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Feb
21

Strategies and Tips to Health; Sunday morning musings

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As I spent the morning reading numerous articles on diet, weight loss and exercise; 
several basic principles continue to emerge:
 
1.
 It's hard to lose weight as we age, and harder even for women. The body
 is all about preservation and continually adapts to cope with changing 
 calorie intake and exercise levels. Some key strategies-

     Don't cut calories too drastically for many days, give yourself at least 
     one day of increased calorie consumption.
 
     Vary your exercise to prevent the body from adjusting to what you are doing.
 
     Throw in strength training. Stressing muscle helps with metabolism.
 
2.
 You must improve your diet as you get older, no two ways about it. All 
the successful diets have this in common: very limited added sugar, no 
processed carbs on a regular basis, healthy fats only. Here are some 
strategies:
 
     Cut down on sugar in your drinks, you may actually taste what you are drinking.
      If you don't like the taste of something without sugar, may you should quit 
      drinking it.
 
     Cut down on alcohol. They are empty calories and if you want to lose weight,
      you cannot afford empty calories.
 
     The processed carbs of our modern day are stripped of fiber and act just like 
     sugar when you eat them. Limit consumption to once weekly.
 
     Most juices are loaded with sugar and thus act like a soda when you drink them.
      Limit how much you drink regularly to 4-6 oz daily, tops.
   
     Limit meats to 4 oz at a meal, choose organic when you can as the fat 
      within the meat is healthier due to the animal having a healthier diet.
 
3.
 You have got to get enough sleep for all of this to work. Important 
metabolic and appetite suppressing work goes on when we sleep. 
Additionally, you have the mental energy to focus on what is important 
and to make the choices that support your goals, in all the arenas of 
your life. Strategies:
 
    I have personally discovered how well I sleep when I limit sugar in the evening,
    and this includes alcohol. Try it for a week, see how you respond.
 
    Exercise helps to make us tired at night, even when done in the morning. Try 
    Adding in a walk, do something more than that at 3 days a week.
 
    Don't overeat at night, it can give you heartburn and a pounding heart as you 
    metabolize all those calories without physical action to use them up.
 
    Set a regular and relaxing routine and stick to it most the days of the week. 
    This sets in motion the hormones that help us sleep. You may also need to turn 
    off electronics to aid this process.
    
4.
 Move. I can't say enough about this. You cannot expect to lose weight 
and be healthy without movement beyond getting to and from work, 
hygiene/dressing, activity related to meals. If you do not have an 
active job, you have to move in some meaningful way. Figure out what you
like to do, and do it regularly, almost daily. And get used to more 
walking. Strategies:

  there is Zumba, Jazzercise, dance classes offered at gyms, rec centers, 
  churches. You can usually google the activity for in your area and get a 
  variety of listings.

  Your can try walking and running clubs often hosted by a local athletic shoe 
  company, such as Fleet Feet. My walking partner has been an invaluable 
  sounding board and general conversationalist for job, family etc issues!

  there are numerous free apps for your phone that can guide you through 
  exercising if you want to go it alone. My favorites have been fit in 5, 
  Couch to 5K, DailyWorkout.

  And always try to take stairs instead of elevators, park in one spot if you 
  can walk and do several errands, park farther away from the store you are 
  going to, walk your dog a distance and at a decent clip. 

Readers, write in with your suggestions and tips! Contact me for more specific 
advice and consider personal coaching to get you past your roadblocks! 
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Feb
03

The Healthy Gut – Part 1

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Gut MicrobiomeThis is a discussion of the gut microbiome and is the first of two parts. For more information on this topic I recommend you read the book “The Good Gut” by Justin and Erica Sonnenburg, bot PhD researchers in this area of Gut Health. I have provided a link to the book on Amazon below. It is an affiliate link. I will receive a few cents if you buy it, though it is the same price whether you use my link or not. Enjoy part one, share it with your friends.

 

 

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Oct
25

Are You Confused About Getting A Mammogram This Year?

