Sunday, 30 April 2017

My Post 50 Yoga Journey: It’s About Mind, Body, and Spirit

Welcome to yoga training Methods & Techniques I,” said my instructor B as she addressed our first weekend class at Lourdes Institute of Wholistic Studies in Camden, NJ. “We come together as strangers, but we leave as a tight-knit community. These are your sisters.”

There are five women, or should I say five yoginis (female yoga practitioners are called yogini, male are yogi), in the YTT200 program this year. By May 2016, after 200 hours of training, we will be eligible for our first yoga teacher certificate from Yoga Alliance.

Discovering My True Self

I was excited and anxious to begin training. I started practicing yoga about seven years ago, after my husband passed away. It helped me heal my mind, body and spirit and work through my grief. It continues to provide an outlet for “letting go” and “slowing down,” which is an ongoing challenge for me since retiring from my fast-paced, full-time job.

“Explore your own creative expression as a yoga teacher, ” said B. “Don’t worry about anything. I’m looking at your growth during this training.”

Om, om, om, I breathed in and began to relax on my mat. This journey I am embarking on for the next nine months is sacred. Am I ready to discover more about my own true self? Am I prepared for what lies deep within?

Yes, yes, yes. It’s a bit scary delving deep, yet, at the same time, freeing. Plus, I’m eager to improve my own strength, flexibility and balance during my life after 50 and share all the benefits that yoga has to offer with others.
The Eightfold Path
B explained the “Eightfold Path” Of Ashtanga Yoga according to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, who lived and wrote a long, long time ago between what is thought to be 200 BC and 200 AD. The guidelines start at the base with yamas (restraints such as nonviolence and truthfulness) and niyamas (behaviors and observances such as contentment and cleanliness). The path moves up the hierarchy to asanas (postures), pranayama(controlled breathing), pratyahara (closed eyes to be with yourself), dharana (concentration), dhyana(meditation) and, finally, to samadhi (a blissful state of spiritual freedom).

“It is a roadmap to get to samadhi,” said B. “It can be a lifelong journey. There is always a deeper experience.”

Am I ready to walk this spiritual path? Yes, yes, yes. I have a strong desire to live a balanced life—mentally, physically and emotionally—during my second act.
Sequencing a Yoga Lesson

During our Saturday session, we learned how to create a lesson plan. “Follow the threefold sequencing approach,” said B. “First centering, next content and finally relaxation/meditation.”
Centering: I sat cross-legged with my body in alignment on a blanket on my mat. Centering can be done lying down too. “It’s about becoming more aware of your body and your breath,” said B. There was much to learn about the breath experience or, as a yogini says, pranayama. Our instructor M would cover more about breath on Sunday.

Our yoga instructor B taught us how to begin a class with centering.

“Ask students to set an intention and read a quote or piece of poetry or blessing for the beginning or end of practice,” said B. (My intention lately has been gratitude for all that I can do in each moment.)
Content: This is the main portion of a yoga class. As a first step, we learned warm-ups, including the joint-freeing series to massage all the joints in our body from head to toe. Then we studied and practiced the six movements of the spine—back bends, forward folds, side stretches to the right and left and twists on both sides.

B showed us ways to ensure that our students are safe during all of these poses, and we learned how to marry movement with breath. “Breathe steady,” said B. “Whenever you expand your chest, you inhale. Whenever you round your chest you exhale. When you are going up, you inhale and when you are going down you exhale.” (I hope my menopausal brain can remember all these steps. It’s a practice, Judy! It’s a practice, I reminded myself.)

Following warm-ups, come energizing poses, such as the warrior series and sun salutations. Then cool-down poses, like happy baby, legs up the wall and supported bridge. There will be many poses to learn in the coming months.

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Tylenol or Advil? Not Created Equal for Pain Relief

As we move merrily along into our so-called midlife, it’s not uncommon to feel pesky, everyday aches and pains from things like headaches, back pain, arthritis, sciatica … the list goes on.

Because I exercise pretty frequently, it’s not unusual for me to feel pain from time to time (yes, I’ll admit pushing myself beyond my reasonable limits every once in a while!). Granted, I can’t always blame exercise—although I hate to use the age card to start complaining … so I won’t.
One of my most recent and pleasant discoveries for pain management has been self-massage for various aches and pains; my favorite thing to use is a hand-held massager, like these made by Wahl.
But that’s not always the only remedy. My medicine cabinet is filled with different over-the-counter pain relievers, among them Tylenol and Advil. And I usually reach for one or the other with no thought given as to why I’m taking that particular one, other than the fact I can no longer stand the pain I’m feeling, or I’ve run out of one or the other.

Which is why a recent article in the Wall Street Journal caught my eye: It’s about how all over-the-counter pain relievers do not work interchangeably; apparently they work differently in your body, and they can have different side effects. What’s good for a headache is not necessarily good for achy knees.

The article says: “Got a headache? Tylenol, or its generic version acetaminophen, might be your best bet since it comes with fewer side effects, many experts say. Inflamed elbow? Advil, whose active ingredient is ibuprofen, is likely to bring greater relief. And if you’re trying to bring down a fever, either medication will probably work, although some studies have found Advil to have a slight edge.”
Who knew?

Curious, I scoured the Internet for more info. And sure enough, you need to be selective when choosing which to take for what ailment.
The Cleveland Clinic pitted acetaminophen (Tylenol) against ibuprofen (Advil). They reported that Tylenol works better for things like headaches and arthritis, while you’re better off with Advil for things like fever, pain and inflammation.
Although both medications are considered to be safe, the word “safe” has some caveats:
They can be toxic. Taking too much Tylenol can be damaging to your liver (and it may be permanent). Prolonged use of Advil can lead to kidney damage, heart attack and stroke.
They can have side effects: Tylenol’s side effects are minimal, although it can, on rare occasions, cause potentially fatal skin reactions. Advil may give you severe stomach bleeding (as in ulcers), heartburn,gastrointestinal upset and/or constipation.

And it’s important to know a few other facts:

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is present in over 150 other products, including those used to treat coughs and colds, allergies, pain and sleep disturbances; always check labels for acetaminophen or APAP to avoid overdose. The new daily limit is 3,250 mg. of acetaminophen—that’s equivalent to 10 regular or six extra-strength pills each day. If acetaminophen is present in multi-symptom products you take, include that amount in your daily total. And you should not take it if you have three or more alcoholic drinks a day.

Ibuprofen (Advil) should be avoided before and after heart surgery and should not be used if you have an allergy to aspirin, naproxen (Aleve) or other NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like Motrin). The risk of bleeding is increased for those over age 60 and for people with ulcers. Be cautious, too, if you take steroids, blood thinners or other NSAIDs, or consume more than three alcoholic beverages a day.

If you need an analgesic often (like for treating a high fever or chronic pain), experts advise alternating dosesof Tylenol and Advil, which can minimize side effects while providing greater relief.
And of course, if you experience any type of allergic reaction, stop taking the medication and seek immediate help.

