Menopausin’? 7 Ways to Cool Down those Hot Flashes

c165459_sI don’t think I ever heard the word “menopause” cross my mother’s lips.  Nope, for her it was the dreaded change of life or simply the change.  For years I connected these terms with the idea of eventually losing my marbles and sprouting hair on my chin.  Heck, according to my mom and aunts, some women went through the change and never came out of it!  (Now that I think about it, I always wondered where Aunt Betty disappeared to).

Nowadays, we’re much more sophisticated about our terminology, and thanks to Google, better educated about this period (no pun intended) of our lives.

Despite my earlier fears about menopause, for me it didn’t turn out to be that bad in terms of physical discomfort.  My biggest annoyance (and from what I hear from other ladies as well) were those times when I was walking around at work or at the mall, my temperature a comfortable 98.6 – when suddenly my body made a visit to the desert, at high noon on a 102 degree day.  What the . . . ??? 

Yep, hot flashes (and their evil buddy, night sweats) were what drove me crazy throughout menopause.  If you’re suffering from them as well, you may want to take a look at some cooling down options: 

  • Craving Thai or Szechuan food?  STOP!  Do not go there. High-fat and high-sugar diets can make hot flash symptoms worse; ditto caffeine and alcohol.
  • Instead, try the Mediterranean Diet as described in this article from the Eating Well website.   This way of eating can also help fight off that lousy weight gain that leads to meno-pots (don’t you love being a woman?) 
  • Research has also shown that adding soy foods to a diet can help, because they contain isoflavones.  Try soybeans, edamame, tofu, or roasted soy nuts. 
  • Try ground flaxseed (available in grocery stores), which may help fight against hot flashes (they’re also good for our heart health; containing fiber, Omega-3 fatty acids, and lignan) You can add the seeds to smoothies, juice, or oatmeal.*
  • Stress has been linked to hot flashes (jeez, what hasn’t stress been linked to?), so take steps to relieve daily stressors before they build up may help.  Meditation, deep breathing techniques, getting regular exercise, and keeping a journal to vent about bad stuff are a few ways to do this. Or invite your hot-flash-suffering friends over for a kick menopause in the butt party 
  • Medical treatment involves low-dose hormone therapy used only for the short-term.  You can read more about medical options in this article from the My Health Alberta website. 
  • Looking for some natural supplement options? Take a look at Dr. Andrew Weil’s suggestion in this article.  (You should talk to your doctor prior to taking supplements) 

Source: 

*Beck, LeslieWhat foods should I eat to help manage my hot flashes? 

Want to have some fun with your fellow menopausers?  Menopause the Musical is a must-see

For Further Reading:

 

 

10 Ways to Love Your Heart

 

Watercolor picture with bright red heart on blue background

  • Snack on almonds (1 ½ ounces every day can help lower bad cholesterol)
  • Enjoy fruits and veggies that are rich in vitamin C and your heart will be rewarded with a potent antioxidant.
  • Sweat it up!  Strenuous exercise a couple times a week is heart-healthy.
  • Don’t forget vitamin D – research shows that vitamin D deficiency may lead to a higher risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • Cuddle with your significant other or your furry friend. This helps lower stress levels and blood pressure.
  • Floss your teeth – good for your gums, and may help protect against heart disease.
  • Let go of anger and resentment – this reduces stress and blood pressure, and can help lower your heart rate.
  • Find a reason to have a good belly laugh.  At least one daily.  Laughing not only reduces stress and tension, it improves blood flow (reducing blood pressure). It may also boost good cholesterol levels.
  • Fill up with fiber (afraid of tootin’? Find some tips to help avoid gaseous emissions at the Everyday Health site
  • Try some yoga poses for a healthy heart.

Sources:

Narula, T., M.D. Have a Heart Healthy Day. Oprah magazine. February 2014.

Westen, R. Top 50 Ways to Stay Healthy. AARP magazine. October/November 2015.

Easy Ways to Protect your Bones (No Cow’s Milk Needed)

Bea Boomer’s Vital Aging Project – Day 66 – 6/15/15

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1. At breakfast, eat calcium and vitamin D fortified bread and cereals, along with fortified orange juice.  Top your cereal with almond, rice, or soy milk.  Silk almond milk comes in a nice variety of flavors and offers more calcium than cow’s milk. 

2. Don’t forget your greens! Dark greens, such as broccoli, kale, collard greens and bok choy are all good food options to boost your calcium levels.  

3.   Love fish?  Try salmon for a calcium boost.  A mere 3 ounces of salmon provides 181 milligrams of calcium.* (The recommended daily allowance is 1000 milligrams of calcium each day, along with 600 IUs of vitamin D for those of us over 50) 

4.  Nuts, especially almonds, brazil nuts and peanuts.  Nuts rank high in other nutrients as well.  

5. Don’t forget to move that body!  Walk, climb stairs, lift weights – We need 30 minutes of some type of weight-bearing exercise at least five days every week to keep those bones strong.  Regular physical activity helps us in too many ways to count.  

