Posts made in August, 2013

Wednesday Bubble: Time for some scuba gear!

Posted by on Aug 28, 2013 in humour, nightsweats | 0 comments



I am on holiday through Labor Day so today, I leave you with a link to the archives; the topic is night sweats!

Hopefully, you’ll find some gems and your partner can lose his scuba gear!


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Newsflash: Ethnic, flashing and menstruating. Three’s a charm?

Posted by on Aug 26, 2013 in hot flash, nightsweats | 0 comments

newsflash.tiffSounds too awful to be true. However, a study of an ethnically diverse group of women has shown that having regular periods, which, theoretically indicates that hormone levels are more on par than their menopausal sisters, may not be all that they are cracked up to be. In fact, among approximately 1,500 women (mean age 48.5), 54% reported having had either hot flashes (~33%) or night sweats (~46%) at some point and recently, anywhere from 17% (hot flashes) to 26% (night sweats). Moreover, it appeared that Black and Native American women were most vulnerable, while Asian women were the least. The numbers among white women were only slightly lower than their Native and Black peers.

What’s so interesting about these data is that typically, obesity has been associated with a self-reported increase in vasomotor symptoms among menopausal women. However, in this group of women, the researchers deliberately adjusted their findings for BMI and age, and they did not find that association. In fact, when they looked at Hawaiian/Pacific Islander women, who had, on average, the highest BMI of all the ethnic groups studies, only 45% reported ever having a hot flash or night sweat, compared to 58% of white women (who had some of the lowest BMIs amongst the group).

Why it matters…

Many women operate under the assumption that it won’t happen to them. Cancer won’t happen. Losing a spouse won’t happen. Having a hot flash or night sweat while still menstruating won’t happen. I refer to that as the ‘teenage mindset,’ since we all know that teenagers are among the most prone to the ‘won’t happen to me’ syndrome. And yet, the data suggest otherwise; even before menopause starts, a hot flash can occur. And it can be bothersome; of the entire group of women who said that they had had some sort of vasomotor event in the prior two weeks, anywhere from 38% (Asian women) to 80% (Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, Native Americans) said it was at least moderately bothersome. White and Black women fell in the middle.

I cannot emphasize it enough; early action is the best action. Don’t wait until you are in the throes of menopause; start now to boost your preventive strategies, whether they entail isoflavones, hypnosis, yoga or acupuncture. I am all for curtailing the worst wherever possible; shouldn’t you be?!


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Wednesday Bubble: Sexual health and hypnosis

Posted by on Aug 21, 2013 in sexual desire, sexual health | 0 comments


You’re getting verrrrrrry…

turned on?

According to a newly reported study during this month’s American Psychological Association Annual Meeting, hypnosis might be the very thing to improve sexual desire and satisfaction.

If you step back, it does make sense. As I’ve written previously, hypnosis may help alleviate the frequency and severity of hot flashes. Think about it: fewer flashes may lead to better sleep and less stress. Both may beget a greater interest in being close, since hot flashes have been alleviated. According to the lead researcher, Dr. Gary Belkin, the warmth from closeness can trigger a hot flash, although admittedly, this is the first I’ve heard of it.

Still, the study, which examined the effect of hypnosis, appeared to suggest significant improvements in overall sexual health. 187 postmenopausal women participated in five weekly hypnosis relaxation sessions in which they received direct and indirect suggestions for relaxation, coolness and mental imagery  or structured attention sessions that entailed supportive counseling. They also rated sexual desire and pleasure, symptoms and the degree to which hot flashes appeared to interfere with sex both at the beginning and end of the study.

Elkins reports that after 12 weeks, hypnotic relaxation therapy appeared to significantly improve sexual satisfaction and pleasure and decrease discomfort. And while he acknowledges that postmenopausal sexual health can be affected by factors other than hot flashes, e.g. fatigue, self esteem, partner’s health and the quality of the relationship, the positive effects of hypnosis warrants more research.

Meanwhile, perhaps self-hypnosis can help get those juices flowing again? Who knows?


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Guyside: Reach for the middle!

Posted by on Aug 19, 2013 in exercise, Guyside, health, general, men | 0 comments

It’s easy to reach for the top. We’re almost mandated to do it, right? Nike told us: “You don’t win silver, you lose gold.” Vince Lombardi exhorted: “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” Steve Jobs said: “We don’t get a chance to do that many things, and every one should be really excellent. Because this is our life.”

I think men have a particular cultural script that says “more, bigger, better, faster.” It’s powerful. And the tech revolutions of the world have led to startups where the goal seems to be to work harder, pull the allnighters, and generally devote yourself, body and soul, to pursuing your ambition.

Not to say that ambition is bad. But over the last few years, I’ve made decisions — and some decisions have been made for me — that have started to make me think that perhaps we don’t give being average enough credit. Let me tell you a story about a guy who, as a kid, was pretty much the worst sportsman you could imagine.

This guy wasn’t … OK, let’s say it “I wasn’t… much of a skater. Or a baseball player. Basketball? Oh, man. Hopeless. I was pretty tall. But my teenage limbs made me look like a stick insect, and I was about as coordinated as a used-car salesman’s suit. I was pretty much the death of any sporting event I was press-ganged into during phys-ed class. It took me until my thirties to find a sport that I could be passionate about.

