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

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Positive Steps For Mental Health

Progesterone might relieve menopause symptoms

And in other breaking news the sun will rise.....sorry, my sarcasm slipped out!  Experts in bioidentical hormones have known for years that true hormonal balance is not just slapping an estradiol patch on a woman when she presents with menopausal symptoms, it takes a balance of estrogen, testosterone and progesterone to optimize the body's hormonal levels.  ReutersHealth.com shared an article on just this subject earlier this week. 

I absolutely disagree with the statement made in so many of these articles that further study is needed before practitioners can begin using progesterone to treat the symptoms of menopause.  When you optimize your hormones bioidentically, all you are doing is returning your body to the levels of hormones you had when you were younger (and presumably healthier).  The myth of hormones causing cancer doesn't hold water ------ if hormones caused cancer, teenagers and people in their 20's would be full of cancer because they are full of hormones!  Next everyone points to the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) study that was halted in 2002 because of concerns about breast cancer and other health issues.  The "hormones" used in that study were NOT BIOIDENTICAL, and in fact were not hormones----they were drugs made from horse urine!!!!!!!!  Sad to say, far too many doctors are buying whatever the drug companies are telling them (over expensive lunches) and not thinking for themselves.  Someday, bioidentical hormone balance will be the norm and everyone will wonder what the fuss about hormone optimization was all about, but that time is still a ways off, and we have to work hard to advocate for women's health and our right not to be filled up with a lot of toxic drugs.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, it's absolutely gorgeous here in NC!   I just got back from a short (1 mile, still have to take care of my ankles) walk, and today I plan to sit out on my deck and read, knit, and enjoy the day!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Sunscreen Use May Lead to Vitamin D Deficiency

We are coming into the sunniest part of the year here in the US, and most everyone is out purchasing sunscreen for upcoming  summer outings.  This abstract from DoctorsLounge.com is interesting reading, the study detailed suggests that sunscreen use may lead to Vitamin D deficiency.  If you do not get much sun, or you use sunscreen because of skin cancer concerns, it is doubly important that you get your Vitamin D levels checked regularly.  I take 5000 IUs of Vitamin D daily, and I still struggle to get my levels up to the optimal level of 70-100 ng/ml.  I usually get there in the summer, when I am out in the condo pool about 4-5 days a week, but in the winter time, even though I am out and about every day and NC gets a fair amount of sunshine year round------I am happy if my level stays above 60.  As I always caution, talk to your doctor about Vitamin D optimization, and if you are taking Vitamin D, be sure you are using a pharmaceutical grade product (I use Ortho Molecular Vitamin D, it comes in 5000 IU capsules.

Enjoy your weekend, everyone!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Early menopause may pose mortality risk.....

This article from MedPageToday.com  was all over my newsfeed yesterday, and it is important reading for women of all ages.  Women who reach menopause before the age of 47 have a far greater risk of developing osteoporosis, fracturing bones, and premature death than those who reach menopause after age 47.

This should be definitive evidence that all women need BIOIDENTICAL hormone optimization! Sadly, the makers of the bone density drugs are going to jump all over this and start recommending that ALL menopausal women take the drugs ........ I can see the ad campaigns now!!!!!! Most of you have already heard my take on this......I had osteopenia (the precursor to osteoporosis) before I started the bioidenticals in 2006. Three years later I had another bone density study, and not only did I no longer have osteopenia, my bone density scores were comfortably in the normal range! Dr. Carr, Dr. Hines (my pain management doctor), and I were all thrilled! The increase in bone density is absolutely due to the hormone optimization (testosterone), Vitamin D optimization, and I do three weight workouts each week (I hate them, but I do them).

Dr. Carr posted a similar piece on his Facebok page yesterday, and he summed his thoughts this way: "Next time someone tells you that you don't need hormones, tell them that you like your bones and you like being alive.". Well said.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Powerful way to start the day.......

I saw this quote from The Dalai Lama and wanted to share it with you. May today and all your days be meaningful.

Every one of us is getting older, which is a natural process. Time is constantly moving on, second by second. Nothing can stop it, but what we can do is use our time properly; that is in our hands. Whether we believe in a spiritual tradition or not, we need to use our time meaningfully. If over days, weeks, months and years, we have used our time in a meaningful way – when our last day comes, we'll be happy, we'll have no regrets.

