Archive for Healthy Habits for Menopause
You may have heard in the new recently, that a recent study on Vitamin D did not show any benefit for bone health in post menopausal women.
I want to point a few things out however, before you stop your supplement, thinking it is not doing any thing.
- This study was done in a small group of women.
- It only last 1 year.
- It compared women taking 800 IUs of Vitamin D3, and those taking 50,000 IUs of Vitamin D3, and women taking a placebo.
The study did show there was greater absorption of calcium in the high dose supplement group, but it did not show any increase of bone density or muscle mass. Additionally, the sit-to-stand test was also unchanged.
It is important to understand that this study was only done for a year, and this may very well not be long enough to see a change of bone density. And it was done on a small sampling of women.
It is also important to understand that levels of Vitamin D above 30 ng/ml is felt to have benefit for muscles, brain, colon. You may not need 50,000 IUs, but I still adhere to a daily 2,000 IU tablet.
It does seem that small studies are released regularly with conflicting information. What is important to remember, is that we need strong bones that won’t break when we fall. We need strong muscles to give us strength, stability and balance; to help prevent us from falling.
We can accomplish this with a diet high in calcium and Vitamin D, supplement when our diet is lacking these important nutrients. And we can further help ourselves by exercising both aerobically for our hearts, and strength training for our strength and balance.
Last week I gave you all some links sent to me by the NIH to help women come to terms with the possibility of heart disease. What is it you need to know about to determine if you need to be worried?
Here are some of the basics.
1. What is your blood pressure, glucose, and cholesterol? These 3 things are the early warning signs of potential harm to your heart and blood vessels.
An elevated blood pressure occurs for a variety of reasons but basically the blood vessels are too narrow and the heart has to work harder as a pump to get the blood to flow through and make it to the organs. The heart over time can enlarge, and not work as effectively.
An elevated glucose causes problems with the walls of the blood vessels, making them less healthy, inflamed and eventually not effective as conduits for the blood flowing through.
Elevated bad forms of cholesterol can infiltrate into the lining of the blood vessels, causing blockages. These can eventually rupture, causing a complete blockage. When this happens in the brain, it is a stroke; in the coronary blood vessels it is a heart attack.
2. What are your genetics for heart disease? In other words, have many family members had early heart attacks and strokes?
Having a strong family history of heart disease indicates there is a tendency to inflammation in your blood vessels that contributes to poor health of arteries. This genetic predisposition may include diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure.
Having a family history does not mean you are fated to have an MI or stroke, but it does mean you need to be very careful what you do in terms of lifestyle and habits. You can avoid the fate of your genes with careful living.
3. What are your health habits? Yes, yes; this is what we medical people preach about day in and day out!
It is the one most important modifiable action you can take however, which is why we stress healthy habits so much. You have the power to change the fate of your genes!
Exercise helps the heart get a good work out, it exercises the muscle and gets the blood flowing all over your body. It uses up the excess calories you may have eaten. It lowers cortisol levels that are elevated in most of us due to the stress of our lives. This lower cortisol following exercise causes the muscle layer around the outside of the blood vessel to relax a little, making the tube a little wider and easing the heart from having to pump so hard. The idea is for your heart to work hard during exercise, and not all the time. Additionally, exercise helps your liver make more of the good cholesterol which then helps the body get rid of the bad cholesterol.
A healthy diet low in animal fats, trans fats, and saturated fats that come from fried foods, packaged and processed baked foods; helps to keep cholesterol lower and inflammation in the blood vessels lower. Then the cholesterol flowing through your blood stream doesn’t have as much inflammation to latch onto, creating a plaque or potential blockage.
Lowering sugar in the diet also helps reduce inflammation, avoid diabetes with its’ destructive actions; and helps with weight.
Sodium is a major contributor to high blood vessel for many people through retention of fluid and tightening to the blood vessel walls, making them more narrow.
Maintaining a health weight reduces the amount of blood vessels your heart has to pump blood too, as fat needs blood vessels also. There is less mileage that the heart has to pump blood through. The actions that it takes to maintain a healthy weight also helps the heart, and is described above.
Do you smoke cigarettes or use nicotine products? Nicotine contributes to heart disease mostly through the inflammation and disease to blood vessel walls. Nicotine also contributes to tightening of the blood vessels, making them more narrow. The inflammation and narrowing then helps cholesterol do its’ bad thing with blockages.
