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Because life doesn't pause during menopause.

Author Archives: Allie McKenzie

A New Experimental Treatment for Brain Fog

A New Experimental Treatment for Brain Fog

Many women say the “brain fog” of menopause feels like dementia, but an innovative psychiatrist has a different explanation.

Forgetful? Can’t focus? Many women say the “brain fog” of menopause feels like dementia, but an innovative psychiatrist has a different explanation.

First, here’s the background story, taken from this article in the Philadephia Inquirer:

“After C. Neill Epperson, a psychiatrist who directs the Penn Center for Women’s Behavioral Wellness, listened to many patients complain about their brains as they approached and entered menopause, she had an idea.

Women would tell her that they couldn’t juggle as much as they used to. They had to write something down instantly or the thought would disappear. They felt foggy and disorganized. Some worried that they had dementia.

The symptoms didn’t sound like dementia to Epperson, but they did sound like something else: attention deficit disorder.”

So Epperson tried treating them with a drug used to treat ADHD, and guess what? For many women, it worked.

Epperson attributes the decline in brain function during menopause to a drop in estrogen levels, but most women return to their baseline within a few years.

The research hasn’t been published yet, and is still in its very early stages, but the results are promising.

We at HFD will keep you posted as this develops further.

 

 

 

Menopause and Breast Cancer

Menopause and Breast Cancer

How do menopause and breast cancer treatments relate?

Breast cancer and menopause have a complicated relationship. This article  from the American Cancer Society manages to sum it up pretty well:

The known link between estrogen levels and breast cancer growth has discouraged many women and their doctors from choosing or recommending post-menopausal hormone therapy (PHT), also called hormone replacement therapy (HRT), to help relieve menopausal symptoms.

Unfortunately, many women experience menopausal symptoms after treatment for breast cancer. This can happen naturally, as a result of post-menopausal women stopping PHT, or in pre-menopausal women as a result of chemotherapy or ovarian ablation. Tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors can also cause menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes.

The cycle is complicated further by the fact that when menopause symptoms start after a woman has already had breast cancer, offering HRT can actually increase the risk of the cancer coming back. This can make menopause a nightmare for women who, after surviving cancer, now have to deal with hot flashes, sweating, and the loss of fertility.

But let’s back up for a moment and talk about younger women who go into early menopause as a result of breast cancer treatment. The website “Living Beyond Breast Cancer” discusses the possibilities:

If you had regular periods before chemotherapy, they may return afterward. The younger you are during treatment, the more likely your periods will return.

Talk with your doctor if your period returns after you have missed three or more cycles.

You are in early menopause if your periods end due to treatment that began when you were still premenopausal.

Doctors sometimes call this premature menopause if it occurs at age 40 or younger.

If your periods stop temporarily or permanently, know that you are not alone. Many young women who are treated for breast cancer experience the same thing.

If you or someone you love finds themselves in this situation, first and foremost, don’t do it alone. In addition to getting the best medical care possible, make sure they are getting professional psychological help. Build a strong support group of friends and family, and others going through the same thing. If it’s a loved one or a friend going through it, make sure they know that you are there for them, no matter what—for whatever they need. Let them guide you when it comes to how much help and support they want, because everyone is different.

For more information about breast cancer, visit the Susan G. Komen website.

 

 

 

How Did We Get So Busy?

How Did We Get So Busy?

It's called menoPAUSE- heck, maybe a "pause" would make it go a lot better!

First here’s an assignment: take a look at your calendar. How much empty space do you have this week—that’s not occupied by work, meetings, scheduled social events, classes, activities, workouts, kids’activities, social events, classes…you get the idea.

If the empty spots on your calendar occur at 2 AM while you’re sleeping, then you’ve probably fallen into the Busy Trap. This, according to New York Times blogger Tim Kreider is a widespread epidemic:

“Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t either working or doing something to promote their work. They schedule in time with friends the way students with 4.0 G.P.A.’s  make sure to sign up for community service because it looks good on their college applications. I recently wrote a friend to ask if he wanted to do something this week, and he answered that he didn’t have a lot of time but if something was going on to let him know and maybe he could ditch work for a few hours. I wanted to clarify that my question had not been a preliminary heads-up to some future invitation; this was the invitation. But his busyness was like some vast churning noise through which he was shouting out at me, and I gave up trying to shout back over it.”

So if your excuse for not doing the things you love, or not seeing your favorite people is that you are “too busy” you might want to reconsider your perspective. Because the side effect of all this busy-ness is less sleep, more stress, heightened anxiety, and the feeling of being caught up in a whirlwind, never getting a moment to breathe.

And add hot flashes, mood swings, and the other joys of menopause to the mix?

Can you say recipe for disaster?

Now, imagine that you have time to just read a book, stare into space, walk in the rain, window shop, or do anything that you find soul-nourishing. Not because you feel like you have to, but because that’s where the wind takes you in that moment.

Would you feel like you were wasting time? Would you know what to do with yourself? Would you actually be able to enjoy the moment?

As Kreider writes,

“Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.”

In short, life is too short to be busy. And if you are one of those super busy people, you might want to dial it down a bit, slow down, chew your food at least 20 times and enjoy the ride.

Menopause & Depression

Menopause & Depression

Research has confirmed a link between depression and perimenopause—something that we women have known for years.

Research has confirmed a link between depression and perimenopause—something that we women have known for years.

Changing hormone levels, the loss of fertility, aging, stress, changing sexuality—these are all things that can cause mood swings and a depressed mood, or aggravate a more serious clinical depression. But before we talk about what to “do” about it, let’s define our terms a bit.

