Posts made in October, 2010

NewsFlash! Unsightly cellulite? Shock it away!

Posted by on Oct 29, 2010 in appearance, physical fitness | 4 comments

Every now and then I have to share some exciting news. And honestly? I don’t even know what to think about this one:

Got cellulite? There may be hope!  (Do you hear the angels singing?!!!)

As women, we are both blessed and burdened with extra padding around the thigh and buttocks area. These days, thanks for JLo, some women are even trying to pack some extra stuff in their booty, and when they can’t  they can even enhance their rear-ends with Booty Pop. But all kidding aside, while it might be great to have some extra junk in the trunk, the unsightly bumps due to numbers of large fat cells in fatty tissue can be downright difficult to overcome or get rid of, even with ample exercise, weight training and a proper diet. Indeed, aging in connective tissue can lead to an imbalance between the body’s ability to produce and breakdown fat, causing even more cellulite.

The news…German researchers are studying if shockwaves aimed at the thigh region plus intensive gluteal strength training can help solve the cellulite problem. Over 12 weeks, roughly 200,000 women under age 18 or over 65 are receiving:

  • Six sessions  of shockwave therapy (given every 1 to 2  weeks; 2000 focused impulses) plus twice daily gluteal exercises consisting of 15 quadruped hip extensions and 15 quaduped hip extensions with the leg straightened, or
  • Six sessions of sham shockwaves (given every 1 to 2 weeks) plus twice daily gluteal exercise as described above.

Cellulite is measured (or graded) on a scale of 0 to 3, ranging from no dimple when skin is pinched to skin alterations or dimpling both when women are standing and lying down. The results of this study, which are not available yet, will focus changes in skin elasticity based on this scale, self assessment on appearance of thighs and buttocks and on any changes in blood or oxygen flow in thighs.

Wow! I’m excited. Cellulite is a challenge, no matter how much exercise you do. This is one procedure I might get my arms (and legs and butt) around! Shock it baby! I’m in!

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Do women lie when they act perfect? A guest post by Kathy Korman Frey

Posted by on Oct 27, 2010 in career, Inspiration, women's health | 4 comments

Ain’t no Wednesday Bubble but some inspiration. And I’m certainly inspired! Every now and then, you run into a person who is creating a new paradigm, one woman at a time. That woman is Kathy Korman Frey, aka @chiefhotmomma on Twitter, entrepreneur, educator and founder of the Hot Mommas Project and #sisU: Sisterhood University project. Kathy’s focus is to raise the self-efficacy of women and girls through exposure to role models. This approach echos the approach to our healthcare that I’ve been trying to impart since starting Flashfree: by talking to one another, sharing experiences, creating lasting support networks and crowdsourcing, women are better able to care for themselves (and those around them) and make decisions about their health that are not only sensible but also, make the most sense for them.

Hence, when I read the following post written by Kathy, I knew that it needed to be reposted on here We are always trying to be superwomen, aren’t we? Whether it’s our career or health, Isn’t it time to create a posse of empowerment?

A post by Athena Vongalis-Macrow and Andrea Gallant on the blog of Harvard Business School Publishing is entitled: Stop Stereotyping Female Leaders.  The myth of the “superwoman” is discussed, and how this myth continues to be perpetuated by women themselves.  This is sad not only because women feel pressure to appear or be perfect, but also because this is what we are teaching the next generation. Expectations are killing women across this great nation of ours…both expectations of ourselves, and those from others whether actual or perceived.

Many articles and books have been written on this topic, such as Michele Woodward’s “I am Not Superwoman” and  Tal Ben-Shahar’s “The Pursuit of Perfect.” But are we listening? And, furthermore, how can we turn that listening into action?

A little story: Between the ages of one and one-half and six, my son had a “posse.” An occupational therapist, a behavior consultant, and various and sundry experts that would come into and out of our lives in between “special” parent-teacher conferences. My son would do everything he could to hold it together at school, and then have outbursts at home which included banging his head on the floor or wall.  It’s shocking, isn’t it? Just imagining a child doing this. There isn’t even a word to describe how it felt to me as a parent.  It turned out that his brain was ahead of his ability to express his feelings. So, well, he freaked out. Today, we have a happy boy on our hands. But I’ll never forget those days.