Do you get enough good quality sleep? Hey, everything has to rest! Sleep helps aid in repair of the body, lowering of inflammation, mobilizing excess fluid.
OK, quick tips:
- Instead of frying foods, saute in a little olive oil or other healthy oil
- Add very little salt to food, use other seasons like pepper and herbs, spices
- Get out and move every day, figure out a way this will work for you
- Get a good nights sleep, work on sleep habits to aid this occuring
- ditch the sodium, nicotine products, fast foods, fried foods, fatty meats. Make them a rare occurrence
- decrease sugar, white starches like bread, pasta, potatoes, rice; as they basically act like a big dose of sugar in the body
- limit alcohol and caffeine products to a healthy consumption
- have your glucose, cholesterol and blood pressure monitored regularly and talk to your provider about what to do to reduce them if they are elevated.
Think about it, the only rest your heart gets is between each beat. Not to scare you, but that muscle keeps going, all the time. Why would you not be kind to it, protect it, pay attention to it?
How can we get back to the days where we got in bed, fell asleep, and didn’t wake up until morning?
I bet for many of us, this is a distant memory. As we get older, many of us will do whatever we can to fall asleep. The National Sleep Foundation recently revised the recommended hours of sleep we all need at the different stages of our lives. Adults are recommended to get 7-9 hrs, nightly!
There is a lot we can do to improve our sleep without taking medications. First though, you have to decide that your sleep is a priority; not something to fit in at the end of the day!
We are all busy, and our modern conveniences has made us even busier. Add to that the constant connectivity that some of us want, others of us are expected to have. Many a job does not allow a 9-5 mentality, we are expected to answer emails late into the night. For some of us working for a company that is world wide, we have to be available late into the night for time zones behind us, then early in the morning for time zones ahead of us. Or is it the other way around! This hardly seems sustainable.
Constant sleep deprivation can be harmful to our health. A lot of repair to our body occurs while we sleep, sort of like a computer going to standby, scrubbing out unnecessary bits of broken information. In addition, good sleep is essential for healthy weight control through a series of hormones that are secreted while we sleep. None of us want to gain weight much less acquire the inflammatory conditions and diseases that obesity and insulin resistance place us at risk for.
So it comes down to making choices and setting boundaries as best we can.
- Your may not be able to be on many committees or groups as you would like, limit them to what you can reasonably do
- With a job that requires out of office email answering, talk to your supervisor about setting time limits. You can “on” 24/7 more when you are young, but it takes so much more out of you after 40 or so. It wears you down
- Set a plan for relaxation at night an hour before you want to fall asleep. This hour should be void of ALL electronics. Read an old fashioned book, or listen to music and daydream.
- Do the obvious dietary things: avoid caffeine after noon, don’t eat late at night, limit alcohol as this causes a rebound awakening when the alcohol wears off, sugar and big desserts can undermine sleep with the glucose rush
- Exercise helps tremendously with sleep, done any time of day except within a few hours of bedtime for some people
- Keep lights low and sound low to help the sleep center of your brain secrete melatonin, which quiets the awake center
Medications can certainly be helpful with sleep, but many of them do not mimic the normal sleep cycle. You may be asleep, but it may not restore you like a natural sleep does. Many of these medications are also habit forming and addictive. There is some rebound insomnia next night after use, and sometimes some depression the next day after using Ambien, Lunesta, or Sonata. These meds can be helpful for those rare instances when you must ensure a quick sleep induction, but regular use can be a slippery slope.
Certain times of our lives can contribute to sleep problems, but working on healthy sleep habits and limited use of sleep medications can get you through these years without undue deprivation or overuse of medications.
Follow the tips I have listed above and let me know how it works out. Better yet, send me some of your own tips.
I personally find taking a relaxing shower and getting in bed with light reading and a cup of decaf tea, 30-45 minutes before I feel I need to fall asleep; works 75-85% of the time. Having gone through menopause and sleep deprivation rivaling having a newborn, that is good enough for me!
We women deal with many physical and emotional changes during and after menopause. Some of these changes can take a real toll
on our relationships, including our sex life.
To complicate matters, it’s often difficult to find straightforward,
trustworthy information about how to deal with issues like changes in our
libido, pain during sexual intercourse.
