Sep 292014
 

http://www.shmirshky.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Ellen_Dolgen_Menopause_Monday.jpg“Not tonight dear. I have a painful vagina.” Say what? If you’re making excuses to avoid sexual intimacy with your partner due to vaginal pain, you owe it to yourself (and your partner) to treat it.

“The big O” does not mean “the big Ouch.” Recapture the rapture in bed.

Pain during intercourse is called dyspareunia (Say what?). If you’re experiencing pain during sex, you could be suffering from vaginal atrophy (VA). Vaginal atrophy is a thinning and inflammation of the vaginal wall. VA occurs when estrogen levels drop. Estrogens, produced by the ovaries, maintain the structure and function of the vaginal wall, elasticity of the tissues around the vagina, and production of vaginal fluid.

Unfortunately, like the rest of your menopausal body, your vagina is aging too.

Hot flashes, sleeplessness, memory loss and weight gain get top billing when it comes to menopausal symptoms. But vaginal discomfort is every bit as difficult and critical to deal with as those symptoms. Vaginal symptoms can negatively impact not only on your relationships and sexuality, but can affect your quality of life and self-image.

If you’re experiencing these symptoms, you could have VA:

  • vaginal dryness
  • sex-induced pain or bleeding
  • itching
  • soreness or irritation
  • painful or burning urination
  • incontinence (involuntary urination)
  • pain when touching the vagina

Continue reading »

Sep 222014
 

http://www.shmirshky.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Ellen_Dolgen_Menopause_Monday.jpgDid you know that September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month? Ovarian cancer strikes about 3 percent of women.

The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2014 about 21,980 women will receive a new diagnosis of ovarian cancer and approximately 14,270 women will die from ovarian cancer.

Although early cancers of the ovaries generally cause no symptoms, they list the most common signs and symptoms as:

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
  • Urinary symptoms such as urgency (always feeling like you have to go) or frequency (having to go often)

Remember, be your own advocate for your health and pay attention to your body. You need to know what’s normal for you. If you are concerned, contact your medical professional. Continue reading »

Sep 152014
 

http://www.shmirshky.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Ellen_Dolgen_Menopause_Monday.jpgWhether you’re in perimenopause, menopause or are postmenopausal like me, one thing is certain: things are not at all like they used to be.

Hot flashes, anxiety and sleepless nights are part of the package and I’m the first to admit it can be hard to handle. That’s why as I turn 61 this month I’m giving myself the gift of self-compassion. After all, living a joyful life and by extension being kind to others depends upon how kind you are to yourself.

Part of this new normal of being postmenopausal is that I’ve learned to pay closer attention to my own needs. Traveling down this road through the jungle of menopause, I’ve adapted by becoming more self-reliant, making me feel more fulfilled. That’s very different from how the menstruation journey began years ago.

A friend of mine swears that the Miss Deb booklet left on her bed by her mother was the best dollar her mom ever spent! It was a pamphlet for ‘little girls who would mature soon and pretty much took the onus off her mother having the ‘birds and the bees’ talk.

Perimenopause, menopause and postmenopause are far more difficult to comprehend, and even Miss Deb wouldn’t be able to explain their ins and outs in a small pamphlet. One thing is for sure—charting your own destiny can be extremely liberating providing you first lighten up—on yourself! Have some self-compassion. Continue reading »

Sep 082014
 

http://www.shmirshky.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Ellen_Dolgen_Menopause_Monday.jpgAs we get older, it seems like our visits to doctors become more and more frequent. An ache here, a pain there. Truth is, one way to reduce the number of doctor visits in perimenopause and menopause is to actually schedule a few crucial medical tests. That way, you can nip any pending medical conditions in the bud and get on with your, “I’m-not-gonna-let-this-hold-me-back” life.

Please note: This is not intended to be medical advice. Consult your menopause specialist about the best course of action to take, as every women has unique needs.

Did you know that menopause symptoms can mimic those of other conditions? According to the North American Menopause Society, these symptoms are similar to those of thyroid disease, for instance. Depending on your medical history, it may make sense to undergo medical tests to rule out such conditions.

Am I really in menopause?

Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) levels are sometimes measured to confirm menopause. Because these levels vary, you can’t rely on a single test. If, after several tests, your FSH blood level is consistently 30 mIU/mL or higher, and you haven’t had your menstrual period for a year, you’re probably a member of the menopause club. Note: If you’re using certain hormone therapies (such as birth control pills), an FSH test is not valid. Some doctors prefer to test the Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH) levels instead, because they are not affected by birth-control pills. During menopause, AMH levels are decreased. Continue reading »

Sep 072014
 

http://ellendolgen.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/MMSep7.jpgSeptember 7th is Grandparents Day!!!!!!!!!!!! On August 8th in Seattle, Washington, our daughter Sarah and her husband Sol, brought a beautiful pink bundle of joy into this world. I am now a Grandma! Now, I understand why grandparents go on and on, bragging about their grandchildren.