So, how does this relate to women being authentic leaders? Two things:

Get a Posse

During that time of crisis with our son, we had a “posse.”  This was our group of experts to whom we could turn for advice and counsel. The posse helped.  And my point for women is: Get a posse.  More women are working, more dual income households, more masters degrees than men, more PhDs then men…I mean, hey, we’ve got it going on. But, some things don’t change…like our caregiving responsibilities or fundamental female neurology as brilliantly described in Louann Brizendine’s “The Female Brain.”  Are you not worthy of a posse of experts? We’d do it for our kids. We’d do if we were diagnosed with an illness. So, why not now?  As mentioned at the recent Sisterhood University (#sisUdc), we all need a personal board of advisors. The problems will come and go. The questions. The challenges. Even the celebrations. But the personal board of advisors – the “posse” – remains.

Develop a Vocabulary of Honesty

This is not for everyone…but the strong ones of us must continue to develop a “vocabulary” of honesty around our challenges.  Back to the example of my son’s time of crisis: One particularly gifted behavior consultant had a knack for tapping into smart and sensitive children.  She encouraged us to increase our “feelings” vocabulary around the house.  For instance, when I would say, “Mommy feels frustrated,” my son now had a word to place on his own feelings. It was calming. It was re-affirming. What started off sounding kind of corny to me actually healed us as a family. In addition to running our house in an incredibly structured manner, this single piece of advice worked.  Thus, women need to increase and model the right vocabulary in this strange new world which feels like a kind of “life moon bounce.”  But how?

I recommend the following:

  • 1/3 challenge – Talk about the challenge. Make it real. Validate your concerns, or those of your “posse” members.
  • 2/3 solution – Then, talk about how you solved it, or how you think about it, or – perhaps you’re still struggling with it and you’ve just decided to be in transition. The latter two thirds of the conversation should be about actions, and perspectives that help.

Women: This is your chance to act as teachers and mentors

Women, please take the time to do the hard work and the thinking on this. Be willing to communicate your experiences to other women and the next generation. Why do you think I’m putting all this stuff out there about my son…a deeply personal topic? To help, that’s why. And women, if someone asks you “Why do you seem so perfect?” Stop. Think. Remember: This is a time to perpetuate a myth, or join a member of someone’s “posse” as an expert who models the right behavior.


About the author…Kathy Korman Frey is an entrepreneur, educator and founder of the Hot Mommas Project and #sisU: Sisterhood University. Frey teaches Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership at the George Washington University School of Business, and is also one of the nation’s top business bloggers. She currently lives in Washington, DC where she struggles daily to cling to reality while raising her entrepreneur husband, Josh, their children Maxwell and Delilah, and dog Foxy Frey.

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HRT – Put up your dukes

Posted by on Oct 25, 2010 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Ladies (and gents)…in this corner, weighing in with fear, loathing and disease-mongering,  hormone replacement therapy (HRT). And  in the other – weighing in as ‘snake oil,’ everything that “doesn’t work,” remains “unproven,” is “unsafe,” hasn’t been approved by the Food & Drug Administration, alternative strategies. Put up your dukes!

Sounds like a boxing match without a referee, eh?

Adding to the controversy are recent study findings showing that Pfizer’s Preempro (estrogen plus progestin) HRT may increase the risk of aggressive, invasive breast cancer and deaths from breast cancer in some women. In fact, the lines continue to be drawn between those who will fight for their hormones no matter what and individuals  who believe that either greater regulation is needed or that hormones should be taken off the market altogether. It reminds me of the controversy over mammography, which has been not been proven to decrease breast cancer rates or improve survival. That’s a post for another day, although I encourage you to check out the posts that my friend Marya has written.

The argument against using the Women’s Health Initiative Study (WHI) data to demonstrate the dangers of HRT focuses on the small percentage of women enrolled in the original study who were in the age group (5o to 54 years) when women would be starting hormone therapy. Indeed, research shows that in addition to the type of progesterone added to estrogen, the time on hormone therapy can significantly influence health risks. Moreover, in the WHI, women who took estrogen only were not shown to have increased breast cancer risk (but a heck of a lot other increased risks – just look at the data). And yet, after the WHI hormone study was halted in 2002, substantial declines in the rates of breast cancer were noted in numerous countries, including Canada and the United States. Adding fodder, many pro-HRT experts argue that the alternatives – bioidenticals or complementary medicine – are unproven and downright unsafe.

