Enough With The Retirement Talk!

Copyright: pinkomelet

Almost every time I look at my computer these days, I’ll see at least one featured article on Yahoo! which discusses retirement.  I’m not exaggerating when I say it happens almost daily, and it’s making me mental.  

I know the population is aging, and that baby boomers and GenX’ers are trying to prepare and plan for their golden years, but this is getting ridiculous.  The media and the internet have unabashedly latched onto the subject, and now there is a constant barrage of anxiety-provoking articles with headlines and titles such as: 

Do you have what you will need to retire?

Are you prepared for your golden years? 

Beware of the pitfalls of investing in an IRA

Watch out for these “retirement killers” 

I’ll read one article which sets me at ease, because I am on track with what it says I need to do.  Then the next day I’ll read an article which either contradicts what I read the previous day, or which has such a doomsday vibe that it basically states that almost everyone is in danger of not having enough money to ever retire.  Does this mean that we will all be living under freeway overpasses, eating dog food?  

Honestly, all these articles seem to do is to stir up worry which affects how I function throughout the day.  And though I can try to let it go, the next day another article will appear which will wash away my feelings of security and accomplishment regarding my retirement portfolio.   

Who else has noticed this trend?

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When Your Arms Are Too Short…

 

As someone who grew up with myopia (nearsightedness), I never imagined that my reading vision would fail me.  Yet I have spent the last four years holding menus at arm’s length to make it easier to read the food selections.  Within the past year, I adopted the habit of grabbing my reading glasses first thing in the morning when I grab my phone.  Do you know why?  Because my close-up vision has become so dim that if I dare to construct a social media post without my glasses, I end up finding typos on my caption or hashtags.  I’ve even gotten to the point where I wear my glasses when sitting at the computer and reading a considerable amount of material, because it reduces eye strain.  

The end result is that I either grab glasses, or wish that my arms were longer.  I also wish that restaurants filled with romantic ambience would scrap the low light conditions in favor of slightly brighter light which would make it possible for all but the most elderly and vision-challenged to see.  

Presbyopia (the age related stiffening of the lens of the eye, which interferes with its ability to contract and diffract the light) has reared its ugly head and taken up residence permanently in my daily life.   And despite the fact that I had the knowledge base to realize that presbyopia would color my life after the age of 50, I am still surprised at how sudden and noticeable the vision changes have been.  

I went from not being able to see the big E on the Snellen eye chart from my childhood into my late 40’s, to struggling to read receipts in my 50’s and wondering,  “Is that a 6, or an 8?”, or, “Is that a 3 or a 5?”  It’s pretty frustrating.  There have been instances in which I have picked up products with the intention of reading the product ingredients, but I often cannot read them at all.  

What’s really strange is that it makes me feel a bit disconnected from the world, since once sense is noticeably dulled. Who else feels that way as a result of having age-related loss of near vision?

Sex After 40

By: Dr. Stacey Naito – Physician and IFBB Pro

The Shifting Tide

Those of you about to turn the corner and enter the 40 and over zone may be concerned about the impact that getting older will have on your sex life. You may have questions about whether you must resign yourself to becoming a dried-up old lady, with no fun to be had in the bedroom. Thankfully, the reality is that you can have more fulfilling and enjoyable sex than you had in your 20’s or 30’s.

What’s more, society has gotten wind of the idea that people want to live completely fulfilled lives into their advanced years. It’s true that 40 has become the new 20, and the concept is supported by empowered celebrities like J. Lo proclaiming their eternal youth and sexual vitality without shame. So instead of allowing the aging process to shut you down, it’s time to look forward to a new and more sexually fulfilling chapter in your life.