I’m proud, and not the least bit embarrassed to be a Grandmother. I don’t think that being a grandmother ages me. In fact, it’s just the opposite! When I hold my Granddaughter Aviva in my arms and look into her eyes, I feel overjoyed and energized. (The fact that I’m not the one getting up in the middle of the night to feed her may help account for that!)

I didn’t make up Grandparents Day just so I could have an excuse to brag about Aviva. (Who needs an excuse?!) National Grandparents Day originated with Marian McQuade of Fayette County, West Virginia. She wanted to champion the cause of lonely elderly in nursing homes. She also wanted grandchildren to tap the wisdom and heritage of their grandparents. In 1978, President Jimmy Carter, proclaimed that National Grandparents Day would be celebrated every year on the first Sunday after Labor Day.

So, getting back to my granddaughter…. Actually, most of my conversations these days somehow end up back on the subject of Aviva. I guess I could blame it on my menopausal, forgetful mind, but the truth is I wake up each morning anxiously awaiting a morning text flooded with pictures of her sleeping, or a mini video of her bath. Yesterday we had lunch together, thanks to FaceTime!!!

You know, it’s interesting how our instincts kick in. As parents and grandparents, we go into protector mode when it concerns our babies. Even my daughter and son-in-law’s dog, Jazz (their 14 year old Golden Retriever), is jazzed about the baby and eager to protect her.

When I became a mother for the first time in 1980, there was no “use and care” manual that came with a newborn. Most of us just winged it. However, today’s parents do have the Internet and even apps to help them prepare for and cope with the responsibilities of parenthood. But no website or app can teach you how to love your child. That simply comes with the territory. The flood of love and tenderness that is unleashed with the birth of a baby is beautiful to watch and share.

My daughter, Sarah, created a blog to share her pre-Mommy thoughts and feelings. I was so proud of how honest she was about her pregnancy. She shared the good and the difficult times. I had her blog made into a book for Aviva. I think it will be wonderful for her to read her Mommy’s thoughts while she was growing inside of her. I titled the book, Smiles Curls and Baby which is the name of Sarah’s blog. By sharing our own stories we help others.

Welcome to the world, Aviva! I hope you will help to make it a kinder, more caring and gentle place. Grandma is going to encourage you to embrace your role as a female in this world. Learn the delicate balance between cherishing your femininity and embracing your power to do anything that you set your mind to. Oh, and yes, I shall teach you to be prepared for perimenopause and menopause…….but for now I need to teach you spa etiquette. You aren’t supposed to poop during your bath.

While Sarah and Sol are sleepless in Seattle, I stare at her lips, tiny fingers, every sound on the videos and rejoice that I have finally joined the Grandparents Club. I am madly in love!

Gotta go – time to book my next trip to Seattle!

Suffering in silence is OUT! Reaching out is IN!

 

Sep 012014
 

http://www.shmirshky.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Ellen_Dolgen_Menopause_Monday.jpgRight up there with hot flashes, insomnia, grumpiness and weight gain, forgetting what you were going to say, when only half the words are out of your mouth, can make you feel out of your mind! Is what was once crystal-clear now just a tad fuzzy?

Welcome to brain fog. It can be frustrating because it impacts how well you perform everyday tasks such as adding up a tip after a restaurant meal, paying attention during long drives or plowing through a challenging book.

Here’s What Gives

As hormones fluctuate in your body during menopause, cognitive functions are affected. Doctors say self-reported memory problems are common in women 33-55. Additionally, the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN) showed that the cognitive decline you think you feel is real, coupled with the fact that it is also more difficult to learn new things as you go through menopause. However the good news is that the study suggests that this cognitive decline might be time-limited, so as you near the later stages of menopause, you do feel more clarity. The study says hormone replacement therapy works better when you begin early on, say before your last period or by 53 years of age and might have a detrimental effect if you begin hormones much later in the game—three or four years after your last period.

The University of Rochester Medical Center released information that shows what women perceive as memory problems, may actually be related to your ability to learn new information. This is called ‘encoding’ and can lead you to believe that your memory is going, going, gone.

Plus, there can be underlying issues such as depression that affect how you encode new information during menopause. Turns out your mental state of well being has an impact on your mood and even disturbances in your sleep.   More evidence that treating your depression is even more critical during menopause.

Study or no study, I can tell you once I went on bioidentical HRT my brain fog lifted and I was a fully functioning again!