An interesting aside: Two recent studies found that along with dulling your physical pain, acetaminophen might also dull your responses to emotional pain.
If all this information is deterring you, there are also other things you can do to treat pain. The American Pain Foundation lists some herbs for pain management:

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Celebrate Women’s Health Month by Caring for Yourself

May is Women’s Health Month, so if you haven’t done anything to take care of yourself this month, then I ask you to take a moment to stop, breathe and be.

My yoga teacher N sometimes reminds us that “we are all human beings and that we should spend more time being instead of constantly doing.”

Now that I am retired from my full-time corporate job, I am learning to adjust to a more flexible schedule—however, I still often feel like I need to be doing rather than being. Maybe it’s because I spent 30-plus years doing—taking care of my kids, taking care of my spouse, taking care of my mom, taking care of work, taking care of everyone … everyone, everyone, everyone … but myself.
Sound familiar? Most boomer girls are great caregivers to others but are not great caregivers to themselves.

During the past six years, after losing my spouse, selling my house and emptying out my nest, I’ve tried to make an extra effort to take better care of myself. It hasn’t been easy, but I’ve learned a thing or two along the way.

Now, as part of May Women’s Health Month, I’m going to share some of my tips with you.
Do Your Daily Exercise: Every morning I get on my stationary bicycle and pedal away. Now that I am not working, I pedal for 30 minutes. When I was working full-time, I used to pedal for 15 minutes each morning. It’s a great time to catch up on my pile of magazines. Throughout the week, I sprinkle in other forms of exercise like yoga, weight lifting and walking. (During the week, as a special treat to soothe my sore muscles, I get a massage because my friend D is a great masseuse or I take a warm bath with Epsom salts and fragrant lavender oil.)

Eat Your Fruits and Vegetables: I used to do public relations for V8 Vegetable Juice many years ago and ever since I always try to eat or drink my five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. A 100 percent fruit juice, smoothie or piece of fruit for breakfast, blueberries for lunch, salad and more vegetables for dinner. Ooh, ooh, ooh, I should also add my daily serving of dark chocolate covered raisins—raisins are a fruit aren’t they?

Take Time to Smell the Roses: I went to the farmer’s market to get a sweet potato for dinner. On my way to get the sweet potato I stopped in the flower gardens to see all the beautiful flowers. The colors of the flowers were magnificent, truly magnificent. In addition to my sweet potato, I bought a pot of pink flowers and put the pot in front of my house. Now the pretty flowers brighten my day every time I go outside. (Hopefully, I will remember to water my flowers throughout the summer so that they will not die and will continue to brighten my days all summer long.)

Talk to or Listen to Your Friends: My friends help me celebrate my good times and help me manage my bad times. My friends provide fresh perspectives on caring for my loved ones or thoughtful advice when it comes to making some of my big and little life decisions. Sometimes it’s great to just talk to my friends and have them listen. Yes, I’ve learned that listening is not only a good leadership skill for business but a good friendship skill to develop and share with others

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On Being a Breast Cancer Survivor

This essay is in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

This month—plus all other 11 months of the year—I’m reflecting on an experience that has rattled me and turned me inside out and back again. I’m also remembering, missing and mourning all the dear friends I’ve lost (especially my two best friends, Wendy and Shelley). And lastly, I’m holding each and every women who is fighting breast cancer deep in my heart, sending them strength and love.

Imagine, if you can, being handed a gift. It’s not your birthday or any other special occasion. You’re a bit stumped. Why am I getting this, you think? Where did it come from?

Once you take hold of the package—it’s thrust upon you; you simply have no choice—you notice its heft: Its bulky form defies definition. It’s confusing, unexpected and quite ugly. It weighs heavily on you, alters your breathing and makes you quite sad, really.

You yearn to give it back, or even—heaven forbid—re-gift it (but you don’t have the heart to do that).

What is this? I don’t want it. I don’t know what to do with it.
Why me?
Take it back!!!!
But as soon as the gift is given, the giver disappears, leaving you on your own to figure it all out.
You’ve heard rumors that it is, indeed, a gift that you will be grateful for one day. You’ve heard people say it was the greatest gift they’ve never wanted.
At first, you resent it, curse at it and throw objects, like sneakers, at it. It makes you bellow with rage. Hole up under the covers. How dare life go on around you; people smiling and celebrating and enjoying themselves when something like this is in your life?
You place it out of the way, on a high shelf.

But even though it’s not within reach, it brings out an ugly side of you that you barely recognize and are surprised to discover: An anxious, bitter, angry and cynical person. Your former self—the one who couldn’t wait to get up in the morning and embrace the day; the one who made people laugh; the one who loved her children so deeply she was afraid they’d crack under the weight of her hugs—has gone missing.

Time passes. And with each day, you begin to figure it all out. It’s hard work, making sense of this gift. Every once in a while, you glimpse it sitting up on a high shelf and its amoeba-like form begins to take on a more distinctive shape. The edges are not as blurry; the surface not as rough.
You eventually dare to take it off the shelf and hold it.

And when you do, you’re surprised: It’s not as heavy as I thought, you say out loud to no one. It feels quite nice, you think; almost comforting in a way. You stroke its strong, smooth shell, wondering what happened to the bumps that you swore once poked out of its surface.

And just as unexpectedly as the gift’s shape has changed you are hugging it tightly to your chest. As you squeeze it, you know that it won’t crack—by then you have realized your children haven’t cracked either—and you will be OK.

Breast cancer. It challenged, humbled and frightened you beyond measure. It was bumpy, heavy, cumbersome and ugly. You wanted to give it back.

But then … that gift, which metamorphosed into survivorship, sparkles and glows with such startling brilliance that you find that you need it just as much as the air you breathe.

All things suddenly seem brighter, more luminous. Was the color red ever so brilliant and complex at the same time? Why hadn’t you ever before noticed that traffic doesn’t matter and a bad mood will pass? Why did you ever think that a new day was a given and not to be celebrated?

That gift—the one once thrust upon you, unwanted and unwelcome—has morphed into a beautiful swan.

It’s brought new meaning to your life. Along with its challenges, it’s granted you peace, health, serenity and a brute strength that you never imagined could—or would—ever belong to you again.

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Why Second Opinions Count

Actress Rita Wilson, who recently announced her breast cancer diagnosis and subsequent doublemastectomy, did the right thing when she sought out a second opinion. And doing so might have saved her life.

But too many of us are hesitant to question a medical diagnosis: a 2005 Gallup Poll that surveyed 5,000 Americans found that about half reported “never” seeking a second opinion and a paltry 3 percent always sought out a second opinion on a diagnosis, treatment, drug or operation.
Pretty frightening statistics, don’t you think?

Years ago, when my own breast cancer diagnosis was still fresh, a woman I didn’t know very intimately opened up to me during a play date for our sons. “I have a lump in my breast,” she said, offhandedly.

“Did you have a mammogram?” I asked.
“Yes, and it was negative. So my doctor told me not to worry.”
I must admit that I got a little—no, a lot—pushy (in retrospect, it was a good thing, but the fiery passion I felt was out of character for me). “Are you kidding? Don’t take your doctor’s word for it! Go get a second opinion!”
She did. And it was cancer. Today, many years later, she’s cancer-free. When we occasionally run into one another, we hug warmly, and she thanks me for that day.
According to studies, 30 percent of patients who sought second opinions for elective surgery and 18 percent of patients who whose insurance company required them to seek a second opinion found that the two opinions were not in agreement.
Here’s another example of why second opinions are so important: a 2006 study found that when breast cancer patients came to a specialty center for a second opinion, recommendations for surgery changed for more than half, a result of different interpretations and readings of mammograms and biopsy results.
Why would anyone shy away from second opinions?