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There are now new guidelines regarding the frequency of mammogram screening, and yes, this debate continues to go on!

These recommendations however, are backed by most professional medical organizations. The American Cancer Society agrees, and that carries a lot of weight.

These newest recommendation apply to women of low risk, and include starting age 45 instead of 40; and having a mammogram yearly until 55 yrs of age. At this point, women are recommended to have a mammogram every other year until within 10 yrs of life expectancy (when the average woman dies); then they can stop. The new recommendations recommend against monthly self breast exams, and against your medical provider doing breast exams.

If you are at high risk, ie have a family history of breast cancer or a personal history of cancer as well as some unhealthy life style practices; you are recommended to discuss your screening with your provider.

  • In other words, if you have had a sister, mother, daughter with breast cancer; you are at higher risk and need to be screened more regularly and start a little earlier.
  • If you have had any other cancer, you are considered at risk for future cancers from other sites; so you are at higher risk.
  • If you smoke, drink more that 10-14 alcoholic drinks a week (ie 12 oz beer, 5 oz wine, 1-1.5 oz liquor), are in the obese weight category, and are not active; you should get regular screening.

Many providers, myself included, do not agree with the lack of provider breast exams. I personally, will not give that up in my clinical practice. A lump is a lump and how are you going to know it is not cancer unless it is found and evaluated?

The reason for this shift in recommendations involve trying to minimize aggressive and fear inducing procedures and treatments for abnormalities that ultimately are benign or so slow growing they will not impact longevity. Cancer occurring in the 40′s and early 50′s are felt to be more aggressive and faster moving.

One major and important organization, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists  do not agree with these new recommendations.

They feel screening should begin at age 40 and continue yearly, no end point specified. They still approve of self breast exams and yearly provider exams.

What do I, as a provider, recommend? Somewhere in the middle.

I do agree with yearly exams in the 40′s and 50′s. As stated above, if I see a woman for a yearly female exam, she is getting a breast exam. Self breast exams are fine every other month or so. It is probably ok to skip a year here and there with mammograms if someone is low risk. If a woman has no family history or personal history of cancer, but her healthy habits are not good; I will recommend yearly mammograms. I feel it is likely safe to stop screening in the late 70′s for most healthy women who expect to live well into their 80′s.

This is my take on the new recommendations. Let me know what your experiences, questions and thoughts are!

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What do you consider most important health factor that will enable you to continue to live life the way you want?

For some of us, it is to have a sharp mind to continue with the creative pursuits we want to engage. Our brains and creative process are the most part to us. We then hope our bodies are healthy enough to carry those minds around for a while.

For others it is to have the energy and strength to be as physically active as we want.

There is no doubt however, a healthy heart is needed for both types ways of living. It turns out that quite possibly striving for a healthy cholesterol profile may not be enough for menopausal women!

A recent study out of the Univ. of Pittsburgh School of Public Health reveals that having a high HDL cholesterol can cause cholesterol plaque, just as the bad LDL can.  This study followed 225  women in their mid to late 40′s for 9 yrs. They were determined to be clear of cardiovascular disease at the beginning of the study. It was noted that the women with higher HDL levels as they transitioned through menopause had a greater number of cholesterol plaques formed that the other participants. The researchers theorize that the changing levels of estrogen affects cholesterol metabolism, but they admit they do not know more than that.

We have been taught for years that having a high HDL, or “good cholesterol”, is protective against heart disease. We do not know all there is about cholesterol and how it is metabolized, but this small study would indicate that a lot more has to be determined before we have a clear picture or the final word on cholesterol and aging.

What can we women do in the meantime to protect our hearts?

We can improve all the other potential risk factors we may have for heart disease.

