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Ellen Dolgen

  • On the 12th Day of Christmas, My Hormones Said to Me…

    Posted on Monday, December 22, 2014 Christmas, it's a hormone-filled holiday, thanks to our old friend's perimenopause and menopause. Pour yourself a cup of spiked eggnog and sing along with me.

    On the first day of Christmas, my hormones gave to me: a bladder bursting with pee.

    On the second day of Christmas, my hormones gave to me: two tender breasts and a bladder bursting with pee.

    On the third day of Christmas, my hormones gave to me: three big zits, two tender breasts and a bladder bursting with pee.

    On the fourth day of Christmas, my hormones gave to me: four extra inches, three big zits, two tender breasts and a bladder bursting with pee.

    On the fifth day of Christmas, my hormones gave to me: five months of bloating, four extra inches, three big zits, two tender breasts and a bladder bursting with pee.

    On the sixth day of Christmas, my hormones gave to me: six chin hair sprouting, five months of bloating, four extra inches, three big zits, two tender breasts and a bladder bursting with pee.

    On the seventh day of Christmas, my hormones gave to me: seven tears a-brimming, six chin hairs sprouting, five months of bloating, four extra inches, three big zits, two tender breasts and a bladder bursting with pee.

    On the eighth day of Christmas, my hormones gave to me: eight thoughts a-missing, seven tears a-brimming, six chin hairs sprouting, five months of bloating, four extra inches, three big zits, two tender breasts and a bladder bursting with pee.

    On the ninth day of Christmas, my hormones gave to me: nine sexless nights, eight thoughts a-missing, seven tears a-brimming, six chin hairs sprouting, five months of bloating, four extra inches, three big zits, two tender breasts and a bladder bursting with pee.

    On the tenth day of Christmas, my hormones gave to me: ten words a-bleeping, nine sexless nights, eight thoughts a-missing, seven tears a-brimming, six chin hairs sprouting, five months of bloating, four extra inches, three big zits, two tender breasts and a bladder bursting with pee.

    On the eleventh day of Christmas, my hormones gave to me: eleven women griping, ten words a-bleeping, nine sexless nights, eight thoughts a-missing, seven tears a-brimming, six chin hairs sprouting, five months of bloating, four extra inches, three big zits, two tender breasts and a bladder bursting with pee.

    On the twelfth day of Christmas, my hormones gave to me: twelve drenching hot flashes, eleven grumpy women, ten words a-bleeping, nine sexless nights, eight thoughts a-missing, seven tears a-brimming, six chin hairs sprouting, five months of bloating, four extra inches, three big zits, two tender breasts and a bladder bursting with pee.

    And, for those of you who celebrate Chanukah, please substitute these lyrics for the familiar "I Have a Little Dreidel":

    I have a hormone problem, I shvitz and shvitz all day

    Never dry just sweaty, I shvitz and shvitz. Oy vey!

    Curse you menopause, I hate how much I weigh.

    Be gone menopause, how long must you stay?

    I had a lovely body, with abs and hips so thin.

    Now I'm round and tired, hormones, I guess you win.

    Curse you menopause, my hair is turning gray.

    Be gone menopause, how long must you stay?

    My body once was playful; it loved to romp in bed.

    Now nighttime is for peeing - my sex life seems it's dead.

    Curse you menopause, my mind it now does stray.

    Be gone menopause, how long must you stay?

    Suffering in silence is OUT! Laughing is IN!

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  • A History Lesson: Menopause Throughout the Ages

    Posted on Monday, December 15, 2014 from menopausal hot flashes? No problem! Just take some opium and call me in the morning. Or perhaps you'd prefer a little cannabis?

    Sounds crazy, huh? But back in the 1800s, that's what doctors prescribed for their menopausal patients.

    References to menopause can be traced far beyond the 1800s. In fact, Aristotle supposedly referred to menopause, saying it began at 40 years of age.

    If you're wondering where the term "menopause" came from, it was coined in 1821 by French physician Charles Pierre Louis De Gardanne (la ménépausie). What I'm wondering is why a woman didn't name it. Then again, us women are known to call it MANY (unrepeatable) things, which is probably why it was left up to a man.

    Societies have been dealing with menstruation and menopause since biblical times. Anita Diamant, author of the bestselling novel The Red Tent, said in an interview with Ms. Magazine that menstrual tents and huts were all over the world in various premodern societies. However, the "red tent" referred to in her book was a fictional one that she created.

