"Treat the disease, you win some, you lose some. Treat the patient, you always win."
~Patch Adams~

Monday, February 28, 2011

‘Never Say Die’

I found the excerpt of the preface of this book on Ravelry (an online community of knitters and crocheters, if you are one, please join us---my Ravelry name is Holyhormones!). Interesting reading----I think I want to read this book. Just thought I would share.

8 insomnia tips to help you fall asleep without drugs

Now that my hormone balance is on target, I do not struggle nearly as much with insomnia as I used to, but because of chronic back pain, I still don't sleep as well or as much as I would like to. I know it's a huge problem for a lot of women in the peri/menopausal transition.

Came across this article from KevinMD.com (great medical blog, some of it's over my head because it is geared to medical professionals, but I still learn a lot from it!) on 8 tips to help with insomnia. I know a regular sleep schedule (lights out by 1020 pm, up at about the same time each morning, about 645-715) and regular exercise help me the most. I also take melatonin at night, it's helped me more than any of the sleeping meds I used to take (and believe me, I have tried them all!)

Heart Disease: 1 in 3 Women Die From It

That fact should scare all of us, women and men! More women die of heart disease than all the cancers combined, but as is customary in our society, the boobs get more attention (had to steal that line from a friend's FB page). I'm all for finding a cure to any cancer, as I have lost a number of family members to the disease, but I have a number of friends in their 50's and 60's with heart disease, and I want them to live to a ripe old age with a good quality of life.

I went to a terrific heart health fair last Saturday at Carolinas Medical Center. I strongly encourage you to seek out these types of health fairs in your area (usually sponsored by local hospitals) and attend them----I always learn something, and it always motivates me a little more to keep learning and stay with my healthy (such as it is) lifestyle. Besides that, at this health fair there were all sorts of little thank you gifts for attending----I think I came away with 4 goodie bags from various offices and organizations, filled with paper pads, pill dispensers (I now have 3 new ones of various sizes), pens, and lots of good literature.

Today I am sharing with you something simple but powerful. Most of you know that the warning signs for heart attacks in women are often different and more subtle than in men so we have to be vigilant for them. An easy way to remember the warning signs is P.U.L.S.E. :

Persistent chest pain
Upset stomach
Shortness of breath
Excessive sweating

Also, know the risk factors for heart disease:
  • Family History
  • Smoking
  • High cholesterol and/or blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity/overweight
  • Lack of physical activity

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Higher Vitamin D Intake Needed To Reduce Cancer Risk

Ah, yes, I have not shared an article on Vitamin D (which, as regular readers know, is a prohormone, not a vitamin) in a couple weeks. MedicalNewsToday.com has an article discussing the findings of a UC San Diego study that shows most of us need to be taking a lot more Vitamin D than we are currently taking. Full disclosure, I am currently taking 10,000 IUs daily, per recommendation of my doctor. I was taking 5000 IUs and had blood work taken last October, and it showed that I am still slightly below Dr. Carr's optimal range of 70-100 ng/dl (mine was 62). I'll be anxious to see what it is come spring.

'I'm cheating on you:' 5 secrets you shouldn't keep from your doc

It amazes (and upsets) me to hear patients talk about all the things they don't discuss with their doctors. I have had more than one woman tell me that they don't tell their primary care doctor/gyn that they are taking bioidentical hormones. If I had a quarter for every patient who tells me they have vaginal dryness but don't feel they can discuss it with their doctors.....I could afford to pay off my mortage in one payment. Hormones, vitamins and supplements are powerful substances, and you need to be absolutely honest with any practitioner treating you about what you are putting in your body. No exceptions, no excuses. Check out this article from MSNBC.com on five pieces of information you should not be withholding from your doctor.

And as long as I am on my soapbox........

I have more than once told you that I have in my purse a written list of all my medications, hormones, vitamins and supplements, as well as the contact information of my physicians, emergency contacts, and in my case (since it's pretty extensive) a list of all my surgeries. I tell all my friends to do the same thing, I have posted it here on the blog more than once, you name it. A week ago today I took a friend down to the hosptial for a medical test. We had to be there 90 minutes early, and while we were sitting in the waiting room the nurse brought over a 6 page form to be filled out.....and it included list of medications, surgeries, and so on. My friend hit the roof, and grumbled loudly the entire time she was filling it out.

