Posts made in May, 2011

Menopause: outlook and outcomes. Is it you? Or them?

Posted by on May 6, 2011 in appearance, hot flash, menopause | 2 comments

When you start flashing and sweating, the whole world, especially the world under the age of 45, is watching and judging, right?

Not so fast. In fact, what I think you think, may not be what you think at all. In other words,  personal attitudes about menopause and its symptoms could be shaping how well or poorly it’s experienced. And this experience may be based in beliefs, moods and perceptions, not reality.

According to research, many women say that menopause makes them feel “stupid, embarrassed, incompetant, unattractive, etc.”

However, more importantly, these women believe that others have the same thoughts about them, which researchers say are likely to influence the types of strategies women use to manage their symptoms, strategies that range from “keeping up appearances” to avoiding social situations altogether.

When I read this, I started to wonder if menopausal women are actually stacking the deck against themselves and contributing to societal attitudes about aging and menopause. What’s more, do women misperceive how younger adults feel when they start flashing around them?

To answer these questions, researchers polled 290 young men and women between the ages of 25 and 45. Almost two thirds were female. The questionnaire was geared towards answer the following:

  • How are hot flash symptoms, namely redness and sweating, perceived when they occur?
  • What types of beliefs exist around menopause?
  • Is there any relationship between age, gender and perception about menopause?

Importantly, over half of those polled attributed a red face to emotions, e.g., embarrassment, anger or stress. However, while younger women tended to attribute redness to an increase in body temperature, younger men tended to believe that redness was related to physical exertion. Similar responses were provided for sweating, with women attributing sweating to a health problem and men, to environmental temperature. Hormonal factors and menopause were reported by less than half (41%) of men and women polled.

Also important was the fact that overwhelmingly, both men and women indicated that they felt empathy or neutral about symptoms and not at all uncomfortable, and almost all (97%) would inquire if a woman was feeling well or ill.

These responses truly suggest that menopausal women tend to overestimate the extent to which others are able to judge their menopausal status. Moreover, young men and women tend to empathize and show concern and compassion, emotions that are inconsistent with expectations that others will react negatively to a public hot flash or associated redness. Even more important, age did not appear to influence general beliefs about menopause, which researchers suggest implies that “the experience of menopause, or seeking information about menopause in mid life, might lead to more neutral or positive beliefs.”

So, what does this all mean? Granted, the sample in this study was primarily female and self selecting, meaning that they chose to participate or not. Therefore, it is possible that these findings do not accurately reflect the views of a broader population, especially men. However, the researchers do point out that they attempted to find participants from a variety of occupations that were more specific to setting where women might report a higher degree of social embarassment.

Nevertheless, what these findings do suggest is that real life might actually contradict how women feel others feel about their menopause, and that reactions might actually be tempered or non-existant in social settings. This should encourage a broader population of menopausal women to overcome their fear of embarrassment or to no longer resign themselves to “coping” but rather, empower them to take charge.  On a larger level, they also show that there’s a need to step up and negate stimatizing or negative views of menopause, even amongst ourselves. This can be achieved through sharing of experiences, not only with similarly aged women but also, with younger women and men who can gain a lot of life experience at a considerably younger age.

The next time you start flashing in public and looking around to see who’s staring, just remember that it may be you, not them. And your ‘tude will truly rule the day (and those flashes), if you let it.

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Wednesday Bubble: I’m a Hot Momma!

Posted by on May 4, 2011 in Inspiration | 2 comments

What?!! A Hot Momma? I’m not a momma!

However, I am a proud finalist in the Hot Momma’s Project 2011 Case Study Competition. So the only bubble I’m bursting this week is the one that send messages to young women that they can’t excel where and how they want to.

The Hot Momma’s Project, founded by the incredible Kathy Korman Frey, is a self-described,” award-winning women’s leadership research venture housed at the George Washington University School of Business, Center for Entrepreneurial Excellence.” By exposing women and girls to online mentors and role models, The Hot Momma’s Project helps to “increase self efficacy” and open career opportunities. Indeed, research has shown that Frey’s model works, boosting self-confidence in women ages 18 and over by as much as 100% to 220%! Moreover, last January, the venture became the became the world’s largest women’s ‘teachable stories’ library, providing global access to stories of female role models and mentors, free of charge.

When I was growing up, my role models were the strong women in my family. My mother returned to education to get her MLS when I was in grammer school and went on to run one of the most esteemed corporate business libraries in NYC. My grandmother, who never received a college degree, was instrumental in leading and rallying women in her local community during WWII. I am fortunate that I had such great mentors to show me that women could excel and lead in roles traditionally owned by men.

There are many amazing women involved in the Hot Momma’s Project and I am thrilled to be part of it. I hope that you’ll read through each of the winning cases and share them with the young women in your life who are searching for direction. And if you would like to read more about my story, you can find it here.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again. If my work or contribution inspires one person a day, I am successful. I hope that every young woman across the globe can discover the journey that fulfills her passions as much as mine has.

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Calcium, vitamin D and heart disease. What’s the 4-11?

Posted by on May 2, 2011 in bone health, heart disease | 5 comments

“Calcium supplements cause heart attacks in postmenopausal women.”

Whoa! What?!

