Posts made in October, 2009

Spray that forgetfulness away

Posted by on Oct 12, 2009 in Uncategorized | 0 comments


Australian researchers are suggesting that a daily testosterone skin spray can boost brain function and memory in menopausal women. If that’s all it takes, heck, sign me up. Thing is, do you grow more hair in unexpected places as well?!

The study, which was presented last month at the North American Menopause Society annual meeting, examined the effectiveness of a daily spray in 10 menopausal women, ages 45 to 60, for 6 months. All women participated in computerized testing for visual and verbal learning and memory before and after treatment and also had MRI scans to examine brain activity.

Visual learning, the ability to recall items after seeing them (i.e. verbal learning) and memory significantly improved after treatment. More importantly though, Interestingly, while the speed at which women performed cognitive tests were the same after as before treatment, MRI scans revealed that less brain activity was required to complete the tasks.

The researchers say that women in menopause experience dementia and memory loss at rates that are twice those of men of the same ages. They believe that this may be due, at least in part, to lower levels of testosterone, both in relation to men and in women about half their age. If you believe the results of this study, it’s possible that testosterone treatment may eventually prove effective in preventing declines in brain function that occur with age.

Importantly, delivery of testosterone via a spray as opposed to a skin patch may also account for fewer side effects. However, because this study was only conducted in a small number of women, no conclusions can be drawn at this time.

Sometimes I think it’s better to lose half my brain than to grow hair in unwanted places or set myself up for unwanted side effects. But then again, other times I forget that I feel this way!

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Got sleep?

Posted by on Oct 9, 2009 in sleep disturbance | 0 comments


How many nights do you lie awake, staring at the clock and just hoping for a wee bit of shut-eye?

If you are like many women in peri- or post-menopause, the answer is probably “a lot.” However, data presented at last month’s North American Menopause Society Annual meeting show that sleep problems do not change uniformly across menopause, which is why addressing them effectively can be difficult for some women.

Researchers examined the sleep patterns and symptoms of 286 women who participated in the Seattle Midlife Women’s Health Study. All participants completed daily menstrual calendars, which were used to track their experiences across the menopausal transition and rate the severity of all symptoms. For five years, they also provided the researchers with first-morning urine samples so that estrogen, fallopian stimulating hormone, and stress hormones could be measured.

The result? Depending on your sleep pattern, the relationship to certain factors changed. For example, nighttime awakening was mostly associated with age, being late in the menopausal transition (before moving into full-blown menopause), early menopause, hot flashe, depressed mood, joint pain and stress. Early morning awakening was associated with age, hot flashes, depressed mood, anxiety, joint pain, stress, and lower estrogen/higher FSH levels. On the otherhand, difficulty falling asleep was associated with menopausal symptoms in general, stress, and lower stress hormone levels.

However, regardless of whether women were having trouble falling asleep, awoke several times during the night or awoke in the early morning hours, sleep disruption was consistently associated with hot flashes, depression and stress.

In light of these findings, the researchers concluded that interventions to improve sleep might be more effective if they were targeted and focused, for example, towards night-time awakening and hot flashes, or difficulty falling asleep and depression, rather than clustered under the category of “sleep disruption” without examining exacerbating factors.

Of course, the greater implication here is that sleep-associated disorders during the menopause do not fall under the “one size fits all” approach and are better treated with individualized therapy. This is not to say, however, that certain interventions, like yoga or acupuncture can’t help address the cluster of sleep issues, hot flashes and stress, etc. Still, it’s best to consult with your practitioner before embarking on your own approach to solving the sleep woes. Personally, I find that I will be awake for hours in the nights preceding my menstrual period, regardless of the use of herbs, exercise or meditation. It just “is.” Yet, I’m glad to know there might be a better approach to addressing my specific woes.

What about you? What are you doing to get sleep?

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Wednesday Bubble: breast cancer during menopause- move your body

Posted by on Oct 7, 2009 in breast cancer, exercise | 0 comments


[Credit: Stephen diFilipo, Fountain at the Gaylord Hotel, National Harbor ©2009. With permission]

October is National Breast Cancer month. In honor of family and friends who have survived breast cancer, I am dedicating this month’s Bubbles to posting choice bits of information about the topic this month. I admire these women greatly – for their strength, their tenacity and their hope. Rock on ladies!

Nothing like a bit of good news to kick off the month!