They may feel that time is of the essence. A cancer diagnosis is scary; and waiting on it is scarier still. Many people feel that they have to act immediately and get treatment right away; taking time to check out options, waiting for another medical appointment and sitting with the worry might just prove too difficult. While in some cases, it’s imperative to take immediate action, most people can—and should—take some time to learn about the disease and weigh their options. Only then can they make an informed and educated decision.

They may fear that they’ll insult their physician. How can I doubt what she’s telling me? What will he think of me if I go to another doctor? But the truth is that most doctors will welcome second opinions from another professional. They (should) understand your desire to be well-informed and an advocate for your own health. Many times they will recommend a specialist for you to see.
They may feel like medicine is an exact science. Medicine has made tremendous advances, but many times, it’s interpretive and not definitive. Not every doctor comes up with the same diagnosis. Not everyone agrees on treatment choices. And not every radiologist interprets imaging tests the same way. Keep in mind that there are so many factors that can influence opinions and diagnoses, such as technology, where the physician was trained, the level of experience in dealing with your particular diagnosis and his or her philosophy about treating something aggressively or taking a more wait-and-see approach.

They may fear they will be even more confused. What if the two opinions don’t match up? Then what? Sometimes that indicates you need to seek a third opinion, and then go with the one that gets the most votes.

They may not want to incur the added expense. Most insurance plans will pay for at least part of the cost (and Medicare will pay 80 percent of the cost), assuming the testing is medically necessary, according to The Patient Advocate Foundation, which recommends calling your insurance provider in advance to avoid any problems or questions about billing. Arrive at your appointment prepared with all your previous medical records (you do have the right to all copies!), contact information about the first physician and, as always, your insurance card, list of prescribed medications and allergies, and any diagnostic test results.

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Friday, 21 April 2017

Heart Disease: Not Just a Man’s Disease

Often labeled the “silent killer,” heart disease is a leading cause of death for women in the Unites States. Yet, only 56 percent of women are aware of this fact. Coronary artery disease (CAD) is a common form of heart disease. It is caused by the buildup of fatty deposits in the arteries supplying the heart with blood and oxygen and is a leading cause of heart attacks, heart failure, abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia) and even death.

Unfortunately, women often overlook CAD because we do not experience the typical indicators that men do. Men typically experience shortness of breath or clutching chest pain while women may experience less obvious CAD-related symptoms. These can stem from less serious conditions, like heartburn or stress, when the core problem may actually be from a blockage in her heart arteries or CAD.

Because these symptoms can be easily disregarded, it is so important for women to listen to their bodies, understand and identify possible red flags, and get to the root of their symptoms.

Here are some atypical symptoms women may experience:
Chest pain, tightness or discomfort
Generalized weakness, dizziness, or lightheadedness
Nausea with or without vomiting
Heartburn, indigestion, or abdominal discomfort
Awareness of heartbeat
Tightness or pressure in the throat, jaw, shoulder, abdomen, back or arm
A burning sensation in the upper body
When it comes to your heart, even the mildest symptoms can be the biggest indicators.

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Breast Cancer: The Good, the Bad, the Confusing

The good news is that cases of breast cancer in the United States, which had been increasing for more than two decades, began dropping around the turn of the century and have continued to do so. It’s thought that the main reason for this decrease is the decline in the use of hormone therapy after menopause.

But here’s some potentially bad news: Breast cancer cases in the United States could rise by as much as 50 percent by 2030, according to some new government predictions. The researchers predict that by around 2030, 441,000 women will be diagnosed with the disease (this is alarmingly greater than the 283,000 diagnosed in 2011).

That’s confusing. How, after a steady decrease, is that possible?

It’s due to the growth of an aging population, researchers say. They also say the specific type of breast cancer that will increase is a type of tumor known as ER- positive, meaning that the tumors rely on estrogento fuel their growth. About 70 percent of women with breast cancer have this type.
But the potential silver lining in this is that the rate of ER-negative breast cancer, usually the type that’s tougher to treat, is expected to drop in the coming years.

There’s also breaking news that’s good for women who have already been diagnosed with breast cancer: Removing your ovaries can reduce your risk of cancer death by 56 percent. And the protective effect of ovaryremoval—the most recent surgery performed on actress and director Angelina Jolie to reduce her cancer risk—is particularly strong in women with ER-negative breast cancer after age 50.

It’s important to remember that breast cancer is not one single disease, but rather consists of different subtypes. Within those subtypes, responses to treatment, survival rates and incidence vary with age, race, ethnicity and a host of other factors.

And although researchers scramble for a cure, spending billions each year and constantly finding new and improved treatments, cancer is still very much a part of our world. So it’s not surprising that the information is always changing and evolving.

What’s clear is that with this new set of statistics comes the opportunity, once again, to be reminded that we must do everything in our power to be proactive about our health and with breast cancer prevention, especially those of us in the baby boomer demographic—those women whom this study was looking at.

Even if you are at high risk for breast cancer, everyday lifestyle changes have been shown to reduce your risk. Of course, some risk factors can’t be changed—like your age, race or if you were treated as a child or young adult with radiation therapy to the chest. But others definitely can.
Don’t smoke.

Limit all alcohol consumption. Drink no more than one drink per day.
Control your weight. Especially troublesome is weight gain after menopause.
Be physically active. As little as 1 1/4 to 2 1/2 hours per week of brisk walking can reduce your risk by 18 percent.
Limit the dose and duration of hormone therapy. Also try managing your symptoms with non-hormonal therapy.
Eat a healthy diet. Get plenty of fruits, vegetables, poultry, fish or other proteins low in saturated fats.
Be vigilant about screening and detection. Don’t ignore any changes you notice in your breasts, like a new lump or changes in the skin.

3 Major Health Threats to Women

Revlon LOVE IS ON Million Dollar Challenge is appealing directly to consumers to help raise awareness and a million dollars for three leading health issues facing women today: women’s cancers, heart disease anddiabetes.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October always serves as a reminder to pay attention to our health. Butbreast cancer is not the only major disease that threatens women. So do heart disease, diabetes and other diseases. And the statistics are staggering:

In 2015, an estimated 231,840 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the United States, along with 60,290 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer.
Although heart disease is sometimes thought of as a “man’s disease,” around the same number of women and men die each year of heart disease in the United States. Despite increases in awareness over the past decade, only 54% of women recognize that heart disease is their number 1 killer.
As of 2012, the number of women with both diagnosed and undiagnosed diabetes in the United States was 13.4 million.

