Posts Tagged "symptoms"

Just 60 minutes a day…

Posted by on Dec 5, 2011 in aging, exercise, menopause | 2 comments

keeps the symptoms at bay?

You know that I’m all about exercise, not only to maintain fluctuating weight but also to chase those moody blues away . But did you know that increasing your workout to at least 60 minute a day may actually improve  wellbeing and lessen menopausal symptoms?

I stumbled across this piece last week and just knew that I had to share. And I am especially interested because it appears that too much exercise can set off early menopause (I’m still looking into this story). But to the study at hand.

Researchers, intrigued by the relationship between physical activity and menopausal symptoms, randomly assigned menopausal women to one of three groups:

  • Less than 30 min/day physical activity
  • Maintained or increased  physical activity from 30 to 6o min/day
  • Maintained or increased their physical activity to  more than 60 min/day

During the time that participants were studied, their regular, habitual activity was defined as whenever they did something active for at least 10 minutes, e.g., household chores, transportation, etc. Additionally, all  were encouraged to be more active (e.g. taking stairs versus an elevator) or at the very least, maintain their current activity levels during the time that they were enrolled in the 12 week study period.

Granted, while the outcomes were modest, the research did show that women who engaged in moderate to rigorous activity for at least an hour a day benefitted both in terms of feeling more positive about themselves and begin able to focus as well as in their personal relationships compared to peers who did 30 minutes or less a day. Overall, almost all menopausal symptoms were also lessened with the highest degree of physical activity. And, the researchers likened the improvements in mental wellbeing to the ability to, at the very least, maintain weight.

An hour of moderate physical activity daily? That’s a lot when your life is filled to the brim and your hours, maxed out. But, at the same time, mid age changes in body composition, hormonal fluctuations and increased risk of heart disease all point to one conclusion: it may be worth it to make the time. If you can’t get to the gym, at least take the stairs.

Treat yourself. You’re worth the hour.

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She works harder for the money

Posted by on Oct 24, 2011 in aging, career, menopause | 0 comments

Awhile back, I wrote a post about how menopause impacts our occupational health and the need for greater awareness among managers of the types of health challenges that their middle aged female employees might be going through.  This issue is evidently an ongoing hot button, as it has popped up again in a study that is current online at the Menopause journal site.

There are several conditions that affect work participation and demands, including menopause. And although there is some indication that abseenteeism is highest among women 45 years and older compared to their male contemporaries, the reasons have not been entirely elucidated. By gaining a better understanding of the factors that influence the balance between resources and work demands, there may be a greater openness to understanding and managing expectations by both the employee and the employer.

To explore this further, and using two scientific scales as a foundation, researchers looked into the severity and frequency of psychological, somatic, vasomotor and sexual symptoms and their potential impact on physical and mental work demands, health status and resources in208 women between the ages of 44 and 6o  Additionally, they evaluated individual and lifestyle factors that might skew results, as it has been shown previously that among both men and women, lower education, older age, overweight, smoking and lack of exercise all negatively affected work ability.

The result? there was a negative and significant association between menopausal symptoms and work ability. Moreover, even after theyadjusted for some of the factors mentioned above, they found total work ability scores declined by almost a half a point for every one point on the total symptoms scale score. Mental health played a huge role as did somatic symptoms such as sleep disturbances, insomnia, joint pain or mood swings.

If these findings are extrapolated to real world situations, workplace interventions such as yoga breaks, exercise and stress reduction strategies, coupled with a self awareness of overall health and how symptoms detract from that (or not)  are simple first steps towards finding a solution and improving work ability.  The other piece of this, however, i.e. to openly communicate to our work colleagues, our managers, our partners and our friends how productivity and our relationships may be suffering and actively involve them in finding solutions, might not be so simple.

Often, one of first thing that’s pulled out of the aging hat is the fear that an employee is easily replaced. This has never been truer than in today’s economic environment where the numbers of willing and able workers are stacked against those who are holding onto their jobs by a string and a prayer. As a menopausal woman, do you really want to hand your employer a reason to replace you? I’m betting that the answer is no. Consequently, I am unclear about the best strategy for finding the elusive balance between work ability, resources and symptoms.

Any thoughts or ideas? I’d love to hear them. Let’s get a dialogue going, particularly if you are working harder for the money because of symptoms.

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Working through the menopausal transition..the first step is the deepest

Posted by on Feb 21, 2011 in Work/occupation | 1 comment

Back in July of last year, I wrote a post entitled ‘Working through the transition? Or is the transition working you?’ In it, I discussed some research being conducted in the UK that is looking at the effect of menopause and its accompanying symptoms on the work environment and preesenteism, i.e. impact on productivity while at work. Not surprisingly, an overwhelming majority of women surveyed reported that their symptoms, namely fatigue and insomnia, were impacting workplace functioning and relationships with managers and co-workers. Less clear, however, were the roles of other factors, like perceptions and stress.

This raises one of the most common and yet inconsistently addressed issues during menopause: quality of life.

Quality of life is a subjective construct and one that is significantly influenced by a multitude of factors that intersect at any given time, factors such as how well we function, what we think about our lives, how we deal with stress, the type of social and economic support we have and overall wellbeing. And when you throw a bunch of symptoms like hot flashes, depression, anxiety, insomnia, backache, joint pain or forgetfulness on top of any of these, well, all hell can and does break loose!