Types of Depression

The North American Menopause Society describes 3 different uses of the word “depression”:

A depressed mood — This is a normal, brief period of feeling blue or sad that is commonly experienced and rarely requires treatment. The medical term is dysphoria.

Depression as a symptom — Sometimes called an adjustment reaction, this type of depression may be due to a wide variety of medical or psychological problems, or to intense reactions to life events (such as divorce, losing a job, death of a loved one). It is usually short term and most often does not require treatment, although it can progress to clinical depression. The medical term for depression that occurs most of the day, more days than not, for at least 2 years is dysthymia.

Clinical depression — This is a disorder believed to result from a chemical imbalance in the brain. A clinical (major) depression requires treatment. Women with a history of clinical depression may be more likely to experience it during menopause.

Treatment Options

If you find yourself feeling blue most of the day, having difficulty getting out of bed in the morning, feeling despair and loneliness, you may just be going through a rough patch, or it may be something more serious.

Your doctor can help you figure out what’s going on, and the best course of treatment.

In some cases, medication may be recommended, but there are other things you can try to help alleviate the depression:

  • Herbal remedies such as St. John’s Wort
  • Exercise releases endorphins that give you a good feeling
  • Try yoga, meditation, and a Mindfulness-based stress reduction program. Mindfulness has been shown to relieve stress and depression in many cases.
  • If you and your doctor decide it’s appropriate, anti-depressant medication or therapy.

A major sign of depression is a lack of energy or desire to do anything. In that kind of mindset, it can be very difficult to seek help. If you’re feeling this way, reach out to someone: a friend, family member, anyone who can support you as you get the professional help you need.

Chances are, everyone is going to go through a period of depression at some point. The key is to recognize it for what it is, and to not brush it off as “a bad month” etc. Remember, our goal at Hot Flash Daily is to make each day the best it can be, so if you’re struggling- please do reach out for help.

You’re not alone. There is hope.

Here is a link to a list of help lines you can call to speak to someone.

Like a Virgin. Hey!

Like a Virgin. Hey!

"After menopause, there is a new normal," Kellogg Spadt said. "But sex should never, never be painful."”

If you have memories of your first time as being painful, then sex these days might just be giving you flashbacks. Hot flashes get a lot of attention, as do mood swings. But if you’re dry as a desert down there and intercourse is uncomfortable and painful, you may not be comfortable bringing it up with your doctor.

Here’s a number that might surprise you: HALF of the 55 million women over 50 in the U.S. suffer from vaginal dryness and atrophy. You know how many actually report it to their doctor? Only 25% of them. That’s a lot of women suffering in silence, and it’s making me angry.

Why do we feel like painful sex (or none at all) is something that we should just accept as we get older?  Especially when there are so many treatment options out there? This article  from the Philadelphia Inquirer is a good summary of what you can do for painful sex:

“In addition to making intercourse painful, changes in the vulva and vagina can lead to urinary and bladder problems.

“It’s not a woman’s fault, but the adage that if you don’t use it you lose it in this case is true,” Kellogg Spadt said – one of the downsides, she noted, of “going into early sexual retirement.”

Sexual activity creates more blood flow, which tends to keep the tissues “happier.”

Lubricants make sex more comfortable, but creams and lotions are required to moisturize delicate tissues. If more help is needed, at least four prescription medications are available to treat vaginal atrophy with low-dose topical estrogen.

A vaginal ring (akin to the now virtually extinct contraceptive diaphragm) releases the hormone gradually and is replaced every three months. There also are estrogen creams, and a tiny tablet suppository, that are used two or three times a week…

…And hip, back, or knee pain may throw off body mechanics and create spasms in the pelvic floor muscles. This, Steiner said, can be relieved with physical therapy. Vaginal tightening may be helped by the use of dilators.

“After menopause, there is a new normal,” Kellogg Spadt said. “But sex should never, never be painful.””

We totally agree. Both with the “new normal” thing and that sex should never have to be painful, ever. Whether you feel like having sex or not is a different story. But when you do, it should not have to hurt.

Talk to your doctor about your options, and be an advocate for your body, your health, and your happiness.

Menopause and Joint Pain?

Menopause and Joint Pain?

My Knee Says It’s Going to Rain Later...

“Oil…can…oil…can”

It’s what the Tin Man asks for in The Wizard of Oz, to lubricate his metal joints so that he can move.

If you wish you could do the same, and you’re suffering from joint pain, menopause may be the culprit.

Unless you’ve been diagnosed with arthritis, or even Lupus or MS, chances are this is chronic inflammation in your body. Bone density loss from aging and hormone changes can contribute to the symptoms.

Experts believe that over half of postmenopausal women experience some degree of joint pain. This pain is a consequence of immune system changes which occur as a result of unstable hormone levels.

What to do?

Keep a record of your pain over a week or so, then discuss with your doctor about your symptoms so you can eliminate any other possible causes.

Your doctor may suggest HRT to reduce the inflammation and relieve the pain. See our article here on the pros and cons of HRT (and the alternatives).

Other things you can do to relieve the joint pain are: eating fewer simple sugars and refined carbohydrates, increasing fruit and vegetable intake, supplementation with multivitamins and omega-3 fatty acids, and regular moderate exercise.

The food you eat is a major factor in inflammation. Trigger foods include: corn and corn products, gluten, yeast, eggs, citrus, and members of the nightshade family – eggplant, peppers, tomatoes and potatoes. Sugar and processed foods can increase inflammation.

As much as possible eliminate foods that are known to contribute to body inflammation and your joint pain may improve significantly:

• Sugar (and sugar products such as soda pop, candy, etc.). Check all label contents for sugar content and you may be surprised how much sugar is in your food.