Fight or Flight: Trouble Around Every Corner

You know those signs you see in gift shops everywhere that say, “Keep Calm and Carry On?”   There is a reason they’re so popular. It is extremely important to settle down, stay focused and remember the critical information, while letting go of the other stuff.

We’re overloaded with activities, which can send our bodies into ‘fight or flight,’ which in turn sends corticosteroids into overdrive. These are the hormones we all secrete during adverse events. They’re okay for a while, but if you stay in high alert, they hang around like a bad dream. Best not to get stressed over every little thing because memory is connected to the very way that we funnel our emotions. Each time you process, encode and retrieve information, it is based on emotions and anxiety.

Let it Go

Spending your precious time worrying about everything can be dealt with through mindfulness based stress reduction or MSBR. You can reach that state through meditation and it’s extremely helpful in lowering blood pressure and minimizing the effects of depression.

Here are some other great tips to help you remember:

Bottom line—help yourself as best you can by staying physically active, mentally active (think crossword puzzles or word games) and learn to let go of things over which you have no control.

I recently spoke with Ruth Curran who is the author of Cranium Crunches about embracing perceived weaknesses, and treating them as strengths. This has to do with metamemory, which requires you to recognize your ‘failings’ and turn those ‘deficits’ into greatness. If you acknowledge which parts of the memory process affects you most, such as focusing on tasks or keying in to the point of a story, you’ll understand what needs work. Pay attention to what mental tasks are challenging for you and incorporate brain teasers into your daily routine.

Finally, take a deep breath and relax! Just as soon as you remember!

Suffering in Silence is Out! Reaching Out is In!

Aug 252014
 

http://www.shmirshky.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Ellen_Dolgen_Menopause_Monday.jpgAs we enter the years of perimenopause and menopause, we’re not only older; we’re wiser, too. We must value ourselves and realize that we’ve got a lot to contribute to the communities we live in!

This stage signifies a new chapter in a woman’s life. Don’t write yourself off! Instead, many women simply decide to rewrite their entire book. For example: More than 60 percent of divorces are initiated by women in their 40s, 50s or 60s — the menopause years — according to a survey conducted by AARP Magazine.

We’re all too familiar with the physical changes that accompany the change of life — weight gain, mood swings, hot flashes, etc. That’s why many of us menopausal women seek to find balance, often focusing on the spiritual as well as the physical. Our priorities often shift as we take this opportunity for self-reflection and inner focus. We may find a renewed sense of purpose.

Two Key Attributes of Living with Purpose

Contemplation and activation are two core practices for living with purpose, according to an article by expert Richard Leider for the Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota. Contemplation means seeking answers about who you are, how you should live, and where you belong. Activation is living your truth.

How can you achieve these goals? Start with these exercises:

  • Reflect. Review the day’s events each evening for 5-10 minutes. Which experiences were life-giving? Which were life-draining?
  • Meditate. A study by researchers at the UC Davis Center for Mind and Brain found that meditation increases one’s sense of life purpose.
  • Keep a journal. This can help you reflect and express yourself honestly. Allow yourself to write freely.
  • Write your life story. Reflect upon where you have been, the events that have shaped who you are today, and the future you imagine for yourself. What obstacles do you foresee? How will you overcome them?

Continue reading »

Aug 182014
 

http://www.shmirshky.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Ellen_Dolgen_Menopause_Monday.jpgHot flashes. Mood swings. Weight gain. Osteoporosis. Just a few of the many symptoms of perimenopause and menopause. Add breast tenderness to that never-ending laundry list. For some women, “tenderness” is a gross (and I mean gross!) understatement.

It’s ironic, isn’t it? From our “tender” preteen days, most of us couldn’t wait until that first sign of womanhood. We couldn’t wait to buy — and wear — our first training bra.

Of course, you’ve got to be careful what you wish for. My daughter, Sarah, was a late bloomer and prayed for boobs. They didn’t appear on the scene until she was about 18 or so. Fast forward 16 years, Sarah now writes a wonderful blog called, smilescurlsandbaby – lessons, joys, and laughs in baby making and life! She found pregnancy took her breasts to a whole new letter, “Ain’t Nothin’ But a G-Thang….Baby….”! Now if only we could train our breasts to not be so sore all the time!

Now if only we could train our breasts to not be so sore all the time!

Intimacy Interruptus

Pregnancy is not the only life cycle phase that can affect intimacy. During perimenopause, sore breasts can cause marital intimacy to suffer as well. “My breasts are off-limits to my husband when I’m mid-cycle” said one perimenopausal friend. “He can’t even look at them without getting the ‘evil eye’ from me! My breasts are so painful that sometimes I can’t even bear to have the shower head pointed toward them.”