  • Consume a diet low in animal fats, trans fats and saturated fats. Increase healthy plant based fats
  • Decrease and eliminate processed starches, sweets and packaged foods. Studies have suggested that when saturated fat is consumed with processed starch (think chicken biscuit, pastries, fast food meals) more harm is done than consuming saturated fat by itself. Having said that, you still need to LIMIT the saturated fat you consume.
  • Stop smoking or using nicotine products. Nicotine basically inflames the walls of blood vessels, allowing cholesterol particles to adhere and gather.
  • Exercise in any way that is enjoyable and tolerable for you. Moving helps metabolize food energy so it is used, not floating around looking where is will live.

Talk with your medical provider about your cholesterol profile and how it may impact your health. There is a relatively new way of analyzing cholesterol called the NMR lipoprotein. This technology looks at the particle size and count of both good and bad cholesterol. We all make different sized cholesterol particles, and the more yours are large, the less likely they can stick to the walls or arteries and create plaques.

Until we know more about cholesterol, do what you can with your habits. This way you can be more active, creative, influential, involved, thought provoking and connected for many more years!

 

Sources:

http://www.menopause.org/docs/default-source/2015/good-cholesterol-decreases-menopause.pdf

http://www.upmc.com/media/NewsReleases/2014/Pages/gsph-study-menopause-cholesterol.aspx

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Oct
03

Importance of Doing it Yourself

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Like many of us, I am constantly trying to tweak my health habits to improve health, weight, and energy. As I look at ways to improve my diet, one thing has become clear to me.

The importance of preparing your own meals.

Luckily, many stores can provide us with healthy alternatives in the form of organic produce, eggs and meats from animals raised humanely and feed quality nutrition.

When looking at nutrition that is optimal, the safety and quality of many commercially prepared version of foods is often questionable and inferior to what we can prepare at home. We put a lot of trust into food manufacturers and regulatory powers overseeing the health of additives used by large food corporations. In many instances, they have done a good job, but there may be a myriad of ways that these chemicals may affect us that have not adequately been looked at.

Take the example of high fructose corn syrup.

This was felt at one time to be a healthy additive that improved commercially prepared foods. We now understand how this item has contributed to obesity. The chemical makeup of HFCS causes it to be metabolized differently in the body, contributing to diabetes, liver disease. The shear volume of sugar hidden in foods with HFCS adds calories that our brain does not necessarily acknowledge, preventing us from feeling full. Contrary to industry claims that sugar is sugar; this form of sugar does not act like regular table sugar. If you are interested in reading more about this, Mark Hyman is a well recognized leader in nutrition and integrative health.

While organic foods may be more expensive, you may find that you can eat less and still afford the better quality food. Plan some time over the weekend or your off days, to prepare some meals and dishes. You will be happier knowing what has gone into your food and may even notice a change on the scales!

How comfortable can we really be handing over control of the quality of our meals to total strangers?

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Aug
10

Weight Gain is Where is All Starts

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We likely enjoy the actions that cause our weight gain, eating tasty food and lots of it. Or maybe it feels like the only way to get in nutrition; we are busy so we reach for fast food, convenient food or even quality restaurant food. It all tastes good. Of course, that is the point of the food industry. Keep us coming back for more.

The problem is that most of our health issues start with weight gain. And stress, with the associated behavior changes that come with stress. Smoking, eating, drinking, not sleeping, and probably not exercising.

So the question is how do you want to live your life? And what are you willing to do to achieve this?

You may not feel empowered to make the changes needed to avoid illness and disease that your genes may predispose you to. Or you feel it is inevitable. You may not feel you have the time and energy, or deep down, deserve the time and energy to devote to yourself. It could be a combination of all or none of these reasons. Granted there are many exceptions to this, diseases that a life style change will not prevent or treat. Or it feels too late and medications are needed to improve and prolong life.

Most likely your medical professional has not devoted the time to talk with you in depth about diet; they may not even be very well trained in this themselves. Add to this, the confusing internet barrage of diets promising a quick fix. This is why the drug industry has become “big pharma”.

But most of it starts with weight gain.

Weight gain causes inflammation and a host of hormonal responses that makes it extremely difficult for the body to maintain its balance. As a result, systems start to malfunction, causing production of other substances that more profoundly affect the balance within our body. This can even set us up for cancer.

