All Entries For menopause

How to Treat Post-Menopausal Hair Loss

If you're a post-menopausal woman, you might have noticed that your forehead has grown higher all of a sudden. Or maybe the part in your hair has gotten wider, and you can see your scalp when the light hits it just right. But don't worry; you're not alone. Up to 10% of pre-menopausal women experience some androgenetic alopecia (decreased hair diameter with a normal growth pattern), and the rate jumps considerably to 50-75% of women 65 and older. 

The cause of this type of hair loss isn't fully understood, but some studies point to factors such as hormonal imbalances, iron deficiency, rapid weight loss, medication side-effects and some disease states.  For any woman who is experiencing hair loss, the first step is to consult with a healthcare professional who can rule out any physical conditions that may be contributing to the hair loss, followed by a proper treatment plan.
Posted 9/26/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Cathy Cram : 26 comments   75,792 views
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Easy Ways to Overcome Incontinence

Let's face it: Nobody wants to talk about incontinence. However, many women have some degree of it. There is no reason why anyone should have to feel embarrassed about or continue to suffer from this problem, but it continues to be a common chronic health condition that diminishes quality of life.

Many women experience urinary incontinence for the first time during or after pregnancy. The physical changes of pregnancy, along with the stresses put on the pelvic floor, can cause urine leakage with exertion, coughing or sneezing. For many women, this problem resolves within several months postpartum. However, without treatment, some women may continue to have a chronic incontinence issues for life.

There are two main types of urinary incontinence, listed below. Some women develop a mix of the two.
Posted 8/15/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Cathy Cram : 26 comments   22,468 views
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In Post-Menopausal Women, 'the Sunshine Vitamin' is One to Watch

Vitamin D is a hot topic in nutrition, and one that's become a focus in menopausal bone health.  There are two forms of the vitamin, D2 and D3 (cholecalciferol), with D3 the form best metabolized by the body. Vitamin D is found in foods such as fish, eggs, fortified milk and the old remedy, cod liver oil. 

Although this nutrient is found in foods, the greatest source for obtaining vitamin D is through the skin.  When bare skin is exposed to ultraviolet light, it synthesizes vitamin D3 that is then stored in the liver.  You only need 10-15 minutes of sun exposure during peak sun hours (between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. in most locations) during the summer months to produce up to 10,000 IUs of the nutrient.  After that short exposure you can continue with safe sun habits and slather on a broad-spectrum sunscreen. 

How much vitamin D do you need? According to SparkPeople's resident dietitian, Becky Hand: In the last few years, many experts and health organizations urged the Institute of Medicine to revisit the DRI set for vitamin D and re-evaluate the latest research. After a thorough review, the recommendations for vitamin D did go up by two or threefold in some age groups. The current Recommended Dietary Allowance for vitamin D (as of November 2010) is:
  • Ages 1-70: 600 IU (International Units) daily
  • Ages 71 and older: 800 IU daily
  • Tolerable Upper Intake Level: ages 9 and up: 4000 IU daily
Read more: How to Get Your Daily Dose of Vitamin D

Current research on vitamin D and its role in health suggests that there may be a correlation between low blood levels of this nutrient and the development of diseases such as osteoporosis, some cancers, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and even obesity and depression.  There are estimates that up to one half of all Americans are deficient in this vitamin, with an increased risk of deficiency in people who have one or more of these risk factors:
Posted 1/25/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Cathy Cram : 23 comments   15,444 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   10,288 views
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How Strong Are Your Bones?

One of the most serious problems associated with menopause is the increased risk of bone loss as a result of hormonal shifts. This is the first of series of four blogs I'll be writing on bone health, and in this blog I'll cover information on osteoporosis risk factors and diagnostic measures for determining bone density.   

It's important for women to understand what their risk of osteoporosis is, and the ways they can reduce their chances of a bone fracture later in life.  Most women don't think about their bone strength the same way they think about muscle strength.  We can see our muscles become more defined with use or atrophied when an injury immobilizes a limb.  In contrast, our bones are hidden and we don't worry about their strength until a fracture from weak bone structure occurs.  Like our muscles, our bones are constantly being broken down and rebuilt.  The degree of building for both muscle and bone is dependent on several factors such as nutrition, stress/ stimuli effect (ie., how weight training stresses the muscles in a positive way that stimulates stronger rebuilding of tissue) and genetics.  

The breakdown and rebuilding of bone is a necessary part of keeping bone strong, but when either part of the process slows, bones can become weakened.   Bones are composed of a hard outer layer, called the cortical bone, and the inner, honeycombed like portion called the trabecular bone.  The outer portion provides the bone structure, but it's the inner portion that provides the majority of a bone's strength.   As we age, the ability of our bones to maintain mass and normal structure is reduced as bone starts to be reabsorbed faster than it can be laid down.  

The continued net loss can cause bones to lose their strength and increase the risk of fracture.  We all start losing bone mass after 30 years of age, but whether the bone loss leads to fracture risk depends on a variety of influences.  For example, a woman that starts out with thicker bones will not develop menopause related weakness as quickly as women who didn't get enough bone building nutrients in their formative bone-building years.   

After menopause there is an acceleration of bone loss, so it's important for women to get a baseline assessment of their bone mass when they reach menopause.  There are several tests used to measure bone mineral density (BMD), but the most accurate test is dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA).  It uses a very low level X-ray to detect bone mineral levels and can diagnose whether a person has osteopenia (a precursor to osteoporosis) or osteoporosis.   The earlier osteopenia or osteoporosis is diagnosed, the better your chances are of slowing bone loss through lifestyle changes and medication.  Many healthcare providers are suggesting that their female patients have the DEXA test done earlier than the prior guideline of 65 years, as by that age the degree of bone loss can be substantial.

Along with having a DEXA scan, you can see if you are at risk of bone weakness by determining whether you have risk factors associated with increased bone loss.  The following are risk factors that can be reduced with lifestyle changes:
Posted 9/21/2011  10:00:00 AM By: Cathy Cram : 22 comments   12,528 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, 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   32,742 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, 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   19,586 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, 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   98,990 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, 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   11,440 views
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Alternative Treatments for Hot Flashes

Editor's Note: Cathy Cram, M.S., is the resident maternal fitness expert on our sister site,

By Cathy Cram, M.S.

This second blog in a three-part series on treatments for menopausal hot flashes focuses on alternative options. This blog topic has been a challenging one to write, as alternative treatments donít provide a traditional model for applying clinical research results in order to determine how effective a treatment or drug is on a condition. As Iíll discuss later, there are several confounding issues that make it difficult to be able to present clear pros and cons for alternative treatments based on past studies.
Posted 4/13/2011  2:27:13 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 29 comments   14,592 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, 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   37,640 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, 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   25,216 views
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