• White flour products

• ‘nightshade’ foods (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers)

• Citrus, with the exception of lemon and grapefruit

• Dairy products, with the exception of plain yogurt with active culture

• Meat including beef, pork, and lamb

• Vegetable oils (use grapeseed oil for cooking, use olive oil in salads and include the essential fatty acids flax seed, sesame, pumpkin, borage, sunflower oils)

• MSG (monosodium glutamate)

• Alcohol

You may want to check out Dr. Weil’s anti-inflammatory food pyramid for some guidelines about what is best to eat and the quantity.

Consider testing yourself for food allergies using the above mentioned foods. Stop eating them for two weeks, then introduce one at a time and note any affects, especially related to digestion issues and/or pain.

Here’s something you will find easy to add: Increase your water intake – starting first thing in the morning.  Add the juice of ¼ or ½ fresh lemon to 12-ounces of water to help alkalize your system. Keep a pitcher of water in the fridge and refill it in the early afternoon. Then stop about 2 hours before bed so you don’t spend the night in the bathroom.

MOVE. Try walking even a short distance, once a day, starting slow. Then work up to walking a bit further each week. Also yoga gives you both the meditation (which helps relieve stress) and easy stretching without jarring your joints

Finally, consider massage or acupuncture. It isn’t for everybody – but it just might be right for you!

Bottom line: Menopause can cause joint pain. But what you eat and how you move can play a huge role in relieving that pain. 

Manopause?- Yes. It’s Called Andropause.

Manopause?- Yes. It’s Called Andropause.

Yes, there actually IS something like "manopause." It's called andropause, and it can hit many men hard.

Bob noticed the changes happening slowly over a period of a few years: he started feeling lethargic, lost interest in having sex, noticed his body mass changing, and on top of it all…he was having fewer erections.

Bob, who always had a healthy sex life and enjoyed life to the fullest, began to feel like there was something wrong. He saw his wife going through menopause experiencing some of the same symptoms, and wonders if he isn’t going through some form of male menopause.

Yes, such a thing exists: it’s called “Andropause.”

The loss of energy, sex drive, and physical agility can hit many men hard.

Gail Sheehy, author of Passages and Menopause: The Silent Passage, wrote in a 1993 article in Vanity Fair magazine,

“If menopause is the silent passage, ‘male menopause’ is the unspeakable passage.

It is fraught with secrecy, shame, and denial. It is much more fundamental than the ending of the fertile period of a woman’s life, because it strikes at the core of what it is to be a man.”

Years ago there was no name or recognition for this. In fact one little study came out in 1944, when Drs. Carl G. Heller and Gordon B. Myers wrote a paper, “The male climacteric: its symptoms, diagnosis and treatment,” in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association.  Subsequent studies did not occur in the U.S. but continued overseas until the 1970’s.

At least we gals have had centuries of study and affirmation of what we go through during the “change of life”.

The symptoms these doctors wrote about were exactly those described in more recent literature as symptoms of andropause or male menopause:

  • Frequent fatigue
  • Moodiness and depression
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Decrease in life’s enjoyment
  • Waning strength of erections
  • Falling fast asleep after eating dinner
  • Lowering of strength and stamina
  • Insomnia
  • and sometimes even hot flashes!

“Welcome to my world” you may say…

But here’s the big difference between andropause and menopause:

While men and women may experience similar symptoms, menopause results in a complete end to reproductive fertility.

Andropause is a biological change; a slow loss of testosterone with most symptoms experienced by men from 40 -70, yet men can still reproduce into their 90’s (although it’s little consolation to them if they can’t “rise to the challenge”).

“This is a highly prevalent disorder,” said Robert Brannigan, MD, urologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “Unfortunately, we estimate that 95 percent of cases are undiagnosed and therefore untreated. When ignored, symptoms can seriously disrupt one’s quality of life.”

“It’s important that men pay attention to their body and openly discuss symptoms with their physician in order to prevent overlooking the cause and avoid missing an opportunity for appropriate therapy.”

“This disorder is not something that should be ignored,” said Brannigan, as studies have found the condition has been linked to chronic medical conditions such as high cholesterol, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The most common treatment options are much like those of female menopause:  hormone replacement therapy (HRT) via implants, topical gels, patches, and injections. Through HRT, doctors have had great success restoring sexual function and muscle strength. And men often experience an increase in energy and an improved overall sense of well-being quickly.

Read more about other causes of low testosterone, alternative treatments, and treatment side effects.

So what can you do for the men in your life going through andropause? Encourage them to see their doctor—there are plenty of treatment options that can help.

The Upside of Stress

The Upside of Stress

It turns out that thinking that stress is bad for you is … really bad for you.

In 2013, health psychologist Kelly McGonigal gave an incredible and revolutionary TED Talk about stress.

And in less than 15 minutes, McGonigal proceeded to completely destroy everything that I believed to be true about stress.

The first assumption is that most people these days feel stressed. Okay, that’s true.

But here comes the first shocker: Thinking that stress is bad, actually makes things worse.

Here’s a quote from the TED blog:

It turns out that thinking that stress is bad for you is … really bad for you. Incredibly, she says, over the eight years of the survey, 182,000 people died prematurely from the belief that stress was bad for them. She extrapolates for us: If that estimate is correct, then believing this is so would have been the 15th largest cause of death in the United States.

Now, we are told all the time that we have to “avoid stress” or “de-stress” as if stress were like limescale that needed to be cleaned periodically, or a pothole to swerve around. If you’re like me (a relatively normal woman in the real world where bad sh*t happens), you are gonna stress about stuff. Some of it big stuff, and some of it small stuff. Which brings me to McGonigal’s second incredible point:

We need to change our perceptions of stress.