The connection goes beyond these three diseases being diseases that can kill. The three are remarkably entwined.
The Connection Between Type 2 Diabetes and Breast Cancer
Many of the risk factors for diabetes—like being overweight, being older and not getting regular exercise—are the same for breast cancer.
In fact, women with type 2 diabetes may have a slightly increased risk of breast cancer, says a study published in the journal Diabetes Care. Another study found that risk to be as high as between 20 percent and 27 percent.
On the flip side is some good news: That risk may be substantially lessened by moderate-intensity physical exercise, which also helps lessen the risk of breast cancer, even if you don’t have diabetes.
The Connection Between Type 2 Diabetes and Heart Disease
Similar risk factors for diabetes—like being overweight and smoking—are also risk factors for heart disease.
Cardiovascular disease is a major complication of diabetes, as well as the leading cause of early death among people with diabetes. A sad statistic: About 65 percent of people with diabetes die from heart disease and stroke. Adults who have diabetes are two to four times more likely to have heart disease or suffer a stroke than people without diabetes, according to information published by the National Diabetes Education Program.

The Connection Between Breast Cancer and Heart Disease

Unfortunately, treatments meant to help eradicate breast cancer may affect the heart; among them,chemotherapy (especially the medicine doxorubicin
(Adriamycin)), radiation therapy and some hormonal therapies like anastrozole (Arimidex) and tamoxifen.

All of these sobering facts point to the urgent need to raise funds to help treat and combat these diseases. Revlon, in partnership with CrowdRise, has launched this huge new philanthropic initiative, part of its longstanding commitment to women’s health causes.
Nearly 100 charities, including the American Cancer Society, the National Breast Cancer Coalition,Diabetes Research & Wellness Foundation among them, will call upon their supporters and social networks to raise the most money over a six-week period. HealthyWomen is pleased to support this effort.

The winning charity will receive a $1 million dollar donation from Revlon, and the runner-up will receive $250,000.
That million dollar award is the biggest in CrowdRise’s history.
It’s a good time to consider giving to this cause and supporting these charities.
After all, we need to keep all women as healthy as is within our power!

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7 Questions Women Should Ask About Their Meds

Did you know that women have different side effects to medicine than men? And oftentimes, research doesn’t look at the effects of drugs on women.

If your health care provider recommends a medication, ask questions about the risks and benefits before accepting the prescription.

You can start a discussion with your health care provider by asking the following questions.
 What is the lowest effective dose I can take for this medication?
 Can this drug cause dependency or a rebound effect?
What is the shortest amount of time I need to be on this drug, and do I have to wean myself off of it?
What are the potential side effects of this medication, such as weight gain, low libido or liver or kidney problems?
What if I’m planning to get pregnant or have an unplanned pregnancy while I am taking this drug?
 Will alcohol, supplements or herbal medicines exaggerate or block this medicine’s effect?
Should I make lifestyle changes or consider alternative therapies to treat my condition?
When a medicine is needed, the benefits may be obvious and can even be lifesaving. However, with every medicine comes side effects. Here are some particular side effects associated with drugs most commonly used by women.
If you’re like me, having this baseline information readily available will give you a greater sense of confidence and control over your own health.
Hormonal Birth Control (Oral Contraceptives/Pills, Patch, Ring, Injections): Ask about weight gain, moodiness, breast tenderness, swelling, dizziness and the risk of blood clots. Smoking increases these risks. Birth control can alleviate PMS symptoms, prevent acne and reduce cramping and menstrual pain. Newer methods use “third- and fourth-generation” hormones, which can have a slightly higher risk of pulmonary embolism and deep vein thrombosis. Ask about the symptoms of these rare but life-threatening conditions.

Sleep Aids: These drugs can cause drowsiness in the morning, difficulty waking up, mental impairment, headache, dizziness and nausea. There is often a rebound effect, meaning the symptoms can worsen when you stop the medicine. You may need to stop this drug in increments. Some people find it difficult to return to a normal sleep pattern. Before you start with sleep aids, ask your doctor about how much additional sleep research subjects gained on this drug.

GERD/Indigestion/Acid Reflux Drugs: Many drugs in this category block the absorption of vitamins and calcium. Ask about the risks of anemia, issues with bone density and if vitamin supplements are needed. There is often a rebound effect, meaning the symptoms can worsen when you stop the medicine.

Antidepressants/Anti-anxiety Medications:Â Ask about weight gain, tremors, constipation, sweating and low libido. It’s best to work closely with a psychiatrist and include talk therapy. Clarify whether you’re likely to use the medicine only for a short time or if you’ll be expected to be on it for years. Stopping these meds can prove difficult and should be conducted under a doctor’s care.

ADHD Drugs: Stimulants are commonly used to address attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). These can trigger cardiovascular issues, appetite loss, restlessness and aggression. Studies indicate that stimulant use in adolescents, whose brains are still developing, might permanently affect their prefrontal cortex and brain plasticity (ability to switch between functions).
Have you spoken to your health care provider about potential side effects? Share your experiences below.

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How Healthy Is Your City? â€

You know those lists? Healthiest cities. Fittest cities. Best cities for retirement. Best cities for singles. If memory serves me, the only list my city has appeared on was something about cities with the most overweight people. Not exactly a great claim to fame.

recently released its list of the Top 10 Healthiest Cities for 2015, and, once again, my city, Norfolk, VA, isn’t anywhere to be found. The lucky, healthy folks live in:
Minneapolis, MN
Cambridge, MA
Madison, WI
Miami, FL
Bridgeport, CT
Arlington, VA
Santa Ana, CA
Honolulu, HI
Fort Collins, CO
Yonkers, NY

looks at what makes small to mid-sized cities great places to live, work and visit. Its healthiest cities rankings were based on access to quality, affordable health care and healthy lifestyles promoted through infrastructure and amenities. In other words, these 10 cities did a great job providing residents with exercise opportunities, good food choices and strong support networks to help live healthy lives.

My city and region also provide good health care, with several reputable hospital systems and a local medical school. And, living in a fairly temperate region of the South, we have plenty of access to fitness opportunities: an ocean and a bay for seasonal swimming or sailing; lakes and rivers for canoeing, kayaking and other water sports; and all kinds of gyms and fitness studios. Our area also probably ranks pretty well on parks, though maybe not so well on hiking and biking trails.

Truth is, I live in an old urban city, and it can be hard to retrofit our infrastructure to accommodate bike paths or to put a big ballpark in the middle of our city. Our parks, though plentiful, are mostly smaller inner-city parks, but they’re great for taking your kids to the playground, strolling around on a sunny day or joining a pickup game of basketball or soccer, if you’re so inclined. In addition, we have a wonderful zoo and a botanical garden, where my husband and I take longs walks on the weekends. And we have miles and miles of sidewalks, suitable for walking or jogging through our city’s neighborhoods. We even have some pretty sweet boardwalks and seawalls, if you want to walk by the water.

We may not have the greatest selection of farmers markets and fresh farm-to-table foods, but we have some—and the options are increasing.

I suspect where we fall short is on the equal-opportunity-for-all side of the equation, because much of my city lives on the lower end of the economic scale. The food, exercise and health care options may not be readily available to all.

Many cities these days are stepping up their game in terms of encouraging a healthy lifestyle. I’m confident my city could do more, but I also can do a better job of utilizing the opportunities I have.
I can take longer and more frequent walks through some of our lovely old neighborhoods. I can pump up my bike tires and ride to the grocery. I can go to the bay and swim in the summer. I can hit some tennis balls on the neighborhood courts instead of watching TV in the evenings.

