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

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Multiple Sclerosis Linked to Vitamin D Levels, Study Says

I picked a nice, sunny day (here in NC at least) to share with you an article from The Wall Street Journal.  The article discusses a research study done on the possible link between low Vitamin D levels and developing multiple sclerosis. 

A couple quick points:

  • A Vermont physician, Dr. Andrew Soloman, recommends that his patients take between 2000 and 4000 IUs (International Units) of Vitamin D daily.  Seeing that makes me very happy, the Institute of Medicine in the US only recommends adults taking 600 IUs of Vitamin D daily, and many doctors (including my own) say that is nowhere near enough Vitamin D to maintain healthy levels in the bloodstream.  I personally take 5000 IUs of Vitamin D3 daily, and the brand I use is Ortho Molecular, which is made in 5000 IU capsules.  In the winter (mid November to early March) I take 10000 IUs daily.  Dr. Carr's optimal range of Vitamin D levels is 70-100 ng/ml, and I am generally happy if I can get my levels to about 70. 

  • The article briefly discusses how the use of sunscreen can affect Vitamin D levels.  This is something you need to discuss with your doctor, but I will tell you that I don't use sunscreen, and I know it has helped to keep my Vitamin D levels healthy.  I have never had a problem with skin cancer and I don't burn (even in NC summers when I am in the outdoor pool for about 40 minutes 4-6 days per week). 
As always, talk to your doctor about your Vitamin D levels and how much Vitamin D you need to take daily. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Women's Health In Midlife Begins With 6,000 Steps

Do you have any idea how many steps a day you walk?  I don't just mean fitness walks (although I am a big fan of those, my Achilles tendonosis is finally improving to the point that I can take short walks now, I am careful to stretch before and after so I don't set myself back.)  Right now on the days I fitness walk that gets in about 2,000 steps, but I honestly don't know how many steps I take in a day. 

I know for quite a while there was a big movement for 10,000 steps a day, and from what I have read that's not all that easy to achieve on a daily basis.  I ran across this article in Medical News Today that discusses a study done on the effect 6,000 steps a day has on the health of middle aged women.  Turns out there is evidence that getting in that level of movement in a day may reduce the incidence of diabetes and metobolic syndrome. 

I've been experimenting with pedometer apps on my iPhone with limited success, but I do have a cheap pedometer I use on my fitness walks.  I'm thinking I might put it on at the start of the day tomorrow and track my steps for 7 days and see where I'm at.  I don't have a "typical" week, often how far I walk or how much I move around is dependent on how well my back and hip are doing on any given day.  On days that the pain level is manageable, I do more, on days when my back is flared up, I rest more.  The weather here is supposed to be pretty good this week (albeit cold, I am going to miss my 65 degree days!) so hopefully most days I can get in a short walk to boost my numbers.  Steps I take during a gym workout will count, the only time I won't be counting steps during a workout is when I do water workouts. 

I'm posting this not just for informational purposes, although I think this article is important to share with everyone----I'm also hoping to hold myself accountable.  Look for an update next Sunday to see how many days I wore my pedometer, and how many steps I took each day! 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A wonderful aspiration (just wanted to share it with you)

Gift Guide 2012: What To Get The Menopausal Women In Your Life

Good morning, and hope that today finds you refreshed and over your turkey hangover!

I had to laugh when I saw The Huffington Post's 2012 Gift Guide for Menopausal Women, but I have to admit some of the ideas presented are pretty good.  Most deal with ways to help with hot flashes;  moisture wicking pj's, cool sheets, mattress pads that keep you cool.  I wouldn't mind one of those mattress pads even though I never had night sweats (one of the few menopausal symptoms I didn't have) ------ I'm one of those people who loves to slide between cool sheets, and I am constantly flipping my pillow around to get the cool side. 

While all these ideas are great, the best menopausal gift you could give a woman is to pay for a consultation with a top bioidentical hormone specialist so that she can get her hormones optimized.  The health benefits, far beyond just alleviating her hot flashes, are priceless in so many ways.  Hormone balance is truly a gift of life. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Menopause: Relaxation Good Therapy for Hot Flushes

Good morning, everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday yesterday.  I was invited a couple different places but declined as the holiday season is simply not my thing (for a lot of reasons), but I cooked a turkey in the crock pot on Wednesday (I love turkey) and am planning to munch on turkey breast all weekend (good source of protein).  Yesterday I went to an early showing of the movie "Lincoln"-----I highly recommend it.  It's definitely an Oscar contender, and Daniel Day Lewis was amazing as the title character. 

This article from Science Daily jumped out at me this morning.  I do meditate, I don't do it as regularly as I would like to, but it absolutely helps me with relaxation, particularly when my chronic pain level is elevated.  I was meditating even at the time of my worst menopausal symptoms (before I got on the bioidentical hormones).   I can't say I think it made any difference in the frequency or severity of my hot flashes (or as they are referred to in the article, hot flushes). 

