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My husband David and I met 39 years ago on a blind date. Yes, ladies go on those blind dates! You just never know, you might meet your soulmate!! David is my life partner. Over the many years we have been together, we try to encourage each other to lead healthy and rewarding lives. I came to the marriage with high cholesterol and David came with periodic migraines.
I take great care to eat healthy and exercise. David supports me in this by doing the same. Over the years, David has found a fabulous migraine specialist who has figured out the right protocol to take care of those migraines when they hit. This is all well and good, but now that we are in our 60's, I wanted to figure out if there was something we could do to help prevent those migraines instead of managing them after they occur. So, with that in mind, David made an appointment for a consult at Scripps Integrative Medicine.
The doctor suggested that David try TM, (Transcendental Meditation). He explained the science behind it and added that he and many medical professionals, corporate executives, even celebrities mediate twice a day for 20 min. I was a bit skeptical, but willing to try anything that would help David. On the way home in the car, I called the TM center and made an appointment for us to have the training. I thought if I did it with him, it would help David do it.
When we arrived for the training, we were each taken to a different room with a different trainer. There was something very calm about this place. I couldn't put my finger on it. As I sat with my trainer, I thought, this is so easy and is going to be so helpful to David.
After maybe a minute, I was quite sure that the 20 minutes was almost up. When was the last time I sat calmly for 20 min? I was perplexed by how relaxed I felt. I learned to let go and just "be", something not very familiar to me, or for that matter, our culture as a whole.
That's when it hit me.......perhaps it wasn't just David who needed to learn to meditate! OY!
TM where have you been all of our lives!!??
Being a bit Type A (understatement), I had to meditate perfectly. But what was I supposed to do with all those thoughts that kept gushing into my mind as soon as I closed my eyes ...what is my next blog.....what am I making for dinner......... I have to get back to my computer ASAP and answer emails from menopausal women in stress.......did I send out that birthday card -you name it the thoughts came flooding in. Yet I found that with this effortless technique the thoughts did not detract from my transcending experience. Every time I meditate this wonderful calmness and inner peace washes over me. I am energized, alert, and way more creative. After 20 min, I feel like I went through a de-stress car wash. My stress just washes away. I love the feeling!
Later, I began reading more about meditation and how it can affect overall health and well-being. A study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, October 2013: meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) found significantly greater effect of TM in reducing trait anxiety than treatment-as-usual and other alternative treatments, including mindfulness-based therapy (MBT) and other meditation and relaxation practices.
I reached out to Dr. Josh Trutt, a healthy aging specialist for his thoughts on meditation. He explained, "When we relax, our heart rate slows down, But when we meditate, the interval between each beat of our heart changes and becomes smoother. That interval between each beat is called Heart Rate Variability (or HRV), and smoothing it out is what lets those Yogi masters live longer—in fact in 2010 the American Journal of Cardiology reported that maintaining a healthy HRV as we age actually predicts longevity!"
We all know that heart disease is the number one killer of women. I was thrilled to find out that The National Institutes of Health has funded over $26 million in research on the Transcendental Meditation technique for prevention of heart disease.
Research on TM has shown:
There are days when David has to peel me from my desk chairs to go meditate. My Type A personality hasn't changed but my stress level and quality of life has thanks to TM.
You don't need to have candles and incense lit in order to meditate. You can mediate in your car between appointments, on the airplane, or in a quiet corner during your lunch hour. It can become part of many happier, healthier, and stress-free days to come. Try it! [Link Removed]! Help me spread the word!
Once in a while, when I can't remember where I put my keys or forget someone's name, I think about my brain, and wonder if I take good care of it. After all, it is one of our biggest organs, weighing about 3 pounds. I think my hips are next in weight, but not defined as an organ....but I digress!
A few years ago, I needed an MRI of my brain as I was having some sudden scary dizziness (fortunately it turned out that I just needed to tweak my thyroid medicine...who knew??). After I got off the MRI table my first thought was that I was relieved they found a brain in there! Good to know. As a boomer, sometimes I experience things that make me think mine is shrinking.
Our brains have a HUGE job! The brain consists of some 100 billion nerve cells. It is comprised of two kinds of matter...gray and white. (mine probably has orange in it-my fav color). The brain houses our thoughts and highly coordinated physical actions, and regulates our unconscious body processes, such as digestion and breathing. It gives us the capacity for creating and enjoying art, language, moral judgments, and rational thought. It's also responsible for our individual personality, memories, movements, and how we sense the world.
So what happens if that brain becomes injured? How does it heal? How do you find your path to being "Okay" again? Ruth Curran, author of Being Brain Healthy shares the car accident that resulted in her brain injury and then she meticulously walks us through the recovery from that injury and how it taught her how to build better thinking skills and changed her life. You feel like you are inside her brain, experiencing it all firsthand.