I was working at a university about 5 miles from where I lived, and parking there was quite expensive. And, my new house was just a few hundred yards from a network of bike paths.  So I bought a used bike from a friend and became a cyclist.

Well, technically, I became a commuter. Becoming a cyclist came later. What I discovered was that I really enjoyed the riding part. There weren’t traffic jams to contend with. I remembered how free and fun it felt to ride a bike when I was a kid. Sometimes, the weather was not so great. And that was anywhere from unpleasant to nasty to… exhilarating. There was a certain joy in pounding your way home in a sudden rainstorm. Once you got to a certain level of wet, it didn’t matter anymore.

Cyclists approaching Parliament Hill in Ottawa

Ottawa is a great cycling city. If you’re slow enough, you can really enjoy it.

That first commuter bike died a sad death when its frame broke, a mortal injury. So I got another one. Then I heard about a local cycling club’s “Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour,” and decided to try training for a two-day, 230-mile ride.

I put on spandex for the first time. Then I went outside wearing it for the first time. I went from the upright-position hybrid bike to my first road bike. I took a group riding course from my local cycling club and started going out on the weekends to ride. I bought clipless pedals and learned how to ride while bolted to my bike. Commutes became kickoffs to longer early-morning or afternoon rides.

I got to the point that when I went home to visit my family, I found someone who would loan me a bike, got my dad to drive me to the bike, then spent the rest of the vacation taking beautiful summer morning rides.

And for the last 10 years or so, cycling’s been my thing. I can ride 30-50 miles without much forethought; the century (100 miles) is a little bit of a challenge, but not like climbing Mount Everest. But all that is not to say that I’m a good cyclist. Hell no. Let me enumerate the ways in which I’m not a good cyclist.

  1. My iffy fitness regime means that my hill-climbing ability is awful. In the Tour de France, the “King of the Mountains” wears a polka-dot jersey. They oughtta give me prison stripes.
  2. I’ve never raced. Never felt the thrill of sprinting past the pack and crossing the finish line in a criterium (closed-streets race on a relatively short track). By the time I started riding, the romance of racing was outshouted by the reality of crashing.
  3. I possess neither the finances to spend thousands of dollars on the most high-tech components possible to reduce the bike’s weight by a few ounces, or the willpower to reduce my weight by a few pounds, both of which would make me faster on the bike.
  4. My cycling wardrobe tends to jerseys with Sesame Street characters or illustrations of hamburgers on them, rather than team kit.
  5. I might go a week without a long ride. Sometimes two.
  6. In Ottawa, the snow begins in November and the roads clear in March or April. My indoor training regimen is … spasmodic at best.

That’s just a start. And you know what? I don’t care.

One of the things I’ve come to learn is that I don’t mind being a bad cyclist. There’s something to be said for riding slow, and for accepting that the young turk on the $7,000 bike (yeah, that’s not even the top of the top-range) is going to smoke me going up or down the hills of Gatineau Park.

I enjoy going 15 miles an hour as much as I would going 25. I enjoy the feelings of cycling, either alone or with friends, and I enjoy the sensations. Dedicating my life to becoming a top-notch cyclist wouldn’t make me enjoy it more. In fact, it might reduce my enjoyment.

Life is full of things we have to do: obligations. At least mine is. I don’t need to turn a thing I love into another one of those obligations. There’s a joy to being okay at something. And if you’re pushing yourself in one or more aspects of your life, maybe there ought to be room in your life for something you’re … just okay at.

I have tons of friends who are marathoners, triathletes, hockey players, basketballers, and the like. I regularly applaud and admire the ones who are “serious athletes” or “competitors.” But I’m not one of those. And you know what? I’m pretty much okay with that.

Dare to be average. You might just like it.

Photo: Creative Commons licenced by Flickr user Fil.Al, used with permission.


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Wednesday Bubble: This is your brain on menopause

Posted by on Aug 14, 2013 in memory/learning, Uncategorized | 0 comments


Yup, it’s that old tell tale sign of middle age, overload and what else? Menopause? In a newly published online review, researchers report that between perimenopause and postmenopause, there are significant declines in executive function, that is, the way that the brain connects past experience with present action. Executive functioning allows people to plan, organize, strategize, recall details and manage time and space. Poor executive function means that some or all of these tasks may be difficult. However, it also affects working memory, that is, what we see in our ‘mind’s eye.’

In a review of four scientific trials conducted in almost 2,000 women, the findings were pretty stark:

Menopause is a period associated specifically with a decline in delayed verbal episodic memory, i.e., the ability to recall words and paragraphs and recall them after a delay, and a small decline in pheonemic verbal fluency, that is saying as many words that begin with a certain letter within a specified timeframe. However, there is a slight light in this tunnel; the researchers explain that these declines are modest, at best. However, even when they took into account factors like age, the results held.

None of this is surprising; I find that I rarely recall the reason I’ve come into a room or why I always forget an item at the grocery store. I find myself staring at web pages and wondering why I am there. And just yesterday, I came to the realization that I actually knew someone that I was trying to contact for work, after two days of trying.

Huh; go figure.

I’m not quite sure what to do with this loss of my brain power, other than to remind myself that I am in good company.

What about you; what did you forget today?


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