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Sunday, 9 April 2017

Are You in a Postmenopausal Desert?

“I’m itchy down under,” I told the gynecological nurse practitioner during my last visit. I was going to purchase an over-the-counter medication for what I thought was a simple vaginal infection. Glad I didn’t self-medicate. It’s not a good idea.

“You have postmenopausal dryness,” said the nurse practitioner. “Your vaginal walls are thinning and irritated due to your lack of estrogen. It’s simple to fix.” She prescribed an estrogen cream. Just a few small dabs worked wonders and now I’m pleasantly hydrated again.

Not Alone With My Postmenopausal Woes 

I’m not alone with my postmenopausal woes (psst, psst, it can impact your sexual health after 50), and soon there will be many more women joining me in the vaginal desert. According to statistics, nearly one out of two (45.25%) American women will be menopausal or approaching menopause next year. While most women are aware of hot flashes and night sweats as annoying menopausal symptoms, fewer know about vaginal atrophy, a condition that effects one-third of women. (OMG, OMG, OMG, that’s a lot of dried out women!)

“Let’s Talk About Change” 
I learned more about postmenopausal vaginal atrophy after talking with actress Brenda Strong, who is spokesperson for Pfizer’s “Let’s Talk About Change” campaign, which addresses the need for increased public awareness of this condition, including thinking and talking differently about postmenopause and sexual health after 50.

“The Other Talk”
The campaign kicked off this week with a light-hearted video called “The Other Talk,” featuring Brenda. An important event in a young woman’s life is when a mother talks with her teenage daughter about sex. Â (Can’t remember what my mom said when I was an adolescent. I think she just slapped me when I got my period. What about you?) “The Other Talk” expands this coming-of-age to the next generation with a dialogue between mother and daughter about postmenopause. (I didn’t talk to my mom about postmenopause, except to complain about all the hair that is now popping up on my face instead of on my head.)

I enjoyed talking with Brenda, who in addition to being an actress (known for roles in Desperate Housewivesand Dallas), is an accomplished yoga instructor. “I’ve been teaching yoga for the last 20 years. I used yoga when I was going through infertility years ago and now I teach yoga for women, for fertility, and for partners,” said Brenda. As a fellow yogi, I was interested in what Brenda had to say about women and wellness. “Gentle and restorative yoga practices help cultivate energy,” said Brenda.

We agreed that some of the best times of a woman’s life are during her years after 50. “Now that my children are grown, I have more energy and more time to focus on maintaining my own health and wellness,” said Brenda. Her tips for women post 50:

Start exercising—it’s never too late.
Make better choices about what you put in your body.
Maintain balance in your life.
Get lots of rest.
Tune in to your own needs.
Educate yourself about what your body is going through during menopause and postmenopause so you can make wise choices to increase your longevity.
“This campaign is a call to take action for yourself,” said Brenda. “It’s not about surviving menopause. It’s about thriving through menopause.”

Speak With Your Doctor

Also on yesterday’s call was Michelle Warren, MD, a nationally certified menopause practitioner and founder and medical director of the Center for Menopause, Hormonal Disorders and Woman’s Health in New York City. Dr. Warren said women should not suffer in silence. She empowers women to talk openly and in detail about their menopausal and postmenopausal symptoms and not feel embarrassed about these topics.

“I urge every woman experiencing these changes to bring up their symptoms to their health care professional at the start of their visit, not when they are walking out the door,” she said.
Are you taking care of your health? Have you seen your gynecologist this year for your annual checkup? Don’t get stuck in the vaginal desert without hydration. It’s not fun.

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My Post-50 Yoga Journey: The First Step

In January I started training to become a yoga instructor. I thought I would share my transformative journey as it unfolds. For fellow yogis, my stories will remind you of why you practice. For non-yogis, come along for the ride—maybe I’ll entice you to try a class or two.
Why Do I Love Yoga?

I began my yoga practice about seven years ago, shortly after losing my husband. It was a way to physically and mentally focus and relax. Yoga and mindfulness meditation helped me heal through stages of grief. According to Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, as interpreted by Mukunda Stiles, “Yoga is experienced in that mind which has ceased to identify itself with its vacillating waves of perception. When this happens, then the Seer is revealed resting in its own essential nature, and one realizes the true Self.”

In some ways you could say I lost my soul mate and found my “soul mat.” Yoga was my ticket to wellness after many months of dealing with my husband’s progressive illness and eventual death. It helped me to stop, breathe and be in the moment.

During the past two years since leaving my full-time job, I’ve grown to love going to my weekly yoga classes. Instead of resisting, I am more open to change. Yoga has shown me how to slow down and find greater balance. I have developed a sense of gratitude for all that I can do.
I am growing and improving each day. An inspiring quote touches my heart. A fellow yogi strikes up a conversation. A perfect pose or an imperfect pose invigorates my body.  Plus, I’m starting to take the goodness of yoga off the mat and bring yogic philosophy into my overall lifestyle. (My friend W says I’ve become very “zen.”)

Last fall, I decided to take a big leap. I went to an open house at Lourdes Institute of Wholistic Studies and signed up for its 200-hour yoga training program.
Welcome to Anatomy + Physiology
I’m proud to say that I just finished my first 20 hours of anatomy and physiology. I learned a whole lot from my amazing instructor N and her skeleton companion, Raja. It was much better than my high school or college biology class. Perhaps I am a more eager student during my life after 50.
Ooh, ooh, ooh, there’s a ton to understand about the body’s muscles, bones, joints and connective tissue and how they all work together. There’s Sanskrit language to grasp—from asanas (poses) and bandhas (respiratory locks for proper energy flow) to ujjaye pranayama (breathing exercises), mudras (hand gestures), mantras(words, sounds or prayers to focus and change the mind) and more.
7Â Tips for a Healthy Lifestyle 

While I clearly am on the first step of my journey, I left my first class with a greater conscious awareness of my body. Here are helpful tips I learned for a healthy lifestyle:
You only get one body (at least in this lifetime), so be good to it. The late, great yogi B.K.S. Iyengar said, “The body is my temple.” Are you treating your body like it is your temple?
Good posture is important as we age. Go ahead, put those shoulders up and back and widen yourdiaphragm. My instructor says, “You want to expand throughout your life.”
Joy is found in the hips. If you’re lacking joy in your life, then maybe you should try some hip-opening yoga poses. Want to know which muscles to stretch? Here goes: psoas, gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, hamstrings. (Go, Judi! Go, Judi! Go, Judi!) There’s more, but stretching these four will get you on the path to a joyful life.

Resistance causes stress. BTW, that stress hormone called cortisol is stored in the mid-waist area. Got that? Yep, the more stress, the greater your middle-aged middle. Whatever’s bothering you today, let it go!

Your digestive system includes some long tubes. The small intestine is about 22 feet, and the large intestine is about 5 feet. (Wow-o-wow, that’s a long way down.) Seated or standing yoga twist scan help move food through the digestive tract.
Your body is made up primarily of fluid. Stay hydrated and drink water.
Be kind to your knees. Raja’s kneecap fell off quite a few times during classes.