In case you’ve not been reading this blog regularly, I believe the following and wrote it to a very passionate reader of HealthNewsReview Blog who felt that I was marginalizing women’s suffering:

For decades, women have been duped into believing that menopause is a disease that requires medical treatment, but at the same time, researchers have been unable to differentiate many of its symptoms from those of aging. Consequently, it’s imperative not only to ask what we are treating but why and how.

By all means, if you are comfortable with HRT and other treatments, go for it. But use them with eyes wide open and always examine the risks versus benefits. You might be surprised by what you learn. And how much we still don’t know.

I recently ran across the following statement with regards to the confusion:

“Some things don’t need to be healed; they just need to progress naturally.”

When you’re down for the count, sweating and flashing and swinging without a referee, the call about HRT can be a tough call to make. The good news? Menopause won’t kill you and symptoms do eventually go away. It is just one more of life’s transitions that we have to navigate. Just try to steer yourself towards informed choices and decisions and always, ask the hard questions. There are always those who ‘do,’ and those who ‘don’t.’ Just be sure you’re doing or not for the right reasons.

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HRT and breast cancer – more red flags

Posted by on Oct 22, 2010 in breast cancer, HRT | 2 comments

More bad news from the Women’s Health Initiative study and hormone replacement therapy (HRT, combined estrogen and progestin) front: not only does combined HRT appear to double the risk for breast cancer in some women, but these cancers are more invasive/agressive and more likely to lead to death.

The WHI findings have been repeatedly criticized by HRT advocates, who claim that the the women who were studied were not representative of the typical menopausal population, e.g. they were older and well past menopause at enrollment. So it is true that the potential benefits of HRT that might have been experienced by younger women were not explored. Indeed, time on hormones and the relationship between hormone use and how far into menopause a woman is can influence risk, as can the progestagen component. (If you want to read more about these specific factors, click on the links.) Nevertheless, what is also clear is that following the 2002 findings and the significant decline in HRT prescriptions, a substantial decrease in breast cancer rates were observed in both the US and Canada, so much so that the Canadian Cancer Society recently recommended that HRT be taken only as a last resort.

And the latest study findings?

In their continuing quest to determine insights into the risk-benefit ratio of HRT, researchers continued to follow and evaluate data from 83% (12,788) original trial participants. They found that HRT increased the incidence of invasive breast cancers by as much as 8% (compared with placebo), and that these cancers were also likelier to spread to the lymph nodes (24% of women taking HRT were found to have lymph node tumors compared to 16% of women taking placebo). Moreover, twice as many women on HRT died as the result of their cancer.

In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Peter Bach, a health outcomes researcher from Sloan-Kettering Medical Center in New York City, suggests that the latest study findings may only be the tip of the iceberg and that “it is possible that the increase in breast cancer deaths due to hormone therapy has been underestimated in the current study and that with longer follow-up, the deleterious effect will appear larger.” Additionally, he notes that “available data dictate caution in the current approach to hormone therapy, particularly because one of the lessons from the WHI is that physicians are ill-equipped to anticipate the effects of hormone therapy on long-term health.” Nor, have short-term approaches to hormone therapy been proven in clinical trials. As Dr. Bach points out, how can practitioners help patients make informed decisions if they are ill-informed themselves and the information, “speculative.” Nevertheless, the North American Menopause Society is taking the opposite stance, stating that ” clinicians can help women put the breast cancer risk into perspective by informing them that the increased risk of breast cancer using estrogen plus progestogen for 5 years is very similar to the increased risk of breast cancer associated with having menopause 5 years later. This increased risk of breast cancer occurs with a woman’s own internal, natural estrogen and progesterone.”

If this study and its accompanying editorial don’t raise a few flags, nothing will. And despite the pro-HRT stance of the North American Menopause Society, I encourage all women to start educating themselves before making the HRT leap. What’s more, be aware that once you start taking hormones, your practitioner might not be able to provide evidenced-based information on how to stop them, should you decide that they are not for you.

Ask yourselves, what is the trade-off here?

(Reuters Health, as usual, has a few more gems from this study that are required reading. You can find them here.)

