Menopause

Perimenopause and Sleep: The Latest from the Endocrine Society

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This post, sent to me by the Endocrine Society, focuses on sleep. The images are from their Menopause Map. Check out the map after your read the article! Click here to access their excellent guide to menopause.


Hormone Fluctuations Disrupt Sleep of Perimenopausal Women

Study finds sleep interruptions worsen during certain phases of menstrual cycle

Women in the early phases of menopause are more likely to have trouble sleeping during certain points in the menstrual cycle, according to a new study published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

During perimenopause – the earliest stage of the menopausal transition – women may have irregular menstrual cycles due to the body’s fluctuating hormone levels. Symptoms such as sleep disturbances and hot flashes typically begin three to five years prior to the onset of menopause, when a woman is in her 40s, according to the Hormone Health Network.

The study examined how hormone fluctuations affected sleep during the luteal and follicular phases of the menstrual cycle. The luteal phase occurs prior to menstruation. The follicular phase refers to the two weeks after menstruation.

“We found that perimenopausal women experience more sleep disturbances prior to menstruation during the luteal phase than they did during the phase after menstruation,” said one of the study’s authors, Fiona C. Baker, PhD, of the Center for Health Sciences at SRI International in Menlo Park, CA, and the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. “Measures of electrical brain activity found that the hormone progesterone influences sleep, even at this late reproductive stage in perimenopausal women.”

The laboratory study examined sleep patterns in 20 perimenopausal women. Eleven of the participants experienced difficulty sleeping at least three times a week for at least a month, beginning with the onset of the menopausal transition.

The women each slept in a sleep laboratory twice – once in the days leading up to the start of the menstrual period and the other time several days after the menstrual period. Researchers used an electroencephalogram (EEG) to assess the women’s sleep and brain activity. Each participant also completed a survey regarding their sleep quality in the month prior to the laboratory testing and underwent a blood test to measure changes in hormone levels.

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Researchers found women had a lower percentage of deep, or slow-wave, sleep in the days before the onset of their menstrual periods, when their progesterone levels were higher. The women also woke up more often and had more arousals – brief interruptions in sleep lasting 3 to 15 seconds – than they did in the days after their menstrual periods. In contrast, sleep tends to be stable throughout the menstrual cycle in younger women.

“Menstrual cycle variation in hormones is one piece in the overall picture of sleep quality in midlife women,” Baker said. “This research can lead to a better understanding of the mechanisms behind sleep disturbances during the approach to menopause and can inform the development of better symptom management strategies.”

Other authors of the study include: Massimiliano de Zambotti, Adrian R. Willoughby, Stephanie A. Sassoon and Ian M. Colrain of the Center for Health Sciences at SRI International.

The study, “Menstrual-cycle Related Variation in Physiological Sleep in Women in the Early Menopause Transition,” was published online at http://press.endocrine.org/doi/10.1210/jc.2015-1844,

About the Endocrine Society: Founded in 1916, the Endocrine Society is the world’s oldest, largest and most active organization devoted to research on hormones and the clinical practice of endocrinology. Today, the Endocrine Society’s membership consists of over 18,000 scientists, physicians, educators, nurses and students in 122 countries. Society members represent all basic, applied and clinical interests in endocrinology. The Endocrine Society is based in Washington, DC. To learn more about the Society and the field of endocrinology, visit their site at www.endocrine.org. Follow them on Twitter at https://twitter.com/HormoneHealthN

Menopause

Mirror, Mirror on the Bald Head Island Wall

Mirror

Mirror, mirror at the The Marsh Harbour Inn on Bald Head Island.

This bathroom has WAY better light than the bathrooms in my old house. I see in gory detail how much I’ve aged. The wrinkles. The dark circles. The age spots. Sometimes, I am astounded.

And so in a place I love the most, I gaze at myself in my worst light, at least on the outside.

Is it best to note the effects of aging? Breathe it in? Get it?

Or is it better to ignore, to not care, to float through these later years without any concern over wrinkles?

I meet women who don’t seem to give a flip. I read of others who go to great lengths (and pain and money) to try to maintain their youth.

Check out this article o“Beauty for Life: 6 Steps to Accepting Agingfrom the Oprah website and this article from WebMD on “The Art of Aging Gracefully.” 

And here’s a fascinating piece in Psychology Today by Jere Daniel, who writes: “Fear of aging is the single most powerful agent creating exactly what we fear.” In other words, we’re making ourselves even older by worrying about aging. Yikes! We’re sunk!

Since I can’t figure out how to handle looking old, I use the Bald Head mirror to help me slap on sunscreen and a bit of makeup, and I head out to soak up the beauty of the island.

What about you? Do you have aging beauty figured out yet?