When researchers looked at 184 women in both early and late transition to menopause who were part of the larger, Seattle Women’s Health study, they learned just how intricate the interrelationship between all these factors truly is. Indeed, among women in their mid to late 40s who were juggling work, families and relationships, the degree to which symptoms interfered with work most relied on how they perceived their health, their life stress and how depressed they were or were not. The findings:

  • Symptoms like hot flashes, mood issues, sleep issues, pain, or concentration had a significant impact on work productivity.
  • However, when researchers started to tease out and analyze the symptoms over time, they found that  how symptoms influenced how women felt about their health was most important. If women felt that their health was excellent or very good, symptoms tended affect their work productivity to a lesser extent than if they perceived their health to be poor or only moderate.
  • Perceived stress levels reportedly influenced both work productivity and social/intimate relationships.
  • Depression and difficulty concentrating were the final straws in the work/relationship back, affecting performance and the ability or interest in socializing or engaging in intimate or family relationships.

The one thing that these reports and the UK reports had in common were nighttime awakening.

So, let’s take a look at this. How we feel about our wellbeing affects work productivity, as does stress. If we are depressed or have difficulty concentrating, the ability to focus and be productive, either at work or in our worlds in general, starts to fall apart. Frequent awakening during the nighttime hours as a result of both aging and hormones can cause fatigue, depressed mood and concentration issues. In turn, this can influence how well we function  at work and at home and the quality of our relationship, to ourselves, our children and our partners.

The conclusion is that we need to step back, take stock and think about how we feel and how that is affecting our wellbeing and our lives.

The solution isn’t simple. Part of it lies in learning how to best address symptoms like sleep disturbances, depression or focus. The other lies in openly communicating to our work colleagues, our managers, our partners and our friends how productivity and our relationships may be suffering and actively involve them in finding solutions to improve wellbeing.

It’s hard work, no doubt. But the more insight we have, the better we are able to deal. And while it starts within, without it, the menopausal tendrils can extend far and widely into our lives.

The first step? Step back deep within yourself, and take stock. It may ultimately be the insight that you need to turn those symptoms on their side where they belong.

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It’s World Menopause Day! Chew on this.

Posted by on Oct 18, 2010 in Uncategorized | 6 comments

For two years, I’ve run the same piece on World Menopause Day. That post remains one of my favorites and I encourage you to check it out. This year, however, I’d rather call attention to the fact that having only one day devoted to menopause seems to run counter to the marketplace. Just check out the endless Wednesday Bubbles on Flashfree and you’ll realize that menopause is big business. Recent estimates place the market for hot flashes alone as high as $8B and that doesn’t necessarily focus on new applications for existing treatments, for example,  antidepressants for hot flashes. With a market this huge and the shrinking HRT market as the result of potential risks exposed in the Women’s Health Initiative, no wonder menopause has become such a hot commodity. Hell, there’s even a burgeoning market for male menopause, an oxymoron if I’ve ever heard one.

  • Feeling old? There’s a pill for that.
  • Flashing? There’s a gum AND a drink for that.
  • Wrinkly skin? Try this wonder cream!
  • Don’t like your vaginal appearance? How about some rejuvenation? Better yet, get a two for one and a few botox shots while you’re at it.

…Tapes, magnets, ‘all-in-one’ supplements, everything for anything and everything that ails.

Beneath the hype, marketers are actually saying us that they don’t want us to look or be our age. But don’t try to look younger or date younger because then you are just inappropriate or better yet, a Cougar. In fact, just don’t exist. You’re over the hill, washed up, invisible. Call it a day.

But wait!

Why not have a ‘World Menopause Don’t Call it a Day… Yet?’ The old fat lady dressed inappropriately still has a few tunes left in her.

Rather than celebrate a year or hum a new menopause jingle, can we just find a way to embrace ourselves and what we are going through? We did great in our 40s, comfortable in our skins, more beautiful than ever. And then 50+ or its precipice started to get in the way and here we are, with a day on a the calendar and nothing to wear. How about wearing ourselves for a change or for the change?

Just a wee bit of fodder on yet another day of the year, week, month. Chew on this, won’t you?

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Looking for the Big Sleep?

Posted by on Aug 27, 2010 in menopause, sleep disturbance | 0 comments

Those of you who are going through hormonal shifts, night sweats or hot flashes knows exactly what I’m talking about. Sleep. Sleep, the elusive gold ring that plagues many of us going through the transition. How many sheep have you counted this evening? Or last night? Or last week? Heck, I’m ready to start my own version of Farmville. Any takers?

Experts say that as many as 63% of postmenopausal women have insomnia. Frankly, I’m tired.

So, before you let another sleepless, toss and turn type of night go by, you might want to pay attention: isoflavones may just take away the awakenings that go bump in the your night. Say what?! Mind you, this is a very small study, enlisting only 38 menopausal women. However, I can dare to dream (or think about dreaming), can’t I? Participants were selected on the basis of their sleep complaints, meaning that they had to have difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep, or constantly experience nonrestorative, insufficient sleep to avoid fatigue and lack of alertness during the day.  They were given a lecture about sleep hygiene, menopausal symptoms and general healthcare and then had a general checkup, after which time, they were asked to take an 80 mg soy isoflavone (estrogen-like plant compounds tablet (containing mostly of a type of soy isoflavone called genistein) or a sugar tablet daily for four months. Thereafter,  they were assessed for sleeping habits, general complaints and any changes in their condition.

The researchers say that not only did use of isoflavones decrease the frequency of moderate and severe insomnia in the women studied by more than 60%, but they also increased sleep efficiency, that is, the degree of alertness the women felt the day following a night of sleep and their ability to perform everyday activities and feel good while doing it. They attribute  improved sleep patterns to a significant decline in the number and intensity of hot flashes.

There are several unanswered questions left by this information, such as whether or not soy will have this effect on a majority of women (remember, the study was small), how soy might affect lifelong insomniacs who also have menopausal symptoms, and if other soy compounds might provide equal benefits. I’d love to see more on this before drawing any conclusions. However, it’s good to know that eventually, tossing and turning might be a thing of the past.

Want more information on sleep and menopause? Check out these posts and please, share your experiences as well!

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