If you want to avoid all this, it is not too late. But you do have to change, and maybe change big-time; but not necessarily all at once.

Some simple rules to live by:

  • Eat 3 meals daily, starting with a lot of protein at breakfast. Eat enough to space meals 5 hrs apart at least; and do not snack. If you must snack, make it healthy.
  • NO SUGAR, or anything that acts like sugar when you eat it. This includes processed foods with any sort of fructose corn syrup or any syrup, agave, honey, sugar. No white rice, white potatoes, white pasta, white bread, white tortillas, snacks like pretzels, chips, cookies, cakes, pies, candy etc. No biscuits, donuts, bagels. They are all compressed white flour and are the equivalent to sugar in your body and brain.
  • Get 7-8 hours of sleep at night. I cannot stress how important this is. The hormones that regulate your appetite and food metabolism are actually to some degree, secreted and regulated at night. Not sleeping interferes with this.
  • Do not eat after dinner. Your liver needs a rest from all of this food metabolism and giving your body a 12 hr fast during the night helps it to work at producing the right hormones at the right time. This is also why not snacking helps.
  • Get rid of as much stress as possible. I know this can be a hard one. You have one life to live and your life would be so much better if stress were reduced. Some things we cannot get rid of, but we can change how we react. Look into meditation, even 5 minutes a day is beneficial. Exercise helps to reduce the stress hormone cortisol, which contributes to the unhealthy cascade that aging can bring. And sleep of course, helps reduce stress as it places parts of your brain in standby mode, helping to reset certain functions.

Ok, this all seems overwhelming perhaps.

Pick one item on the list above and work on it for a month or so. Figure out what will work for you. Then start on the next thing. You do not have to do it all at once, but you may notice a curious affect. When we change one habit for the better; sometimes other habits change without us really making an effort.

It is up to you, but I am here to help. Trust me, I have seen it, done it, lived it; and to some degree successfully changed it. Contact me with questions, and consider contracting for some coaching time if you are stuck and need help.

All this change may seem hard, but it is really not hard once you start taking steps.

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Jun
28

Is Your Heart As Healthy As You Think?

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We never really thought about our hearts when we were younger, did we?

Aside from the issue of love and relationships, we have pretty much taken our hearts for granted all these years. Until it starts  palpitating, jumping wildly around in our chest for no reason.

Now we are paying attention.

We may feel like someone who never remembers to have the oil changed in their car until is starts stalling or hesitating.

The good news is, it is likely not too late-depending on how much you have abused your body with bad habits. It is certainly never too late to improve a few things.

We have to realize that we are at risk for a heart attack or a stroke at this age of menopause, just like all the men we know, care about and love.

Take some time at your next medical appointment and talk about your heart health and how you can preserve or improve it. Along with some helpful tips and information from the NIH  included in these brochures, you can think about ways to start the conversation with your provider.

Heart Health and Changes to Your Heart Health With Age

Heart Health for Women

Both of these links have pdf forms you can down load and print, give it to a woman you care about who may still be ignoring their heart. Help spread the word that we women are at much at risk for heart disease, stroke or heart attack as men. This is one area we have equality, whether we want it or not!

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Mar
15

SEX AFTER MENOPAUSE-JOIN ME IN A LIVE EVENT!

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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.

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Mar
08

How Rainbows Relate To Your Health

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Spring is around the corner and so are fresh fruits and vegetables, the farmer’s market; and sunshine!

After spending a week in a cold NYC at the recent Integrative Health Conference, I am ready! I usually go once yearly for my shot of motivation on improving diet and life balance. After many years of going to this conference, it has become ever more clear that a healthy diet, activity and stress reduction are powerful medicines against illness.

It is increasingly talked about in medical and health news, that eating a rainbow color of fresh foods is key for good health. There are nutrients and compounds in whole foods (nuts, legumes, vegetables and fruits) that are capable of controlling how our genetic code is expressed!