View from Inn

Marsh Harbour Inn

Menopause

Playgrounds and Passages

Playground

About twenty-five years ago, my mom described a dinner she hosted in Baltimore for Cousin Jim, visiting from Canada.

“Your brother’s children (two and three at the time) didn’t behave very well.” She paused and then said, “I think Jim is glad his own kids are grown.”

Zam! Mom’s comment really struck me (and for some reason has stayed with me).

Having grown children means you’re old (or at least it did to my thirty-year-old self).

Who wants to be old? Wouldn’t you rather deal with pesty kids than be old?

Jump back to now.

I’m walking in Gold Park on a steamy, soupy August morning. I pass the playground.

“Dad, Parker is being mean.”

“Then just play your own way,” says Parker’s dad from the bench. “Be imaginative.”

More whining.

“Colin, Parker doesn’t own the playground,” says the dad. “Go play on another piece of equipment.”

Whining encore.

“You boys just need to play separately.”

Then like a see-saw slamming to the ground, I get it.

Been there, done that.

I’m my mom. I’m Cousin Jim.

“See ya, Parker and Colin,” I say to myself as I head across the bridge for home. “I’ve invited grownups  for a beer tasting. Got to bake some cheese straws.”

 

Bridge

Old has  some advantages!

What about you? Would you like to be thirty, raising Parker and Colin, or are you content with the age you are?

Mom’s Cheese Straws

Two cups flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

One cup very sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Six tablespoons butter, slightly softened

Eight or so tablespoons cold water

Blend dry ingredients. Add the cheese. Slowly add water and cut in like you’re making pie crust. Roll the dough pie crust thin. Cut into strips 1/4 inch wide with a sharp knife or pastry wheel. Bake on greased cookie sheets until golden brown. These keep well.

Cheese Straws

 Disclaimer: My brother’s children turned out wonderfully, and I’m sure Parker and Colin will too!

Menopause

Going Grey: The Kitty Doesn’t Need Blue Shampoo! Why Should I?


KITTY

A post by blogger and landscape architect Amelia Grant:

I have a fluffy white cat. Long hair, heirloom cat, this cat belonged first to my parents and then to my brother, all have passed on – yet the cat is still around.

My parents got the cat the year before my father passed on, and she was my mother’s best friend until she died; then my brother adopted the cat and he passed on.

A friend suggested maybe I did not want this cat due to her track record with owners. Me being me, I just couldn’t give her away; she meant a lot to all of them. I have two additional siblings, both have cats and I was the only one who would take her. I was very hopeful my greyhounds wouldn’t eat her (they haven’t.

There is a common trait in my family, premature grey hair.

I have no recollection of my father having hair with color. He had a lot of hair. Just no color, totally white, always.

I began to realize I was there when I couldn’t tell if the hair on the floor came from me or the cat. And, the thing is, it was his cat. Ouch.

This engendered some deep thinking.

What is it about grey hair?

I am not one to think of metaphorical things, but I think the issue with grey hair is its symbolism of senescence. Like leaves changing colors in autumn before they fall to the ground.

It takes some guts to leave your grey hair in its natural state. I always think that when I see a woman with a great head of grey hair.

For many years I have glazed my hair, it ends up taupe. I actually like the taupe hair. Since I moved to a small town I have been unable to find anyone who knows how to glaze hair.

The only professional hair coloring here is done with permanent dye and I am not willing to go there. We have extremely high iron content well water in the area that affects hair colorants and I have seen more than one lady with black hair and orange roots, reminiscent of Halloween and not in a good way.

Recently, men have begun to compliment my hair color. Or lack thereof. It feels similar to getting 5 Likes on your blog or Facebook page.

A guy actually said to me, “I think your salt and pepper hair is sexy.”

Another one said “I really like your hair color.”

Whoa! This happened at two holiday parties, so there was alcohol involved, and I think that enhances the likelihood of an honest opinion?!

When I hear this from women it usually goes, “I wish my hair had turned grey liked yours did, mine is such an awful color I had to dye it?!”

Yeah, right. I have a hard time buying into this, as the color of your hair tends to mark you by age group. Old and not old. Women for the most part prefer the not old appearance.

My first encounter with this was, at age 43, I was asked by a supermarket checker it I wanted the Senior Discount. I said ,“Sure. How old do I have to be?”

She said “60” and I said, “I will be 60 in 17 years, thanks for asking”…and yes, my hair had some pretty serious salt in it by then. My husband is 14 years older and nobody was asking him this question. His hair is still mostly brown.

About twenty-five years ago, a client of mine made the comment I was “seasoned,” meaning I had enough work experience to know what I was doing.

In retrospect, I am not sure that was really true.

Then it occurred to me if I was seasoned twenty-five years ago, by now I was a fine barrel-aged whiskey. This works for me, some things do improve with age!