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Wednesday Bubble me this: end the ‘silent suffering’

Posted by on Oct 20, 2010 in estrogen, sexual health, vaginal atrophy | 12 comments

Bubble me this. When you think “chronic health condition,” what do you think of? I think heart disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis or cancer. I don’t automatically think vaginal atrophy. And yet, it’s what’s for World Menopause Day.

The International Menopause Society (IMS) joined forces this year with Novo Nordisk FemCare Ag (marketers of Activella®) to ‘end silent suffering’ and promote recommendations for the management of vaginal atrophy during the menopause. A key problem, they say, is that results of a phone survey show that women are not discussing vaginal atrophy with their practitioners, who in turn, are not openly asking questions about vaginal health.

Vaginal atrophy refers to the thinning of the vaginal and vulvovaginal tissues due to a decline in estrogen, and can lead to pain, burning and soreness during sexual intercourse. Recent estimates suggest that vaginal atrophy affects about 50% of menopausal women. Symptoms can be mild or  severe, and unquestionably, the more a woman feels pain, the more she is likely to be distressed during intercourse or lose interest in sex altogether. What’s more, according to survey results, the majority of postmenopausal women incorrectly attribute vaginal atrophy symptoms to urinary tract and yeast infections. More importantly, the report notes that roughly 63% of surveyed women did not realize that vaginal atrophy was “a chronic condition requiring ongoing treatment of the underlying cause.”

A chronic condition requiring treatment?

Granted, a chronic condition is defined as a health problem lasting three years or longer. And depending on how long a woman’s menopause lasts, well, vaginal atrophy theoretically fits into that category. But aren’t we being a bit alarmist about the ‘silent suffering’ of women with this chronic condition?

Mind you, I am not mocking or doubting the horrible impact that vaginal atrophy can have on a woman’s life. In fact, aging and its accompanying aches and pains aren’t fun. Neither are hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings or vaginal pain. And I am heartened to see that the IMS has published recommendations for recognizing and managing vaginal atrophy. They include:

  • Greater collaboration and open discussion with postmenopausal women about their vaginal health
  • Early detection of vaginal atrophy
  • The value of estrogen therapy in treatment, including HRT or preferably, vaginal tablets, cream or rings

According to these recommendations, lubricants and moisturizers are not universally recommended for use by themselves because they can be irritating and offer only temporary relief of symptoms. However, as Dr. Diana Hoppe points out in her book, Healthy Sex Drive, Healthy You, “to get the vagina adequately lubricated, I initially recommend lubricants [e.g. Replense or Astroglide]. If lubricants do not work to make sex more comfortable, I prescribe vaginal estrogen therapy, which comes in different forms.” The point that she makes is that it is important to consider lubrication issues (and the resulting atrophy) as something that can be addressed in a step-wise fashion. Nor does she discuss atrophy and dryness as if they are symptoms of a chronic condition. In fact, like Dr. Christine Northrup, Dr. Hoppe emphasizes that women’s health issues, in particular desire, are multifaceted and emotionally and physically related. Toward that end, is it possible that by focusing solely on the physiological aspects of atrophy, practitioners might miss other important factors?

The IMS recommendations also fail to mention selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMS), which mimic the action of estrogen in the body but theoretically, without associated risks and side effects. Most importantly, while ‘localized’ estrogen (i.e. topically or vaginally applied) may have a better safely profile than systemic estrogens (which directly enter the bloodstream after being ingested or injected) it is not without risks; according to its package insert, Activella is associated with pain, headache, nausea, vomiting, irregular bleeding and thickening of the vaginal wall and and also has a boxed warning about heart disease, stroke and blood clotting.

There’s an inherent lesson here, which is why this piece is featured on Wednesday: by all means, seek help for vaginal atrophy but ask questions about the therapy your doctor or practitioner recommends. If your symptoms are severe, well, you might want to skip the lubricants and go for the big guns. And be sure to consider factors other than estrogen depletion that might be contributing to a declining libido. If there’s one thing that appears to permeate all women’s health issues, it’s this: nothing is as cut and dry as it seems.

I hardly believe that we’re on the verge of an atrophy epidemic or that we need to dramatize the “silent suffering” of countless women across the globe.

Bursting this one? Yeah, you bet.

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