All Entries For cathy cram

9 Tips to Sleep Better Tonight


If you're having a difficult time getting seven to eight hours a sleep a night, it's a good idea to talk with your healthcare provider about options for improving your quantity and quality of sleep.  Some women find that making changes in their sleep hygiene--a fancy phrase for good sleep habits--can make a big difference in getting a good night's sleep.  Here are several tips for better shut-eye:
Posted 4/11/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Cathy Cram : 10 comments   9,666 views
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Can Lowering Your Thermostat Raise Your Metabolism?


You may want to think twice about turning up your thermostat when the temperatures dip. Compelling research is focusing on the effect of cold on the human body, and how a type of fat called ''brown fat'' may affect heat production.
 
The human body has two types of fat: the kind we all know and dislike, ''white fat'' and another much more metabolically active fat termed ''brown fat.'' The white adipose tissue (WAT) functions to store excess energy, whereas the brown adipose tissue (BAT) has a much different function of burning WAT stores to produce heat.

The recent research into BAT has changed the past view that brown fat was only present in infants (who aren't able to shiver well) as a mechanism to generate heat.  It was thought that, as we reached adulthood, we lost those brown fat stores.
 
One of the reasons it was thought that humans lost their BAT stores after infancy is because the stores are quite tiny (just several ounces) and are found in hard-to-detect areas such as the sides of the neck, collarbone, scapula and along the spine. Interestingly, brown fat really is brown because it is rich in iron.
 
Advances in medical technology have made it possible for researchers to detect these small pockets of BAT in adult humans using scans, and they are able to see the areas of BAT ''light up'' when study subjects are put into cold rooms without insulating clothing.One current study found that when people are exposed to cold, the BAT activates and draws fuel from the WAT to heat the body.     
 
A recently published paper in the Journal of Clinical Investigation helped to define what type of fuel was burned by BAT. It was supposed that brown fat cells used glucose as a fuel, but this study showed that the major source of fuel for BAT is white fat stores. Once the BAT cells run out of the limited stores of glucose, they switch over to fat. The study showed that when the subjects were put into a cold environment that caused them to feel chilled (but not shivering) they had an 80% increase in metabolic rate, greatly increasing their heat production.
 
Another compelling area of research is exploring how exercise may cause WAT to be converted to BAT. Researchers found that in mice, the influence of a hormone causes white fat to become the metabolically active brown fat when mice were exercised.  It's an intriguing question whether this conversion could be observed in humans with exercise, and hopefully research will continue in this area.
 
An interesting finding in the studies on BAT is that obese individuals show little to no BAT activity when exposed to cold. There's no clear answer regarding the lack of BAT activity in the obese subjects, and it's caused speculation over whether the lack of BAT may contribute to obesity in some individuals.
 
Without becoming part of a study, how can you estimate your level of BAT? I've listed below several points that research in BAT has helped define.
 
Posted 3/7/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Cathy Cram : 41 comments   19,129 views
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Muscle Your Way to Stronger Bones


One of the most concerning physical changes that occurs in postmenopausal women is an accelerated loss in bone mineral density within the first several years after menopause.   The rate of postmenopausal bone loss can vary for each woman, and factors such as her bone mineral density prior to menopause, diet, exercise level and genetics all influence her rate of bone loss.

All types of exercise are great for your health, but to build strong bones, weight-bearing exercises like running, stair climbing, walking and strength training are increasingly shown to help prevent bone loss in postmenopausal women.
Recent studies have found that combining weight bearing exercises like walking or running or even jump roping with higher-intensity, lower-repetition strength training three times a week was more beneficial for bone mineral density (bone mineral density) than just doing the cardio exercise alone.

One of the key findings from bone mineral density research is that only the areas of the body that are loaded by the force of muscle movement are stimulated to rebuild and increase in bone mineral density.  For example, if you're a postmenopausal runner who doesn't do any upper body strength training, you may have bone loss in the bones of your upper body.  Just like the saying about tooth health and flossing, “only floss the teeth you want to save” you need to think about your whole skeletal system when developing an exercise program, and include exercises that'll target your entire body.

What helps maintain and even increase bone mineral density in postmenopausal women?  
Posted 10/31/2011  6:00:00 PM By: Cathy Cram : 11 comments   8,553 views
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Keep That Youthful Glow during Menopause and Beyond


Editor's Note: Cathy Cram, M.S., is the resident maternal fitness expert on our sister site, BabyFit.com. She writes a monthly series on menopause health and fitness.