Estrogen hormone reveals protective ability after traumatic brain injury

Estrogen hormone reveals protective ability after traumatic brain injury

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Tips for successful home blood pressure monitoring

Do you have a blood pressure monitor at home?  More importantly, do you use it?  I have one, and most of the time I am pretty consistent in using it. I used to be quite hypertensive (weighing over 300 pounds, gee, I can't imagine why), my blood pressure now is usually quite good unless I am in a lot of pain, or if I am under a great deal of stress (which is why I meditate regularly).  When Dr. Carr was in NC, I used to just take my monitor with me each month and then compare my reading with the one in his office.  The monitor I have saves the last 20 readings, so I could just push a button and show him what my most recents readings were.  I just downloaded a new app for my iPad (free) to keep track of your blood pressure and other health statistics.  Since I am taking my iPad to CA next month, I can just show Dr. Carr how my blood pressure is doing using that program. 

KevinMD.com had a very informative article recently on his blog about monitoring your blood pressure at home.  It's worth checking out! 

Vitamin D may lower risk of deathly prostate cancer

Good morning, everyone! A rainy, cloudy Sunday here in NC, so I am having an "in" day to catch up on little projects around the house and read my newsfeed for blog articles. 

It has been said that most men will get prostate cancer if they live long enough.  Whether that is true or not is still the subject of much debate, but as I moved into my 50's, it suddenly seemed like every week another one of my male friends/acquaintances was diagnosed with the disease.  The treatment success rate is quite high (over 90%), but a cancer diagnosis is very frightening for the patient and his family.

Read MSNBC.com's article about the mortality risk of prostate cancer and Vitamin D levels.  An observational study, conducted at Harvard University, showed that men with the highest levels of Vitamin D were 57% less likely to die from prostate cancer than those with the lowest rates of Vitamin D.

A couple of points:

No link was found between Vitamin D levels and having prostate cancer, only the mortality rate.

The article states that according to the National Institute of Health, getting approximately 30 minutes of sun exposure twice a week, between the hours of 10 am to 3 pm, is "sufficient" to get to and maintain adequate Vitamin D levels.  That is a huge generalization for the entire country, and obviously some parts of the country get far more sun than others (I'm from Upstate NY, where we barely saw the sun from mid-October to mid-April......now you know why I live in NC!)

As we age, our bodies to not process the Vitamin D from the sun as well as they did when we were younger, and most holistic/integrative/bioidentical hormone physicians (including my own) will tell you that no matter how much sun exposure you get, even if you live in a very sunny part of the country, your body is not going to maintain an optimal level of Vitamin D by sun exposure alone.  In my own case, I take 5000 IUs of Vitamin D daily, and in the winter I alternate one day of 5000, next day 10,000 IUs, and I still struggle to get my levels to what Dr. Carr considers an optimal level.  There is much debate over what is an adequate or optimal level, I have my Vitamin D levels checked at least twice a year, and Dr. Carr likes his patients to be in the 70-100 ng/ml range.  I'm happy over the winter if my level stays above 60, in the summer it's a little easier for me to reach the 70 ng/ml level because I do water aerobics about 4-5 days a week in an outdoor pool.  Even then (and trust me, I am as "brown as gingerbread" (quote from one of my friends) by mid July, I have never been above 70 ng/ml.  My experience is not much different from most people over 50. 

As always, I caution you to check with your doctor, but if he/she is reluctant to order a Vitamin D blood test, you need to advocate for yourself and insist on one.  Make sure that if you are taking Vitamin D3 (better absorption), that you are taking a high quality vitamin.  Brands from the big box stores often do not have the amount of vitamin listed, it varies widely.   I take Ortho-Molecular brand, and I get mine through Dr. Carr's office , I think the cost is less than $15 for a 60 day supply.  Good health for far  less than the cost of a week of daily Starbucks!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Testosterone and Your Heart.....

Mainstream medicine may finally be catching on to the fact that testosterone does more than increase the libido! It has been known for a long time that testosterone builds muscle tissue (it has made a big difference in the stability of my back), and even I know the heart is a muscle.....so it stands to reason that testosterone optimization would improve cardiac function. The most current evidence now is that a higher testosterone level does NOT increase the risk of prostate cancer (if you want a good book on that subject, go to Amazon.com and get a copy of Testosterone For Life). Dr. Timothy Johnson from ABC News discusses this subject on his Health Minute report, check out

Pfizer Ordered to Pay $4 Million in Damages in Prempro Case

Looks like Pfizer has lost another lawsuit involving Prempro (combination of Pemarin, which is horse urine, and progestin, which is fake progesterone). Check out this article from Bloomberg Business News.