Yes, the hospital should send all the paperwork to you ahead of time, but they don't always, so I make sure I make every effort to get that kind of paperwork ahead of time. Secondly, I have told her and everyone else in my social group (and my knitting groups and my Saturday lunch group, and on and on) to get their list ready, save it on the computer and keep a printed copy with them at all times. If my friend had done it, she would have saved herself a bunch of time and effort. I had to grind my teeth to keep quiet (you should have seen me, I buried my face in my knitting---I was gripping my knitting needles so hard I am surprised I didn't break one). If you have not already done so, make a commitment before the week is over to sit down at the computer and make out the list. Keep a copy with you, and give another copy to someone who is likely to end up being with you if an emergency arises.

Have a great week!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

TV Alert Reminder----

Hi everyone, just wanted to remind you that Suzanne Somers will be on Dateline Sunday today (Sunday, February 20) at 7 pm Eastern time -----for those of you in other time zones, check your local listings.

I know I owe a few people emails, and my apologies for my tardiness---very busy week, and my back is a little out today, so I am limiting my computer time. Thanks for your understanding, I'm sure I will be back on track by tomorrow. Meanwhile, if you have not yet read Eric Stevenson's article below, make sure you do---good information!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Guest post today----Hidden Diseases

I am so pleased to share this guest post with you today by Eric Stevenson. Eric is a health and safety advocate who resides in the Southeastern US.

Note: When I posted this article yesterday, I didn't get the links right---so if you read this before Friday afternoon, please reread and take advantage of the links for more complete information! Many thanks to Eric for sharing this article with us---and for his patience with me in getting it right!

Hidden Diseases

Many of us tend to think of illness as a fairly simple process: germs (or other toxins) infect the body, making us immediately feel sick. Our bodies fight off the germs and we feel better. While this is a fairly common model for the illness process, it is not the only one. Some diseases incubate or remain latent for months or even years before the patient begins to feel their effects. These illnesses can be particularly dangerous, since the patient may not immediately connect the symptoms they are currently experiences to exposure to toxins many years before.


Mesotheioma is an aggressive cancer that affects the lining of the chest and abdominal cavity. Around 80% of mesothelioma cases can be traced with certainty back to asbestos exposure. This thread-like mineral was once used to add heat resistance to everything from construction materials to protective clothing to household appliances. When asbestos is bound up in other materials, it is not hazardous, but when those materials are damaged – either intentionally during construction or renovation projects, or through years of wear and tear – tiny fibers of the material break off and float into the air, where they can be breathed into the lungs.

Early mesothelioma symptoms can include shortness of breath, pain or tightness in the chest, or fluid around the lungs – highly generic symptoms that are often confused with other, less serious lung conditions until the cancer is in its advanced stages. Additionally, the disease usually takes between 20 and 50 years to surface after asbestos exposure, so many individuals who worked in factories or the construction or shipbuilding industry during asbestos’ heyday in the mid-20th century are only now becoming sick. Researchers expect the number of mesothelioma cases to continue rising for the next few years because of the long latency period. Unfortunately, life expectancy for the disease is short, often between 9-12 months.

New Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease

A recently recognized variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is caused not by a germ or even an environmental toxin, but something called a prion. A prion is a mutated protein molecule that, over time, can cause holes to develop in brain tissue, leading to dementia, memory loss, changes in personality, hallucinations, and eventually death. CJD is similar in nature to bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease.

While the link between these diseases is still being explored, there is some evidence to show that new variant CJD can result from eating tainted meat. It remains uncommon, though, since the prions exist in the highest concentration in the brain, spinal cord, and digestive tract of the cow, which are not commonly eaten unless the meat is improperly butchered. The disease can also be transmitted through blood transfusions. By studying a similar disease in Papua New Guinea, scientists have determined that new variant CJD may have a latency period of 30 to 50 years. Like mesothelioma, the survival period after the disease becomes active is short, around 13 to 14 months.