One of the most visible changes you may notice during the menopausal period is the look of your skin.  What may start out as a subtle increase in fine lines and dryness can quickly accelerate as estrogen wanes to crepey, uneven texture and deep wrinkles.  Although the aging process plays a role in skin changes, the hormonal shifts of menopause hastens the appearance of pigmented and wrinkled skin, especially in women who smoke, eat a poor diet and are sedentary. The good news is you can improve the health and appearance of your skin by making some positive lifestyle changes and adding a few “silver bullets” to your skincare routine.
 
The leading causes of poor skin health are:
  • Smoking
  • Chronic alcohol use
  • Rollercoaster weight gain/loss
  • Poor diet
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Sun exposure
Posted 8/17/2011  10:00:00 AM By: Cathy Cram : 19 comments   23,312 views
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10 Reasons to Celebrate Menopause


Editor's Note: Cathy Cram, M.S., is the resident maternal fitness expert on our sister site, BabyFit.com. She writes a monthly series on menopause health and fitness.

My past menopause blogs have dealt with some of the less than pleasant changes that occur during and after menopause, so for this blog I want to cover some of the positive changes that come with this life change.   It's summertime, so it feels appropriate to lighten things up and look at things with a "glass half-full" attitude.
 
For most women, menopause not only results in freedom from monthly menstrual periods and birth control, but also coincides with major life changes.   Children are nearing adulthood or are already launched, and our relationships with spouse, partner and family begin to shift as the nurturing hormones wane.  
 
Your attitude about these changes can play a strong role in how well you navigate the rest of your life.   Shifting from being full-time mom to the parent of near adults can result in an identity crisis, but instead of spending precious time mourning this change, think instead of how much energy you'll now have to nurture your dreams.  After years of having your children's needs come first it can take time to adjust to having more time to yourself.  The quiet you may have dreamed about when in the thick of childrearing may feel disconcerting, but try to avoid filling the void too quickly.    Discomfort can be an effective catalyst for making positive life changes if you allow yourself time to sit with it, and think about what actions will provide long-term emotional sustenance.
 
For those of you who never had children (I'm in that group), menopause can cause you to mourn the loss of choice regarding parenthood.   On the other hand, you can close that door and open others that allow you to make your mark in the world and form meaningful, enriching relationships.   You have value and worth outside of reproduction, so don't let anyone make you feel less of a woman because you don't have children.  Think of the people in your life who had a positive influence on your development, such as aunts, teachers and mentors.   As the saying goes, "it takes a village" and your life experiences offer a perspective that can enrich  a child's life.
 
The years after menopause can be the most fulfilling of your life, as long as you continue to view yourself as a strong, vital person.   Maintaining a fitness routine will help immensely with your self-esteem, as will surrounding yourself with people who have a positive attitude.   If you don't have a strong circle of women friends, think about ways you can form new friendships or rekindle old ones.   The emotional and physical benefits of spending time with good friends becomes more important as you transition into midlife.
 
One consistent factor that researchers find when studying women and mental health is the power of female friendships.   I know in my life, my girlfriends have been a constant source of strength, laughter and comfort.   They've been with me through marriage, divorce, and a parade of dating debacles, always ready to shore me up when I'm down and gather the wagons during illness or other difficult times.   Within my group of friends, I know that I'll never lack for a simpatico ear to regale with my latest indignity of aging or mental acuity lapse.
 
I hope that as you head into the menopause years you'll strive to cultivate good friends, keep yourself fit and healthy and laugh every day.   In addition, if you have a bad day of hot flashes, read through this list--hopefully it'll help you keep it all in perspective!
 
Posted 7/13/2011  2:00:00 PM By: Cathy Cram : 58 comments   16,426 views
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Win the Battle of the 'Menopause Belly' Bulge


Editor's Note: Cathy Cram, M.S., is the resident maternal fitness expert on our sister site, BabyFit.com. She writes a monthly series on menopause health and fitness.

By Cathy Cram, M.S.

One of the first changes many postmenopausal women notice is a subtle shift in how fat is distributed on their bodies. Women who never had much belly fat see the beginnings of a pad of fat the front and sides of their abdomens, and women who have always had a bit of a tummy notice it's much more pronounced. This change in body fat storage after menopause is referred to as the "menopause belly."