Another woman told me there’s no way she can sleep on her stomach. And mammograms are out of the question. She suggested that clinics make accommodations for women who suffer from painful breasts. She said she’d probably pass out if she had to undergo a mammogram when her breasts are tender. Since her periods (and thus her sore breasts) are unpredictable, she wishes a few appointment slots could be kept open each month. That way, women like her could make last-minute appointments when their breasts are not tender.

Can you relate? Are you yearning to go back in time to the ’60s, when bra-burning was popular? Throughout our lives, MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This” appears to be a recurring theme. It’s important to note that breast tenderness is manageable and is unlikely to indicate a serious problem. Continue reading »

Aug 112014
 

http://www.shmirshky.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Ellen_Dolgen_Menopause_Monday.jpgAh, summertime. Long, sunny days. Outdoor cookouts. Lounging by the pool.

Say what??? Make that: Long, sweaty days. Internal cook-offs. Lunging for the pool.

Summer can be a difficult if you’re in the midst of perimenopause or menopause.

About 75 percent of perimenopausal women experience symptoms such as hot flashes, according to the North American Menopause Society. If you’re one of them, you know the symptoms — a flushed face, drenching sweat and rapid heart rate — will be multiplied exponentially during the hot summer months.

Blame It on the Bad Guy: Estrogens

What’s causes these sudden spikes in body temperature? Estrogens are the culprits, as they affect your body’s thermostat. During perimenopause and menopause, your body’s estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone begin to fluctuate. The hypothalamus, an area at the base of your brain that regulates body temperature, becomes more sensitive to slight changes in body temperature, according to the Mayo Clinic.

As estrogen levels begin to drop, they can trigger your body’s thermostat to send a signal that you are overheated. This causes your body to send out an OMG! alert: your heart pumps faster, the blood vessels in your skin dilate to circulate more blood, and your sweat glands go crazy to cool you down.

The result? You’re left soaking wet in the middle of a board meeting like me or in the middle of a (rare in this stage of your life) good night’s sleep. If you’ve had your ovaries surgically removed and suddenly enter menopause, you can suffer severe hot flashes immediately after surgery that typically last longer than those in women who undergo natural menopause.

Regardless of how you got ‘em, these hot flashes can disrupt daily activities, nighttime activities (i.e., sleep and intimacy), and cause you to feel anxious or out of control. Oh, the joys of being a woman. Continue reading »

Aug 042014
 

http://www.shmirshky.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Ellen_Dolgen_Menopause_Monday.jpgSeems like when you’re raising kids or climbing the career ladder, it’s all about checking off ‘to do’ lists. Constant activity, travel, ballgames and baby-sitters can make your head spin. Suddenly, you’re done. The kids leave the nest; your career is winding down, leaving you to wonder, what’s next?

You are not alone. It’s estimated that there are nearly 40 million women focused on what I like to call their encore career. After leading a full life, you probably still have 20-40 years ahead of you. It’s time to pursue your passion, using your hard-earned wisdom as the foundation that writes your next story.

Summer and Menopause: Peri-retirement and Reflection

Menopause is a powerful catalyst to look at your own life, especially after taking care of everybody else’s! Your might still be caretaking—we are the sandwich generation—but long summer days, even with hot flashes, offer time to take pause and reflect on what’s next for the central character—you! It starts with taking all the time you need to examine what you’ve done. Summing up your best character traits and abilities is the first step to uncovering your real purpose and joy.

After years of running the kids to all of their practices, ferrying snacks to games and holding down a full-time job, it is finally time to let go and follow your own path and passion. Continue reading »

Jul 282014
 

http://www.shmirshky.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Ellen_Dolgen_Menopause_Monday.jpgA few decades ago, we had a totally different definition of “high.” Today, as Baby Boomers, we often associate “high” with body temperature (translation: hot flashes), numbers when we step on the scale and, for some of us, blood pressure.

While it’s easy to spot rising body temperatures (red faces and sweat-drenched clothes) and expanding waistlines (busted buttons and zippers and snaps — oh my!), an increase in your blood pressure may not be so apparent.

Not tonight, dear, I’ve got a headache

Take, for example, the recent experience of one of my colleagues. One night, she woke up in the middle of the night with a horrific headache at the base of her skull. So she popped an ibuprofen and managed to go back to sleep. The next night, deja vu. On the third night, she woke up and entered “headache base of skull lying down” in the web search engine.

Now we all know it’s not usually a great idea to self-diagnose based on Internet search findings. My colleague found everything from migraines (she had these before, but told me that this headache felt different) to an abundance of spinal fluid to brain cancer to high blood pressure. Continue reading »

Jul 212014
 

http://www.shmirshky.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Ellen_Dolgen_Menopause_Monday.jpgMenopause can be such a challenge. There’s the whole “fuzzy brain” scenario—you know, that “where is my car/my purse/my mind” experience.