Calcium Thieves to Avoid: 

  • Cola products – The phosphoric acid may prevent proper calcium absorption.* 
  • Processed, canned and fast foods, as well as other salt laden foods.

Source: 

*AARP, the Magazine. March 2015. Boost Your Bone Health in Your 50s

For further reading:

Exercise for your Bone Health 

The Importance of Calcium – How to get Enough without Dairy 

Advice from the Blue Zones: Avoid the Sitting Disease

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Bea Boomer’s Vital Aging Project – Day 65– 6/8/15

Yes, I know I’ve talked about the sitting disease before, but it bears repeating! 

In Sardinia, Italy, walking is a regular part of people’s lives.  In Okinawa, most people are not only avid walkers, but gardeners as well.  In the Nicoya Peninsula, people take pleasure in physical labor throughout their lives.  In the Greek Island of Ikaria, even the elderly walk, bicycle, or work daily in their gardens.  These are some of the “blue zones” of the world, where people regularly live to be 100+, as well as avoiding age-related illnesses and dementia.  These people are natural movers.  Their living environment encourages this regular physical activity.

What a stark contrast to our sedentary lifestyles in most of the United States!  The “sitting disease” is alive and well here; too much sitting causes obesity, along with higher risks for heart attacks, diabetes and other chronic illnesses, (all of which can lead to an earlier death).

Additionally, according to research discussed in this article from Medical News Today, exercise alone may not be able to counteract the effects of the sitting disease.  Along with a regular exercise routine, we also need to get up off our butts, stand up and walk around periodically. All it takes is from one to three minutes of standing up and moving around every 30 minutes.  Check out this Harvard Health article to find out more about the sitting disease, along with related posts about exercise and fitness.  

Take a stand against the sitting disease at the Just Stand website! 

4 Ways to Combat Sitting Disease 

©Bea Boomers Wellness 2015

Dysthymia: Persistent Depressive Disorder

Bea Boomer’s Vital Aging Project – Day 57– 5/13/15

I had no idea what to write about today ~ for some reason, I couldn’t sleep last night.  As I tossed and turned, I tried to come up with ideas for today’s post ~ my thoughts meandered around the labyrinth of my brain and kept coming to dead ends.  After getting home from work today at 5:15 p.m., I realized that the Healthy Aging course I registed for at Ed2go starts today, which means that I have no time to come up with a last minute idea! 

So instead, I’m re-posting an article I wrote for the Ezine Articles website about Dysthymia (Persistent Depressive Disorder). My co-worker, Fred (name changed to protect the innocent) would accuse me of “phoning it in” tonight; but sometimes, that’s just the way it goes. . . . 

Dysthymia Symptoms

Jenny, a 35 year old wife and mother, has little energy to play with her two young children.  She sleeps restlessly at night, and often feels the need to take a nap during the day.  She has difficulty in making even the most minor decisions, and finds it hard to concentrate.  Jenny often feels her family would be better off without her.  For short periods of time, she’s able to pull herself out of her mood, and she’ll feel like her “old self” again.  But these periods don’t last. 

This wife and mom is suffering from the common symptoms of dysthymia, also known as persistent depressive disorder.  Other symptoms include feelings of sadness almost every day, poor appetite or overeating, low self-esteem, and loss of enjoyment in formerly fun activities.  While the symptoms aren’t as severe as those of major depression, they last longer.  Dysthymia symptoms last at least two years. 

Causes of Dysthymia

The causes behind any form of depression can be complex.  People suffering from dysthymia usually have a family background of depression. Brain chemical imbalances can be another cause. Sometimes childhood trauma that causes chronic stress can lead to dysthymia in a teenager or young adult.  Additionally, some medical conditions can be linked to dysthymia.  These include neurological conditions, hypothyroidism, chronic fatigue syndrome, and fibromyalgia.* For elderly people, dysthymia may arise due to the challenging life changes they face as they age.  This may include chronic illnesses or physical disability, brain function decline, or the loss of a spouse.  

Diagnosis and Treatment

People who have dysthymia often don’t obtain treatment – the symptoms often develop slowly and then become integrated into a person’s life, causing them to believe it’s just a part of who they are. This is especially true for those people who develop this disorder early in their lives.  However, it’s important that persistent depression is treated. People who have dysthymia are at a higher risk of developing major depression. Experts have termed this condition “double depression.”*

If a person has been suffering from a depressed mood over the period of two years and has some of the other symptoms described above, a visit to their family doctor will help.  The person will need to provide their doctor with both the physical and mental ailments that have been plaguing them. If the doctor suspects persistent depressive disorder, he or she may start with a physical examination.  This is done because dysthymia may be caused by an underlying medical condition.  Laboratory and blood tests may also be given to provide further insight.  Finally, the doctor may conduct a psychological examination.

