Posts made in March, 2011

Feeling like a ‘raging maniac?’ There’s a Facebook app for that!

Posted by on Mar 7, 2011 in bioidentical hormones | 12 comments

Truly, I am appalled.

BodyLogicMD, a national network of physician-owned practices that specialize in biodentical hormone replacement therapy, wants you to ‘Rate the Raging Maniac‘ in your life. (Note: you have to “like” the Facebook page in order in play.)

According to Vice President for Marketing, Jill Swartz “With the Raging Maniac Quiz on Facebook, we’re able to poke fun at the otherwise serious symptoms of hormon conditions like perimenopause, menopause and thyroid imbalances. This is a playful quiz we think people will have a great time socializing with.”

Okay. Let me get this straight.

Waning estrogen is wreaking havoc on your moods, causing swings, depression, anxiety, anger and short temper. You feel miserable and perhaps you are making your partner, friends or colleagues a wee bit miserable too. Or, you have a friend who’s hormonal swings are making her into ‘Bitchy Betty.’

The answer?

Visit the Facebook BodyLogic page, play ‘Rate the Raging Maniac,’ and up your social status by determining if you or your friend is “Hormonally Happy,” “A Mild Maniac,” or a “Raging Maniac.”  Better yet, Raging Maniac allows you to select a friend to play with and after the results are in, you can post them results to your friend’s wall. Game on! She can take the quiz to see if you are a raging maniac too.

Guess what BodyLogic?

I don’t know one woman who wants to be rated as a raging maniac, publicly or otherwise. I don’t know any friends, colleagues, or intimate partners who would be so insensitive to rate people in their lives as raging maniacs or those ridiculous quirky character pseudonyms that your marketing folks have come up with, characters like “Sexi Lexi,” “Forgetful Fran” or “Negative Nancy.” I don’t know who your social marketing person is but you may want to think about replacing them with someone who understands women.

In the interim, one can only surmise that if you’re deemed a Raging Maniac, well, then, you need to contact one of BodyLogicMD’s physicians and get that prescription for biodentical hormones pronto!

Or is that the booby prize?

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Flaming the fires of HRT: what influences risk?

Posted by on Mar 4, 2011 in heart disease, HRT | 6 comments

Let’s face it. Despite my doubts about hormone replacement therapy (HRT), just like the Energizer Bunny, it’s going to keep on going. So as any responsible journalist must do, I have to share the good along with the bad and ugly. The trouble is that data rarely agree, lending confusion to the growing controversy about health risks, appropriate timing, combination and use of HRT.

Last week, several of you sent me a link to a study in the current issue of Menopause that appears to further clarify use of HRT and heart disease risk. Quite honestly, I had seen the study but was hesitant to write about it for fear of simply fueling the fires. But you’ve asked so I’ve answered.

The investigators of this particular study note that experts suspect that timing of hormone replacement, i.e. age when it’s started or time since menopause has begun when it’s started, plays a role in some of the differences between previous reports on HRT and heart disease. For example, reanalysis of data from the Nurses Health Study demonstrates that any heart benefits of HRT rely on starting therapy within 10 years of menopause, while data from the Women’s Health Initiative show that younger age plays an important role as well.

In a quest to tease this out further, they examined information on deaths from ischemic heart disease, age at first and/or current use of HRT, prior use and duration of use in 71,237 postmenopausal women in the California Teachers Study over a period of approximately 9 years. The findings?

  • Overall, current age while using HRT appears to influence risk of dying from any cause. This factor appears to be much more importan than age that HRT was started or years since menopause began. Indeed, women using HRT at the time of the study who were younger than 65 years were found to have a 45% reduced risk of death from any cause compared to women who had never used HRT.
  • Similar findings were seen when the researchers examined death from heart disease, with HRT providing some protection in younger current users that virtually disappeared once they reached 75 years.

The upshot is that the health consequences and risks of HRT may be influenced most by age at current use, with younger women having the most benefits to gain. Any sort of protection starts to disappear as women grow older so the window of opportunity might be small.

Still, questions remain. These researchers were only trying to determine the most important influencer(s) of death from heart disease and not examining cancer or other risks that have been definitively demonstrated.  Do these data fan the controversial fires and serve to heat up the debate? I believe that they do.

As always, buyer beware. Nothing is ever as it seems. Especially when it comes to hormone replacement therapy.

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Wednesday Bubble: stress, abdominal fat and exercise

Posted by on Mar 2, 2011 in exercise | 4 comments

This is a day to neither burst nor unburst bubbles, but rather, explore an interesting set of hypotheses that ran across my desk:

Stress boosts that unsightly bulge around our midsection as we age. And, high intensity, intermittent exercise might eliminate some of it.

It’s hard to stay away from the the battle of the middle age bulge. It’s there every time many of us look in the mirror. And as I’ve written time and again; in women, the accumulation of abdominal fat is the perfect storm, multifactorial in cause and affecting a majority despite diet and physical activity. The culprits? Experts believe that it may be related to changes in ovarian function, hormone and just generally aging. To add insult to injury, as estrogen production declines, the body starts to rely on secondary production sites, such as body fat and skin. Thus, fatty tissue starts function like an endocrine organ instead of simply a passive vessel for energy storage. The body also struggles to hold onto bone mass and may compensate for its loss by holding on to extra body fat longer.

Now it seems that there’s another culprit at play: stress.

Cortisol is a hormone that is secreted by the adrenal glands. Its primary role in the body is to regulate energy (by producing blood sugar or metabolizing carbohydrates, protein and fats) and mobilize it areas in the body where is it most needed; consequently, cortisol levels tend to peak in the early morning and then gradually decline throughout the day. Cortisol is also produced in reaction to prolonged periods of stress, during which time it produces protein that the body can convert to energy. However, it also increases the creation of fat that may be deposited in fat cells residing deeply in the abdominal area.

Aging is believed to create further imbalances and an increase in cortisol levels, especially at night.  Recent data have also shown that overall, women have higher cortisol levels than men, and that certain women, especially those with greater amounts of abdominal fat, may be reacting to a large disruption in release of cortisol that causes a greater than normal difference between morning and evening levels of the hormone. This disruption is believed to be related, at least in part, to exposure to prolonged physical and mental stress.

If you are anything like me, your adrenals are working overtime and stress is pretty much a given part of your life. And, those abdominal fat deposits that were for most of your life, kept at bay, are starting to show up in the most inopportune places.

Now for the good news:

According to a recent review in the Journal of Obesity, there is accumulating evidence that high-intensity, intermittent exercise ( e.g. 8 seconds of high intensity cycling to significantly boost aerobic capacity followed by 12 seconds of low intensity, over a 20 minute period) performed at least three times a week may effectively reduce abdominal fat and even fat that lies just below the skin. The most important thing is consistency; although most studies have only evaluated these type of exercise regimens for short time periods, it appears that better results are associated with regular programs that last at least 3 months or more, especially among people who have larger amounts abdominal fat. Less certain, however, is the role that age may play, and if imbalances in cortisol levels due to prolonged stress influence how well intermittent, high intensity activity impacts fat deposits.

Not only have I upped the ante in terms of how long I exercise daily (i.e. 6o minutes) but I have started to pay more attention to how I’m working out in terms of intensity levels. Next up is the addition of intermittent high intensity intervals. Regardless of whether it’s cycling, elliptical or running, I’m hopeful that I can combat some of the bulge that’s creeping up. If anything, my heart is going to thank me!

What about you? In addition to watching what goes into your mouth, what are you doing to combat stress and that rotunda around your midsection?

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