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Fighting Cancer Takes Personal Strength and Modern Medicine

Two months ago, my sister, Marie, underwent emergency surgery. They discovered cancer throughout herabdomen, including a tumor on the outside of her colon that had blocked the colon and necessitated removal of much of her large intestine. Monday she began chemo treatments. Today, she is teaching. This speaks to both her strength and the strength of modern medicine.

Just a few decades ago, the type of massive emergency surgery she had and the targeted chemo treatments she is having to fight ovarian cancer might not have been possible. Even now, my sister might have died if she had listened to the emergency room doctor who wanted to send her home from the emergency room with a stool softener.

Instead, my marvelously stubborn sister listened to her body and refused to leave. The next day she underwent the emergency surgery that removed her colon and numerous tumors and saved her life.
Marie has had many rough spots since that day, but she’s continuing to fight the battle. Going back in the classroom to teach English and journalism to her high school students is testament to her big heart and strong will.

Here are a few of the practical lessons we’ve learned along the way:

Listen to your body. In hindsight, Marie realizes she had some early symptoms of cancer at least a few months before her emergency incident. She was extremely tired, had persistent heartburn and indigestion and had one painful bout of abdominal distress that went away after a couple of days. She talked to her personal physician about some of these symptoms, but they both failed to recognize them as anything other than normal aches and pains. I don’t fault either of them, because she didn’t have anything extremely out of the ordinary, but it is a reminder to pay attention to our bodies and not accept as normal things that seem abnormal to us.
Always have an advocate. I’ve blogged about this before, but it bears repeating. You may be too sick or too distraught to totally be on top of everything your health care providers are telling you. If at all possible, ask a friend or family member to be with you in the hospital and at doctor appointments.
Take notes or record it. My sister’s 30-something daughter, who has been her primary caregiver throughout this ordeal, was smart enough to use her phone to record sessions with Marie’s oncologists. Then she typed up notes and shared them with Marie, me and the other caregivers. Turns out, that was important because when my sister went to get her first chemo treatment, they almost gave her the wrong drugs. She had read the notes and knew that there had been a change in the drugs the oncologist planned to use. So, she was smart enough to ask and to insist they go back and check the most recent orders.

Insist on getting what you need. After my sister was released from the hospital and rehab, her insurance company denied her request for home health care. They couldn’t find an ostomy nurse available in the county where she lives. (Who knew there was such a shortage of ostomy nurses? But that’s a story for another day.) She was supposed to go to a local clinic for assistance with her ileostomy, but wintry weather and scheduling difficulties made that impractical. She continued having difficulty with her ileostomy bag, so much so that she was becoming afraid to go out. Finally, nearly six weeks after her surgery, she was approved for assistance. We drove about an hour to see an ostomy nurse, but it was worth it. The things we learned in that 30-minute visit saved my sister from much pain and the possibility of becoming housebound. The ostomy nurse corrected some of the incorrect techniques we’d been shown in the hospital and set Marie up with the supplies needed to make the process much easier and more secure. Now Marie can manage it by herself and is confident enough to go back to work and lead an active life. What a difference the right advice and the right supplies can make!

Stay active and stay positive. Before my sister started chemo, her health care providers told her she’d likely experience the can’t-lift-your-head-off-the-pillow fatigue. And she may experience nausea, a metallic taste in her mouth that makes her not want to eat and, possibly, bone pain. Marie knows and understands these things, but she’s taking the approach that she’s going to do as much as she can for as long as she can and hope for the best. She continues to go out to eat, keep up with her chores, go to physical therapy, visit with friends, go to the movies and even travel a little. Returning to teaching a few days a week wears her out, but she wants to make sure her students learn something this semester. She may fall asleep in the evenings, but she’ll get up and go again the next morning—for as long as she’s able.

None of us know how this will turn out. If all goes well, the chemo will reduce the size of the remaining tumors in her abdomen. In about three months, her oncologist will do another surgery to remove what’s left of the tumors and may implant some intra-abdominal chemo. More chemo treatments will follow. Then, if we’re lucky, the cancer will be gone.

If not, thanks to her good health and attitude and modern medicine, Marie may still have many good years ahead of her. And, hopefully, she’ll continue to listen to her body and speak her mind and get the most out of every day!

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Natural Remedies for Pain Management

There’s really no simple answer to this question, because there are many dynamics—like the type of pain, your background and personality and family and social environments—that can determine what your treatment plan will be, says the Institute of Medicine’s Committee on Advancing Pain Research, Care and Education.

After all, chronic pain is a tenacious problem that will not go away anytime soon and has implications beyond the source of the pain.

Chronic pain becomes more common as we age, and that’s partly due to health problems like osteoarthritisthat become more persistent with the advancing years. It’s no surprise that a national survey finds low-back pain and osteoarthritis to be the most frequent chronic pain conditions older Americans suffer. That’s not to say there are not other conditions that can cause pain as well, like rheumatoid arthritis, migraine, carpal tunnel syndrome and fibromyalgia. In addition, chronic pain can be caused by an underlying disease or health condition, an injury, a medical treatment like surgery, inflammation or a tricky nervous system (known as “neuropathic pain“).

And sometimes, there’s no explanation at all.

But let’s not fall into the trap of feeling depressed, hopeless or despondent.
Here’s some relatively good news for the 100 million adults in the United States who suffer from chronic pain: A recent study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) acknowledges that there are some pain management alternatives to popping a pill or throwing up your hands in despair.
There’s a growing body of evidence suggesting that several alternative approaches—like spinal manipulation, acupuncture and yoga—can effectively manage some painful conditions.
And there’s one more—one of my all-time favorites, which dates back thousands of years: massage.The evidence for massage as a way to manage pain is mounting.
One study, published in the Annals of Family Medicine found that multiple 60-minute massages each week helped people with chronic neck pain more than fewer or shorter sessions did. 
Another study by researchers at various universities found that massage therapy helped reduce pain and improve function in people with low-back pain faster than usual medical care did. 
And yet another study has suggested that massage therapy is effective for reducing pain in cancer patients (at least, for the short-term).

Let’s hear it for massage!

It relieves muscle tension by enhancing blood flow, which helps muscles relax.
It decreases inflammation by activating genes that naturally reduce swelling.
It reduces pain intensity by diminishing bodily substances that create and prolong pain.
It improves recovery by stimulating mitochondria, the “energy packs” that drive cellular function and repair.

I know what you’re going to say: How many of us have the time/money/energy to “indulge” in massages? In my dreams, I have a master masseuse visit me at home at the end of each long, tough week. Presto, change-o: My sore muscles, stiff back and tension float away with their magic touch.
But reality enters and tells me to … dream on.

The solution? An all-natural, do-it-yourself massage; no expensive appointments required.
Take a tennis ball, foam roller or use your own (or a willing partner’s) hands, and massage tight or painful muscles to work out your trouble spots.

Or, purchase one of the many handheld massagers that are on the market. Wahl makes a variety of massagers that are easy to use and large enough to alleviate discomfort in major muscle groups, while being small enough to hold right in your hand.