    She's not that far off, though. In some religious practices, women immerse themselves in a ritual bath following their menstrual periods or after childbirth in order to become pure and permitted to resume sexual activity.

    Similar restrictions have been placed on menstruating women by other major religions of the world. They have addressed menstruation and its negative effect on women. This has led to prohibitions on physical intimacy, cooking (I can deal with that prohibition!), attending places of worship, even requiring women to live separately from men during their cycles. In some religions, menstruating women are considered "impure." In others, menstruating women are thought to lose qi or chi (life force).

    Even the symptoms of menopause differ throughout the world. In the West, for example, menopause is often marked by hot flashes. In Japan, it's shoulder pain and in India it's low vision.

    So how have women coped with menopausal symptoms in years past?

    According to the American Cancer Society, "cohosh" is a Native American word that means "knobby rough roots," describing the appearance of the plant's roots. Native Americans used black cohosh to treat uterine disorders such as menstrual and menopausal symptoms.

    Today, women still use black cohosh as a natural treatment for menopausal symptoms. Although, according to NAMS (North American Menopause Society), evidence about the effectiveness and safety of black cohosh for treatment of hot flashes is mixed: Some studies show improvement of menopause symptoms and some show no benefit. Other Native American herbal treatments for menopause-related symptoms included alfalfa, chasteberry, dong quia, maca, oak, sage, red clover, star anise and sweetgrass.

    In an excerpt from the book Hot Flushes, Cold Science: A History Of The Modern Menopause, author Louise Foxcroft says the term "hysteria" was often used by doctors in describing their menopausal patients. (Gee, wonder where they got that idea??)

    The book gives accounts from the mid-1800s in England of doctors prescribing a pre-meal mixture of carbonated soda. Other remedies included a large belladonna plaster placed at the pit of the stomach and vaginal injections with a solution of acetate of lead. No wonder women were reduced to hysteria! Prescriptions ranged from opium and hydochlorate of morphine to chloric ether and distilled water.

    Before 1880, treatments for menopausal symptoms primarily consisted of herbals, along with a selection of belladonna, cannabis or opium. (Guess these women got more bong for their buck!) In the 1890s Merck offered these chemicals along with the flavored powder Ovariin for the treatment of menopausal symptoms and other ovarian ills. Ovariin was made by dessicating and pulverizing cow ovaries, and may have been the first substance commercially available for treatment of menopausal symptoms derived from animal sources. Testicular juice also was used as a treatment. (I'm not going there!)

    In the 1930s, menopause was described as a deficiency disease. Emminen was extracted from the urine of pregnant women (and we know there's no shortage of supplies in that!) and became commercially available in 1933. Diethylstilbestrol (DES) was first marketed in 1939 as a far more potent estrogen than Emminen. In 1942, Ayerst Laboratories began marketing Premarin, which would eventually become the most popular form of estrogen replacement therapy in the U.S., and Prempro, a combination of Premarin and Provera, which eventually became the most widely dispensed drug in the U.S.

    Luckily, treatment of menopausal symptoms today is considerably more sophisticated than the remedies of yesteryear. Different forms of HRT and many non-hormonal options are available. The North American Menopause Society has published the first comprehensive set of guidelines that support clinicians involved in the care of women at midlife. The evidence-based recommendations have been published in the October 2014 issue of Menopause.

    One thing that hasn't changed over the years is that women are still suffering from the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause. Today, at least we have many more treatment options to choose from.

    Whether the treatment is a plaster of belladonna or getting plastered at the bar, I'd say we've come a long way! We've gone from the days of hysteria to the days of hysterical, with productions such as "Menopause the Musical." We may be able to laugh at our predicament, but it's one that we certainly take seriously.

    Let's see what advancements this New Year brings.

    Suffering in silence is OUT! Reaching out is IN!

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  • Women's Heart Attack Symptoms Differ Dramatically from Men's

    Posted on Monday, December 8, 2014 medical community has placed a great deal of emphasis on heart health, from preventive measures such as exercise and nutrition to recognizing the symptoms of a heart attack. Unfortunately, much of that emphasis has focused on men's health, not women's.

    Heart attack is the number one killer of women. And, because symptoms can be quite different in women than in men, it's extremely important that we recognize those symptoms.

    Men typically experience chest discomfort/pressure (akin to having an elephant sit on your chest), discomfort in other areas of the upper body and shortness of breath. Women, on the other hand, can be suffer a heart attack without having any chest discomfort.