Why Getting Older Is Great For Your Sex Life

I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t trade the knowledge and life experience I obtained over my 52 years on the planet to return to my 20’s, because aging has positively impacted every aspect of my life, including what happens behind closed doors. With age comes acceptance of who we are, body flaws and all. Let’s face it, we accumulate stretch marks, cellulite, scars, etc. over time, all of which could send us into a meltdown if we stressed out about them. We have become more comfortable with who we are, which translates to greater body confidence. That body confidence works to our advantage in the bedroom, because we no longer feel uneasy or ashamed of how we look sans clothing. When we are comfortable naked, we can finally relax and enjoy intimate encounters to the fullest.

A woman in her 40’s or 50’s is less likely to take desperate measures to entice her man, such as dressing up in sexy but uncomfortable lingerie, or wearing a pair of high heels guaranteed to aggravate her plantar fasciitis or her bad back. In contrast, it seems there are plenty of women in younger age brackets who follow ridiculous wardrobe guidelines to garner the attention of potential sex partners or followers on social media channels. A woman in her 40’s of beyond doesn’t have the inclination to make a fool out of herself to guarantee a romp in the bedroom. She is older, wiser, and doesn’t have time for such nonsense. She doesn’t feel like she needs to try so hard to win her partner’s favor. Her attitude tends to be more along the lines of, “This is what I got, take it or leave it.” Besides, I am willing to bet that such an attitude is far sexier to a man these days. In addition, most men tend to be more excited about the notion of getting you naked, and once you are in the buff, they aren’t scrutinizing your body for flaws.

Older women are also less selfish in bed, and bolder about declaring what they want. They know their bodies, their likes and dislikes. If single, they are more discerning about how they procure partners, so they are less likely to engage in risky activities which expose them to sexually transmitted diseases. For older women in a relationship, there is a greater likelihood that they have been with the same partner for many years, and have developed a level of intimacy which only comes from a longer term committed relationship. A 40-something woman is usually confident enough to turn to her partner and say, “I really like it when you use your hands on me more”, and not fret about whether her partner will accept her sexual preferences.

Chances are that for older women, there are far fewer household distractions which can impede the natural progression of an afternoon of flirting into a full-blown lovemaking session. Such interludes are pretty much impossible if a baby is crying, or young children are demanding attention. Once children have become old enough to be relatively independent, say from pre-teens on, there may be more opportunities to roll around in the sheets with your partner without any interruptions. That kind of freedom can result in more spontaneous sexual encounters and greater satisfaction.

For those past menopause, Aunt Flo’s monthly visit no longer interferes with any amorous advances. Furthermore, there is no concern about getting pregnant and having an unplanned family addition. It’s incredibly liberating.

Sexual Issues and Aging

Though I have painted a rosy picture of the sex life of older women, there are some issues which can interfere with optimal sexual activity. However, this doesn’t mean that all women over 40 will experience sexual dysfunction. As geriatric psychiatrist and Caring.com senior editor Ken Robbins states, “Impaired sexuality and sexual function aren’t normal consequences of aging.” (https://www.caring.com/articles/sexless-after-40).

Women can experience symptoms of perimenopause as early as 35, and the diminishing estrogen and progesterone levels can result in vaginal dryness and thinning of the vaginal mucosa, both of which can make intercourse painful. If this occurs, make sure to obtain a pelvic exam with a physician who can diagnose and treat the condition. In many cases, a lubricant is sufficient, but hormone replacement therapy may be offered as an option as well.

Some women may experience a decrease in sexual desire as they age, but many others experience a surge in libido from the increased testosterone to estrogen ratio, which increases as estrogen levels continue to diminish. The sexual benefits of testosterone are also enhanced by regular weight training, which naturally boosts testosterone levels in the body. However, the ebb and flow of sexual desire often fluctuates more in women over the age of 40, a result of associated dips and surges in hormonal levels. In addition, the hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings associated with plummeting progesterone levels don’t exactly make a woman feel amorous.