Or maybe it’s your body that’s pooping out. You know exercise would help but you just don’t have it in you to work out.

And let’s not even talk about your sex drive. Right now, you feel like you have a starring role in “Sexless in the City!” You’ve lost that lovin’ feeling and you don’t know where to find it!

Is this just part-and-parcel of the whole menopause/low estrogen issue or could something else be going on—like a case of low testosterone (Low “T”)?

Dr. Michael Krychman, Executive Director of the Southern California Center for Sexual Health and Survivorship Medicine in Newport Beach California explains, “While estrogen is critical, it is my belief that there is interplay between lowered estrogen and lowered testosterone levels in women as they age.”

What you need to know about testosterone:

  • It’s part of our hormonal makeup.Not just a guy thing, the steroid hormone testosterone is produced in smaller amounts by body—one place is our ovaries—and is essential for muscle tone, a healthy libido, and strong bones.
  • Enter menopause abruptly and testosterone can nose-drive.While women can start experiencing low “T” during their menopausal journey, which may begin a decade earlier than when menstrual periods stop, a quick jump into “the change” can send testosterone levels plummeting. According to Dr. Krychman, “Many feel that surgical or abrupt menopause can cause more severe and abrupt symptomology rather than a gradual decline. It seems that when science or disease interferes with Mother Nature, she retaliates by sudden withdrawal and plunging testosterone.”
  • Low-T symptoms are wide-ranging. When T levels drop, women can experience depression, fatigue, weight gain, bone and muscle loss, and cognitive dysfunction. Then there is the whole “low libido” issue, which can be dramatically decreased. As for orgasms, if we have them, they can be more “ho-hum” than “woo hoo!” if our “T” level is down, according to a report from The North American Menopause Society.
  • Boosting testosterone levels can help. Supplementing with testosterone can benefit your heart, mood, energy, and bone and muscle health. Additionally, testosterone can sustain skin elasticity and tone, encourage heart health, boost libido, help prevent osteoporosis risks, decrease body fat and increase muscle strength.

Continue reading »

Jul 072014
 

http://www.shmirshky.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Ellen_Dolgen_Menopause_Monday.jpgIf you’re looking for any excuse to indulge in chocolate without feeling post-pleasure guilt: you’re in luck! July 7th is National Chocolate Day and studies show this sweet indulgence is loaded with flavonoids and anti-oxidants known to open clogged arteries, keep heart disease at bay and even improve your mental acuity. What’s not to like?

Columbus Discovered America…and Chocolate!

When Christopher Columbus was offered a sip of chocolate drink or ‘xocoatl’ by the Aztecs, he didn’t like the taste, but Spanish conquistador Don Hernan Cortes not only loved the drink, he knew he had a valuable commodity on his hands and loaded his return ship with cacao beans. He was right: people loved the chocolate drink, but it was a pleasure afforded only the very rich. Eventually, the secret recipe got out and before long chocolate was all the rage in Europe and America.

Popular Food with Healthy Benefits

The popularity of chocolate has prompted hundreds of medical studies to examine the effects on the human body. Dark chocolate, containing at least 70% cacao, possesses seemingly magical powers in opening arteries, minimizing insulin resistance and reducing morbidity. And that’s just for starters. Continue reading »

Jun 302014
 

http://www.shmirshky.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Ellen_Dolgen_Menopause_Monday.jpgYes, the Constitution gave us freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to bear arms (or, in our menopausal state, the right to bare arms).

But think about it. Are you emotionally free? Do you have freedom from a negative self-image? From a lowered sense of worth? Freedom from the word “can’t”?

If not, it’s time to free yourself from the negative chatter (both internal and external) that holds you back from doing what you want to do or simply being who you want to be.

You know what I mean. As women in the throes of perimenopause and menopause, we constantly have to filter out those subliminal messages that make us feel less than fabulous.

I am reminded of the record album (yes, that dates me and I’m proud of it!) and book titled Free to Be… You and Me by Marlo Thomas and Friends back in ’72. Although the overriding theme was gender neutrality — promoting individuality, tolerance, and comfort with one’s identity — a major message was that anyone can achieve anything. That’s a concept we can take to heart as women truly in the prime of our lives.

Our knee-jerk reaction is to blame the media, the entertainment industry and advertising campaigns that — while perhaps not blatantly disparaging older women — glorify youth and, by association, cast a negative light on the natural process of aging. Continue reading »

Jun 232014
 

http://www.shmirshky.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Ellen_Dolgen_Menopause_Monday.jpgMom probably told you to act like a lady, but did she ever tell you to eat like a lady? This breakthrough book does.