    Women's heart attack symptoms

    I can't stress enough how important it is to recognize the other symptoms, as listed by the American Heart Association:

    • Discomfort in the middle of your chest (pressure, squeezing, fullness, pain) that continues for more than a few minutes, stops, then comes back

    • Discomfort or pain in the jaw, neck, back, one or both arms, or stomach

    • A cold sweat

    • Vomiting/nausea

    • Fainting or lightheadedness

    • Extreme fatigue

    Don't overlook the last four symptoms listed above. These often are confused for something less serious, such as the flu or indigestion. If you have these symptoms and think you're having a heart attack, here's what to do, according to the Mayo Clinic and Harvard Medical School:

    • Don't wait - call 911 immediately.

    • Chew, not swallow, a regular dose 325-mg aspirin.

    • If necessary, have someone drive you to the hospital.

    • If no other options are available, drive yourself to the hospital.

    Time is of the essence

    Treatments to restore the flow of blood (and oxygen) to the heart are most beneficial when used in the first several hours of suffering a heart attack.

    Take two aspirin and call me in the morning...

    Aspirin is not just for aches and pains. In the case of a heart attack, it can be a lifesaver.

    You should always keep some with or near you (for yourself and those you care about). I carry a bottle with me in my purse now. As a friend of mine recently had a heart attack, and the ER doctor told her the aspirin she chewed saved her life! Here's why: Aspirin inhibits platelets. Most heart attacks develop when a cholesterol-laden plaque ruptures in a coronary artery. When it does, it attracts platelets (the tiny blood cells that trigger blood clotting) to its surface. As the clot grows, it blocks the artery. If the blockage is complete, it deprives part of the heart muscle of oxygen. Muscle cells die, causing a heart attack.

    Note: Don't take coated aspirin, which will act too slowly.

    An ounce of prevention?

    Some doctors suggest taking a low-dose aspirin daily as a preventive measure to reduce your heart attack risk. According to the American Heart Association, a study of women older than 65 revealed that a daily low-dose aspirin reduced both heart attack and stroke. Also, women who previously had a heart attack or stroke are known to benefit from this daily regimen. One negative side effect, though, is that aspirin increased by 40 percent the risk of stomach and intestinal bleeding.

    Regular exercise is perhaps the best preventive "medicine" you can practice for heart health. A sedentary lifestyle is a risk factor for heart disease, so get moving! Exercise has many benefits, according to the Heart Association's Go Red for Women site, including keeping cholesterol and blood pressure down, maintaining a healthy weight, and making the heart work more efficiently. An added bonus: Exercise can help ease menopausal symptoms!

    If you're on HRT and wonder if it's safe for your heart, check out the latest report from the KEEPS Study in this Menopause Mondays Health News Flash. Research says women can use estrogen as a way to treat common menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats without direct harm to their heart health. Transdermal HRT may be better for women with existing cardiovascular disease risk factors, because oral estrogen has been found to have a prothrombotic effect. The study found no effect on blood pressure with the low-dose KEEPS regimens.

    While I'm not encouraging women to be hypochondriacs, I am encouraging you to take these symptoms seriously. Don't shrug them off as just more menopausal symptoms. If you're not sure, get to a hospital ASAP. As they say, better safe than sorry (or worse).

    Suffering in silence is OUT! Reaching out is IN!

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  • Menopause and Holiday Meal Planning—Send Stress Packing

    Posted on Monday, December 1, 2014 sooner did you catch a passing glance at the autumn leaves, than it's time for the holidays—stressful under the best of times but even more so when menopausal hormones wreak havoc with your mind and body.

    This season, you committed to hosting the holiday dinner. So, in between frenetic shopping, cookie baking, house decorating and an endless round of parties, how do you keep it together, so that when the doorbell rings, you're not wishing you had a ticket to Tahiti?

    First of all that 'I've got to be perfect,' mantra needs to take a hike because sometimes good enough is perfect.

    Give Yourself a KISS

    Don't let your Type-A personality take over. My motto for holiday hosting is: KISS: Keep it Simple Sistah!

    Creating an innovative theme for your holiday meal can change things up a bit and not over tax you or your wallet. One year, I only made the turkey and asked everyone to bring a favorite dish (along with their partner)! I asked the guests not to tell me what they were making! I wanted it to be a surprise. The guests brought their surprise food offering covered with tin foil. Once I put all the dishes on the buffet table, cocktail in hand, we unveiled the dishes and guessed who made them. Can't get any more KISS than this!