 “The harmful effects of stress on health are not inevitable,” McGonigal says. “How you think and how you act can transform your experience of stress. When you choose to view your stress response as helpful, you create the biology of courage. And when you choose to connect with others under stress, you can create resilience.”

This was the biggest lightbulb moment. That stress should never be handled alone…that it actually drives us to reach out to other people…that stress can create connections, really resonated with me.

We all know that menopause can be a hugely stressful thing. But what if we tried, just for a moment, to stop “avoiding” stress? What if we embraced it?

And what if we used it to reach out and bring us closer to other people?

Well, it would almost make the hot flashes worth it. Almost.

Are you “Hangry”?

Are you “Hangry”?

...hunger caused by low levels of blood glucose - may play a role in arguments, confrontations and possibly even some domestic violence.

Picture this scenario:

Suddenly you burst out in a tirade about the most minor issue and can’t stop the barrage coming from your mouth. And to make it worse, you get all weepy too.

Your husband (the target) gets the brunt of it and has no idea what’s going on. All he did was buy the wrong brand of toilet paper.

“But honey, I had a coupon!”

How do you explain to him what just happened?

You could take your cue from Kitty in “That 70’s Show”: when she says something rude she blames it on the menopause, saying “Oh, that wasn’t me. That was the menopause talking!”

Or how about this mini snippet from “All in the Family” when “Edith’s problem” is discussed and Archie reacts about his need for relief:

Mike: What did the doctor say?

Archie: He just said that menopause is a pretty tough time to be going through; especially for nervous types.

Mike: So?

Archie: So he prescribed these here pills.

Mike: Oh, good.

Archie: I gotta take three of ’em a day.

So you laugh it off and blame the menopause hormones. But there might be another factor at play—one with a simple solution.

What if you are just “Hangry?”

Researchers at Ohio State University measured couples’ blood sugar in the morning and at night and found low nighttime glucose levels predicted who would lash out at a spouse that evening.

Participants in this 21 day study got a voodoo doll representing their spouse and 51 pins and were told to stick in pins each night in a way that showed their level of anger.

In addition they tested and recorded their morning and evening blood glucose levels. The researchers found that the higher number of pins tracked with lower blood sugar levels.

The study shows how an often overlooked factor – hunger caused by low levels of blood glucose – may play a role in marital arguments, confrontations and possibly even some domestic violence.

Brad Bushman, lead author of the study and Professor of communication and psychology at The Ohio State University comments on the findings:

 “People can relate to this idea that when they get hungry, they get cranky,” Bushman said. It even has a slang term: “hangry” (hungry + angry).

“We found that being hangry can affect our behavior in a bad way, even in our most intimate relationships,” he said.

“When they had lower blood glucose, they felt angrier and took it out on the dolls representing their spouse,” Bushman said.

“Even those who reported they had good relationships with their spouses were more likely to express anger if their blood glucose levels were lower.”

Why does low blood sugar make people more prone to anger and aggression?

Bushman said that glucose is fuel for the brain. The self-control needed to deal with anger and aggressive impulses takes energy, and that energy is provided in part by glucose.

“Even though the brain is only 2 percent of our body weight, it consumes about 20 percent of our calories. It is a very demanding organ when it comes to energy,” he said.

“It’s simple advice but it works: Before you have a difficult conversation with your spouse, make sure you’re not hungry.”

TODAY’S TIP: To avoid the blood sugar highs and lows eat small, healthy snacks throughout the day, and keep fruit on hand, which can raise your blood sugar and give you some healthy fiber as well.

And consider a nightly healthy dessert: mixed fruit compote, baked apple with a dollop of Greek yogurt and cinnamon, or whip up a smoothie and share with your sweetie.

“I Just Had the Weirdest Dream…”

“I Just Had the Weirdest Dream…”

Really vivid, weird dreams. So real that you may not realize you’re dreaming, suddenly to wake up with your heart racing, gasping for air.

We all know that trying to get a good night’s sleep during menopause is a pipe dream. Night sweats, hot flashes, insomnia, aches and pains…all par for the course.

But here’s something you might not be expecting: really vivid, weird dreams. Really vivid, weird dreams. So real that you may not realize you’re dreaming, suddenly to wake up with your heart racing, gasping for air.

What’s to blame? Hormones, of course. And it does make sense—when hormones are in flux, dreams get vivid and strange (pregnancy comes to mind—I dreamt I was giving birth to a walrus once).

Scientists still don’t know exactly why these dreams happen. But combine freaky dreams with all the other fun sleep disturbances of menopause and you can get pretty tired pretty fast.

Here are some tips to sleep better (courtesy of WebMD):

  • Maintain a regular bedtime schedule, including going to bed at the same time every night.
  • Exercise regularly but not right before sleep.
  • Avoid excessive caffeine.
  • Avoid naps during the day, which can prevent you from sleeping well at night.
  • Talk to your doctor about prescription medications that can help you sleep.

You might also want to consider hormone therapy or a natural alternative. While vivid dreams might not be the worst perimenopause symptom, they can be unsettling. but, really, if you start dreaming about falling off of cliffs, having a fling with your boss, or giving birth to a walrus—don’t worry, just blame the hormones. We do.

 

 

Author Archives: Allie McKenzie

A New Experimental Treatment for Brain Fog

A New Experimental Treatment for Brain Fog

Many women say the “brain fog” of menopause feels like dementia, but an innovative psychiatrist has a different explanation.

Forgetful? Can’t focus? Many women say the “brain fog” of menopause feels like dementia, but an innovative psychiatrist has a different explanation.