Curran shares the most cutting edge research (in layperson speak), helps us understand how the brain works, how it works together with our body, and shares the stories of others who are in recovery from brain challenges. She very cleverly divides the book into easy to understand sections: Be Active, Be Engaged, Be Social, Be Purposeful, and Be Complicated. Don't you just love these?
As Curran puts it, "The journey to wellness when coming back from a brain injury can be a long one."
For Curran, there was a point in her recovery process where she made a shift in focus that moved her from seeking treatment and looking for intervention to empowering her to turn up the volume on the quality of her life. You can almost feel her move that volume control.
Thank you, Ruth, we hear you loud and clear! Your road to "Okay" is not only an inspirational one of a brain injury survivor who empowered herself by thinking, acting and doing, it has also encouraged me to want to elevate my thinking and expand the use of my brain!
Be sure to read Ruth's wonderful book, Being Brain Healthy: What my recovery from brain injury taught me and how it can change your life.
Gotta go to Be Active, Be Engaged Be Social, Be Purposeful, and of course, Be Complicated!
Menopause education is my mission. Spurred by my own experience struggling with the symptoms of menopause, I have devoted the last ten years of my life to helping other women during this often difficult time. I am not a doctor or scientist, but I have "talked the talk" with countless menopause experts, so that I can "walk the menopause walk" with you and share the keys to this menopause kingdom.
Together with my son, Jack, we have created a FREE eBook, MENOPAUSE MONDAYS The Girlfriend's Guide to Surviving and Thriving During Perimenopause and Menopause, a comprehensive guide to all things menopause—the symptoms, treatments, and long-range effects on a woman's health.
Presented in an entertaining and informative way, we share information and expertise from numerous specialists, replacing the confusion and embarrassment so often experienced with medically sound solutions. You'll find detailed descriptions and treatments for the symptoms you or your loved one may experience, from hot flashes and mood swings to mental fogginess and loss of libido, and lots more in between.
In addition to sharing the latest research and proven treatments, you will find tips on how to find a menopause specialist who's right for you, and a clear explanation of what tests to ask for. You'll also learn about the latest studies on hormone replacement as well as alternative therapies and remedies. Finally, we share the real-life experiences of women—and those who love them—as they traverse the crazy ups and downs of perimenopause and menopause.
The FREE eBook format will allow us to periodically do updates with the latest studies and information. In that sense, it will be a living text that grows as the information grows.
Help me with my mission! Spread the word!
Suffering in silence is OUT! Reaching out is IN!
Before I tell you all about this fabulous new eBook I'm releasing
for FREE I want to take a moment to reflect on what the Menopause Mondays blog, and all my work in educating women and men on perimenopause and menopause, has meant to me, and to thank YOU for everything you've given me.
As I walked down the stairs to my computer this morning, I began reminiscing about these past years of writing and blogging about perimenopause and menopause.
My morning usually begins at 7AM. I love the quiet of the house and the sunlight peaking in as I raise the blinds. I yearn for my morning coffee, but these days it is a few steps behind my probiotic (who knew we need to balance the good and bad bacteria?!!) and a large glass of ice water.
I try to do my morning 20-minute meditation, but frankly my need to check my emails resulting from my weekly blog posts usually wins out. What if someone is suffering in another time zone? I don't want them to wait too long to get support. I remember how alone I felt when my perimenopausal symptoms were running my life. More like ruining my life.
Some of the emails contain just one line: "Help, I am depressed!" or "I can't sleep anymore. Am I in perimenopause?" Others are very long journals of very trying, difficult emotional highs and lows, severe depression, insomnia, or shockingly severe issues with sex and libido that are causing marriages to fall apart.
Most of the time, I can direct people to the various blogs in which I interview specialists on the topic to help answer their questions. But, sometimes I just know that they need to talk to someone who cares. So, I send them my cell phone number. Then immediately my cell phone rings.
I know that just being able to verbalize what is bothering you can be very calming. Funny, though, as I speak to women from all over the world, I find my way back to my own inner peace. Each and every time, I hang up the phone with a full heart and a smile on my face. Helping others seems to be very healing and nourishing to me. When I started out, I had no idea this would happen.
When I have a spare moment, I try to follow up with everyone who has contacted me to see how they are doing.
My follow-up emails are sometimes frustrating, as some women try so hard to be "fine" that they may not take the steps needed to feel better. For example, I may have called a menopause specialist in NYC to squeeze in a patient who was truly at her wits' end, only to find out she cancelled the appointment! I don't give up. Instead, I keep nagging until they go to the specialist! I know my role is to be their health advocate until they learn to advocate for themselves. I take my role seriously.