A couple of observations after reading the article:

  • It is not completely understood why women have hot flashes, as the article states, the decrease in estrogen certainly plays a role. However, very few articles in the mainstream media ever mention the effects of decreasing progesterone in a woman's body as she ages, and those of us on progesterone know how beneficial it is to have our levels optimized by bioidentical hormone replacement.  I was astonished to have my hot flashes (and they were severe and frequent) stop completely within three days of starting the progesterone cream.  Estrogen replacement only is not the answer for true hormonal optimization. 

  • I'm curious about the women in the study---"60 women who saw a doctor for moderate to severe symptoms occurring at least 50 times a week---but who were otherwise completely healthy".  How was their "completely healthy" status determined?  Was blood work done to eliminate any thyroid imbalances or other hormonal deficiencies?  Thyroid deficiency is way under diagnosed in middle aged women, and way too often not even tested!  None of these women were classified as overweight or obese?  Had they had DEXA scans to rule out any evidence of osteopenia/osteoporosis?  No sleep disturbances (I sometimes wonder if ANYONE can get through menopause without a sleep disturbance, and that certainly affects overall health.) None of these women were taking any medications for anything?  No arthritis? 

  • The data compiled comes from the participant's self reporting to the researchers.  The decrease in hot flashes for the women practicing the meditation techniques is impressive, but did the fact that they were journaling their experiences have any effect on their recollection of the number/severity of their symptoms?  I found it interesting that even the women who didn't practice the meditation routines had a decrease in their frequency of hot flashes.  The meditation also didn't seem to affect the participant's cortisol levels (stress hormone) but to be fair, 3 months might not be enough time to see a significant change in cortisol levels. 
As for the cortisol levels, I know my levels get very high because of chronic pain issues, and I have lived with anxiety and depression  much of my life.  The hormones have helped tremendously, but I also take supplements (Cortisol Manager by Integrative Theraputics at night, and Adrene-Vive by Ortho Molecular each morning).  The combination of the two have dropped my cortisol level by about 30%, right now it's at about 14.  Dr. Carr and I would like it under 10, but if I can get it under 12 I think we would both consider that a victory. 

I get asked if I use meditation programs or "apps" when I do my relaxation exercises, and I do.  I love using Andrew Johnson's meditation apps on my iPhone and iPad, he has a very soothing voice that really works for me.  Try out several different voices and apps to see what best suits you.  I just noticed that Andrew Johnson has an app for coping with Christmas, hmmmm,  I think I maybe need to check that one out!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, everyone.  I will try very hard to update the blog more frequently and regularly, it's been a rough couple months but I think I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Study Finds Exercise Increases Life Expectancy, Regardless of Weight

I think it was serendipitous that I read this article from Yahoo Health News today.  I was able to do a circuit training workout this morning and then this afternoon was able to take a (short) walk with my Nordic walking poles.  The problem in my hip (detailed in post below this one) has really messed up my exercise routines........I've had to go slower, modify some of the exercises, and work out more gently for almost a month now, and it's making me (and my back because I am losing core strength) crazy!  This week I have definitely seen an increase in the amount of time I can work out before the pain gets too intense, and my recovery time after a workout is quicker than it has been. 

I do work out at a moderate intensity for about 2 1/2 hours per week, so I was happy to see that, even though I am still overweight (working on it, but slow going) that I am helping to increase my life expectancy.  I joke that I need those extra years to finish up all my knitting projects, read all the books on my Kindle, and catch up on my email.  My workouts usually consist of two circuit training classes per week, one other weight workout (very light weights because of my orthopedic limitations)  either at the gym or at home, at least two days of water aerobics (really helps keep my joints moving), and I try to do at least some stretching every day.  The last few weeks, some days the stretching is about all I have been able to do.  I was fitness walking a lot about two years ago, but last year had a bad case of Achilles tendonosis and so had to stop for quite a while.  I am very, very slowly starting to walk around the neighborhood using Nordic walking poles.  I just put an app on my iPhone that works as a pedometer, tried it for the first time today but stopped to take pictures with my iPhone camera (fall colours are just past peak here)-------I think either the pedometer resets itself when you use another app (camera).  I need to play around with it a bit more to learn how it works. 

Hope everyone is having a good week, we had a sunny and very mild day here today. The colours are still pretty but fading fast, and it makes me sad the days are so short now. I always am happy to see the winter solstice arrive and the subsequent lengthening of the days.  When I lived in NY the darkeness and lack of sunlight was truly depressing, I sure wish I had know more about Vitamin D supplementation back then......here in NC, the days are more often sunny than not even in the winter, but the sun isn't strong enough for the body to produce much Vitamin D.  A sunny day, however, is an emotional boost, and I like to get out and take even a short walk just to enjoy the light and fresh air. 

Get out there and exercise, and have a great weekend!