Men and women are different. Period. (We get periods; they don’t.)

So it makes sense that we gain — and lose — weight differently from men. That’s exactly what author Staness Jonekos emphasizes in her latest book, Eat Like a Woman.

Jonekos is not only an author, but also a women’s health and empowerment advocate and one of the original executive producers who launched Oprah Winfrey’s first network, Oxygen Media. She spent time researching these gender differences and pulled all this fabulous info together for us in Eat Like a Woman.

She teamed up with Dr. Marjorie Jenkins to medically review the Eat Like a Woman 3-Week 3-Step program. Dr. Jenkins refers to herself as a “womanologist” and is a 2013 Texas SuperDoc. She is a professor of medicine and associate dean for women in Health and Science at Texas Tech University Health Science Center, where she holds the J Avery “Janie” Rush Endowed Chair for Excellence in Women’s Health. She created the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women’s Health at Texas Tech. Continue reading »

Jun 162014
 

http://www.shmirshky.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Ellen_Dolgen_Menopause_Monday.jpgResearchers now know that women are 70% more likely to suffer from depression than man and menopause’s hormonal roller coaster can aggravate the problem. Experts say it’s time to slow down and realize that the mind-body connection is a powerful one. And, much as we hate to admit it—we’re not in charge of the universe—even though sometimes we like to think so!

Taking care of parents and kids while simultaneously chasing a paycheck wears you down. Stir in a few menopausal hormones and you can easily find yourself overwhelmed, stressed and depressed. However, psychiatrist Dr. Harry Croft, principal researcher at Clinical Trials of Texas, says learning to put yourself at the top of the list is critical to restoring a healthy balance.

“Women suffering from depression outnumber men by a two to one ratio and menopause can be the tipping point for seeking the help you need,” says Dr. Croft.

“Stress and menopause can make for an endless anxiety-riddled loop, requiring women to examine whether their current approach to managing their health is really working. For example, low estrogen can make you feel crummy and you won’t function as well. Throw in lack of sleep due to insomnia or waking in the middle of the night and boom—you’re super stressed,” explains Dr. Croft. Continue reading »

Jun 092014
 

http://www.shmirshky.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Ellen_Dolgen_Menopause_Monday.jpgYou may feel like you’re going through perimenopause or menopause all alone, but if you’re married, your husband probably feels like he’s going through it with you! Every night you toss, turn and throw off the bed covers, is probably an eye opener for him. Literally. Every time you complain about hot flashes, he sweats it out. No doubt he’s been the brunt of your menopausal mood swings. And sex? It’s a good test of his memory.

So this Father’s Day promise hubby you’ll take care of yourself… to show how much your care for him.

Find excuses TO exercise

Exercise is important at any age. For women in the midst of perimenopause and menopause, however, exercise is more important than ever. If your ever-tightening waistband isn’t enough reason to get you moving, these facts should:

  • Exercise will help you sleep better at night.
  • Weight-bearing exercises help stave off osteoporosis.
  • Exercise can help improve your posture, giving you more confidence.
  • Exercise raises your metabolism, which can help shrink your expanding waistline.
  • According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, exercise can reduce stress and anxiety, improving your overall mood.
  • Yoga has been credited with improving sexual enjoyment, but any kind of exercise increases blood flow and can boost your libido.

Continue reading »

Jun 022014
 

http://www.shmirshky.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Ellen_Dolgen_Menopause_Monday.jpgThe days are longer, the temperatures warmer, the sky seems bluer. If — despite all this — your mood seems bluer, too, it’s probably because you dread donning a bathing suit for the first time this season.

Let’s face it, it’s inevitable. Like the changing of the seasons, during perimenopause and menopause our bodies change too (and not always for the better).

All is not lost (especially those pesky extra pounds). Seriously, you can either wallow in self-loathing or do something about it. Here are a few ways you can make the best of — and take control of — the situation:Find a swimsuit that’s flattering for your body. One size does not fit all. However, it doesn’t mean you’re relegated to a style of bathing suit your mother might wear. (That goes for the bathing cap and nose plugs, too.) You can find a swimsuit that’s flattering and fashionable. I love the Spanx swimsuits! They are brilliant! You also can camouflage a lot with a stylish cover-up.