If you are a woman over 40 who is experiencing symptoms of perimenopause, such as hot flashes, and they are frequent enough to disrupt your daily life, seek the advice of a physician. During your visit, you may ask if the addition of hormonal support supplements like maca or dihydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) would be helpful in decreasing the symptoms you are experiencing.
Most importantly, reduce stress in your daily life, get plenty of rest, and communicate with your partner about any sexual concerns you may have.

Fifty-Two

This was me last summer at the age of 51…

Yesterday I turned 52. It just blows my mind that I have been around for more than a half-century now, because I simply don’t feel that old. I know when my mother hit 50, I thought she was ancient. And yet, here I am, over 50 and feeling like someone in her early 30’s.

Let’s be real though. My fingers, elbows, and neck ache from arthritis which has crept upon me over the past few years. My skin sags in places it never did before. My neck is beginning to resemble a Shar-pei (you can even see the folds in the headshot here). And though I am the same weight I was when I was competing, and still hitting the gym six days a week, my body proportions are shifting in such a way that clothing items I have had for a while fit differently.

Before you tell me to quit my whining, please understand that everything is relative, and because I still participate in very image-driven industries (modeling and fitness), I hold myself to a certain standard which is beginning to elude my grasp. I have had to change my angles while shooting to accommodate the changes in my physique. Modeling had forced me to come to terms with my ever-aging physical form, and it’s been pretty brutal.

I experienced a major wake-up call last month, when I was going through items in my wardrobe for a four day photo shoot. As I tried on bikinis and dresses, I realized that several items either didn’t sit well on my body, or just flat out didn’t look good on me. It was incredibly frustrating, especially since some of the pieces I tried on had never been worn before and were purchased specifically for photo shoots. I just assumed that my body wouldn’t make the micro techtonic shifts it had. My waistline is ever so slightly larger, my hips wider, and my glutes are slowly deflating, just enough to make a bikini which once looked all right look like a high school hand-me-down.

As a 52 year old woman, I am more concerned than ever about the progression of my medical career, and have thrown new challenges at myself to make me a better practitioner. I’ve been thinking more about what will happen when I reach retirement age, and how I will manage financially. And though I have always been in excellent health, I am often struck with thoughts of “What if something happens to me?”, and “How will I die?”, both of which may sound like morbid thoughts, but I regard them as necessary.

My parents are in their 80’s and of course they will eventually pass on. Both of them mention how disappointed they are in me for not giving them grandchildren, as if it was my filial duty to do so. It irks me to no end, but I also feel pangs of guilt whenever I am berated by them. It’s not like I was trying to defy them by remaining childless. And now that the window of opportunity is forever closed for me, I wonder why I wasn’t meant to have children.

Although 50 may be the new 30, it still marks 50-plus years of life experience. And since there is more societal pressure to be more dynamic and more successful, hitting one’s 50’s can be downright depressing. For all of you over 50, HANG IN THERE!

When Your Joints Rebel: How To Modify Your Lifting Regimen So You Can Train With Joint Issues

You are a beast in the gym…that is, until a joint injury or flare-up from arthritis, bursitis or sprain threatens to deflate your motivation as a result of the pain. While it is always important to take preventative measures to protect the joints, such as warming up the surrounding soft tissues properly, using proper form during exercises, and taking supplements which promote joint health, there may be times when joint discomfort is so significant that a little TLC needs to be added to the regimen. The recommendation of complete rest usually falls on deaf ears when a fitness fanatic is the one suffering from joint woes, because the general mindset for such an individual is to push through the pain and continue training. However, in most cases, the pain and inflammation will throw a wrench in the works by adversely affecting range of motion and strength. As long as the joint pain isn’t severe, and is not caused by direct, acute injury to the joint, exercises can usually be modified to alleviate load stress on the affected area.

There are a number of exercise modifications which can be made to weightlifting exercises to minimize the loading on affected joints while still effectively training surrounding muscle groups. Bear in mind that you might not be able to perform certain exercises at all, even with a modified grip or stance. The most important thing is to pay attention to your body and stop doing anything which exacerbates the joint discomfort.