Take its Deep Tissue Percussion Massager, one of the many Wahl offers. It’s one of the most powerful handheld massagers on the market. Through a combination of interchangeable heads and variable intensity controls, it zeros in on muscle pain that hides out deep below the surface.

True story: My son, a marathon runner and avid athlete, came to visit recently. When he complained that he went a bit overboard on lifting weights the day before, I brought out my massager. At first, he looked at me skeptically. But as soon as I stood behind him and gently began massaging his sore muscles, he wasdumbstruck. I handed it off to him, and he quickly got lost in alleviating all the other parts of his body that he had overworked in his passion to stay in shape.

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Why We All Need to Strength Train

Having celebrated a big birthday recently has made me more sentimental about aging than normal. But with sentimentality comes complaints. Granted, they’re not in a “woe-is-me” kind of way, but with a bit more humor and irony attached to them.

Humor? My feeling is that if we don’t laugh about creaky joints, gray hair and diminishing eyesight, hearing and skin tone, then all that bitching becomes whiny. And who wants to listen to a whiner, anyway—especially an aging whiner?

Irony? To be deliberately contrary sure helps make things funny, don’t you think?
Anyhow, what I’m getting at is this so-called aging can’t be avoided, unless you don’t want to be around anymore. So we might as well do the best we can with it.

And that includes staying strong. Strength training is just as important a part of your fitness routine as is doing cardiovascular work. But sadly, so many women ignore it because they don’t have time. Or they’re afraid of developing big muscles (that’s a fallacy, by the way). Or they’re too intimidated to even try.

The American Council on Exercise says that unless you regularly engage in activities to strengthen your muscles, you’ll lose about a half a pound of muscle a year in your 30s and 40s. Once you turn 50, they say, that rate can double.
I know I can’t force you to strength train. You don’t really have to do it, unless:
You want to lose more muscle mass than you’re already losing with age.
You don’t want to replace the lean muscle you lose, but instead prefer to increase the percentage of fat in your body.
You don’t want to increase bone density and reduce your risk of osteoporosis.
You don’t want to control your weight, since muscle helps burns fat more efficiently.
You don’t want to boost your stamina, improve your balance and maintain your independence as you age.
You don’t want to manage chronic conditions like back pain, arthritis, heart disease and diabetes.
You want to rely on the kindness of strangers to open heavy doors and lift your suitcase.
You don’t even have to go to a gym—you can do exercises at home.
Do I have your attention yet? If you’re starting to come over to my side, I’ll give you a bit more info:
You only need two to three sessions each week to target the muscles in your legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms.
Twenty minutes is enough to get a good strength training workout.
Results are pretty quick; you’ll notice a change in just weeks.
I say no excuses not to do it! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says research shows that strengthening exercises are both safe and effective, no matter what your age, even if you’re not in perfect health. “People with health concerns—including heart disease or arthritis—often benefit the most,” they claim.

Are you sold yet? A good way to learn more and get inspired is with a copy of Strength Training Exercises for Women, by fitness expert Joan Pagano, who writes health and fitness books tailored to women. This book includes and demonstrates more than 200 exercises and will guide you through everything you need to know to stay fit and lean.
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Monday, 3 April 2017

Country Music Star Raises Awareness for Colon Cancer

Country singer and songwriter Wade Hayes was at the top of the Billboard Country charts in the 1990s with his hit song “Old Enough to Know Better.” But his career came to a screeching halt when he was diagnosed with late-stage colon cancer at age 42.

Now, four years and one relapse later, Hayes’s doctor has told him there is no evidence of cancer and that he should go live his life. Hayes took his doctor’s words to heart. He just released an album titled “Go Live Your Life” and is back on tour, simultaneously promoting his new album and raising cancer awareness and money for people with advanced colon cancer, also known as colorectal cancer.

He launched his album in March as part of Colon Cancer Awareness Month and partnered with Genentech, a biotechnology corporation, which will donate $1 (up to $50,000) for every download of “Go Live Your Life” on iTunes. The money will support the Colon Cancer Alliance Blue Note Fund, a nonprofit that helps people with advanced colorectal cancer.

His Story
Hayes vividly recalls the night in 2011 when he realized something was wrong. He’d been experiencing some minor symptoms—bloating, lethargy and slight bleeding—but he attributed them to his lifestyle. He was lifting heavy weights and traveling a lot. One day, as he prepared to fly out for a show, he doubled over in pain.

He did the show and flew back home to Nashville. The sharp pain subsided, but he was still uncomfortable, so he made an appointment to see his doctor. He was young and had no family history of colon cancer, so he didn’t suspect anything major. The doctor, however, ordered tests, which showed a large tumor on Hayes’s large intestine. Further testing revealed it had metastasized to his liver and diaphragm. He had stage IV colorectal cancer.

Hayes also had a condition that caused part of his intestine to fold into another section of the intestine, creating a blockage. That required a seven-and-a-half-hour emergency surgery. His doctor removed 20 inches of his large intestine, up to 75 percent of his liver and a small section of his diaphragm and gall bladder—along with his “sunny disposition,” he jokingly recalls.

Surgical complications and six months of chemotherapy laid him low. He was beginning to get back to normal when he found out his cancer had returned—exactly a year after his initial diagnosis.

His doctors treated Hayes with chemotherapy again, reducing the tumors’ size before doing a second surgery to remove lymph nodes where the cancer had spread. After that surgery, Hayes received great news: his doctors said there was no evidence of cancer and told him they were confident he would remain cancer free.

“We were looking at my blood work and deciding whether to take the port out for the second time, and [my doctor] expressed to me what a big deal it was that I was not only alive but doing as well as I was,” Hayes recalled. “He said, ‘I want you to go live your life.'”
Hayes went home and told his songwriter friend, Bobby Pinson, what his doctor had said. The two of them came up with “Go Live Your Life,” which opens with, “Take it from someone who knows.” The song talks about how Hayes once took life for granted and now considers every moment precious. He hopes people will listen to that message and truly appreciate life and find the things in life that make them happy.

Because Hayes’s cancer was stage IV and had “become mobile,” he will live with that threat the rest of his life. But, he says, the cancer also gave him a deeper appreciation for life. “I realize how precious it is, and how much I took for granted.” Nowadays, he lives with his dog on a farm in Tennessee and keeps his “eyes and ears open all the time trying to help somebody out.”
Singing and Advocating

He feels fortunate to have made a living writing and singing songs, and now, at age 45, he feels like he’s doing something that matters. On tour, he meets with people after his shows, often praying and hugging them and listening to their stories. Because his story was in the news, they reach out to him and he can empathize.

“They want to talk about it with someone who’s been there,” he says. “That’s as big a part of my job as the actual show—taking time with people.” He tells them that prayer and visualizing where he wanted to be when his treatments were finished helped him through his ordeal.
He sees his job now as twofold: he’s a country music singer/songwriter AND a colon cancer awareness advocate.

Colon cancer is one of the most treatable forms of cancer. But, unfortunately, it is one of the most deadly if not caught in time. The American Cancer Society predicts over 136,000 people will be diagnosed with colon cancer this year, and one in five will have an advanced form.