First, here’s the background story, taken from this article in the Philadephia Inquirer:

“After C. Neill Epperson, a psychiatrist who directs the Penn Center for Women’s Behavioral Wellness, listened to many patients complain about their brains as they approached and entered menopause, she had an idea.

Women would tell her that they couldn’t juggle as much as they used to. They had to write something down instantly or the thought would disappear. They felt foggy and disorganized. Some worried that they had dementia.

The symptoms didn’t sound like dementia to Epperson, but they did sound like something else: attention deficit disorder.”

So Epperson tried treating them with a drug used to treat ADHD, and guess what? For many women, it worked.

Epperson attributes the decline in brain function during menopause to a drop in estrogen levels, but most women return to their baseline within a few years.

The research hasn’t been published yet, and is still in its very early stages, but the results are promising.

We at HFD will keep you posted as this develops further.

 

 

 

Menopause and Breast Cancer

Menopause and Breast Cancer

How do menopause and breast cancer treatments relate?

Breast cancer and menopause have a complicated relationship. This article  from the American Cancer Society manages to sum it up pretty well:

The known link between estrogen levels and breast cancer growth has discouraged many women and their doctors from choosing or recommending post-menopausal hormone therapy (PHT), also called hormone replacement therapy (HRT), to help relieve menopausal symptoms.

Unfortunately, many women experience menopausal symptoms after treatment for breast cancer. This can happen naturally, as a result of post-menopausal women stopping PHT, or in pre-menopausal women as a result of chemotherapy or ovarian ablation. Tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors can also cause menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes.

The cycle is complicated further by the fact that when menopause symptoms start after a woman has already had breast cancer, offering HRT can actually increase the risk of the cancer coming back. This can make menopause a nightmare for women who, after surviving cancer, now have to deal with hot flashes, sweating, and the loss of fertility.

But let’s back up for a moment and talk about younger women who go into early menopause as a result of breast cancer treatment. The website “Living Beyond Breast Cancer” discusses the possibilities:

If you had regular periods before chemotherapy, they may return afterward. The younger you are during treatment, the more likely your periods will return.

Talk with your doctor if your period returns after you have missed three or more cycles.

You are in early menopause if your periods end due to treatment that began when you were still premenopausal.

Doctors sometimes call this premature menopause if it occurs at age 40 or younger.

If your periods stop temporarily or permanently, know that you are not alone. Many young women who are treated for breast cancer experience the same thing.

If you or someone you love finds themselves in this situation, first and foremost, don’t do it alone. In addition to getting the best medical care possible, make sure they are getting professional psychological help. Build a strong support group of friends and family, and others going through the same thing. If it’s a loved one or a friend going through it, make sure they know that you are there for them, no matter what—for whatever they need. Let them guide you when it comes to how much help and support they want, because everyone is different.

For more information about breast cancer, visit the Susan G. Komen website.

 

 

 

How Did We Get So Busy?

How Did We Get So Busy?

It's called menoPAUSE- heck, maybe a "pause" would make it go a lot better!

First here’s an assignment: take a look at your calendar. How much empty space do you have this week—that’s not occupied by work, meetings, scheduled social events, classes, activities, workouts, kids’activities, social events, classes…you get the idea.

If the empty spots on your calendar occur at 2 AM while you’re sleeping, then you’ve probably fallen into the Busy Trap. This, according to New York Times blogger Tim Kreider is a widespread epidemic:

“Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t either working or doing something to promote their work. They schedule in time with friends the way students with 4.0 G.P.A.’s  make sure to sign up for community service because it looks good on their college applications. I recently wrote a friend to ask if he wanted to do something this week, and he answered that he didn’t have a lot of time but if something was going on to let him know and maybe he could ditch work for a few hours. I wanted to clarify that my question had not been a preliminary heads-up to some future invitation; this was the invitation. But his busyness was like some vast churning noise through which he was shouting out at me, and I gave up trying to shout back over it.”

So if your excuse for not doing the things you love, or not seeing your favorite people is that you are “too busy” you might want to reconsider your perspective. Because the side effect of all this busy-ness is less sleep, more stress, heightened anxiety, and the feeling of being caught up in a whirlwind, never getting a moment to breathe.

And add hot flashes, mood swings, and the other joys of menopause to the mix?

Can you say recipe for disaster?

Now, imagine that you have time to just read a book, stare into space, walk in the rain, window shop, or do anything that you find soul-nourishing. Not because you feel like you have to, but because that’s where the wind takes you in that moment.

Would you feel like you were wasting time? Would you know what to do with yourself? Would you actually be able to enjoy the moment?

As Kreider writes,

“Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.”

In short, life is too short to be busy. And if you are one of those super busy people, you might want to dial it down a bit, slow down, chew your food at least 20 times and enjoy the ride.

Menopause & Depression

Menopause & Depression

Research has confirmed a link between depression and perimenopause—something that we women have known for years.

Research has confirmed a link between depression and perimenopause—something that we women have known for years.

Changing hormone levels, the loss of fertility, aging, stress, changing sexuality—these are all things that can cause mood swings and a depressed mood, or aggravate a more serious clinical depression. But before we talk about what to “do” about it, let’s define our terms a bit.

Types of Depression

The North American Menopause Society describes 3 different uses of the word “depression”:

A depressed mood — This is a normal, brief period of feeling blue or sad that is commonly experienced and rarely requires treatment. The medical term is dysphoria.

Depression as a symptom — Sometimes called an adjustment reaction, this type of depression may be due to a wide variety of medical or psychological problems, or to intense reactions to life events (such as divorce, losing a job, death of a loved one). It is usually short term and most often does not require treatment, although it can progress to clinical depression. The medical term for depression that occurs most of the day, more days than not, for at least 2 years is dysthymia.