In an effort to embrace my inner Single Malt Scotch, I am going to keep the grey hair for a while. 

P.S. My kitty’s name is Sweetie Pie.

Kitty

Amelia Grant is an experienced Landscape Architect/Designer who a few years back left the big city of Atlanta for an idyllic life in a small town in South Florida. The ensuing experiences led to a blog and new found pleasure in writing and sharing information online.

Amelia’s  blog, The Shrub Queen, may be found at theshrubqueen.wordpress.com.

For a contrasting opinion, check out Gail Crane’s post, To Be or Not to Be–Grey Hair, That Is.

 

Menopause

Growing Old Gracefully: Let Your Spirit Carry You…

 04 - Sept 6 2011 - Evelyn Baxter photo - best

A post by photographer and writer Barb Mayer:

It’s somehow fitting that the oldest woman I have had the privilege of befriending has taught me the secret of being eternally young.

At 95 Evelyn no longer feels the need to impress or  the need to modify her appearance to please others.

Advancing age has brought with it a new sense of freedom. “If it hasn’t killed me yet, I’m not going to worry about it,” is her justification for eating the rich chocolate cake sitting in front of her, though she recently learned she has borderline diabetes.

In her early 80s she lost her partner of fifty years to cancer. Though she went through a period of mourning, she didn’t drown in her sorrows.

She took a trip to Hawaii with her family and learned a new sport – surfing. Her son and granddaughter, buffeted and bruised by the waves, quickly gave up. Evelyn persevered and, much to her delight, managed to stand up on the board, feeling the freedom of the waves draw her into the shore.

Her memory is not what it used to be, and I know it’s a subject she doesn’t like to talk about. If she can’t find something in the kitchen, she invariably blames her son. “He’s always moving things on me,” she states accusingly, and I flash her an empathetic look that says… yes, men are like that, aren’t they?

When she tells me the same story she has told me for the last three days, I listen intently, as though it were the first time. I know that the telling gives her great pleasure and I enjoy listening to anecdotes of a life lived before television, before cars and before cell phones.

We no longer do aerobics together at the senior center. Her sense of balance is starting to fail and the long walks we used to take together have become dramatically shorter. But her enthusiasm for life remains unabated.

The other day we sat around her kitchen table and, brush in hand, she gave me pointers on the art of watercolor painting, a hobby she took up in her mid 60s.

Though her body is beginning to fail, her zest for life has remained intact. In the four short years I have known her, she has taught me a valuable lesson.

No matter how far along you are on the path of life, when you let your spirit carry you, it’s possible to grow old gracefully and happily.

Barb

Barb Mayer is an award-winning photographer and freelance writer who enjoys creating works to inspire and enlighten. Her latest project combines photography with music and inspirational quotes (click here to view The Poetry of the Earth and she is an occasional contributor to the anthologies of  June Cotner.

She loves spending quiet time writing and gardening in her small country house near Rome, Italy.  Her time in the States is spent traveling and visiting family and friends. You may contact Barb and learn more about her writing and photography at her web site: www.barbmayer.com.

In the top photo, Evelyn is sporting her favorite pair of Italian shoes. The photo was taken by Barb.

Aging, Menopause

Are You a Calendar Girl? The Downsizing Continues (and Cafe Steamers)

Green Plate

The project continues!

High on a shelf, I discovered these darling calendar plates my mom picked up somewhere.  They’re keepers. How fun to have your lunch on another decade!

Deep in the trenches of our storage room, I dug out a stack of nine old calendars.

I don’t know why I kept them. Perhaps I figured they might be useful for kid art projects.

Calendars

I leafed through them:  dentist, doctor, PTA, church meetings, writer events, vacations enjoyed but largely forgotten.

I usually love to pick up a tidbit from long  ago.  A photo.  A letter. A trinket from a trip.  A drawing done by one of my girls.

But looking through these old calendars made me sad and wistful.

When you can flip through twelve pages, and a whole year of your life is gone, that’s a bit too fast for me.

I made the executive decision to put the calendars in the paper recycling bin. If something bothers  you or makes you sad, the experts say to toss it.

Foiled again!

Cliff saw  them and said nope, we’re going to review one a night.

And so we are.

Remembering together makes those busy years come back more clearly.  Lots more fun!

As for the calendar plates, I bought them out of their box and washed them. I’ve got room on my shelf for them now, thanks to some other plates that didn’t make the cut.

Healthy Choice invited me to try their Healthy Choice Steamers, culinary-inspired steaming meals with a crisp and fresh taste.

On  Pink 1967, we enjoyed General Tsao’s Spicy Chicken:

1967

On Blue 1968, we served up Beef Merlot:

1968

Both low calorie  meals get good grades for flavor and freshness, and of course they look especially delicious on my beautiful plates!