There are days when David has to peel my butt off of my chair to eat lunch or dinner or get on my bike! Thank goodness he does! Otherwise, I might be completely glued to my chair by now.
My husband and children have consistently rallied around me, encouraging me and pushing me to continue on my mission, even when I had self-doubts and frustrations. I know it's a bit cheesy, but I like cheese! They truly are the wind beneath my wings. I love it that my husband and children are proud of me. They have no idea how much that means to me.
When I allow myself to step back and review my journey, and let go of my Virgo-ism and the self-critical chatter that harps on the things that I could have done better, I truly feel I have accomplished something that I am proud of. I have helped lots of women and the people who love them. This is the most rewarding thing of all.
My whole being is so wrapped around this mission that I seem to know when someone needs help no matter where I am: on an airplane, at the grocery check-out line, in the carwash waiting room, or at a social event. I zero in on the women who are suffering in silence. David has nicknamed me the "Vagina Whisperer." He gets that look that says, "And...there she goes!" As I try to engage with the woman, he watches with pride and great patience.
It's shocking that while there are ever increasing numbers of women in the workplace, in corporate executive positions, and other vital roles in our society, so many women are still suffering in silence. My mission is to replace the confusion and embarrassment about the symptoms millions of women go through before, during, and after menopause with medically sound solutions presented with lots of love and laughter.
So in that spirit, I will be releasing a new eBook, available for FREE to all women and the people who love them. The book will be an amalgamation of what I've learned from interviewing experts, from my own experiences, and from the personal stories that the sisterhood has shared with me. The book will be called, Menopause Mondays: A Girlfriend's Guide to Surviving and Thriving During Perimenopause and Menopause. The eBook format will allow me to periodically do updates with the latest studies and information. In that sense, it will be a living text that grows as we grow.
That's why we're here. So we can grow together.
As I work on this eBook, you may be hearing from me more sporadically. I have re-organized EllenDolgen.com and updated our blog information, making it even easier for you to find the answers you need. Think of EllenDolgen.com as a resource library. You can easily access my Menopause Symptoms Chart, Menopause Specialist Directory, Blogs, Health News Flashes, Top Symptoms, and FAQs. As we go through this new chapter together, please continue to communicate with me directly at email@example.com.
Your energy and appreciation has empowered and motivated me to continue our good work together and elevate Menopause Mondays into the next chapter of its life: Menopause Mondays: A Girlfriend's Guide to Surviving and Thriving During Perimenopause and Menopause.
In today's over-prescribed, oversized yet undernourished society, we often find ourselves plagued with inexplicable ailments. I'm not talking about the hot-flash-weight-gain-tender-breast-migraine symptoms of perimenopause and menopause. I'm talking about more chronic, everyday symptoms.
As with menopause symptoms, many people are seeking out alternative treatments to prescription drugs. Interestingly, while people often look to eliminate troublesome foods from their diet, it's less common for them to add certain foods to help alleviate symptoms.
For those who suffer from histamine intolerance, many have found relief through a combination of physical and mental "treatments." By regulating diet and using the brain to heal, many sufferers have alleviated their symptoms.
Although histamine intolerance may affect only about 1 percent of the population, its symptoms are often confused with other maladies, such as food allergies. The majority of those diagnosed with histamine intolerance is women in their 40s. Guess what? Hormonal imbalance can trigger histamine intolerance in women who previously did not suffer from it prior to menopause.
So what are the symptoms of histamine intolerance? Here they are... and many are eerily similar to menopausal symptoms:
What foods can trigger histamine reactions? The following foods have the highest levels of histamine:
OK, so what foods are considered anti-histamine? Yasmina Ykelenstam, who bills herself as [Link Removed], eats the following foods to counteract when she has had a food-related histamine overload:
Ykelenstam follows a low-histamine diet to ease her own symptoms (plus meditation, not medication) and is the author of several cookbooks. She calls upon the power of the brain, using mindfulness meditation and visualization as healing tools.
Healing involves both the body and the mind, as I noted in my cousin's brave [Link Removed].
Once you've determined what's causing your symptoms, you can either choose to live with them or decide the best course of treatment for yourself.
Suffering in silence is OUT! Reaching out is IN!
Think back to your PRE-menopause days. If someone told you they could trigger menopause for you, you'd hardly have jumped at the chance, right? But that's exactly what many cancer survivors younger than 50 – or even younger than 40 – experience.