SAVE YOUR SHOULDERS AND ARMS

Since shoulder joint issues are relatively common, most of the suggestions made in this article for exercise modifications for the upper body will take this into account. Depending on the degree and location of shoulder pain, you might still be able to perform shoulder presses, but do not perform them behind the neck as they can cause impingement. Incidentally, you will also need to avoid pulling the bar behind your head when doing lat pulldowns. To perform overhead presses, use a straight bar with a grip slightly wider than shoulder width apart, or use dumbbells, and use a light weight. Another exercise which should be modified when shoulder pain is an issue is the bench press. Chest presses should be avoided on an incline bench due to increased abduction and a corresponding increased shear stress and strain on the glenohumeral joint.

Shoulder joint pain can also interfere with lower body barbell exercises like the back squat and lunges. Since the barbell must be stabilized across the back, the shoulder must remain in an externally rotated and abducted position. Even barbell deadlifts force the shoulder into a gravitational load in extension which can be enough to aggravate shoulder joint issues if a heavy weight is used. Modifications to these exercises include performing front squats while holding onto a kettlebell or dumbbell, and switching to dumbbells when performing lunges and deadlifts.

Most cases of shoulder pain from joint instability or arthritis can make it impossible to perform a plank for an extended period of time due to the superior-posterior stress across the shoulder joint complex, but this is easily remedied by modifying the plank so that you rest on your forearms instead of your hands, thus shortening the lever arm and decreasing the stress load.

If you have issues with your elbows, it is wise to avoid pullups, pushups, mountain climbers, overhead tricep extensions and planks, but bicep curls may also be difficult to do, especially as you supinate and flex the elbow. The elbow joint is a tricky one to train around, and the best approach is to completely avoid any direct movements which involve the elbow flexors if the pain is severe. If the pain is minimal, regular dumbbell bicep curls, hammer curls and cable tricep extensions can be performed with light weights. Using a false grip on dumbbells (in which the thumb is not engaged in opposition around the bar), using a cuff around the arm with a cable assembly, or switching to weight plates with a neutral (palms in) grip can also be helpful in minimizing the strain on the elbow stabilizers during delt training routines.

Wrist pain can often be eradicated by using lifting gloves which have wrist support to counteract some of the stress. Since bench dips can aggravate sore wrists, they should be avoided and replaced with cable tricep extensions, which can be performed without extending the wrist. Traditional pushups also force the wrists into a hyperextended position, but a simple switch in hand position, in which the fingers point out to the sides, with hands at least shoulder width apart, will minimize joint stress during the down phase of the movement.

WEIGHT BEARING JOINTS

If you have issues with the joints in your lower extremities (hips, knees, ankles, feet), ballistic movements, such as the ones performed in plyometrics and calisthenics, should be avoided. Unfortunately, exercises which are considered staples in a weightlifter’s regimen, such as squats, lunges and leg presses, can also wreak havoc on achy hips and creaky knees, especially if poor form and heavy weights are used. It’s best to trade these in, at least for a while, and instead turn to leg lifts on all fours, wall sits, front leg raises against a wall, and single leg deadlifts, all of which decrease the load on the hips and knees while still providing good isolation.

Since ankles and feet take the brunt of weight bearing, they should be babied when flare-ups occur, which means that calf raises, leg presses, and squats should be avoided and replaced with moves which do not require excessive joint motion under a loading force. Foot stance should be maintained at shoulder width to maintain the ankle position in a neutral plane and avoid any inversion or eversion. Mat exercises are also an excellent alternative to hardcore standard weight machines when dealing with joint flare-ups in the ankle or foot.