I think it is very telling that the judge is planning to award punitive damages in this case, saying that Wyeth Pharmaceuticals (bought out about 5 years ago by Pfizer) was reckless In their handling of the drug, and did not accurately present the risks and benefits of the drug to the patient (she developed breast cancer). Why Premarin and Prempro are still on the market is absolutely beyond me, and why doctors are still prescribing it, when there are far safer alternatives, is just ridiculous.

The Doctor Will See You-If You're Quick

In my communications with patients who are seeking bioidentical hormone care, I too often hear horror stories about how they have tried to get their primary care physician or gynocologist to listen to them about their menopausal symptoms. They are exhausted, gaining weight, "addled" (cognitively impaired, often worrying about early onset dementia), have insomnia (which makes the exhaustion during the day even worse), have no interest in sex, and have hot flashes/night sweats that are absolutely debilitating. Half the time patients can't even get the entire list of symptoms out of their mouths before the doctor reaches for the prescription pad to write out an order for either Premarin/Prempro (horse urine---drug not a hormone) or an antidepressant. They are then told that to lose weight they must simply eat less and exercise more (never mind that you are exhausted, exercise anyway), hot flashes are "normal", as is loss of libido and memory loss. Check the side effects list for antidepressants----they mirror the symptoms of menopause---insomnia, loss of libido, weight gain, etc----but I guess the idea is that if you take the antidepressant you may still have the symptoms but you at least won't care any more. These exchanges in a doctor's office generally take about 10-15 minutes, then the doctor is out the door to see another patient. I know this is true because I have been though the mainstream medical mill.

I frequently hear patients complain that most of the doctors (including my own) who specialize in bioidentical hormone balance will not take insurance. I have done a number of posts about the myriad of reasons that BHRT practices do not take insurance, and one of the many reasons is that a physician cannot spend adequate time with a patient, getting a history, an exam, and discussing with the patient their concerns/symptoms in a 10-15 minute appointment, the time allotted for an appointment by practices that take insurance. It simply isn't possible, bioidentical hormone optimization is both a science and an art! Dr. Carr takes more time than that to just go over my semi-annual blood work with me, because it's important that I understand what my lab values mean and how they relate to my hormone dosing, my symptoms, etc. ------- and I am an established patient! I know he spends at least an hour with a new patient in his office. I was absolutely astounded when at my first visit with him he spent so much time going over my health history, asking me the reason I was taking each medication I was taking (he is huge into patient education, as are most doctors who practice holistic medicine), discussing stress level, and asking me what were my most pressing concerns. No other doctor had even come close to making me feel that "cared for", and my experience is very similar to many patients who seek care from a BHRT specialist.

The Daily Beast ran a rather lengthy article earlier this week on the subject of the doctor/patient relationship, and I think it's important reading, it will help those of you who are feeling very rushed and harried by your practitioner know that you are not alone. I know that now a 10 minute appointment with my former primary care physician, who wasn't listening to me, who ordered blood work an never discussed it with me (his stock answer was "normal", and only many years later did I discover I was severely hypothyroid) and did little more than add more medications to an ever growing list of pharmaceuticals I was taking) is no longer acceptable medical care, and I am far healthier because of it.

Have a great weekend, everyone, this is my first blog post from my new iPad (it's taken me a while to learn how to use this new app that will allow me to post directly from the iPad). It is taking me a little practice to figure out how all this works, but that's ok, it's a good "brain exercise" and helping to keep me cognitively sharp!


Monday, April 16, 2012

Diet soft drinks have ‘complex’ relationship with overall health: Study

Consumers must consider the entirety of their diet considering whether to switch to or add diet soft drinks into their diet, according to new research which sheds light on the 'complicated interplay' between health and consumption of diet and zero calorie soft drinks.


Note from Andrea: if you are wondering why I am including this article on the blog-----I have an announcement----I am now 39 days diet soda free! That stuff was like crack to me, and I just decided that I truly needed to break the bad habit.  I think it was making my sugar cravings worse, and I certainly don't need that.   For me it is particularly hard, since diet soda was one of the ways I soothed myself when I was upset or in pain, and I am not a coffe or (much of) a tea drinker.  I largely substitute water (and in the process have saved a little money in restaurants), and I keep Trader Joe's or Crystal Light naturally sweetened drink sticks in my purse to add to water when I need something flavoured.  The big test will likely be when I go to CA next month for my visit with Dr. Carr (and a few days of sightseeing!)-----since I am on vacation, I will allow myself one or two "real" Cokes as a treat.  I do not miss lugging 12 packs of Diet Rite from my car up to the condo, but I have to admit, it's still hard and I miss the taste of the carbonation.  Feeling very proud!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Being Thankful!