That’s why I’m excited to share with you that Vibrant Nation, the leading
online community for women 45+, is having its first ever Live webcast
discussion, Sex After Menopause. On March 31, 2015 at 1:00pm EST,
Vibrant Nation sexual health expert and blogger Dr. Barb DePree will lead
a panel of women in sharing their stories and advice for getting that spark
back in the bedroom.
Disclosure: I am participating in a Vibrant Influencer Network campaign. I
am receiving a fee for posting; however, the opinions expressed in this
post are my own. I am in no way affiliated with Pfizer and do not earn a commission or percent of sales.
I know, as you stand in front of the calcium supplements your medical provider has urged you to start taking; your mind goes blank and confusion sets in.
It sounds so easy, “start taking calcium supplements daily”. “Ok” you say, that is one health action that seems easy for you to initiate. Until you stand before the mind boggling array of supplements available.
This post will hopefully make your decision easier.
The first thing to do is acquaint yourself with how to determine the amount of calcium you may be getting in your foods and beverages. This is easy if you are consuming something with a nutritional label on the container. Reading the nutrition label, you will see on the very bottom a percentage of calcium provided. This percentage is based on 1000 mg recommended by the FDA daily. Take that number and multiply by 10; that is the mg provided in that serving. For example, the yogurt I eat at lunch, Fage, lists 15% in the one serving container. So that provides 150 mg.
We menopausal women need between 1200-1500 mg a day. It is hard to get all that in the diet. For instance, milk provides a whopping 300 mg per 8 oz glass, but you would have to consume4-5 glasses a day to get the total recommended amount. That is a lot of calories, and most weight conscious women are not going to consume so many calories in milk.
Cheeses, especially the harder ones, provide a good amount of calcium. Greens also have calcium and this is harder to quantify. My ballpark estimate is a cup of cooked greens probably has 75 mg of calcium. Many foods and juices are now fortified with calcium, so this can be an easy way to get a good bone building serving of calcium(and Vitamin D). The NIH has a decent list of calcium content of foods for you to tally.
You get the picture, look at what you consume, add it up. The difference between what you get and what you need can be made up with supplements.
Ok, which supplement?
The most common forms are calcium carbonate, and calcium citrate.
Calcium Carbonate is the most common form of supplement, and the form used to supplement foods and juices that do not contain dairy or calcium naturally. It has the highest amount of elemental calcium, but is the hardest to digest. It requires more stomach acid to absorb, something that can be difficult as we age as stomach acid production can decrease for some people with aging. Additionally, if you take a heart burn medicine, you also may not absorb this form of calcium as readily.
Calcium Citrate is the second most common form. It is easier to absorb, but you do have to take more tablets as it has a lower percentage of calcium. You can take it on an empty stomach; and many supplements have the bonus of adding Vitamin D to it.
Calcium Phosphate has a high percentage of calcium but is not as easily absorbed as the above two. It is not as common and may produce more gas and constipation as other forms.
Many people like the idea of Coral Calcium, as it seem natural. It is basically a form of calcium carbonate derived from fossilized coral reefs. The manufacturers have made many health claims that have never been proven. Additionally, I have issues with using a resource that is endangered, as living coral reefs are.
Oyster shell calcium can also be a favorite as it is derived from a natural source. These forms have been found in some cases to contain high levels of lead and other toxic metals.
A new form of calcium supplement, KoAct, has had some mention in the medical press. It is a branded calcium collagen supplement that in a small study, showed improved reduction of bone loss as compared to an equivalent dose of calcium carbonate and vitamin D. Call me a sucker, but my recent bone density revealing osteopenia has me taking action. I am giving this supplement a try and have found it to be tolerable and not causing the common problems of gas and constipation.
As you try different supplements for tolerability, try to add some calcium in your diet. I usually suggest to my patients that they take a supplement containing 400-500 mg of calcium morning and evening. Then eat something with calcium mid day, like yogurt or cheese stick. If you eat cereal in the morning, use 8 oz of milk and drink it all. Then take your supplement at lunch and after dinner. You can easily switch it around, but you cannot take it all at once. Your gut can only absorb up to 500 mg of calcium at a time, so it has to be spaced out. When someone wants a specific recommendation, I will often suggest Caltrate twice daily. Its a good supplement of calcium citrate with vitamin D, is easily tolerated and affordable.