If you saw the headlines last week, you may be wondering what’s up with calcium supplementation. Afterall, don’t medical professionals advise the use of supplements to stave off bone loss associated with osteoporosis? And as a result, the Centers for Disease Control reports that over 50% of adults currently use calcium supplements and more than 60% of women over age 60.

It’s important to get away from the sensational headline and take a closer look at what the research shows and what you need to know.

Previous studies have suggested that there may be a link between use of calcium supplements (without vitamin D) and heart attack; in fact, as Reuters‘ reported last year, calcium supplements were shown to increase the risk of heart attack by as much as 31%, possibly as a result of plaque formation in blood vessels. However, is the risk the same if calcium is used alone versus if it is used in conjunction with vitamin D?  In the Women’s Health Initiative study, the use of calcium and vitamin D did not appear to influence heart disease risk at all.

However, researchers decided to take another look at the data because they say that in this trial, more than half of participants were taking ‘personal calcium’ (i.e. not regulated or standardized to all trial participants) and almost half were also adding Vitamin D.

In this reanalysis, published just last week in the British Medical Journal, the researchers discounted the women who were characterized as personal users of calcium supplements and instead, limited their evaluation to a group of women who were not using personal calcium supplements at the study’s start and previously unpublished data from the trial. The findings? The use of calcium with or without vitamin D appeared to cause a 25% to 30% increase in the risk for heart attack and a 15% to 20% increased risk for stroke. However, the researchers say that even small increases in the incidence in heart disease may manifest substantially, especially in the elderly. They add that if you take a look at the risk-benefit ratio, it is unfavourable, meaning that taking calcium with or without vitamin D for five years would cause twice as many heart attacks or strokes than then numbers of fractures that would be prevented.  Additionally, the data analysis suggests that dosing is not a factor, and that the total amount of calcium taken daily is less important than the abrupt changes in blood calcium levels immediately following supplementation.

Although this research answers a few questions about potential risks about calcium supplementation, it also leaves a key question unanswered:  how does the addition of magnesium and vitamin K, which are often included in commercially-available calcium supplements, affect these findings? Data suggest that these minerals and vitamins are added to keep calcium in the bones where it belongs and out the arteries where it does not.

The best guideline, as always, is to visit a physician to assess your bone health and come up with a plan that works specifically for you. Although calcium supplementation appears to be risky, more data are needed before leading organizations start to change their tune about calcium and bone health. Meanwhile, stay ahead of the headlines and try to focus on increasing the amount of calcium-rich foods in your diet:

Table 2: Selected Food Sources of Calcium [Source: National Institutes of Health]
Food Milligrams (mg)
per serving
Percent DV*
Yogurt, plain, low fat, 8 ounces 415 42
Sardines, canned in oil, with bones, 3 ounces 324 32
Cheddar cheese, 1.5 ounces 306 31
Milk, nonfat, 8 ounces 302 30
Milk, reduced-fat (2% milk fat), 8 ounces 297 30
Milk, lactose-reduced, 8 ounces** 285–302 29–30
Milk, whole (3.25% milk fat), 8 ounces 291 29
Milk, buttermilk, 8 ounces 285 29
Mozzarella, part skim, 1.5 ounces 275 28
Yogurt, fruit, low fat, 8 ounces 245–384 25–38
Orange juice, calcium-fortified, 6 ounces 200–260 20–26
Tofu, firm, made with calcium sulfate, ½ cup*** 204 20
Salmon, pink, canned, solids with bone, 3 ounces 181 18
Pudding, chocolate, instant, made with 2% milk, ½ cup 153 15
Cottage cheese, 1% milk fat, 1 cup unpacked 138 14
Tofu, soft, made with calcium sulfate, ½ cup*** 138 14
Spinach, cooked, ½ cup 120 12
Ready-to-eat cereal, calcium-fortified, 1 cup 100–1,000 10–100
Instant breakfast drink, various flavors and brands, powder prepared with water, 8 ounces 105–250 10–25
Frozen yogurt, vanilla, soft serve, ½ cup 103 10
Turnip greens, boiled, ½ cup 99 10
Kale, cooked, 1 cup 94 9
Kale, raw, 1 cup 90 9
Ice cream, vanilla, ½ cup 85 8.5
Soy beverage, calcium-fortified, 8 ounces 80–500 8–50
Chinese cabbage, raw, 1 cup 74 7
Tortilla, corn, ready-to-bake/fry, 1 medium 42 4
Tortilla, flour, ready-to-bake/fry, one 6″ diameter 37 4
Sour cream, reduced fat, cultured, 2 tablespoons 32 3
Bread, white, 1 ounce 31 3
Broccoli, raw, ½ cup 21 2
Bread, whole-wheat, 1 slice 20 2
Cheese, cream, regular, 1 tablespoon 12 1

* DV = Daily Value. DVs were developed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to help consumers compare the nutrient contents among products within the context of a total daily diet. The DV for calcium is 1,000 mg for adults and children aged 4 years and older. Foods providing 20% of more of the DV are considered to be high sources of a nutrient, but foods providing lower percentages of the DV also contribute to a healthful diet. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Nutrient Database Web site lists the nutrient content of many foods. It also provides a comprehensive list of foods containing calcium.
** Calcium content varies slightly by fat content; the more fat, the less calcium the food contains.
*** Calcium content is for tofu processed with a calcium salt. Tofu processed with other salts does not provide significant amounts of calcium.

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