While mesothelioma and new variant CJD are hardly common diseases, they are deadly. While CJD can be the result of genetics, or even spontaneous mutation, you can partially protect yourself by being aware of where your meat comes from. The U.S. has yet to suffer an outbreak of mad cow disease, but care should be taken when traveling in the U.K., particularly when dining in the smaller towns and villages. Mesothelioma symptoms, however, can nearly always be prevented by avoiding asbestos, particularly in the form of construction materials manufactured before the 1980s. If you have reason to believe there is asbestos in your home, leave it alone unless it becomes damaged. If that should happen, have the material tested and contact a licensed abatement team to remove it.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

TV Alert!

Suzanne Somers is going to be on Dateline Sunday (NBC, check your local listings) on Sunday, February 20 to talk about her cancer treatment and the Wiley Protocol. Read more about the segement from The Examiner.com by clicking here.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Dark chocolate better than fruit juice?

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! I have already done a cardio workout, and this evening I am going to a seminar on the Health Benefits Of Dark Chocolate (yum!)

For those of you who will not be able to attend the seminar (I'll take notes), check out this article from The TimesLive.com on a recent study done by the folks at Hershey. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sun Exposure, Vitamin D May Lower MS Risk

I know, this time of year, even getting out in the sun does little to nothing to boost your Vitamin D level (the sun isn't strong enough)----but getting out with the sun on your face is great for your soul (she says as she heads out the door to go walking as soon as this post is finished!).

WebMD has an article today on how both Vitamin D levels and sun exposure have preventative roles in developing multiple sclerosis. I suspect as the years go on, we are going to find more and more health issues that can be prevented or lessened by the practice of getting all patients to their optimal level of Vitamin D.

Love this quote:

"It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves, and it is not possible to find it elsewhere."

- Agnes Repplier

The Updated Egg: Less Cholesterol but Is It a 'Healthy Food'?

Yes, I know that the egg in itself has little to do with menopause or hormones. However, I am sharing this article from TimeMagazine.com with you for a couple of reasons:

1. I burst out laughing when I saw how much Vitamin D is in an egg---41 IUs. Someone is going to read an article on this and think that if they eat an egg every day, no need for supplementation. Just for a point of reference, I take 10,000 IUs of Vitamin D daily, and I am still at the low end of the optimal range (checked with a blood test). Talk to your doctor about the optimal level of supplementation for you-----and if your doctor tries to blow you off about getting your Vitamin D level tested---push back!

2. If cholesterol is a concern for you ---- think about getting your thyroid levels tested (and I mean your T3 free, T4 free, and your TSH---too many doctors rely only on TSH levels). I could never get a doctor to even test me for thyroid until I started seeing Dr. Carr, my thyroid was way off and I take two different meds now. My total cholesterol has dropped by 130 points, and my LDL and HDL are now within optimal range.

iPhone medical apps for patients with migraine headaches

Anyone who knows me knows that I am unabashedly in love with my IPhone. I tell people that I do everything but suck on it (and honestly, I don't even use the phone that much, but I love being "connected" all the time).

I will also tell you that I used to suffer from awful premenstrual headaches---now I know they were hormonal migraines (I had a doctor at the time who was not too bright, he used to pretty much blow off my symptoms about everything---I'm much smarter now). Even in peri-menopause before I got my hormones balanced----I would get headaches that would get so bad I had to lay in a quiet room with an ice pack. No more, thank goodness, I'd take the hormones just for that reason alone!

A lot of you who write to me tell me that you suffer from migraines, so I was interested this morning when I ran across this article in KevinMD.com (he has some really great articles on his blog!). This article is written by a woman who suffers from migraine headaches, and she reviews a number of Apps that are available on the IPhone. Yes, there are apps for pretty much everything now. Even if you are not an IPhone user, you may be able to find the same apps on your Droid, Blackberry or other smartphone. I am going to go check out the Chronic Pain Tracker----it will help me keep track of my back/hip pain so that when there is an issue, I can talk to my doctor about it and can refer to the app for symptoms, times, etc.