    I have to admit, that at most holiday dinners I do find myself over eating (shocker!) Usually, sneaking off to my bedroom to rip off those pesky Spanx! So one year, my holiday gathering was a Pajama Party. Everyone came comfy and relaxed. That holiday dinner was a huge hit! Warning: it was hard to get everyone to leave! I had to remind them it was not a slumber party.

    Manage your stress

    Any psychologist will tell you that striving to be perfect relates back to the fear of failure...needing to please everyone...and is a critical anxiety trigger.

    There are already cognitive changes in your brain during menopause due to hormonal fluctuations. These can result in brain fog, which anxiety only serves to exasperate.

    Since stress can be contagious, take some measures to help make this a stress free holiday. If you are enjoying your holiday dinner, so will your guests.

    To help manage holiday stress, try to maintain your healthy routine during the days leading up to the holidays. Oh, we all fall off the wagon when it comes to diet and drinking, but at least make the attempt to eat clean for the most part. Try to curb your overwhelming taste for alcohol at this time of year and remember to exercise to burn off those pesky stress hormones caused by frequent bursts of adrenaline. Scientists now say it will likely lead to stubborn belly fat, which is really unhealthy for your heart, particularly during menopause.

    However, there's always time for a little fun! One study in Oregon found that a drink every now and again is good for your bones. As if you need an excuse for a good Merlot!

    Schedule in some "me" time.

    Your schedule is crazy busy, but if you put yourself on your own "To Do List", you can make time for a casual walk, a bike ride, or some yoga. Having a few quiet moments with no TV or email for some quiet meditation is critical to your wellbeing and will provide you the reboot you'll need to pull off a successful, peaceful family gathering.

    While you are decking the halls with holly remember to set the mood for a good night's sleep. Sleeplessness can be a real problem for women who are going through menopause – the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) lists trouble falling asleep as one of their main five symptoms of menopause.

    Before you hit the sack try some tricks to help relax your body and get you in the sleeping mode. For example, do something calming like reading a book while sipping on some chamomile tea, enjoying a candlelight bath, or just closing your eyes and listening to some soft music. As it gets closer to sleep time, prepare your bedroom so there are no distractions — eliminate as much light and sound as possible.

    Your bedroom is your sanctuary, so leave that ever-present cell phone charging on the kitchen counter.

    Researchers will tell you that being on electronics right before bedtime lights up your brain, at just the time you need those receptors in your gray matter to be winding down.

    A Little Social Time

    Laughter is good for the soul! Encourage your family members to try out their best jokes between courses. Realize, too, that life will always get crazy. It's how you respond to the bumps in the road that separates the girls from the women.

    So, this year, enjoy the pleasure of your own company...and theirs! Happy Holidays!

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  • Happy Menopausal Thanksgiving

    Posted on Monday, November 24, 2014 holidays are upon us. The grocery stores are buzzing with turkey orders, neighborhood pumpkin patches are being converted over to Christmas tree lots (I prefer the evergreen smell over the hay), everyone is talking about where they're celebrating and who they are going to be with for Thanksgiving this year.

    It's not enough to just have Thanksgiving. According to the stories on the radio, TV, newspapers, magazines and online, you must have THE BEST THANKSGIVING EVER! You can spend hours just focusing on your turkey. (I always stuff my turkey with apples and oranges because it helps keep the cavity moist. Do not use this idea on your will not work!


    So what else is the menopausal woman focused on this Thanksgiving?

    – She is focused on how she is going to remember to even buy the turkey?

    – She is focused on her stomach and her hips — wondering how she is going to fit into last year's holiday clothes.

    – She is focused on how to keep her uncontrollable emotions in control when normal family holiday stress kicks in.

    – She is focused on sleep – she needs it!

    – She is focused on trying not to be a bitchface with her loved ones.


    In the spirit of giving and being thankful, I am going to give you my special perimenopause and menopause Thanksgiving recipe, which helps me look forward to and enjoy the holidays!


    (Do not preheat the oven – you are already too hot)

    In a large bowl combine:

    – 2 heaping tablespoons of friends and family

    – One 2 pound bag of very thankful

    – 1 cup of it's ok to not be perfect

    – 3 sticks of "Can you help me plan, cook, and clean up?"

    – 4 large cups of peeled, cored, and chopped patience

    – Sprinkle in a dusting of alcohol (trust me if you over do this, things can get out of hand)

    – Do not make any sauce of any kind as you are saucy enough as it is

    – Gently stir the above ingredients together. Never beat anything – we beat ourselves up enough already

    – Remember: Suffering in silence is OUT – Reaching out is IN!

    – The final step is to fold in lots of love!