We need calcium for many functions within the body, including heart, blood vessel, and muscle function. What we don’t get in our diet, our body will take from the bones to fulfill this need. As we age, our bone making cells within the bone slow down. So you can see how a deficit can occur.
Take your calcium, and remain strong and mobile as you move through menopause and beyond!
This video of 3 physician experts on diet is a powerful, and fun, discussion about our diets. Listen to what they believe constitutes a healthy diet and eating plan. It is easy to listen to, with some humor interjected.
The video is 30 min. long, but you can listen to it while doing something else!
A recent study has suggested it is ok for us to eat fat again. A small study comparing low fat with a low carb diet revealed a bigger weight loss in the low carb group vs the low fat group. As one these experts Dr Mark Hyman states “It is all about the quality of your food”.
Some of the take points include:
1.The fats that are natural and plant based are most likely healthy, whereas man made fats are unhealthy and even harmful. Fats from grass fed beef may be considered a healthy fat by one of these experts!
2. If you eat crap, you will feel like crap! Eat lots of plants, cut out sugar, junk food, processed foods.
3.Find a way of eating with a group foods that work for you. Some people with inflammation in their body, or with autoimmune diseases may not be able to tolerate certain foods such as gluten and diary.
4.There is no real science comparing the health of grain fed vs grass feed protein. Essentially it is important to limit the amount of animal based protein.
5. The Mediterranean diet vs Paleo diet vs 80/20 diet all basically have in common a healthy plant based diet with healthy fats. The cardiologist in the group feels healthy fats are better than animal based fats for limiting heart disease.
6. Is butter healthy? Probably not, especially if you have heart disease. It is controversial with this group.
7. Wheat and gluten may be a problem for some people but can still be a part of diet in limited amounts. Howver, if you have insulin resistance, you need to limit grains and foods with a glycemic load.
Listening to this lecture may help you with decisions regarding your diet.
The final message: eat real food, food high in micro and macro nutrients, limit processed foods, and eat a way that makes you feel good in terms of energy.
Taking supplements seems to be a safe and healthy thing to do, right? After all, if it is available without a prescription it must be safe!
You may be risking your health thinking this!
The supplement industry is a lucrative one as we are all searching for an answer to our aches and pains, fatigue, and changes in our bodies. What baby boomer do you know that is happy with becoming tired, fat, achy, bald and worse- less sexy? We must be careful what we reach for, in our attempts to push back the aging process.
A recent study out of Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia published in Hepatology, a medical journal focusing on liver issues, illustrates the potential dangers with some supplements. The incidence of liver inflammation has risen by 13% over the past decade. States lead investigator Dr Victor Navarro in discussing the supplement industry, “With less stringent oversight for herbals and dietary supplements, there is greater potential for harmful consequences, including life-threatening conditions.”
The supplement industry is not required to prove the same level of safety that pharmaceutical drugs are required to show, nor do they have the prove the same level of efficacy! So you may be getting a supplement that could harm you without actually doing the job you originally bought them for.
When choosing a supplement, make sure you actually need it and get a recommended dosage from your medical provider so as not to overload your liver. Stay away from too much, you really shouldn’t need many supplements if you are eating and absorbing a balanced diet of fresh foods. Make sure your brand has the seals of approval from USP, NPA or ConsumerLabs.
I’m talking about water, the stuff you drink, the stuff that is vital to our existence.
A year or so ago, I was talking to a friend who is a research scientist new to the field of diabetes. We were discussing the problems diabetics have with choices of foods and whether to take more medications to allow more leniency to their diet. I mentioned that many of my patients struggling with control of their blood sugar, abhor drinking water. He looked at me with astonishment, and asked how can people hate something so fundamental as water?
I got me thinking. Have we come so addicted to taste that the mere thought of drinking water makes some people nauseous? Here in the south, where sweet tea is king and soda is the crowned prince; some people look at me aghast as I advise them to drink water, daily. The reasons vary, but mostly it seems the lack of taste is a turn off.
How much water do we actually need to drink? This can actually vary widely depending on your activity level and where you live (hot vs cold climate); and what sorts of foods you typically eat. There is a lot of water in fruits and vegetables, but not enough the replenish and sustain us. Our bodies are, after all, composed of 60% water and our brains-70%!
Water helps the blood to flow; delivering nutrients to our brain, muscles and organs. It keeps our kidneys functioning, so that our bodies can flush out toxins created and consumed throughout to day. It helps in keeping the skin thick and protective over our muscles, tendons and joints.