Treatment for dysthymia involves anti-depressants, psychotherapy, or a combination of both.  There are a few types of anti-depressants that are prescribed for this type of depression; however, the most common type used are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).  Experts point out that SSRIs tend to work well for most people and have more bearable side effects than other types of anti-depressants. These drugs don’t work overnight; it may take several weeks for them to make a difference in the affected person’s life.

Psychotherapy involves talking to a mental health professional.  This can give the person some insight about the condition, as well as their own emotions, thoughts and behaviour.  A good mental health professional can help teach the person how to deal with stress, negative thought patterns, and self-defeating behaviors. Psychotherapy can provide a person with the everyday skills they need to battle their persistent depression.  They can also suggest support groups, if needed. 

Jenny doesn’t have to live the rest of her life suffering with the “grays” of dysthymia that greatly limit her happiness and well-being.  If she takes that first step by visiting her doctor and describing her symptoms, there are treatments available to help her fight back against persistent depressive disorder and take back her life. 

Sources Cited List

*Swartz, Karen, MD. The Johns Hopkins White Papers. Depression and Anxiety. 2014. Remedy Health Media: New York, NY.  Print. 

 

 

3 Top Websites for Mental Health

Bea Boomer’s Vital Aging Project – Day 55 – 5/8/15 

Young Woman in Despair sitting against wall in monochrome

Mental Health America

America’s largest and oldest community-based network for mental health.

Founded in 1909, Mental Health America’s goal is to promote mental health by means of prevention, early identification/intervention, and care/treatment of mental health conditions

Within the site’s Living Well link, you’ll find resources for: 

  • Living your life well: top 10 tools, stress screener, fast facts about stress and more.
  • Living your life well on campus: special resources for college students.
  • Living your life well at work: work/life balance, signs of a healthy workplace, and more.
  • Complementary medicine:  alternative medicine options for mental health conditions.

Within the Finding Help link, you’ll find:

  • Screening tools for common mental health conditions
  • Available treatment options
  • MHA affiliates in your community/area
  • Tools and other resources to help with recovery from a mental health condition

The Mental Health Information link provides discussions about mental health conditions from A – Z.  If you want to make a difference, you can join MHA’s advocacy network.

Psych Central 

This website has been around since 1995, and defines itself as “today’s modern voice for mental health information, emotional support and advocacy.”  Psych Central offers over 200 online support groups.

Psych Central’s blog offers a wide variety of articles covering many topics.  Current posts included:  The Worry List, More Creative Ways to Manage Sadness and Anxiety, and Raising Boys to Become Confident Men, just to name a few.

This site also offers screening tools for a variety of mental health disorders and symptoms, an Ask the Therapist feature, daily news and research updates; and of course, where to find help when you need it.

MentalHealth.gov

The content at this site comes from several governmental sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, FindYouthInfo.gov, Medline Plus and the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

MentalHealth.gov links include: The Basics (What is Mental Health, Myths & Facts, Recovery is Possible) – What to Look For (focuses on the different types of mental health disorders along with information about suicide) – Talk about Mental Health (how to start the conversation about mental health disorders and get needed support) – How to Get Help – (resources for getting immediate help, help for veterans and their families, etc.)

This site also provides the Suicide Prevention Lifeline:  1-800-273-8255 and the Veteran’s Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 (Press 1). 

 

 

Is Depression in Old Age Normal?

Bea Boomer’s Vital Aging Project – Day 54 – 5/6/15
I originally wrote this post back in 2011, but wanted to re-post it for Mental Health Month, and to honor my mom, who would have been 100 in March of this year. 
Mom Young
Way back in the early eighties, my mom moved from the house she had lived in for 30+ years to move into a senior citizen apartment complex that had recently been built in her neighborhood.  At the time, I remember her being sad about leaving her home, yet excited at the prospect of starting a “new life” in her apartment.
Mom had fun there: Meeting new friends, having family parties in the community room, dressing up in costumes for the annual Halloween parties, and babysitting her younger grandkids in her compact apartment with its Oriental decor (who knows, maybe in a previous life, she was Asian. In her current life, though, she was a little Polish-American lady who could play the harmonica and fried up a heluva potato pancake).
 
She’d travel to Arizona, alone on a plane, to visit my sister and brother-in-law. On the plane, she’d always meet a new friend.  I was always amazed at how easily she made friends. She’d go on bus trips with her friends or close relatives. She enjoyed her life. 

Fast forward several years.  As old age caught up with her, mom had to move from her apartment to an assisted living facility.  She not only had to give up many of her treasured possessions (there isn’t too much you can fit into a room shared with two other ladies) she also lost her sense of independence.  She grew more dependent on her children and was in and out of the hospital for various complications from heart disease and diabetes.  I can imagine that she felt hopeless and at a loss at how to regain her sense of self.