Each year in the U.S., almost 50,000 women younger than 50 are diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. Nearly 10,000 of them are younger than 40. During chemotherapy, women may have irregular menstrual cycles, amenorrhea (disappearance of menstrual periods), menopausal symptoms or be thrown into actual menopause. Menopause may be immediate or delayed, permanent or temporary when triggered by chemotherapy.
I reached out to the Yale Cancer Center and spoke to Dr. Erin W. Hofstatter, Assistant Professor of Medicine (Medical Oncology); Co-Director, Genetic Counseling Program, and Dr. Elena Ratner, Assistant Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences, to shed some light on issues of concern to my readers. They graciously provided me with philanthropy of their knowledge!
Dr. Hofstatter flatly responded, "I am a huge fan." More and more data shows that this 3-D mammography cuts false-positives and call-back rates, and is picking up a few extra cancers per 1,000 women screened. It is a small amount of extra radiation compared to the usual 2-D mammogram, but is well worth it since it reduces call-backs and need for diagnostic mammograms (which are a lot more radiation than a screening 2-D mammo).
Genetic Testing For BRCA1 and BRCA2
Dr. Hofstatter noted that about 5 percent of breast cancer patients test positive for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes associated with the disease. However, the likelihood of testing positive for a woman with breast cancer depends on how old she is, if she is of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage, and what type of breast cancer she has. All these women have a slightly higher chance of testing positive. Here are some stats on the chances of women with breast cancer testing positive:
I asked Dr. Ratner what her thoughts were on the [Link Removed] is designed to help doctors and patients decide the length of treatment. This test takes the original tissue from the cancer and sends it to the company, which studies gene expression of several different genes in the particular woman's tumor. Based on these results, a statistical report is produced that estimates the possible benefit from extended therapy."
Dr. Hofstatter predicts that the clinical use of the BCI will increase over the coming years, and will likely become a new standard.
Treatment for DCIS
I asked Dr. Hofstatter what the recommended protocols are for women with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). She said DCIS is still officially considered a breast cancer, but is non-invasive. This means, by definition, it cannot spread outside the breast, and therefore cannot be life-threatening. Women are typically treated for DCIS-type cancer with radiation and surgery, and oftentimes anti-hormonal agents that carry side effects. But some people are suggesting that this is "overkill" and that the treatment is worse than the disease. Some suggest that we should leave DCIS alone, not call it a cancer, and instead consider it a "high-risk lesion." This debate will go on for years.
What we do know, she said, is that, while many DCIS lesions lie dormant and harmless for many, many years, there are others that do invade and become dangerous. We do not fully understand which DCIS lesions are which, so it becomes hard to pick and choose which patients need everything and which don't. The bottom line is that women should talk with their doctors about their particular DCIS lesion, and decide which therapies are best for them. Sometimes, surgery with either radiation or anti-hormone pills is acceptable.
Treatment of Menopausal Symptoms
At Yale, Dr. Hofstatter is studying the use of Remifemin (estrogen-free black cohosh) in early-stage breast cancer, specifically DCIS, to see if a few weeks of Remifemin taken before surgery can reduce cell proliferation in areas of DCIS.
For breast cancer survivor Vicky, Remifemin was just what the doctor ordered. "I am 48 now and was treated at 35 for stage 1b breast cancer with surgery, chemo, radiation and Tamoxifen," she said. "Hot flashes started full on for me ... and I immediately went on Remifemin.... The hot flashes are about 98 percent gone."
Dr. Elena Ratner said that women like Vicky, whose menopause was triggered by treatment for breast cancer, are the hardest to help. Their tumors have hormonal receptors, and even a minuscule amount of estrogen could grow their tumors.
Ironically, estrogen therapy is often prescribed to relieve menopausal symptoms in non-breast cancer patients. For example, local estrogen therapy (LET) is often used to treat vaginal atrophy (dry vagina). While Dr. Ratner acknowledges that LET has a very low systemic absorption, she said many oncologists discourage its use in breast cancer patients. She further recommends vaginal moisturizers as a viable option for these women. She noted that even testosterone can convert to estrogen in the body, so this is not an option for women with breast cancer.
And, while estrogen protects bone health, for breast cancer patients Dr. Ratner prescribes two 600mg doses of calcium twice a day with vitamin D, plus cardio and low weight-bearing exercise.
Many of these young breast cancer patients also hope to start a family, but toxic treatments such as chemo can adversely affect their fertility. Dr. Ratner stresses the importance for women and their providers to discuss fertility prior to their treatment. Some chemotherapy will not affect fertility in the long fun but others may.
I am so grateful for the generosity of these wonderful experts at the Yale Cancer Center. Knowledge is power!
Suffering in silence is OUT! Reaching out is IN!