Clinical depression — This is a disorder believed to result from a chemical imbalance in the brain. A clinical (major) depression requires treatment. Women with a history of clinical depression may be more likely to experience it during menopause.

Treatment Options

If you find yourself feeling blue most of the day, having difficulty getting out of bed in the morning, feeling despair and loneliness, you may just be going through a rough patch, or it may be something more serious.

Your doctor can help you figure out what’s going on, and the best course of treatment.

In some cases, medication may be recommended, but there are other things you can try to help alleviate the depression:

  • Herbal remedies such as St. John’s Wort
  • Exercise releases endorphins that give you a good feeling
  • Try yoga, meditation, and a Mindfulness-based stress reduction program. Mindfulness has been shown to relieve stress and depression in many cases.
  • If you and your doctor decide it’s appropriate, anti-depressant medication or therapy.

A major sign of depression is a lack of energy or desire to do anything. In that kind of mindset, it can be very difficult to seek help. If you’re feeling this way, reach out to someone: a friend, family member, anyone who can support you as you get the professional help you need.

Chances are, everyone is going to go through a period of depression at some point. The key is to recognize it for what it is, and to not brush it off as “a bad month” etc. Remember, our goal at Hot Flash Daily is to make each day the best it can be, so if you’re struggling- please do reach out for help.

You’re not alone. There is hope.

Here is a link to a list of help lines you can call to speak to someone.

Like a Virgin. Hey!

Like a Virgin. Hey!

"After menopause, there is a new normal," Kellogg Spadt said. "But sex should never, never be painful."”

If you have memories of your first time as being painful, then sex these days might just be giving you flashbacks. Hot flashes get a lot of attention, as do mood swings. But if you’re dry as a desert down there and intercourse is uncomfortable and painful, you may not be comfortable bringing it up with your doctor.

Here’s a number that might surprise you: HALF of the 55 million women over 50 in the U.S. suffer from vaginal dryness and atrophy. You know how many actually report it to their doctor? Only 25% of them. That’s a lot of women suffering in silence, and it’s making me angry.

Why do we feel like painful sex (or none at all) is something that we should just accept as we get older?  Especially when there are so many treatment options out there? This article  from the Philadelphia Inquirer is a good summary of what you can do for painful sex:

“In addition to making intercourse painful, changes in the vulva and vagina can lead to urinary and bladder problems.

“It’s not a woman’s fault, but the adage that if you don’t use it you lose it in this case is true,” Kellogg Spadt said – one of the downsides, she noted, of “going into early sexual retirement.”

Sexual activity creates more blood flow, which tends to keep the tissues “happier.”

Lubricants make sex more comfortable, but creams and lotions are required to moisturize delicate tissues. If more help is needed, at least four prescription medications are available to treat vaginal atrophy with low-dose topical estrogen.

A vaginal ring (akin to the now virtually extinct contraceptive diaphragm) releases the hormone gradually and is replaced every three months. There also are estrogen creams, and a tiny tablet suppository, that are used two or three times a week…

…And hip, back, or knee pain may throw off body mechanics and create spasms in the pelvic floor muscles. This, Steiner said, can be relieved with physical therapy. Vaginal tightening may be helped by the use of dilators.

“After menopause, there is a new normal,” Kellogg Spadt said. “But sex should never, never be painful.””

We totally agree. Both with the “new normal” thing and that sex should never have to be painful, ever. Whether you feel like having sex or not is a different story. But when you do, it should not have to hurt.

Talk to your doctor about your options, and be an advocate for your body, your health, and your happiness.

Menopause and Joint Pain?

Menopause and Joint Pain?

My Knee Says It’s Going to Rain Later...

“Oil…can…oil…can”

It’s what the Tin Man asks for in The Wizard of Oz, to lubricate his metal joints so that he can move.

If you wish you could do the same, and you’re suffering from joint pain, menopause may be the culprit.

Unless you’ve been diagnosed with arthritis, or even Lupus or MS, chances are this is chronic inflammation in your body. Bone density loss from aging and hormone changes can contribute to the symptoms.

Experts believe that over half of postmenopausal women experience some degree of joint pain. This pain is a consequence of immune system changes which occur as a result of unstable hormone levels.

What to do?

Keep a record of your pain over a week or so, then discuss with your doctor about your symptoms so you can eliminate any other possible causes.

Your doctor may suggest HRT to reduce the inflammation and relieve the pain. See our article here on the pros and cons of HRT (and the alternatives).

Other things you can do to relieve the joint pain are: eating fewer simple sugars and refined carbohydrates, increasing fruit and vegetable intake, supplementation with multivitamins and omega-3 fatty acids, and regular moderate exercise.

The food you eat is a major factor in inflammation. Trigger foods include: corn and corn products, gluten, yeast, eggs, citrus, and members of the nightshade family – eggplant, peppers, tomatoes and potatoes. Sugar and processed foods can increase inflammation.

As much as possible eliminate foods that are known to contribute to body inflammation and your joint pain may improve significantly:

• Sugar (and sugar products such as soda pop, candy, etc.). Check all label contents for sugar content and you may be surprised how much sugar is in your food.

• White flour products

• ‘nightshade’ foods (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers)

• Citrus, with the exception of lemon and grapefruit

• Dairy products, with the exception of plain yogurt with active culture

• Meat including beef, pork, and lamb

• Vegetable oils (use grapeseed oil for cooking, use olive oil in salads and include the essential fatty acids flax seed, sesame, pumpkin, borage, sunflower oils)

• MSG (monosodium glutamate)

• Alcohol

You may want to check out Dr. Weil’s anti-inflammatory food pyramid for some guidelines about what is best to eat and the quantity.