I remember her saying things like “I don’t belong here; these people are OLD, and they’re all senile! (Mind you, she was around 80 when she moved into the facility.)  I’m pretty certain that every one of them wasn’t senile, but that’s how she saw it.
It took her a long time to adjust. In fact, I’m not sure she ever did. In the back of her mind, she clung to the thought of going back to her old life. I believe she became depressed.  She never really bounced back and became her “old self” again. She suffered even further when her only son, Joe, died at the age of 50, a week after she moved into a nursing facility in Northern Michigan.
 
Of course, I’m no mental health expert, just a daughter who realized that the mom she knew, who used to sing and hum around the house, no reason needed, wasn’t singing anymore. Is it just a “given” that older people become depressed?The Help Guide points out that while depression is not a normal part of aging, it often occurs when older people face major losses or painful changes in their life, such as my mom did.
Older people often become more isolated; health problems may become more prevalent; they may fear death, or may have lost their spouse or other loved ones.  While some people may be more resilient in facing these kinds of problems, others aren’t so lucky. As WebMD points out in its article, Depression in the Elderly, other risk factors include: living alone, being a woman, certain medications for health conditions, living with chronic pain, a family history of depression, and more.
WebMD also indicates that often, the elderly don’t get treatment for their depression. One of the reasons for this is that their symptoms differ from those of younger people who are depressed, so the depression may not be recognized as such. 
I realize now that my siblings and I should have paid more attention to her emotional suffering. We figured, well, she’s being taken care of, she’s safe in this assisted living facility – she just needs to “adjust.”  If we had taken the time to read up on the symptoms of elderly depression, we may have realized she needed more than just time to adjust. We could have gotten her the help she needed. 
My mom’sgolden yearswere diminished by her emotional suffering.  But I think she knew, despite her sadness, that she was loved by her family and friends – particularly her older grandkids, who remembered a grandma that understood them better than their own parents did, and loved them unconditionally.

For Further Reading:

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May: Mental Health Month

Bea Boomer’s Vital Aging Project – Day 53 – 5/4/15

May is Mental Health month, sponsored by the Mental Health America website. This is a subject that is dear to my heart – not only did my father struggled with an undiagnosed mental illness throughout his life (along with the additional burden of alcoholism); but I’ve suffered from dysthymia (persistent depressive disorder) in the past. 

The theme for this year’s observance is B4Stage4, focusing on early intervention for mental health problems.  

This month, I plan on devoting several posts to mental health topics.  Please help me, along with Mental Health America, spread the word about taking care of our mental health, and helping loved ones when they need it.   

Check out this YouTube video to find out more about MHA’s B4Stage4 campaign. 

Do you tweet?  Please spread the word at Twitter:  

  • May is Mental Health Month #mhmonth2015 Let’s raise awareness! #B4Stage4
  • Don’t be afraid to ask 4 help, get #screened & start the conversation early: mhascreening.org  #B4Stage4 #MHMonth2015

Are you on Facebook? You can create awareness by posting:

(1) Learn the early warning signs.  When you or someone close to you starts to experience the early warning signs of mental illness, knowing what these changes are will help to catch them early. Often times, parents, teachers and mentors are the first person to step in to support a person through these early changes. Learn the warning signs #B4Stage4 http://bit.ly/1Agy9v3

(2) Intervening effectively during early stages of mental illness can save lives and change the trajectories of people living with mental illnesses. Support @mentalhealthamerica and the #B4Stage4 campaign Get #screened, www. mhascreening.org

Visit the Mental Health America website for more FB and Twitter options. 

 

Why Take Charge of your Health?

Bea Boomer’s Vital Aging Project – Day 51 – 4/29/15

Senior Woman Relaxing After Exercise

One day I was talking to one of my sisters about health changes as we grow older and she said “Yea, my health was good up until I turned fifty, then it was downhill after that.”  My sister has the same mindset my mom had:  the “oh well, bad health is inevitable when I get old.”  

Yegads, what an outlook!

My thinking is just the opposite!  I believe that we can and should be proactive about our health, not reactive.  After seeing the health problems my mom lived with, which included heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and osteoporosis, I was determined not to age that way. So far, I haven’t.  At almost 59 years old, I don’t have any of the conditions my mom suffered with, except for high cholesterol, which is controlled by my diet, exercise and a statin drug.  

We have a wealth of healthy aging resources at our fingertips nowadays; not only on the Internet, but in public libraries, bookstores, and television channels such as Discovery Health.  Why not use it to our advantage?  We’re living longer these days – don’t know about you, but I also want to live healthier, physically and mentally.  

Here are just a few of those resources that help us take charge of our health: