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

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Lab Tests

Good morning, everyone! I had a bunch of blood work done about a week and a half ago, and thought I would update you on my "hormone progress" (I realize that makes me sound very self centered, but actually it's for educational purposes!)

My progesterone is still on the very low side of optimal, but for me that's not unusual. I take my progesterone cream (and it's a higher concentration than many people take) 4 times daily, but I burn through it pretty quickly because of a chronic pain issue, so keeping the levels up is always a struggle.

Thyroid: my TSH is up slightly (still well below 1.0), and my T3 and T4 are slightly down from my last labs in August 2012.  Since Dr. Carr is all about proceeding cautiously and only changing on thing at a time (which is a good thing-----sometimes doctors will make wholesale changes in a patient's medications/hormones and then you have no idea what is or isn't helping!) we have upped my T3 medication slightly.  I suspected my thyroid was faintly off, for a couple months I have had less energy than usual, and my focus/concentration have been somewhat off.  I noticed I wasn't reading as much as I usually do (lack of concentration makes it less fun!), and since the first of the year I have messed up on several knitting patterns, mistakes that normally I wouldn't make.

The great news-----my Vitamin D level is 78! That's the highest it has EVER been......a couple of summers ago it got to 70, but that was from my being out in an outdoor pool 5-6 days a week doing water exercise.  I'm thrilled!  I'm taking 10,000 IUs a day of Ortho Molecular Vitamin D:

And another 5000 IUs (for a total of 15,000 IUs daily) of L-Arginine:

Both of these supplements can be obtained through Dr. Carr's office (you do not need to be a patient of Dr. Carr to purchase supplements from his office).  

Even better news---my cortisol level has dropped again to 10.9!  It was as high as 19.7, so I guess the concerted effort I have made to reduce the stress in my life is making a difference.  Of course, I do take two different supplements to help----in the morning, I take 2 Adrene-Vive:

and at night I take two Cortisol Manager:

I was really skeptical about these supplements when I started taking them, but the lab work clearly shows the benefit.  Again, available through Dr. Carr's office.  

I detailed in an earlier post that I am now taking my testosterone and estradiol by weekly injection.  I am happy to say my testosterone level is FINALLY in the optimal range (yay, me!) and so is my estradiol.  Taking these two hormones by injection is the only way I have been able to get my levels up, and something you may want to discuss with your doctor (provided you aren't afraid to inject yourself once a week---honestly, the needle is so small you barely feel it!)  It's far more cost effective, too.  As an example, my testosterone cream was about $90 (and may be more) for a 60 day supply.  My bottle of testosterone cost $99, but will last me well over a year!!!!!  My bottle of estradiol is about $40, and lasts about 2 months.  Additionally, I pay about $15 for 30 syringes and the accompanying BD needles (a thicker needle used to draw up the hormone into the syringe---the solutions are thick).  30 syringes lasts me nearly 4 months, do the math and you will see how more cost effective injections are, and with the added benefit of two less creams to deal with.  Talk to your health care practitioner to see if this is an available option for you.  

My hormonal balance has unquestionably made me healthier, and therefore, less of a burden to society and my health insurance carrier.  I urge you to read this (lengthy) article from Time Magazine, it's an eye opener.  

Have a great Sunday, everyone! Finally the sun is back out (for one day) here in NC.  I'm going to head out to straighten up my car, take it to get it vacuumed, and go for a walk.  Then this afternoon I am going to settle in and knit.  Whatever you do, make it a great day!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

HRC Medical Centers

Hi everyone, apparently this one slipped right by me.  All HRC Medical Centers are now closed.  They were a chain of bioidentical hormone replacement clinics located mostly in Southeast states (they heavily advertised their center in Charlotte on radio, TV and print media), and got into a lot of trouble with the TN State Attorney General.  Their "retired" medical director, Dan Hale, did jail time for Medicare fraud, lost his medical license, and went on to open this chain of clinics. I have gotten numerous complaints about the centers here in NC, and Mr./Dr. Hale is not real popular with the State of NC (read letter for fuller explanation).

I hate this not because I was ever a fan of HRC Medical (believe me, I wasn't) but because incidents like this  give a bad name to the practitioners who are truly experts in bioidentical hormones and are in it to help patients.  It was clear from the outset that HRC Medical had a lot of problems with their clinics, and I am glad that no other patients will be subjected to their "brand" of medical care.  

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Vitamin D doses often don't match labels, study says

Good morning everyone! Damp and dreary here in NC today with a few snow showers in the air (ugh), so a good day to share a story about Vitamin D with you!

This article from USAToday.com came across my news feed a couple days ago.  Researchers tested a number of different brands of Vitamin D pills from grocery stores (55 bottles from 12 different manufacturers ).  The pills contained a huge variation in the amount of Vitamin D that was claimed on the bottle, from 52% to 146% of the dose stated on the bottle.

I often get asked where I purchase my Vitamins and supplements and if I use Vitamins from "big box" stores.  No except for melatonin, and that I do buy at whatever store I happen to be in (Walmart of Target usually).  For all my other vitamins, I use the brands recommended by Dr. Carr, and most of my supplements are the Ortho Molecular brand.  One time I ran out of the OM Vitamin D (it was backordered and after 30 days they just cancelled the order) and picked up a bottle of Vitamin D from a store.  At my next blood work results, my Vitamin D level had dropped by nearly 10 points, and I learned a lot from that!  I order enough Vitamin D ahead so that I NEVER run out.  I also like Ortho Molecular because they carry Vitamin D in 5000IU capsules.  In the summer I take 5000 IUs (I'm out in the sun almost every day in the swimming pool for water exercise) and in the winter I take 10000 IUs (I just got blood work done yesterday and will get my results next week, so I may be adjusting that dose).  Most of the Vitamin D you get in the stores comes in a maximum dose of 2000 IUs, which means taking a lot of extra pills.

I also use Integrative Therapeutics brand supplements for a few vitamins/supplements I take that Ortho Molecular doesn't make.  Integrative Therapeutics makes a great supplement called Cortisol Manager to help with cortisol (stress hormone) levels.  I take two every night, and I order it as a subscription from Amazon (that way I know I absolutely never run out of it!).  As always, check with your practitioner before making any changes to your regeime of supplements/vitamins, but I'm a big fan of Cortisol Manager, it has reduced my cortisol level by about 30%.

One other thing---------the article says the Institute of Medicine says most people get enough Vitamin D from foods and sun exposure.  Their idea of "enough exposure" is to get an adult's Vitamin D level to about 30 ng/ml.  If mine got that low, Dr. Carr would have a fit.  He (and a lot of other progressive practitioners) know there is a big difference between "normal" and "optimal", and that the optimal range is between 70-100 ng/ml.

I am off to see the national touring company in Les Miserables today down in Charlotte, I'm so excited!  Have a great weekend!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Menopause Blues: Is Depression Getting The Best Of You?

This article from The Huffington Post spoke to me this morning.  The author of the article also wrote the book "End Your Menopause Misery", and I have not read the book (full disclosure).  I am, however, intrigued enough by her article to go look the book up on Amazon.com.

I was particularly caught by the third paragraph of the article, where it talks about personal and professional relationships that enhance or impede your life.  My life in the last couple years has had some major shifts of who has been and not been in my life.  Several years ago I got into a women's social group, and shortly after that, started attending a knitting group that met weekly at a local restaurant. I already had a number of friends from other circles in my life, both locally and from when I lived in NY, and my life was very busy and very active.  It seemed like I was always doing something or going somewhere.

The social group after a while became more of a chore than a pleasure.  I'm grateful to have been part of it because I made a very good friend from it; she is still an important part of my life and we have a great time together.  However, outside of that, the women in the group were all older than me, and it became apparent that we had not a great deal in common.  Out of nearly 20 women, only about 4 were taking any initiative to plan any outings (isn't that always the way?), and the group leader was, to put it mildly, a passive aggressive fusspot.  I finally sent an email to the group politely saying that the group dynamics no longer worked for me, wishing them all the best, and that was that.

I had invited several women from the social group to come to the knitting group I was attending. I also invited a few other women from other areas of my life to come to the knitting group, women that didn't have a lot of other friends and I thought would enjoy the socialization and getting out of the house. That turned out to be a bigger disaster.  The woman who started the knitting group (and who I befriended only out of compassion for her life's circumstances) turned out to be a power hungry bully.  She kicked me out of the knitting group for no reason other than to be cruel, and the rest of the women (with two exceptions) in the group went right along with her and simply turned away from me, some I am sure because they were afraid if they didn't go along with her they would be kicked out too.  One of her friends, who I met through the social group and introduced to her, then proceeded to kick me out of a Sunday lunch and movie group that I had started with another woman.  At the time, I was devastated..........I had considered some of these women to truly be friends.  I went out of my way to be a good friend, driving people to doctor's appointments, taking some of the older women (who are afraid to drive) shopping, planning days out, and so on. Turns out I had been being used for nearly three years, and I couldn't stop beating myself up at my stupidity.  I stopped going to any knitting group because it was just too painful; and the one time I visited one of my old groups one woman got up and walked out. Really.  For a while, my interest in knitting (which many of you know about from hearing me talk about it on the blog) waned considerably.   My confidence was deeply rattled, the whole incident shook me to the core.  Even rereading and editing this post, the story sounds incredulous that I knew people like this, but I did.

It's been a year and a half since then, and to say it has all been a learning experience would be an understatement.  Reading the above referenced article made me think about what I had learned from that experience:
  • I am deeply blessed to have great people in my life who truly are friends. I wish the same for all of my readers, and I hope you all will do the life work necessary to develop the kinds of friendships worthy of your time and energy.
  • There is a big difference between a friend and an acquaintance.
  • Compassion and kindness are sometimes a wasted effort, but if they turn out to be, don't beat yourself up for it.  You did the best you could at the time, and beating yourself up is even more of a wasted effort.  
  • I'm all for an active social life, but also take time for yourself.  During those few years I was involved with those women, I felt guilty if I planned an outing/day trip and didn't invite other people to go along with me; it felt selfish.  In the last year, I have relearned that I am very good company. Just me.  Some of my happiest day trips in the last year have been when I take a spur of the moment trip to someplace fun (my current favourite is Black Mountain, NC, great little village full of shops and restaurants, lovely scenery) and I go by myself.  I'm worth it!
  • When you meet people who don't have any/many friends, be careful.  There is likely a reason they don't have any/many friends.  
  • There are some really awful people in the world.  Fortunately, there are a lot more great people in the world!
  • Women can be absolute bitches. It's true.  
I take full and complete responsibility for what happened to me in the social group and the knitting group.  I was not careful enough about who I let into my life, and I paid dearly for it.  I am a very good friend to people, and I expect those people to treat me with dignity and respect.  I deserve nothing less, and I am far clearer now about setting boundaries.  It took a while, but I realize now that I am far better off in my life without having to deal with either group.  An interesting side note, since I have had no more to do with those women, my cortisol (stress hormone) level has dropped by 30%.  They really were making me sick!

Take some time to "inventory" the people in your life.  Are they there because it's convenient, or because they add joy to your life?  We all have people in our lives that we may have to interact with, but interaction and truly being in someones life are two different things.  The term "life's too short" starts to mean something when we get to this stage of our lives.  I spend time now with people I truly like and respect; and while I try to be polite to (almost) everyone, I don't know that I would ever join a social group again after my experiences over the last couple years.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, everyone!

Fitness in 40s, 50s Tied to Later Dementia Risk

If you need another reason to exercise in your mid life years, here's a good one.  According to MedPageToday.com, an observational study shows that in a study of nearly 20,000 participants, the group that scored in the top one fifth in scores of cardiorespiratory fitness at about 50 years of age had a 36% less likelyhood of developing dementia in later life.  That's enough to keep me in the gym!  I also have a history of heart disease in my family; my father died of congestive heart failure at the age of 59.

What do you like to do as far as exercise for cardio fitness?  I like to fitness walk (I'm slowly building my distance back up after a bout with Achilles tendonosis), and I also do water aerobics a few days a week.  I know a lot of people enjoy the elliptical machine, but for some reason, that sets off really nasty neuropathic pain my right leg if I do it for more than a few minutes.

I'm thinking of all you in the Northeast right now, I know the blizzard has really affected a lot of people.  I understand 650,000 people are (or at least were yesterday) without power, and that can be life threatening.  If it helps, the first day of spring is in 37 days (although I lived up north long enough to know that doesn't always mean much!)  Whatever you do, however you spend the rest of the weekend, I hope you are able to stay safe and warm.