“Looking at these numbers, early detection is key,” Hayes says. He notes that the normal age to begin screening is 50, but he encourages people to ask about earlier screening if they have a family history of colon cancer or symptoms such as bloating, abdominal discomfort, bleeding or lethargy.
Doctors are increasingly diagnosing colon cancer at younger ages. “I don’t want people to have to go through what I’ve gone through and have this on their minds for the rest of their lives,” Hayes says.

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Raising Awareness of Alzheimer’s Disease

When the team at Banner Alzheimer’s Institute (BAI) asked me to get involved in spreading the word about Taking Action Against Alzheimer’s, I agreed to participate in this important campaign. While I feel very lucky that neither of my late parents experienced this devastating condition, I have seen the impact it has had on the families of close friends who have moms and dads with Alzheimer’s disease.

National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month

In addition to being National Family Caregivers Month, November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. I learned a lot about this disease during BAI’s blogger briefing. Jessica Langbaum, PhD, principal scientist at BAI and associate director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Initiative in Phoenix, Ariz., shared some staggering statistics,* which are only going to increase as baby boomers get older:

Every 67 seconds someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death.
Alzheimer’s is the only top 10 cause of death that cannot be prevented, treated or cured.
Sadly, Alzheimer’s has a far reaching impact when it comes to caregiving:
One in 10 adults cares for someone with Alzheimer’s.

Between Medicare, Medicaid, out-of-pocket and other costs, the 2014 costs of Alzheimer’s will equal $214 billion (yes, that’s billions), and these costs are projected to increase to $1.2 trillion in 2050.
In 2013, caregivers provided 17.7 billion hours of unpaid care, which is valued at over $220.2 billion.
Boomer girls, I want you to especially listen up because women are at high risk. “Women are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s because they live longer,” said Dr. Langbaum. “Plus, women are more often shouldering the burden of caregiving for those with Alzheimer’s.”

What’s being done to prevent Alzheimer’s?

As I listened to these numbers, my heart started to beat faster. I wanted to yell and scream that something must be done to STOP this disease from multiplying. I’ve planked for pink to raise dollars to fight breast cancer. I’ve poured ice water over my head to support the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Now it’s time to pop on my favorite color purple to help raise awareness for Alzheimer’s disease—a very devastating form ofdementia.

A new era of research aims to focus on prevention. “Alzheimer’s develops in the brain years before symptoms appear,” said Dr. Langbaum. “Research has progressed to the point that we can detect changes in the brain associated with the disease one or two decades before the first signs of Alzheimer’s.”

According to BAI’s website, “Research into Alzheimer’s prevention is now at a crucial turning point. With Alzheimer’s research a government priority, some of the nation’s most respected research organizations have formed collaborative relationships to accelerate their work.”
Unfortunately, 80 percent of research studies fail to attract enough participants. “Researchers must screen dozens of people,” said Dr. Langbaum. “We may screen 30,000 people to get 2,000 to launch a study.”

How Can You Help?

The Alzheimer’s Prevention Registry is a platform for those who are ready to take part in prevention research. The registry is currently made up of a growing community of 44,000 members who are passionate about combating the disease. Members are provided with updates on the latest scientific advances about the disease and can learn about study opportunities in their community.

Note that you will not have to give personal information and you don’t have to have a family history. As one member said, “I joined the registry in honor of my husband, who was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s at age 50. I can’t bear the thought of one of my son’s developing this disease also.”
Has your family been impacted by Alzheimer’s disease? Please share a comment. Then pass along this post so others can understand the sense of urgency with Alzheimer’s awareness. It’s about our future and our children’s future too.
* All stats are courtesy of Alzheimer’s Association Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures Report 2014.
* Although Banner Alzheimer’s Institute is a nonprofit organization, Judy Freedman was compensated by BAI for the post

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Get Screened: For the Health of Your Colon

Go ahead and blame former President Clinton for calling attention to colon cancer by declaring this month National Colon Cancer Awareness Month. Back in 2000, he knew what he was doing: it’s an opportunity to spread colon cancer awareness.

I know … it’s not the sexiest topic, but we all need to think about our colons, especially once we hit 50.
That’s when it’s recommended you start routine screening, unless you’re at increased or high risk for colorectal cancer; then, you need to talk to your doctor about starting earlier.
You may be at increased risk if you or a close relative have had polyps or colorectal cancer; you have inflammatory bowel disease or certain genetic syndromes likeGo ahead and blame former President Clinton for calling attention to colon cancer by declaring this month National Colon Cancer Awareness Month. Back in 2000, he knew what he was doing: it’s an opportunity to spread colon cancer awareness.(FAP) or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (known as Lynch syndrome).
Some important colorectal (aka colon cancer) facts
Colorectal cancer develops in the colon or rectum (also known as the large intestine)
It’s the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the third leading cause of cancer death in both men and women in the United States.
The American Cancer Society estimated that 136,830 people would get diagnosed with colon cancer in 2014 and 50,310 would die from the disease.
What’s most important to know: you need to get screened. To me, that’s obvious. Colon cancer is one of the most preventable cancers, and screening is a way to reduce your risk. If it’s found early, colon cancer is one of the most treatable cancers.
But unfortunately, in 2010, only a little more than half of those aged 50 or older reported having screening consistent with current guidelines, according to the National Health Institute Survey. It’s estimated that if everyone 50 or older got screened regularly, up to 60 percent of deaths from colon cancer could be avoided.
Screening is so important because early colorectal cancer usually has no symptoms. If there are symptoms, here’s what you should look out for:
Bleeding from the rectum or blood in the stool
Abdominal discomfort, such as cramps, gas or pain, that persists
Change in bowel habits, including diarrhea, constipation or a change in consistency of your stool
Feeling that your bowel doesn’t empty completely
Losing weight for no apparent reason
Loss of appetite
Dark or black stools
In addition to screening, you can do these things to lower your risk:
Exercise. A recent review of scientific literature found that the most physically active people have a 25 percent lower risk of colon cancer than the least active people. The American Cancer Society and the CDC recommend at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week.
Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese increases your risk for colon cancer; this is especially true for men. The most important risk factor is having that extra weight around your waist. Abdominal obesity is a more important risk factor than is overall obesity.
Eat a healthy diet. Research is ongoing, but what is known is that a high consumption of red and/or processed meats put you at increased risk. To reduce your risk, increase your intake of dietary fiber, cereal fiber and whole grains. Moderate intake of fruits and veggies can be protective, too. Eat at least 2 1/2 cups each day.
Get your dairy. There is a protective effect (regardless of milk fat content) with a higher consumption of dairy product, milk and calcium.
Limit alcohol. It’s estimated that people who average between two and four alcoholic drinks a day throughout their lifetime have a 23 percent higher risk of colorectal cancer than those who consume less than one drink a day.
Quit smoking. Enough said.

When you’re ready to discuss screening with your health care provider (and I’m hoping you are), there are many options to explore. Besides a standard (or optical) colonoscopy, there’s high-sensitivity fecal occult blood tests, sigmoidoscopy, virtual colonoscopy, double-contrast barium enema and Colorguard, a new test that was approved by the FDA in 2014.

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