in China for menopausal symptoms.  Neither preparation has undergone rigorous Western testing for efficacy or safety.

Over a 6-month period, 100 women with acute menopausal symptoms took either Dang Gui Buxue Tang or placebo.  The researchers found no difference in the frequency of mild, moderate or severe hot flashes between the study groups. In fact, Dang Gui Buxue Tang was found to be superior to placebo only for mild hot flashes. The researchers concluded that while Dang Gui Buxue Tang may be perceived as being beneficial for treating vasomotor symptoms, it is actually no better than placebo.

The placebo effect has been studied far and wide. Recently, it was attributed to the brain’s expectation of a future reward, meaning that if you think it, it will be. The findings of this particular study were interesting because the researchers actually expected these results. Keep in mind, however, that there are plenty of Chinese herbal medicine preparations that proving to be useful for menopausal symptoms. The most important consideration is that if you are considering using Chinese herbal medicine, consider the source. This means that you should consult a licensed practitioner and be sure any preparation you use is targeted for you and not simply purchased off the shelf or online without some sort of directive.

I want to hear from you. Let me know how you feel about the Wednesday Bubble. And if you have an idea for one, be sure to email me and let me know!

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