    Now you have the recipe for THE BEST THANKSGIVING EVER!


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  • Wash Menopause Right out of Your Hair

    Posted on Monday, November 17, 2014, you've soldiered through the hot flashes and weight gain associated with menopause for months and just when you thought you were on top of things, things on top become your new focus. Menopausal-related hair loss can come as a big surprise...and not necessarily one that'll leave you smiling.

    As you travel through menopause, your hair has a tendency to pack its bags and go away leaving you with a receding hairline, widening part and maybe even some tiny patches on your scalp. Couple this with the multitude of new coarse hair growing on your lip and chin and suddenly you're seriously wondering how to cope.

    Your hair has long been a critical 'supporting character' in your life story. That's why when you first notice shedding on your brush, followed by hair going down the drain, it can be devastating.

    Bad Hair Days

    Dr. Nicole Rogers, prominent hair transplant surgeon and board-certified dermatologist says this menopausal hair loss can be traced back to the same thing that triggers many menopausal symptoms: fluctuating hormones.

    "As estrogen levels drop, normal circulating levels of androgens might be unmasked. This can translate to unwanted facial and chin hairs, as well as hair thinning for some women," explains Dr. Rogers.

    "Female hair appears as a localized thinning the front portion of the scalp, or can occur diffusely over the entire scalp."

    This 'diffuse generalized hair loss' is present in 26% of post-menopausal women over the age of 45, according to the British Association of Dermatologists' study. That includes hair not just on the top of your head, but also near what they term 'androgen-sensitive sites,' or the hair 'down there.' It thins out, too, even as facial hair gain takes root in most women: 40% attested to that in this particular study. So, in essence, thick hair where you don't want it and thinning where you want the hair to stay put and grow.

    Hormones and Diet Play a Part in Hair Loss

    Normal aging is associated with hair loss and skin pigmentation changes, according to at least one study that also states that administering estrogen might delay skin aging. However, Dr. Rogers believes that relying on hormone replacement therapy or HRT to help reverse hair thinning is still not a proven antidote.

    "Some patients have told me anecdotally that taking hormones seems to help; however, the use of HRT to treat hair loss has not been well-studied."

    Sluggish thyroids that control metabolism, body temperature and weight can also be to blame for hair loss. Many of the symptoms of menopause are similar to a thyroid condition and that can be confirmed with a thyroid blood test panel under a physician's care.

    Finally, diet and stress do play a role in hair loss, particularly your body's levels of zinc and iron. Iron deficiency, is being researched as a factor in hair loss and in one study, 22.7% of the tested premenopausal women low on iron had greater hair loss.

    Heir Apparent

    As the old saying goes, 'if you want to know what a woman will look like when she's older, look at her mother.' Do genetics play a role in thinning hair, as well? According to Dr. Rogers, it does.

    "If you have a relative who is bald, wears a wig, had a hair transplant or uses camouflage, then there is probably a gene for hair thinning that runs in the family."

    "If women are genetically programmed to develop female pattern hair loss, this can develop as early as the teen years or as late as the post-menopausal period." says Dr. Rogers.

    I Have to Do Something with My Hair!

    If you've ever caught a glimpse of your reflection unexpectedly, it can reveal new things about your appearance. If that happens to be a receding hairline or patches of scalp, what can you do? Don't panic.

    Right now, the only FDA approved medication for hair loss is topical Minoxidil, which comes as a 2% solution for twice-daily use in women, according to Dr. Rogers.

    "The FDA did approve 5% Rogaine Foam for once-daily use in women, but it is not being sold in stores yet."

    "Women may also use various low-level light therapy devices such as the HairMax Lasercomb, which has FDA clearance to treat hair loss."

    There is always a hair transplant, which moves hair follicular units from other parts of your body to your head, but it is expensive.

    It's only hair!

    We know how important our hair is to our overall self-esteem. Turns out, scientists even agree, having conducted studies on how wisdom helps us nurture deeper feelings of self-esteem and a positive spirit. If you find that you are experiencing sudden hair loss, be sure to see your physician. In the meantime, get creative with a new fun style that can make your hair loss less noticeable.

    Make it a fun shopping trip and discover what's out there in the way of cute accessories and even hair extension. They'll add lift and length in the time it takes you to smile and greet the day with renewed confidence. It is not exactly "modern medicine", but today we have access to hair extensions, clip-ons, scalp camouflages, and oodles of accessories that can add the appearance of length and fullness without anyone knowing.

    Suffering in Silence is Out! Reaching Out is In!

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