 I know that most of us are thankful for the blessings of our life, but sometimes we get so caught up in the day to day madness of the world that it's easy to lose sight of what's important, what makes up our world, and how much we really have. 

I've kept a gratitude journal off and on for probably 15 years----I learned about it from the psychologist who treated my PTSD.  I have until the last couple years used paper and pen (I love pretty notebooks, so having something to use as a journal has never been a problem). 

I've had an IPhone for a couple years, and I have used an app called "Gratitude" to list what I am thankful for each day.  I was fairly consistent about using it, but like most people over 50, sometimes find the buttons to type on my IPhone a little annoying.  Now that I have the IPad, problem solved. I keep my gratitude journal on this app, the link will take you to the ITunes Store.  If you only have an IPhone, there is a companion app for that too, and it's upgraded to fix what were some minor bugs. 

What am I thankful for today?  In no particular order:

1.  Progresterone
2.  Testosterone
3.  Another beautiful spring day
4.  My IPad (I've spent much of the morning reviewing articles to put in the blog, expect several new posts this week!)
5.  Pandora radio (it's streaming while I'm doing my computer work)
6.  Trader Joe's naturally sweetened (more about that later) Cherry Pomegranate flavour sticks (you put them in a bottle of water-----yummy!)
7.  The ability to exercise to make my core strength, not to mention my bones, stronger
8.  My blog readers
9.  Dr. Carr --- I never, ever forget what a blessing it is to have a doctor who "gets it" and believes that bioidentical hormone optimization is preferable to a handful of medications.   I truly believe without the hormone balance, I would have been dead before I turned 60. 
10.  My hands ---- today I plan to spend part of the day doing my craft work (if you want to see what goes on in that aspect of my life, take a peek at my Needle Notes blog).  I'm a knitter, a beader, and a bit of a papercrafter-----my artwork/craftwork has gone a long way to keeping me sane at some very difficult times in my life. 
11.  My friends.  I am so blessed to have wonderful, supportive,  loving friends in my life, and although I (hope) I have always appreciated them, I have much more so in the last year after a bullying situation from some terrible, awful women left me shaken right to my core.  Mean girls come in all ages, I guess, and that was a hard lesson to learn. 
12.  Ravelry. For those of you who are not knitters or crocheters, it's a social media site for those of us who are.  I've met some great friends from that site. 
13.  Adele (the musician).  Listening to her right now, her voice makes me feel stronger.
14.  The Internet. All of us of a "certain age" can't help but marvel at how far computers have come since we started having them in our homes------as much as there is bad out there online, I still think there is more good, and I  know the Internet has made my life better in so many ways.
15.  Pinterest.  I need a 12 step program for that site :)

What are you grateful for this week?  Whatever it is, have a great, healthy, balanced week!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Andrew Weil's Guided Breathing Meditation

I'm a big fan of Dr. Andrew Weil, and I am also a proponent of deep breathing for stress management, pain relief, and general relaxation.  I have a new IPad that I am having a ball with, and while playing on it last weekend I ran across this video on You Tube.  It's 3 minutes long, so you can fit it into your schedule, Dr. Weil's voice is soothing but not annoying, and being more conscious of your breathing can bring a multitude of health benefits (not the least of which is lowering your blood pressure-----worked for me!).  Take a moment to click on this meditation and breath with Dr. Weil, and then add it to your favourites list to do at least once a day. 

"Got Health" Blog

Fred Lowry is the owner and head pharmacist at Lowry's Drug in Statesville, NC. I received an email from him yesterday that he is starting a new blog called "Got Health", and I thought I would share the information with my readers.  I always learn new and interesting information from reading blogs by those who are advocates for bioidentical hormone replacement. 

Hope everyone has a great weekend, the weather here in Charlotte is picture perfect.  I know the midwest is at high risk for severe storms this afternoon, so, please everyone, stay safe. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Remember This: Exercise Boosts Your Brainpower

Wow, if anyone had said to me five years ago I would be touting the benefits of exercise, I would have thought them a little nuts.  I did not exercise regularly, I did not exercise period.  Once I got my hormones balanced and regained my energy, I had no more excuses not to exercise, and every reason TO exercise.  I am not perfect, but most weeks I do at least 5 days of workouts either at the gym or at home (I have a set of light weights at home, as well as a balance ball and stretch bands.)  I'm more toned, I know the weight training has helped cure my osteopenia, my back is stronger, and I just feel better generally. 