  • Maintain good posture. Holding your head high, tummy in, shoulders back and tatas out projects an image of self-assurance… and makes you look taller and slimmer, too. Instead of flats, wear sandals with a bit of a heel to give you a longer, leaner look.
  • If you’re not already exercising on a regular basis, start NOW. Weight-bearing exercises are not only important to stave off osteoporosis, they tone your muscles. Flab is flab (not fab), whether you’ve got a slender physique or a little more meat on your bones.
  • Drink lots of water. During the summer months, it’s especially important to hydrate. If you’re spending time outdoors, don’t wait until you’re thirsty. Take a filled water bottle with you wherever you go. Sipping throughout the day is easier than chugging your daily intake all at once. Keeping hydrated will result in healthier skin and hair… and a more beautiful you. Ice-cold water will also cool you from the inside out when you’re experiencing a hot flash. Stay away from carbonated beverages, as they can cause bloating.

Continue reading »

May 262014
 

http://www.shmirshky.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Ellen_Dolgen_Menopause_Monday.jpgFor many women in their teens and twenties, seeking the perfect 10 of a tan used to be a full-time job on hot summer days. However, those of us going through menopause need only glance at the age spots on our hands to wish we had a ‘do over!’

Skin cancer incidence is up by an alarming rate and according to the Mayo Clinic, it has increased eight-fold overall in middle-aged women since 1970, with women in their late forties showing a marked increase in melanoma. That information has prompted studies of a menopausal hormonal connection to this disease with mixed results.

Spot Skin Cancer

First line of defense is you and the knowledge of your own body. It’s wise to spend one morning a month carefully looking at your skin armed with a hand mirror to see those hidden areas such as under your arms and behind your ears and even between your toes. Tech lovers will be happy to know that smart phones are in on the act with teledermoscopy software for mobile devices. Zoom, point, shoot and text suspicious spot shots to your dermatologist!

The Skin Cancer Foundation lists three basic types: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. That’s the one that can be invasive and very lethal. However, as we age, most growths are what doctors call ‘barnacles.’ They’re ugly, but harmless. So, how can you tell what’s what? Continue reading »

May 192014
 

http://www.shmirshky.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Ellen_Dolgen_Menopause_Monday.jpgJust as your children can’t wait to be out of school for the summer, you can’t imagine how you’re going to cope. Don’t get me wrong. We all love our kids, right? Whether you work outside the home, work from home or are a stay-at-home mom, you’ve got to admit that the prospect of having them under foot (and under your skin) all summer is a bit daunting.

So if you’re looking forward to a stress-free summer, look for ways to make the best of the situation. After all, perimenopause and menopause is stressful enough, thank you very much. Having your kids home all summer long is stress on steroids (or hormones, as the case may be).

There’s the dread “I’m bored” from school-age children all day long, and from college-age kids all night long. It’s enough to make a grown woman cry. (Of course, anything can make you cry when your hormones are in a constant state of flux.)

Deal with the rising thermostat (internal and external)

As if hot flashes weren’t bad enough, your internal temperature is competing with the external temperature for a Guinness record. You can turn down the A/C at home, but you may find the rest of your family wearing thermal underwear in the house.

One way to cope with both the kids’ boredom and your own boiling body is to head to the nearest watering hole. I’m not talking about the neighborhood bar (although, while alcohol can trigger your beloved hot flashes, an occasional glass of red wine can be quite calming). I’m talking about a pool, lake or beach. This will help you cool off, in more ways than one. You can simply escape underwater. You’ll be both out of the sun’s harsh rays and out of earshot from your kids’ whining. Sweat, dunk, repeat. Continue reading »

May 122014
 

http://www.shmirshky.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Ellen_Dolgen_Menopause_Monday.jpgPerimenopause symptoms are like a rollercoaster ride. One minute you’re up, the next minute you’re down and if you want to get off when it gets really scary—like when the car goes upside down, you’re stuck! Does this mean that you’ll never feel balanced during perimenopause? No, you can get off that ride and feel much better. It turns out that yoga exercises can help you reduce stress, relax and yes, even smile again!

I know you’ve heard it a million times before, but it’s true; exercise can really do wonders for you, especially when you’re in a bad mood. My recent article on how to ease menopausal symptoms with exercise explains how getting off your duff can reinvent your life. I’ve even covered how yoga beats up insomnia!

Doctors like what yoga can do for your body and your mind!

A recent study by Dr. Beth Cohen, “Yoga: An Evidence-Based Prescription for Menopausal Symptoms,” published by the Journal of the North American Menopause Society found that the 120 women between 40 to 50 who participated in the study; yes, these women had a variety of menopausal symptoms. They followed a regime of five 60-minute yoga sessions for eight weeks had a significant reduction in symptoms. The study also showed that they increased their concentration and attention span as well.

Why does yoga work so well? The breathing exercises can help gently reduce stress. The various yoga poses assist in keeping and gaining flexibility and muscle strength. Put those positives together and say bye-bye to yucky and unwanted perimenopause symptoms! Another study by the Roosevelt University Stress Institute in Chicago found that “Yoga stretches reduced physical stress while increasing physical relaxation.”