Consider testing yourself for food allergies using the above mentioned foods. Stop eating them for two weeks, then introduce one at a time and note any affects, especially related to digestion issues and/or pain.

Here’s something you will find easy to add: Increase your water intake – starting first thing in the morning.  Add the juice of ¼ or ½ fresh lemon to 12-ounces of water to help alkalize your system. Keep a pitcher of water in the fridge and refill it in the early afternoon. Then stop about 2 hours before bed so you don’t spend the night in the bathroom.

MOVE. Try walking even a short distance, once a day, starting slow. Then work up to walking a bit further each week. Also yoga gives you both the meditation (which helps relieve stress) and easy stretching without jarring your joints

Finally, consider massage or acupuncture. It isn’t for everybody – but it just might be right for you!

Bottom line: Menopause can cause joint pain. But what you eat and how you move can play a huge role in relieving that pain. 

Manopause?- Yes. It’s Called Andropause.

Manopause?- Yes. It’s Called Andropause.

Yes, there actually IS something like "manopause." It's called andropause, and it can hit many men hard.

Bob noticed the changes happening slowly over a period of a few years: he started feeling lethargic, lost interest in having sex, noticed his body mass changing, and on top of it all…he was having fewer erections.

Bob, who always had a healthy sex life and enjoyed life to the fullest, began to feel like there was something wrong. He saw his wife going through menopause experiencing some of the same symptoms, and wonders if he isn’t going through some form of male menopause.

Yes, such a thing exists: it’s called “Andropause.”

The loss of energy, sex drive, and physical agility can hit many men hard.

Gail Sheehy, author of Passages and Menopause: The Silent Passage, wrote in a 1993 article in Vanity Fair magazine,

“If menopause is the silent passage, ‘male menopause’ is the unspeakable passage.

It is fraught with secrecy, shame, and denial. It is much more fundamental than the ending of the fertile period of a woman’s life, because it strikes at the core of what it is to be a man.”

Years ago there was no name or recognition for this. In fact one little study came out in 1944, when Drs. Carl G. Heller and Gordon B. Myers wrote a paper, “The male climacteric: its symptoms, diagnosis and treatment,” in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association.  Subsequent studies did not occur in the U.S. but continued overseas until the 1970’s.

At least we gals have had centuries of study and affirmation of what we go through during the “change of life”.

The symptoms these doctors wrote about were exactly those described in more recent literature as symptoms of andropause or male menopause:

  • Frequent fatigue
  • Moodiness and depression
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Decrease in life’s enjoyment
  • Waning strength of erections
  • Falling fast asleep after eating dinner
  • Lowering of strength and stamina
  • Insomnia
  • and sometimes even hot flashes!

“Welcome to my world” you may say…

But here’s the big difference between andropause and menopause:

While men and women may experience similar symptoms, menopause results in a complete end to reproductive fertility.

Andropause is a biological change; a slow loss of testosterone with most symptoms experienced by men from 40 -70, yet men can still reproduce into their 90’s (although it’s little consolation to them if they can’t “rise to the challenge”).

“This is a highly prevalent disorder,” said Robert Brannigan, MD, urologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “Unfortunately, we estimate that 95 percent of cases are undiagnosed and therefore untreated. When ignored, symptoms can seriously disrupt one’s quality of life.”

“It’s important that men pay attention to their body and openly discuss symptoms with their physician in order to prevent overlooking the cause and avoid missing an opportunity for appropriate therapy.”

“This disorder is not something that should be ignored,” said Brannigan, as studies have found the condition has been linked to chronic medical conditions such as high cholesterol, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The most common treatment options are much like those of female menopause:  hormone replacement therapy (HRT) via implants, topical gels, patches, and injections. Through HRT, doctors have had great success restoring sexual function and muscle strength. And men often experience an increase in energy and an improved overall sense of well-being quickly.

Read more about other causes of low testosterone, alternative treatments, and treatment side effects.

So what can you do for the men in your life going through andropause? Encourage them to see their doctor—there are plenty of treatment options that can help.

The Upside of Stress

The Upside of Stress

It turns out that thinking that stress is bad for you is … really bad for you.

In 2013, health psychologist Kelly McGonigal gave an incredible and revolutionary TED Talk about stress.

And in less than 15 minutes, McGonigal proceeded to completely destroy everything that I believed to be true about stress.

The first assumption is that most people these days feel stressed. Okay, that’s true.

But here comes the first shocker: Thinking that stress is bad, actually makes things worse.

Here’s a quote from the TED blog:

It turns out that thinking that stress is bad for you is … really bad for you. Incredibly, she says, over the eight years of the survey, 182,000 people died prematurely from the belief that stress was bad for them. She extrapolates for us: If that estimate is correct, then believing this is so would have been the 15th largest cause of death in the United States.

Now, we are told all the time that we have to “avoid stress” or “de-stress” as if stress were like limescale that needed to be cleaned periodically, or a pothole to swerve around. If you’re like me (a relatively normal woman in the real world where bad sh*t happens), you are gonna stress about stuff. Some of it big stuff, and some of it small stuff. Which brings me to McGonigal’s second incredible point:

We need to change our perceptions of stress.

 “The harmful effects of stress on health are not inevitable,” McGonigal says. “How you think and how you act can transform your experience of stress. When you choose to view your stress response as helpful, you create the biology of courage. And when you choose to connect with others under stress, you can create resilience.”

This was the biggest lightbulb moment. That stress should never be handled alone…that it actually drives us to reach out to other people…that stress can create connections, really resonated with me.

We all know that menopause can be a hugely stressful thing. But what if we tried, just for a moment, to stop “avoiding” stress? What if we embraced it?

And what if we used it to reach out and bring us closer to other people?

Well, it would almost make the hot flashes worth it. Almost.

Are you “Hangry”?

Are you “Hangry”?

...hunger caused by low levels of blood glucose - may play a role in arguments, confrontations and possibly even some domestic violence.

Picture this scenario:

Suddenly you burst out in a tirade about the most minor issue and can’t stop the barrage coming from your mouth. And to make it worse, you get all weepy too.

Your husband (the target) gets the brunt of it and has no idea what’s going on. All he did was buy the wrong brand of toilet paper.

“But honey, I had a coupon!”

How do you explain to him what just happened?

You could take your cue from Kitty in “That 70’s Show”: when she says something rude she blames it on the menopause, saying “Oh, that wasn’t me. That was the menopause talking!”

Or how about this mini snippet from “All in the Family” when “Edith’s problem” is discussed and Archie reacts about his need for relief:

Mike: What did the doctor say?

Archie: He just said that menopause is a pretty tough time to be going through; especially for nervous types.

Mike: So?

Archie: So he prescribed these here pills.

Mike: Oh, good.

Archie: I gotta take three of ’em a day.

So you laugh it off and blame the menopause hormones. But there might be another factor at play—one with a simple solution.

What if you are just “Hangry?”

Researchers at Ohio State University measured couples’ blood sugar in the morning and at night and found low nighttime glucose levels predicted who would lash out at a spouse that evening.

Participants in this 21 day study got a voodoo doll representing their spouse and 51 pins and were told to stick in pins each night in a way that showed their level of anger.

In addition they tested and recorded their morning and evening blood glucose levels. The researchers found that the higher number of pins tracked with lower blood sugar levels.

The study shows how an often overlooked factor – hunger caused by low levels of blood glucose – may play a role in marital arguments, confrontations and possibly even some domestic violence.

Brad Bushman, lead author of the study and Professor of communication and psychology at The Ohio State University comments on the findings:

 “People can relate to this idea that when they get hungry, they get cranky,” Bushman said. It even has a slang term: “hangry” (hungry + angry).

“We found that being hangry can affect our behavior in a bad way, even in our most intimate relationships,” he said.

“When they had lower blood glucose, they felt angrier and took it out on the dolls representing their spouse,” Bushman said.

“Even those who reported they had good relationships with their spouses were more likely to express anger if their blood glucose levels were lower.”

Why does low blood sugar make people more prone to anger and aggression?

Bushman said that glucose is fuel for the brain. The self-control needed to deal with anger and aggressive impulses takes energy, and that energy is provided in part by glucose.

“Even though the brain is only 2 percent of our body weight, it consumes about 20 percent of our calories. It is a very demanding organ when it comes to energy,” he said.

“It’s simple advice but it works: Before you have a difficult conversation with your spouse, make sure you’re not hungry.”

TODAY’S TIP: To avoid the blood sugar highs and lows eat small, healthy snacks throughout the day, and keep fruit on hand, which can raise your blood sugar and give you some healthy fiber as well.

And consider a nightly healthy dessert: mixed fruit compote, baked apple with a dollop of Greek yogurt and cinnamon, or whip up a smoothie and share with your sweetie.

“I Just Had the Weirdest Dream…”

“I Just Had the Weirdest Dream…”

Really vivid, weird dreams. So real that you may not realize you’re dreaming, suddenly to wake up with your heart racing, gasping for air.

We all know that trying to get a good night’s sleep during menopause is a pipe dream. Night sweats, hot flashes, insomnia, aches and pains…all par for the course.

But here’s something you might not be expecting: really vivid, weird dreams. Really vivid, weird dreams. So real that you may not realize you’re dreaming, suddenly to wake up with your heart racing, gasping for air.

What’s to blame? Hormones, of course. And it does make sense—when hormones are in flux, dreams get vivid and strange (pregnancy comes to mind—I dreamt I was giving birth to a walrus once).

Scientists still don’t know exactly why these dreams happen. But combine freaky dreams with all the other fun sleep disturbances of menopause and you can get pretty tired pretty fast.

Here are some tips to sleep better (courtesy of WebMD):

  • Maintain a regular bedtime schedule, including going to bed at the same time every night.
  • Exercise regularly but not right before sleep.
  • Avoid excessive caffeine.
  • Avoid naps during the day, which can prevent you from sleeping well at night.
  • Talk to your doctor about prescription medications that can help you sleep.

You might also want to consider hormone therapy or a natural alternative. While vivid dreams might not be the worst perimenopause symptom, they can be unsettling. but, really, if you start dreaming about falling off of cliffs, having a fling with your boss, or giving birth to a walrus—don’t worry, just blame the hormones. We do.

 

 

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Write for Hot Flash Daily.

Share your story? Advice? Ideas? Cartoons or videos you've created? We'd love your contribution.

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Share your story? Advice? Ideas? Cartoons or videos you've created? We'd love your contribution.

©2016 Hot Flash Daily. All rights reserved.

©2016 Hot Flash Daily. All rights reserved.

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HotFlashDaily.com was created in the spirit of making every day your very best, even when you just don’t feel like it.

The site was conceived and built through the combined efforts of contributing bloggers, technicians, and impassioned women who believe the way we treat ourselves is a direct reflection of how we feel about ourselves.

We’re looking for true short stories for the website, and perhaps for inclusion in an e-book, from women who want to tell others about their experiences with peri-menopause, menopause, and beyond. We’re looking for experiences, ups/downs/unexpected highs and lows, sticky situations, “what I wish I’d known”, “what I’d tell my younger self”.. you name it!

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