Posts made in September, 2009

Calcium conundrum: which supplement should I choose?

Posted by on Sep 18, 2009 in bone health | 0 comments

X-ray illustration of female human body and skeleton

Calcium supplements come in many forms including calcium citrate,  calcium carbonate and calcium gluconate.  Experts have long said that when it comes to selecting a calcium supplement, type is less important than the amount of calcium that is available for absorption by the body. This can be determined by looking at % of the recommended daily amount that is available in each dose. Currently, the National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends that women between the ages of 19 and 49 ingest 1,000 mg daily and over age 50, 1,200 mg daily.

Hence, I was intrigued when I ran across a newly published review in the September/October issue of Menopause that shows a significant advantage with a form of calcium I had not heard of before: ossein-hydroxyapatite complex (OHC), which is the mineral component of bones and teeth.

Conducting an extensive review of six clinical trials that compared OHC to calcium carbonate in 614 postmenopausal women, the researchers found that OHC was statistically superior to calcium carbonate in terms of preventing bone loss and increasing bone mineral density (BMD). Importantly, use of vitamin D did not affect the results nor did further statistical analyses.

OHC is available in microcrystalline form and often goes by the name MCHA or MCHC. This helps insure adequate absorption by the body. I’ve seen it available online and its price structure is similar to other standardized supplement formulations.

After menopause, women can experience as much as a 30% loss of bone, thereby increasing the risk for osteoporosis. I am heartened by this research and by the fact that we now have another tool in our kit to keep our bones strong and healthy. Prevention is key!

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Wednesday Bubble: The best medicine

Posted by on Sep 16, 2009 in Inspiration | 3 comments

Mom and daughter laughing.

I’m especially happy to write this Wednesday Bubble because it’s inspiring and makes me want to jump for joy! Or better, yet, laugh a little.

Several years ago, researchers discovered that humor therapy and anticipation of laughing or being amused (also known as mirthful laughter) positively affects immunity. In fact, findings from a series of five separate studies among healthy men demonstrated that just anticipating watching a funny video could increase beta-endorphins (hormones that elevated mood) as much as 17% and human growth hormone (which contributes to more optimal immunity) by as much as 87%. Elevated hormones levels were maintained throughout the video and as long as 12 hours after. Conversely, hormone levels did not increase in men who who did not anticipate watching a humorous video and instead, browsed magazines.

Similar results were seen in another study among healthy adult women; this time mirthful laughter was associated with significant declines in stress hormones and improvements in natural killer cells, which contribute favourably to immune function.

More recently, researchers have been examining the effects of mirthful laughter on actual disease states. Findings of a year-long study presented this past April at the Experimental Biology Conference suggest that watching a funny, 30-minute video on a daily basis may impart a long lasting impact on health that includes:

  • Lower stress hormones (epinephrine and norepinephrine) and related stress levels
  • Lower levels of inflammation that can contribute to disease
  • Significant improvements in HDL cholesterol
  • Significant reductions in harmful C-reactive protein levels (a protein that increase the risk for heart disease, heart attack, stroke and death)

This particular study evaluated laughter in patients with diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol who were also taking medication. Notably, similar positive outcomes were not seen in patients who did not have the benefit of watching the funny video.

What can we take away from this work and what does it have to do with menopause? Actually, I’d like to ask, what doesn’t it have to do with menopause and midlife?

During the transition, women are subject to hormonal stressors that affect mood, functioning, wellbeing as well as disease risk. If there are simpler, more natural ways to improve healthy states, for example, by daily laughter, shouldn’t we reach for them? I’d rather take a dose of funny over pharma any given day.

Here’s my gift to you: laugh today. And tomorrow. And the next day. And spread the joy. Nothing like a deep belly laugh to take some of life’s challenges away.

A little laughter may just go a lot further than previously believed.

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A is for adiposity, F is for falls, M is for muscle weakness. Together, they spell “D”

Posted by on Sep 14, 2009 in health, general | 0 comments


Wonder what I’m talking about yet? A newly published study in the advanced online edition of the journal menopause suggests that Vitamin D is a critical element for maintaining physical fitness during the postmenopause years.

In this study, researchers evaluated the following factors in 242 postmenopausal women that could account for overall physical fitness:

  • age
  • years since menopause
  • weight
  • blood levels of vitamin D
  • daily energy expenditure
  • calcium intake
  • overall body composition
  • waist and hip fat

The findings? Although there were many factors contributing to overall physical fitness, vitamin D was a common variable, contributing to fat mass, lean mass, balance, and handgrip strength. Hence, obtaining and maintaining adequate vitamin D appears to be important to staying lean, decreasing the risk of falls due to balance and maintaining muscle strength.