Early this year, I wrote about a study showing that exercise could help reduce breast cancer risk. Today’s post provides evidence that the timing and intensity of that activity makes a huge difference.

In this study, which appears in BioMed Central Cancer, researchers examined and compared the relationship of light physical activity to moderate to vigorous activity and its association to breast cancer risk in 118,699 women in menopause. Activity levels were studied during four periods of life: ages 15 to 18, ages 19 to 29, ages 35 to 39 and the past 10 years. Light activities included bowling, golf (riding in a cart), table tennis, slow walking/slow dancing, light calesthenics, light gardening, fishing, horseshoes/croquet and light housework. Moderate-to-vigorous activities included tennis, golf (walking), biking, swimming, heavy gardening, weight lifting, basketball/baseball, football/soccer, cheerleading/drill team, handball/raquetball, hiking/mountain climbing, fast walking/fast dancing, rowing, aeroboics, jogging/running and heavy housework.

The researchers found no association between activity intensity and breast cancer risk in the time periods leading up to menopause. However, Women engaging in more than 7 hours per week of  moderate to vigorous activity during the past 10 years had a significant, 16% lower risk of developing breast cancer compared to women who were inactive or only engaged in light activity. This benefit remained even when the researchers took factors such as age, body mass index, family history, or hormone use into consideration. The type of tumour cancer stage also had no effect.

Although researchers have been aware that a high versus low level of physical activity may protect against developing breast cancer during menopause, this is the first study to actually examine activity during other time periods and then compare them to more recent time periods.

Clearly, it’s time to move your body if you’ve not been doing so. A 16% reduction in breast cancer risk is significant.

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Guest post: Explore your P.A.S.S.I.O.N.: an excerpt from ‘The Fearless Factor’

Posted by on Oct 5, 2009 in Inspiration | 1 comment

FearlessBookEBookCover3D copy-1

I was recently asked to read Author and Motivational Speaker Jacqueline Wales’ book The Fearless Factor, an overview of her journey of self-discovery and self-fulfillment. The deeper I delved, the more intrigued I became with her personal struggles and with her story, and the more convinced I was that her messages fit well with those of Flashfree — namely that honoring the things that challenge us the most is the greatest gift that we can give to ourselves. As Jacqueline writes “It’s hard to get anything done if you don’t believe in all you can be.”

Here’s an excerpt. Enjoy!

Three years ago I started Fearless Fifties, and as I reflected on what my life has been I realized that P.A.S.S.I.O.N. was an acronym for the seven stages I went through to make changes in my life, and it applies equally to everyone I’ve ever spoken with about the nature of change. The seven steps are Permission, Action, Strength, Support, Inspiration, Owning (confidence) and Nurture.

  • Permission. Step number one was giving myself Permission to move beyond the limitations and fears that held me in a negative grip, Permission to step away from asking others if it was okay for me to live my life the way I wanted. Permission granted to myself to create whatever I wanted. To take a new direction. To make decisions that were good for me.
  • Action. I had to make a plan, or at least have a sense that whatever’ wanted was possible if’ would only do things differently. I began to focus on what was true to me.’ began to think about what it would take for me to do what I wanted to do. To become who I wanted to become. To write well, I need teachers, to sing well, I need teachers, to become a black belt in karate, I needed teachers. But I also needed com­mitment and focus, and a stick-to-it attitude that evolved as I made my plans.
  • Strength. When I took action I began to under­stand my own Strength. All my life I had battled the demons of insecurity, lack of self-esteem, depres­sion, and abuse. I began to understand that not everyone makes it through to this other side. Many, like my brother, end up in jail, or, like my father, succumb to the deadly grip of drugs and alcohol. You could say the deck was stacked against my succeeding, but somewhere buried under the dung heap was the belief that there was always something more for me. On reflection, I realized that it took enormous strength of will to overcome many of these obstacles, and that would continue to support me in my forward motion.
  • Support. As I developed my strengths, I searched for Support to help me get further along the path. I found therapists, coaches, inspirational speakers, books and tapes to educate myself and learn from the past Getting support was the key to my success. Without these amazing guides on my journey, I would never have known which path to take.
  • Inspiration. On this journey through my own jungle , received Inspiration from all the people I had worked with, and met. As a result, , was hungry for more and began to feel confident about what I was doing.
  • Own It. Developing confidence takes time, and a lot of people who believe in you as you learn how to believe in yourself.’ began to Own who’ was becoming because’ could see ME more clearly. I removed the veil of the past and’ developed confidence in my skills, my experiences, and my knowledge. I called it standing in my own shoes.
  • Nurturing. I had to learn how to Nurture myself. I gave myself permission to do what was good for me, had regular massages, went to visit the chiropractor, and exercised regularly. Stopped drinking, gave up drugs, learned how to speak to me with kindness and compassion, and did this because I realized if I took care of me , could then take care of others more appropriately.