My own experience with menopause belly started with tummy jiggle whenever I drove over a bumpy road as well as finding that my favorite jeans suddenly were harder to zip up. My abdomen wasn't the area where I normally stored fat (my arms provide that reservoir) so it was a perplexing new problem. I was curious about whether other postmenopausal women experienced the same situation, so I questioned my 50ish friends to see if they'd noticed any changes in the size of their waist. Nearly all of the women I asked lamented about the appearance of their "menopause belly." We all laughed about this new and unwelcome addition, but in reality our expanding waistlines became less funny when entire wardrobes no longer fit.

Posted 6/15/2011  6:00:58 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 29 comments   61,229 views
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Drug Treatments for Hot Flashes


Editor's Note: Cathy Cram, M.S., is the resident maternal fitness expert on our sister site, BabyFit.com. She blogs monthly on the topics of menopause, health and fitness.

By Cathy Cram, M.S.

This is the third blog in the series on menopause hot flash treatments. In this blog, weíll explore the medical treatments that can help reduce hot flashes, and the controversy surrounding one of the most effective treatments, hormone treatment (HT, also termed HRT for hormone replacement therapy).

Hormone Treatment
Hormone treatment for menopause has been around for decades and has been used to treat premenopausal women after hysterectomy with oophorectomy (removal of the uterus and ovaries, respectively). In those women, without hormone replacement, they would go into a surgical menopause and experience increased bone weakening. HT has also been used in the treatment of menopausal symptoms and is one of the most effective treatments for reducing hot flashes.

The usual HT prescribed to menopausal women who have their ovaries and uterus is a combination of some type of estrogen plus progestin (a synthetic form of progesterone). The progestin is added because estrogen by itself causes the uterine lining to thicken, and without progesterone initiating the sloughing off of the lining, thereís an increased risk of uterine cancer. Women who have had a hysterectomy donít need the additional progesterone and are given estrogen-only HT.

In 1993, the Womenís Health Initiative (WHI) was designed to determine the risks and benefits of treatments given to reduce heart disease, breast and colorectal cancer, and fractures in postmenopausal women. Among several sets of clinical trials within WHI was a study on the effect of HT on these diseases.
Posted 5/11/2011  5:33:54 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 21 comments   9,376 views
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Hot Flashes: Diet, Exercise, and Lifestyle Tips


Editor's Note: Cathy Cram, M.S., is the resident maternal fitness expert on our sister site, BabyFit.com. Today's blog post is the second in a series on menopause health and fitness.

By Cathy Cram, M.S.

The responses from my first blog overwhelmingly mentioned hot flashes as one of the most difficult symptoms of menopause. With that in mind, Iíve spent the past week looking into the most recent research on hot flashes and treatments. Iíve come across so many treatments and lifestyle recommendations that Iíve decided to break the hot flash blog into three parts. Today Iím posting part one, which offers diet, exercise and lifestyle tips. Part two will cover alternative treatments (such as herbs and acupuncture) and part three will explore current medications prescribed for hot flashes, as well studies being done on new treatment options.

Posted 3/15/2011  2:25:58 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 62 comments   30,827 views
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NEW Series: Menopause Health and Fitness 101


Editor's Note: Cathy Cram, M.S., is the resident maternal fitness expert on our sister site, BabyFit.com. Today's blog post is the first in a series on menopause health and fitness.

By Cathy Cram, M.S.

Welcome to Menopause Health and Fitness 101!

As both an exercise physiologist and a woman over 50, Iím on this journey with you, so I hope together we make this time of life as vital and healthy as possible. My focus is to provide you with the latest research on all aspects of menopause, and together we can explore how to fine-tune your lifestyle to help you reach your fitness and optimal weight goals.

One of my biggest interests is in how exercise can affect the menopause transition both physically and emotionally. Iíve found that when talking with other menopausal women, thereís been a big shift in how they view themselves, and at times feelings of depression have developed because of the changes theyíre seeing in their bodies and personalities.

As a fitness professional, I know that regular exercise can improve mood, but for a long time I wondered if it could have the same effect during the roller-coaster period of menopause.

Posted 2/15/2011  2:08:47 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 108 comments   22,212 views
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