If you are genetically predisposed, it is possible that your diet and lifestyle can determine or influence whether you will develop diabetes, heart disease, or even cancer. It is astounding that plants and greens have the power to prevent diabetes in a person from a family where diabetes is rampant.

It is all in your choices and what is most important to you.

This year’s conference was to some degree focused on gut health and how a poor diet can lead to inflammation in your body, triggering eczema, arthritis, migraines to name a few things. It seems that healthy bacteria in our gut helps to create a proper barrier, to prevent inflammation. Additionally, regular elimination gets rid of toxins; including the metabolites of estrogen. Getting rid of these metabilites has been postulated to decrease your risk of breast cancer!

My take home message that I pass to my readers is this:

  • eat a variety of fresh plant foods daily, try to get the rainbow in!
  • eating more greens and fruits and veggies increases fiber in your gut as well as healthy bacteria; increasing regularity and ridding yourself of toxins
  • try to get protein from nuts and legumes and limit animal protein to highest quality you can afford, maybe eat a little less at each serving to afford better quality sources
  • make time to cook, after all, food is important in our lives and shouldn’t be delegated to what is most convenient
  • drink lots of water, not from plastic bottles; to flush out toxins filtered by the kidneys
  • limit sugar and processed foods, start with 1 or 2 small changes and build on it regularly
  • ENJOY YOUR LIFE! You only have one life, work some fun into your day or week, and spend time relaxing!
  • turn off electronics once in a while, set these boundaries for work if needed

In the last 2 weeks, I have managed to do some of this. How much can you do, or do you need to do?

This can be you next action: take some time to decide what your goals are for your health, and what you can do to achieve those goals. Be positive about yourself and your abilities to change. Write down affirmations and take them with you when you leave the house. Read them when you feel temptation to take a short cut that works against your health.

You can do it! Two steps forward and one step back is still forward momentum. Keep going!

 

 

 

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Feb
08

SEX AND MENOPAUSE-STEPS TO FIX!

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One of the most profound changes you may be experiencing entering and transitioning through menopause is a lack of desire and inability to enjoy sex. While you may still crave intimacy with your partner, having sex may not be high on your list.

This doesn’t help us feel like the woman we want to be, as we are getting older!

So what is going on, and what can you do about it?

Much of the lack of desire can be attributed to lower estrogen levels, AND lower testosterone levels. We all know these hormones are not being produced in the same abundance, but a 90% reduction of estrogen production sure does explain some things!
There are other factors to consider:

  • you may not like how you look if you have gained weight and lost some muscle and support
  • you may be tired if you are not sleeping as well
  • you may have grown apart from your husband through years of working, raising children or tending to family issues
  • it may hurt to have sex, either from a lack of lubrication in the vagina, or arthritis pain in back and hips

Most of these issues can be remedied, and some remedies will help with desire. It may be interesting for you to know that the sexual response does change with menopause.

It is widely recognized by experts the the DESIRE for sex often comes AFTER the activity has started and you are getting warmed up, so to speak. What I mean is, the desire that used to drive you to seek sex isn’t the first feeling any more. This comes after your are started and feeling good, and is normal with menopause.

What a relief to know what you are experiencing is normal, now you just have to learn to work around this in order to have some intimacy fun with your partner.

Some simple things you can do to get started feeling sexy again:

  • Spend some time with your partner doing fun things, to get back that feeling of closeness and partnership.
  • Talk to your medical provider about easing the discomfort of intercourse, controlling hot flashes and sweating
  • Work on your energy level by getting sleep, exercising, eating well to avoid bloated feeling
  • Work on weight control so you are happier with how you look

There are many strategies and treatments to help with the many issues contributing to sexual difficulties.

Join me and other experts from Vibrant Nation in an upcoming  Google Hangout about these very issues!

Getting Your Sexy Back  is happening Feb. 19th.; check back in the next few days to sign up and get the details. It’s free, and sure to give you lots of tips!

 

 

 

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