You can learn more about the steamers on the Healthy Choice site right here!  

Asian Inspired

·Back to all those years…

What about you?

Are you a Calendar Girl, nostalgic for years gone by

Or are you full steam ahead?

Brown Plate Close Up

Blue Plate

Red Plate Close Up

Disclosure: I’m participating in a Vibrant Influencer Network Healthy Choice campaign. They sent me coupons for Healthy Choice Cafe Steamers and payment in exchange for my honest opinions about the product. All opinions are my own and were not influenced, nor reviewed, by Healthy Choice prior to posting.

Aging, Menopause

Mirror, Mirror! Louise Hawes on Writing and Aging, Plus a Free Novel Giveaway

Black Pearls

A post by writer Louise Hawes:

When you’re a working writer/teacher, you have more occasion than some to mark the passage of time—in your own face!

With each new book launch , conference gig, or writing workshop I commit to, there is always the request for a bio and “recent photo.” Ackkkk!

While I sometimes wish I could send out an airbrushed, retouched, ageless portrait, if I did it’s unlikely anyone at the event to follow would recognize me!

Botox? I’ll pass.

Face lift and tummy tucks? My body and I came to a mutual agreement years ago: we’re in this for the duration, and we’re in it together.

Hair color? Now that menopause has ended regular visits from my “friend,” I’ve decided to spare myself that other monthly pain as well. If I never inhale peroxide again, or wrestle with plastic gloves, or wonder if I put in so much toner my hair will turn purple, well, as the ad says, I’m worth it!

Snow White’s evil stepmother worried a lot about her image.

But it seems to me, her mistake wasn’t putting in all that mirror time; it was the way she looked at herself.

For Queenie, it was all about comparisons: who’s the fairest?

In other words, how do I stack up against my younger self, my daughter, the models in magazines, other women my age, how I looked yesterday, the women I pass on the street?

If you play that game, you’re bound to lose.

But what if looking in the mirror was a win-win?

What if each time you checked your reflection, you laughed out loud? Or cheered? Or clapped? Or cried.

That’s what I do, and it’s not because I’m early onset, either. Thanks to my sister, who’s a painter and teacher, I’m learning to come to the image in my mirror with fresh eyes and an open heart:

When her students start critiquing their work instead of responding to it, Helen asks her students to take a fresh look, to study it as if they’re seeing it for the first time.

“Close your eyes,” she tells them, “scrunch them tight, then open them and see your whole painting at once. Don’t focus on just one part, and don’t worry if some detail is right or wrong. Listen, instead, to what this brand new experience is telling you.”

That’s how I try to look in the mirror now—with my eyes, not my head.

I don’t zero in on the fact that one side of my mouth turns down further than the other, or on that tiny age spot shaped like Bolivia on my right cheek.

Each morning, I introduce myself to me, the me who’s here NOW, not in the past or the future.

I don’t fault find or take out my mental airbrush.

Instead, I smile and say hello. When we look at each other with that unconditional friendliness, my reflection and I?

Mostly, we like what we see.

And hey, if not, there’s always the sign I’ve taped to the glass: “At least, I still have my teeth!”

*  *  *

Speaking of Snow White (writers are sooo good at segues, aren’t we?!), I hope the winner of this book drawing enjoys dark fairy tales.

Black Pearls features all the old favorites, told from angles you’d never dream of!

Booklist called it, “Twisted, clever, and artfully written.” Named to the Hall of Fame of teenreadstoo.com and chosen as a Best Book of the Year by the Austin-American Statesman, this collection was written for both adult and YA readers.

You can watch the trailer here:

http://www.yatrailerpark.com/2012/11/black-pearls-by-louise-hawes.html

Giveaway! To enter the giveaway for a copy of Black Pearls, post a comment by May 6 saying you’d like to win. Winner will be chosen at random.

Louise

Louise Hawes is a founding faculty member of the MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program at Vermont College. Her short fictionhas appeared in anthologies and journals in the US and Canada, and is collected in Anteaters Don’t Dream, and Black Pearls, a Faerie Strand. Her novels for young adults include Rosey in the Present Tense, Waiting for Christopher and The Vanishing Point.

Louise has a grown son and daughter, as well as four grandchildren (not yet grown, but shooting up fast!) She lives in North Carolina and travels frequently, often to give Four Sisters Playshops with Helen (mentioned above) and her three other sisters. These creative retreats explore film, music, writing, and painting, and have been held all over the world.

For more information on the Sisters retreats and a look at Louise’s books and lectures on writing, please visit www.louisehawes.com.

Photo of Louise:  The un-retouched, all-natural photo above was taken by writer and photographer Mamie Potter.

The Cover of Black Pearls was created by Rebecca Guay.