Turns out that exercise improves your brain power!  Check out this article from WebMD.com, discussing the effect of exercise on cognitive functioning.  Any of us who are peri/post menopausal know how frustrating the cognitive impairment of declining hormones can be, and after watching a friend's husband just die of frontal temporal dementia (at 64 years of age) I am acutely aware of my own cognitive functioning. 

Hope the weather where you all are is as lovely as it is here in NC, this has been a fantastic spring after a very mild winter!  Enjoy your weekend, everyone!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Congratulations, Dr. Carr!

My own hormone physician, Dr. John Carr, has relocated his practice, effective today, April 9, 2012 to 35400 Bob Hope Drive Suite 108, Rancho Mirage, CA 92270.  His new office number is 760-548-0413.  I'm heading out to CA next month for my semi-annual visit, can't wait to see the new office-----and I get to help decorate, some of my flower photos will be on the walls!

Menopause Mondays: Exploring Bio-Identical Hormones

If you are not already receiving the Shmirsky weekly newsletter, go to the site and sign up, there's some very good information in it about menopausal issues.  Today's post is about bioidentical hormones, a brief interview with Dr. Judith Rubin of CA (now WA State) ------ a leader in the field of bioidentical hormones. I was so thrilled to hear that she is part of a team that will create and publish a randomized prospective placebo-controlled trial on bio-identical hormones.  Much research has been done on the subject, but nearly all of it out of the country, as it is very hard to get funding for these very expensive studies (the pharmaceutical industry is certainly not going to pay to study something they cannot patent and "worse" yet, may cut their profits).  Check the article out by clicking here. 

Friday, April 6, 2012

Balance Ball Exercises!

If you have never used a balance ball as part of your fitness routine----think about trying one. I started using one when a physical therapist who was helping me with back issues taught me how to use one, and I have been exercising on it ever since. The hardest part about it is putting more air in the ball occasionally. The balance ball is great for building core strength (something we can all use more of, especially those of us with back problems). As always, check with your health care professional when starting a new exercise regime.

Source: google.com via Andrea on Pinterest

Good for the soul!

As you can tell from my postings, I am into holistic health, the blending of mind, body and soul. With that in mind, here is my latest excuse for not posting so far this week (besides the fact I still haven't figured out how to post from my IPad, I'm working on it)------

I took Monday to visit  Asheville, NC (about two hours from Charlotte) to make my annual spring visit to the Biltmore Estate.  The gardens there are just beautiful, and I always leave there feeling so calm, relaxed and in renewed awe of nature.  The flowers are about 10-14 days ahead of where they were last year at this time, and by the time I left in the afternoon, even in the mountains it was near 80 degrees. We are having an usually warm spring here in the Piedmont.   I'm sharing a few pictures from my trip with you in the hope that they bring a touch of spring, and a bit of peace to your day. 

Happy Easter, but I expect to be back with a "real" post over the weekend!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Alternatives to Antidepressants

Good afternoon, world! I have not been ignoring you (sorry I haven't posted for a few days) ---- I got a new IPad on Thursday, and having so much fun playing with it I am all but ignoring my "old" computer.  I haven't quite figured out how to blog from the IPad yet, but I downloaded a new app (there's an app for everything----including tracking menopause symptoms, and expect a post on that soon) but as soon as I do ------- watch out!

Short but interesting article to share with you today from TheTucsonCitizen.com on alternatives to antidepressants.  Let me be very, very clear ------NEVER, AND I MEAN NEVER QUIT AN ANTIDEPRESSANT COLD TURKEY!!!!!!!! No exceptions. 

I get a lot of emails from women who have been to their regular physician or gynecologist for help with peri/menopausal hormone fluctuations, and way too often their doctor just hands them a prescription for the latest antidepressant.  Something like 1 in 10 Americans are on antidepressants, and that's just wrong. For those of us with declining hormones because of peri/menopause---------we have a hormone deficiency, not a Prozac deficiency.  The tips in this article are alternative methods of dealing with mild to moderate depression, and I would add to the list bioidentical hormone optimization. I know without a doubt that it's what got me off the antidepressants I had taken for over 15 years. 

Here's a list of the common side effects of antidepressants from WebMD.com. I swear I think I experienced every one of them.  A number of the side effects (weight gain, lethargy, cognitive impairment, sleep disorders) are the same symptoms of menopause, and to me it doesn't make sense to take medications that add to/exacerbate the symptoms of menopause when there are far safer options available.  Talk to your doctor, and if his/her only solution is to take antidepressants or "suck it up" (you would be surprised at how many patients have literally heard that from their health care practitioner) it might be time to explore other options for your health care.