For us women, the recommendation varies; but is basically 8-9 8 oz glasses a day of fluids. That is roughly 65-75 oz a day; more if you sweat a lot from work or exercise. This is generally in addition to the amount we get in food. A lot of people may seem to get by just fine with far less than that. In reality however, these people may be tired, have headaches, back aches, joint pain, palpitations, mild dizziness. All symptoms to mild dehydration.
You see, if your body is accustomed to not getting the water it needs, it turns off the thirst mechanism and turns on the hunger mechanism. It is hoping to get fluid some way. This is how responding to the clues of mild dehydration by upping your water intake, can actually help you lose weight. If every time you decided to drink 8 oz of fluid, you had a beverage with sugar; you would be consuming at least 100 cal. per beverage. Think diet drinks are the answer? Wrong. They trick your brain, and actually can increase hunger, which you may respond to by eating a sugary snack.
What can you do if you are a water hater? I suggest starting with a 20-24 oz water bottle that you squeeze a lemon or lime into; an have this at your desk to consume in the morning hours. Have a flavorful 8-12 oz drink for lunch, NOT a 32 oz soda (which is loading with sodium AND calories). Then repeat the 20-24 oz water bottle for the afternoon. This will get you close to your recommended amount and you can work in more water in the evening.
You are right, water doesn’t have much of a flavor. However, we don’t have to have a ahaa moment every time we put something in our mouths.
Sometimes we just need to drink or eat something for nourishment.
Most menopausal women crave sleep if they have been sleep deprived for any length of time. If like me, you have had periods of sleepless nights; you know how negatively this can impact your day.
It comes as no surprise to anyone that adequate sleep and healthy habits, along with some exercise, is the balance we all need in order to maintain health.
You know, that whole life balance thing. It works though, doesn’t it?
There are times of course, when we are super motivated and energized by a task or challenge. We may choose to shorten our sleep hours and forgo our usual run or walk; and we still feel fine. In time however, when this energizing task is done, we can feel the need to regroup. The intensity in our lives is gone and we feel the need to get back to that balance, to recharge.
A new study out of San Fransisco has shown that lack of sleep and life balance actually contributes to aging by taking its toll on our genes. The lead researcher at UC San Francisco, Dr Eli Puterman, excitedly points out that the study participants who exercised, slept and ate well had less aging impact on their bodies. This was in comparison to a control group of participants that did not participate in these healthy habits. Interestingly, they both had the same degree of stress according to the self report questionnaires.
I have spoken of telemere length in a different post, but basically, telemeres are the ends of our genes. When our cells divide, which happens daily and throughout the day, these telemeres can shorten. When they shorten, our genes do not work as well. This is felt to be a major cause of aging, illness and even cancer.
We now have some proof that healthy life style may very well protect us at our most basic level, our genes!
Knowing what you need to do is the easy part, but maybe doing it is the hard part for you. Getting started isn’t as hard as you think though.
Chose one part of your life that you know you need to change, and feel that you can change. It doesn’t need to be big, small steps all mount up.
As a young girl, during times of frustration, my father had a favorite saying. “Rome was not built in a day. ”
We all want quick changes though, with a quick pay off. So pick something you feel you can change and practice it everyday.
- Go to bed at a reasonable hour no matter what, read something unimportant to your life for 30 minutes; and turn off the light.
- Set out water bottles for work and drink this instead of soda, coffee drinks, or sweat tea.
- Mark on your calender the day you will do something involving movement, then place your exercise clothes somewhere prominent the night before do that you cannot miss them.
- Pick 3-4 nights out of the week that you will prepare yourself a healthy dinner without bread, potatoes, pasta, or rice.
These are but a few examples, small ones that anyone can do if they put their mind to it. And that is what it is all about. Deciding you want to look and feel better, have a healthier future; and perhaps set an example and inspiration for a loved one.
Take one action after you have finished this post. Write down what you want to change, and what you feel you can change. Share it with our readers if it will help you commit, so we can all get inspired by your ideas. Ask me questions if you are stumped on how to start, or continue. If you want or need more in depth help, go to our coaching page and contact me.
Making changes can be hard, or sometimes scary. If often feels easier to keep doing the same thing, even when it does not get you the result that you want. So you really must decide that change is what you want, and commit yourself to it by practicing it every day.