The passion I speak of is the thing that gets you out of bed in the morning. in the best possible circumstances, passion drives your choices around work, money, relationships, and what to do with the rest of your life.

The first step to putting PASSION into your life is PERMISSION.

We make too many excuses for what we don’t do and why we can’t do it, and we frequently ask if it’s okay for us to be doing something instead of stepping up and saying, “This is what I need to do. This is what I will do. This is all about me, not you.” We apologize for our existence, instead of celebrating it. We don’t ask for what we want, until it’s too late when we realize we are not getting what we want. So you must give yourself permission to live life on your own terms.

Finding your passion is essential to living your best life. I have never worked harder, nor felt so fulfilled as I do at this time. Learning how to give myself what I needed was the key.

*  *  *

A question for the author

What does it mean to be fearless in midlife? Is there any distinction in the approach based on where women are in their emotional, physical and social strata during this time in the lives?

We have reached a place where we are free from many of constrictions of family and career.  Many are experiencing empty nest, and are exploring new ways of being in the world.  We may have established ourselves in a career that is still thriving, while others may be asking what they want to do for the rest of their lives and are looking for meaning and purpose as they follow their passions, or are deciding what passions were left behind in the day to day tasks.  Many are also choosing to end long term relationships because they no longer fill their needs.  It is almost like a second adolescence in that there is a sense of greater freedom.  However, for many, these changes come with fears, doubts and anxieties about growing older, about retirement and financial risks, about not  having enough to be comfortable in later life, or having health issues.

All of these are reason enough to stay stuck, but being fearless in midlife is more about facing those challenges and looking for new ways to approach things. I like to say, ‘It’s My Turn’ and also “It’s not about age…it’s about attitude.”  It goes a long way to finding the right solutions to the problem. That’s why ‘The Fearless Factor’ was written.

About Jacqueline Wales…Jacqueline Wales is known the world over as The Black Belt Millionaire.  Her unique programs have helped women around the globe develop strong personal success, confident communication and clear visions of their goals. She is the author of five books including The Fearless Factor.

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Redux: HRT and lung cancer

Posted by on Oct 2, 2009 in HRT | 0 comments

(Disclaimer: Back in June, I posted study findings that demonstrated a clear relationship between use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT)  and death from lung cancer. Mysteriously, that post has disappeared from the archives. However, just last week, a more thorough analysis was published in online version of The Lancet. Because this issue is so important, I’m writing about it again. I hope that you find the information useful.)


The Women’s Health Initiative trial was a 15 year study examining the most common causes of death, disability and reduce quality of life in over 161,000 postmenopausal women. Researchers halted the HRT arm after definitive associations were seen between combined hormone therapy and increased risk for heart disease, stroke, blood clots and breast cancer. In the two to four years that followed, an excess risk for developing various cancers and for death were also seen. This is especially true for deaths from lung cancer.


  • 16,608 postmenopausal women between the ages of 50 and 79 received once-daily Prempro (conjugated equine estrogen plus medroxyprogesterone acetate) or placebo.
  • Overall, women continued to take HRT for approximately 5 to 6 years, until researchers found that risks of taking HRT exceeded the benefits.
  • Outcomes were measured via biannual phone calls and yearly clinic visits.
  • After they stopped taking hormones, participants were followed for another 2 to 4 years.

The results

The study findings showed that while HRT did not increase the incidence of lung cancer, it did increase the number of deaths from lung cancer, especially among women diagnosed with the non-small cell type. in fact, taking HRT yielded almost twice the risk of death compared to women who never took hormones. What’s more, increased risk remained regardless of smoking status.

Takeaway message

Evidence continues to accumulate that the risks of using HRT greatly outweigh the benefits. These findings are just the latest piece of the story that is, in my opinion, the failure that is HRT.  Indeed, even the researchers say that these data are strong enough that women considering taking HRT should be sure to discuss them with their physicians, especially if they are already at risk for lung cancer.

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