Hang in there everyone, spring officially starts in 38 days! I know my old stomping ground is getting hammered with lake effect snow today, and the pictures on TV of the multiple snowstorms in the Midwest make me glad I no longer live in snow country. Don't forget your Vitmain D, exercise, deep breathing, and your sense of humour!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Healthy Sex Drive, Healthy You by Diana Hoppe, MD

(Full disclosure, I was given a copy of this book by the publisher to review for my blog. Fuller disclosure, most of my friends will tell you that if I don't like something, I'm not shy about letting everyone know, you you can be assured my review of this book is truly how I feel about it!)
Lack or loss of libido is the third most often heard complaint I hear from women in the peri/menopausal transition (hot flashes first, disrupted sleep second). While I am firmly convinced that (bioidentical) hormone balance goes a long way in restoring the libido of both men and women, sexuality is a complex topic and is influenced by physical, emotional, spiritual, and perhaps even financial aspects.
Dr. Diana Hoppe has written a book entitled Healthy Sex Drive, Healthy You. She is a board certified OB/GYN practicing in Southern CA. Her book covers a myriad of topics, including:
Eight Reasons Why Sex is Good for You
First thing that struck me in this chapter is the question "What exactly is sex?" You might be surprised. Dr. Hoppe gives us a number of reasons to want our sex lives to be healthy. Best line in the chapter (page 27)--sex is a form of exercise! We all know how important it is to exercise, right? The second part of the chapter discusses ways to keep your libido in top shape, and one of the things I like about this book is that there are tips that apply to most women, not a bunch of crazy ideas about ropes in the bedroom and exotic oils.
What is Libido, and Why Is It Erratic?
Important discussion about the differences in libido in men and women --- not just the level of libido (and I know, insert your own joke here), but a good explanation of how the libido in men and women work. Learn about how a woman's sex drive ebbs and flows with the different stages, of her life, and how hormonal changes can affect her libido.
Self Esteem
Our society is so bombarded in the media with what we should think of as the "perfect" body, skin, hair, and oh, yeah, you have to be young! No wonder as we enter our middle (I prefer to think of them as wiser) years, we see ourselves and our changing bodies as dumpy, unattractive, useless, dried out, and so on. Who wants to have sex when you don't even want to be with your own body? A discussion of enabling a healthy self esteem (no, you aren't going to read this and suddenly love yourself, but there are important points in this chapter that will make you think), and how self esteem affects your libido.
His and Her Sex Drives: What Was God Thinking? (love this one!)
I loved this chapter and learned so much! There are truly differences in men and women's brains that affect sexual desire, function, etc. There's even a chart! Why women's brains are more susceptible to depression (and no, it's nothing to do with being stronger or weaker).
Fueling Desire: Aphrodisiacs and Scents that Charge Libido
Foods and scents that may have an effect on female and male sexual desire. Somewhat interesting reading, but likely my least favourite chapter in the book.
The Stress-Libido Connection: is Stress Killing Your Libido?
Stress is a libido killer, probably more so for women than for men. We live in a 24/7, full on busy society, which of course makes stress a bigger problem. At the peri/menopausal life stage, women our age are often dealing with children, elderly parents or other family members, busy careers, changing bodies, huge life changes (children going away to college, empty nest syndrome, having to deal with constantly changing technology), and it wears us out so much that sex gets way, way down on the list of priorities. This is the chapter to be read with a highlighter in hand, and hopefully will make you want to examine your life and see if there aren't some changes/tweaking to be done to reduce your stress levels.
FSD: The Female "Erectile Dysfunction"
Female Sexual Dysfunction is real, it's important, and is far too often blown off by practitioners as an unavoidable consequence of aging. It makes me SO angry that zillions of dollars have been spent on research to come up with Viagra, Cialis, and other erectile dysfunction drugs, but I am convinced that the FDA does not take female sexual dysfunction seriously. (I am also convinced that bioidentical hormone balance will go a lot further than drugs to treat FSD in women, but that's another subject). In this chapter, Dr. Hoppe discusses different types of sexual dysfunction, causes and treatments. You will come away from this chapter empowered that there is hope if this is a condition that affects you.
Medications and Health Conditions that Can Shelve Your Libido
Wow, this is a subject I know first hand. Before I got my hormones balanced 4 1/2 years ago, I was on 8 different medication. Yep, 8. The combined list of side effects made it a wonder I could function at all (and believe me, I wasn't living functioning would be an optimistic term.) I was able to get off five of those meds in the first two weeks of hormone therapy (under a doctor's supervision----do not EVER discontinue a med without checking with your doctor first), and within 6 months, I was off another two, including the antidepressant I had taken for years. There are a number of medications that can affect your libido, as can any number of health conditions--this is another chapter to read with a highlighter in your hand so you can emphasize important points.
Heart to Heart: Using Communications Resuscitate Your Libido
You'll see a lot of articles out around this time of year (Valentine's Day) about how important communication is to your sex life (well, duh!), but it's true and too often overlooked. Women often blame this as a "male issue" and say that it's the spouse's fault. Some excellent questions listed in this chapter to answer yourself and to share with your partner. One of my favourite parts of this chapter (wish it was a bit longer) is communicating with your doctor.
The book is well laid out, I found it easy to read (there are a few parts that necessarily get a little technical about how the body works, or how chemicals work in the body, but even those are presented more clearly than in many books). There are some helpful charts, and some highlighted areas that cover important points. One of the best parts of the book is that at the end of every chapter, there are questions for reflection---answering the questions will reinforce the important points in each section. Overall, this is a book I feel comfortable recommending to my readers.
I do, however, have one complaint. For a book on libido, I think very little attention was paid to the role of hormone balance in achieving optimal sexual health. Only about 3 pages were devoted to hormone replacement therapy, and Dr. Hoppe obviously is not a fan of bioidenticals. She is a proponent of taking hormones for relief of menopausal symptoms, at the lowest dose and shortest time possible. Although she does not come right out and say so, she is clearly speaking about estrogen replacement only, no mention was made of progesterone or testosterone. "Vaginal health" was only mentioned once specifically-----and I am here to tell you that bioidentical estriol (weakest of the three estrogens) cream has worked well for me in alleviating vaginal atrophy. So, overall, although I do like the book and see it as a good resource for women experiencing libido issues, do not expect to learn much about hormones in this book.
Have a great weekend, everyone, hope you all wore red today in honour of Women's Heart Health Awareness Day. Don't forget (I just had to throw this in here given the topic of today's post) that Valentine's Day is coming up in just 10 days!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Multivitamins And Vitamin D Place Second, Third; Fish Oil Big Usage Winner 2010