If you’re worried that adding yoga to your life means you’ll have less free time, you won’t. You can do poses while watching TV—talk about multitasking! Or close the door to your office and practice a pose or two. Continue reading »

May 052014
 

http://www.shmirshky.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Ellen_Dolgen_Menopause_Monday.jpgRemember, M&M’s, that milk chocolate candy that melted in your mouth—not in your hand? At our age, M&M may have another meaning—Motherhood and Menopause. You may find that it is you that is melting down as your perimenopause and menopause hot flashes and other symptoms are spiraling out of control.

Motherhood and Menopause are strange bedfellows. With more women giving birth at 40+, the two M’s can become a challenging tag team.

How to keep calm and carry on, while not losing it with your kids on a daily basis?

Menopause Remedies:

  • Friends
  • Diet
  • Menopause Doctor

Friends

The sisterhood is a powerful group. Friends are ageless—be sure to reach out to them, especially when menopause and depression move in. Even the renowned Mayo Clinic asserts friends will ‘enrich your life and improve your health.’

Menopause support means we share, we listen, and we help each other through good and bad times. It is wonderful to have a supportive group of friends of all ages that you can talk with, learn from and openly share your challenges and feelings. No matter whether you meet for coffee, a drink, a brisk walk or quick phoner –it’s amazing how much better you will feel sharing with your friends! Cheapest therapy ever! Continue reading »

Apr 282014
 

http://ellendolgen.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/0428MM-2.jpgWhen my cousin Karen was diagnosed with breast cancer, she approached it with a skier’s mentality. She knew it would be an uphill battle with bumps along the way. And, although downhill is a good thing to a skier, she looked forward to the next pinnacle in her life.

I’d like to thank Karen for letting me share her story. I think her attitude and approach will be an inspiration to others.

When Karen recounts her breast cancer journey, she doesn’t candy-coat it. She shoots from the hip. That’s Karen.

For Karen, her journey began in in June 2010, when she had her annual mammogram. A few days later, she received a call from her doctor, who told her that a second picture was needed. Karen shrugged it off. Continue reading »

Apr 142014
 

http://www.shmirshky.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Ellen_Dolgen_Menopause_Monday.jpgIf you’re smoking while you’re going through menopause, you may want to put down that cigarette. Almost every day, there are studies being released about what can happen to you if you smoke and are dealing with perimenopause or menopause. The information may help you quit smoking that much faster.

In a recent research study published online in the journal Menopause, researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania report the first evidence showing that smoking causes earlier signs of menopause. The study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Perelman School of Medicine Translational and Clinical Research Center, and the Perelman School of Medicine Center of Excellence for Diversity.

In an announcement of the study’s findings, it was noted that although previous studies have shown smoking hastens menopause by approximately one to two years regardless of race or genetic background, this study is the first of its kind to demonstrate that genetic background is significantly associated with a further increased risk of menopause in some white women who smoke. In the case of heavy smokers, this can be up to nine years earlier than average in white women with certain genetic variations. Genetic variation refers to diversity in gene frequencies, and can refer to differences between individuals or to differences between populations. In this case, we’re talking about differences between individual women in the study. The genetic variants were present in 62 percent of white women in the study population. Continue reading »

Apr 072014
 

http://www.shmirshky.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Ellen_Dolgen_Menopause_Monday.jpgCelebrities and friends were shocked when L’Wren Scott, glamorous model-turned-designer girlfriend of Mick Jagger, committed suicide in her upscale New York apartment.   Once again, life is not always as it seems and fighting to maintain that illusion can be deadly, especially as women grow older.  Scott’s suicide, at the age of 49, is raising the question of whether undiagnosed menopausal depression played a role.  Although that is just a theory, experts now know that the risk of suicide increases dramatically as we cross the threshold of middle age.

Although there’s no definitive link between celebrity designer L’Wren Scott’s suicide and menopausal depression, the tragedy spurred a fellow celeb to hop on Twitter and get the conversation rolling about menopausal depression and whether women are really paying attention to the signs. Recently, a study by the CDC showed that suicides in middle-aged persons (ages 35-64) increased by 28% over a 10-year time frame.  It’s probably no coincidence that those high numbers reflect the transition of vibrant baby boomers into middle and older age.

If you really don’t feel like your “normal” self and are struggling to find any joy in your day, please take the time to be evaluated and treated by a knowledgeable doctor.  If these feelings of depression are happening in partnership with perimenopause or menopause, step back and take stock. It could be menopausal depression creeping in alongside the hot flashes and insomnia. Continue reading »