The Institute of Medicine currently recommends that women under the age of 50 obtain at least 200 IUs Vitamin D daily, and women over the age of 50, at least 400 IUs. Although a consensus has yet to be reached, many experts say that the majority of people can obtain adequate levels of vitamin D through about 5-30 minutes of sun exposure between 10 AM and 3 PM at least twice a week to the face, arms, legs, or back — preferably without sunscreen. Of course, this goes against common sense and skin cancer warnings and people who are especially prone to or have a skin cancer risk might want to consider obtaining their Vitamin D through daily supplements.

Regardless, it’s interesting to learn that researchers have unveiled yet another essential role for Vitamin D in our lives. Fitness is important to many aspects of aging — not just to maintain physical health — but also to promote healthier emotional well-being.

Be sure that you are paying attention to D. When it comes to postmenopause, D is for definite.

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Overworked, overextended, overstressed and underserved

Posted by on Sep 11, 2009 in Uncategorized | 22 comments

Sound familiar? Results of a global survey (conducted by the Boston Consulting Group) suggest that women are more overworked, overextended, overstressed and underserved than ever. In fact, time demands are the number one challenge that women face in their lives.

Key findings include:

  • Women are responsible for a large percentage of global income, owning 40% of all U.S. business and controlling over $12 trillion dollars in consumer spending (globally).
  • In the U.S., almost 71% of women in the workforce are mothers, and over half have children under the age of one. Yet, they do most of the work at home as well (88% – grocery shopping; 85% – meal preparation; 84% laundry and cleaning; and 77%, household administration).
  • 48% of women say that managing household finances is a major source of stress in their lives, while 81% are concerned about not having enough money for retirement.
  • 47% say that time demands represent the “big stress in their lives,” with 45% expressing that they don’t have enough time for themselves.

One of the most disturbing finding deals with women’s expectations of themselves. In fact 44% say that they rarely or never feel powerful. Hmmm, why is this?  Why is it that we feel powerless when we control such a significant portion of the global economy and virtually run our world, both inside and outside the home? And where is the true source of a woman’s power?

Survey results suggest that the source of happiness in women’s lives mostly relates to love, health, honesty and emotional well-being. From this, one might surmise that the source of women’s power lies within their connections, candor and honesty, as well as the opportunity to pursue these things freely. Indeed, when asked what they wanted most, respondents said:

  1. More love and connections, both intimate and with family, friends, colleagues and neighbors.
  2. Freedom to pursue the path which will allow them to become fulfilled, happy and satisfied.
  3. More balance in their lives.
  4. Enough money to remove financial pressure.

Silver gazeWe live in a world where time is a commodity and where the individual is always being pulled in a zillion directions. Self-image, especially as we age, can be tough, especially when societal messages abound that we are no longer “as beautiful as…”  In fact, in this survey, at least a quarter of women said that they rarely or never felt beautiful.

What gives? We are powerful, we are in control and regardless of age or shape, we, as women, have an inner beauty that when realized, reflects outward and resonates endlessly.

Life is stressful and it appears that as women, we are shouldering a burden of extreme proportions. Not only should we be asking what we are doing to create this paradigm but more importantly, what can we do to change it.

What do you think?

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Wednesday Bubble: Turmeric…too good to be true?

Posted by on Sep 9, 2009 in breast cancer, HRT | 4 comments


I’ve been hearing lots lately about turmeric, that lovely Indian spice that turns everything it touches a sunny shade of yellow. Turmeric is in the ginger family, and its active ingredient is called cucurmin. Not only is it well-regarded in Chinese and Indian medicine for its anti-inflammatory properties, but from a strictly nutritional standpoint, it is an excellent source of iron, manganese and also provides vitamin B6, dietary fiber and potassium.

However, there has also been lots of buzz over turmeric’s potential as an anti-cancer agent, which is why I was intrigued when I ran across an experimental study published in the Advanced online edition of Menopause suggesting that cucurmin may slow the development of breast cancer tumours in rats exposed to hormone therapy. In this study, rats were first given growth proteins that promote blood vessel growth,  implanted with pellets containing hormone therapy and then treated with turmeric. The results showed that turmeric delayed tumour growth, decreased the overall incidence of tumours and also reduce their ability to multiply.

Results of both animal and human studies have shown that hormone therapy can significantly increase breast cancer risk. Although the action for this is not entirely understood, the progestin component in hormone therapy appears to accelerate tumour development by promoting chemical signals by cells that stimulate new blood vessels. When overstimulated, this can cause disease, and allow tumour cells to grow. In this study, turmeric either slowed or prevented this action.

Mind you, this is an animal study and the jury is still year’s out. However, these promising results may prompt researchers to evaluate whether or not turmeric is an active anti-cancer agent in women who have been exposed to hormone therapy and are at risk for breast cancer.

Meanwhile, Indian food is sounding like a great idea for dinner tonight!

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