One of the (many) things I love about my BHRT practitioner is that he evaluates each patient on an individual basis and decides what vitamins and supplements they need to optimize their health. It's something every doctor should do, not just hand patients a standard "one size fits all" list of vitamins and supplements to take.

With the bioidentical hormones and Vitamin D supplementation (I was hugely Vitamin D deficient) I was able to reverse my osteopenia. I don't take calcium, which surprises a lot of people. I also take a supplement called Cardio B (by Ortho Molecular---I get it through Dr. Carr's office) which helps keep my homocysteine level (stickiness in the blood) optimal. I take several other vitamins too, and have my blood levels checked regularly.

I enjoyed reading this article from MedicalNewsToday.com ---- according to a study done by Consumer Lab, Vitamin D is the most popular single Vitamin in the US (not surprising, although I am still amazed at how many of my friends---many older than me----have not had their levels checked).

One other note. I'm a little fanatical about making sure both of my doctors (my hormone physician and my pain management physician) know about any vitamin and/or supplement I am taking. Please, please----keep your doctor in the loop about any new vitamin or supplement you are taking, either on the recommendation of another doctor or on your own. There are some medication that can be affected by certain vitamins and suppments, so it's important to keep a list of everything you take, prescription and otherwise, and share it with your healthcare provider.

I hope everyone is staying safe----that storm earlier in the week hit an awful lot of people (fortunately it missed NC) and I have seen pictures on TV that look pretty nasty. I am from Upstate NY so I know how miserable winter storms can be. Hang in there, spring isn't too far off.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Go Red For Women 2011

Hi Ladies, don't forget that Friday, February 4, is Go Red for Women's Heart Health Day---and that means that all of us need to wear red to bring awareness to heart disease in women. Click here to learn about the celebration, and below is a picture of the pins that I made and gave out to my friends (I'm a knitter) so that they could wear red on Friday.

Do you know that post menopausally, women are just as much at risk for heart disease as men? Also, the symptoms of a heart attack may manifest themselves differently in women, check out this article about the signs and symptoms from WebMD.com.