OHHHHH MY BACK

The incidence of low back pain is extremely high, especially among fitness devotees. Since it is usually triggered by extreme positions of flexion or extension, something as simple as standing with your heels on two weight plates and dropping the amount of weight lifted can be enough to maintain a more upright position and avoid the excessive lumbar flexion often seen with back squats. Another modification which spares the low back as well as the knee is performing Bulgarian squats, which keep the upper body in a vertical plane.

If you experience joint pain in your neck or upper back, you should avoid exercises mentioned earlier such as behind the head lat pulldowns and military presses, both of which cause excessive flexion in the cervical spine. In some cases, you will need to omit exercises which involve the use of a barbell behind the neck since this type of load increases flexion stress. You can modify these movements by using dumbbells or by switching to a machine, for example, switching from barbell squats to hack squats.

The most important thing to remember is to listen to your body and stop any movement if you feel sudden pain. By training wisely and making necessary modifications while your joints are inflamed, you will be able to bypass injury and continue to make gains at the gym.

How Technology May Be Saving Aging Brains

Our brains are precious cargo which govern all that we do. One of the most mystifying things about these organic motherboards is that they are constantly changing and adapting to our environment, even as we continue to age. Of course, that also means that as we age, we can experience a decline in function.

Now that we are deeply immersed in a major technological age, our very sensitive noggins are also being shaped by the endless stimulation by iPhones, smartphones, computer interfaces, Mp3 players, Bluetooth, even self-driving vehicles. The speed at which technology is evolving is so rapid these days, that it is almost impossible to keep up, but somehow, our gray matter will be affected, either positively or negatively, by these advancements. Most scientists have begun to believe that the impact is mostly positive.

There is a new generation of young people who have little to no clue about what it might be like to play outside and to enjoy the fresh air, because they would much rather play video games, surf the internet, or dig around in the world of social media. The trade-off is that these millenials tend to have faster decision-making skills and can also navigate through the newer computer interfaces and platforms with great ease.

There’s actually a term coined for the generation which has been exposed to computers and cellular phones since birth: digital natives. Their brain circuitry actually differs from older individuals who haven’t had the same lifelong exposure to tech gadgets. There’s a possibility that older brains may get a similar benefit from using the high-tech devices which are so ubiquitous these days. Dr. Small from UCLA performed a study which examined older individuals who had some experience searching online, and discovered that those individuals did indeed have more activity in the decision making portions of the brain than subjects who had never searched online before. Since the brain alters its neural connections with each experience, it makes sense that our inner wiring will change, even as we age.

The Fifty-Something Zone

 

Today I transition from being a 50 year old to being a 50-something.  It’s such a strange reality for me to move past the half-century mark, despite the fact that my joints ache more, my skin is losing its firmness, and rogue gray hairs threaten to disrupt the mass of dark brown hair on my head.  My mind and spirit are stuck in an early 30’s zone, so I am constantly in a strange disconnect between how I feel mentally and where my body is chronologically.

Since my 50th birthday last July, I have received promotional mail from AARP and Forest Lawn Mortuary, which is extremely disconcerting.   In valiant protest, I have increased my involvement in aerial arts, dabbled in other pursuits like fencing, and have maintained a 5 to 6 day weightlifting schedule each week.

To be honest, turning 50 caused me to fret a bit about my overall health, so I decided to obtain a full medical workup, including bloodwork, MRI’s of my injured left shoulder and neck, a mammogram and colonoscopy.

 

These were the results:

  1. Bloodwork results were completely normal, and as always, my HDL was over 70 and my LDL was under 100.
  2. MRI of my left shoulder revealed moderate bursitis, widespread inflammation, severe biceps tendinitis, and widespread tendinopathy.  The good news is that my shoulder issues don’t warrant surgical intervention.
  3. MRI of my cervical spine revealed dessication of multiple intervertebral discs and osteophytes at multiple levels.  Basically, my neck reveals that I am a dried up old bitch.
  4. Screening mammogram revealed a suspicious 5mm mass on my right breast, which was further evaluated with more views.  It turned out to be a small cyst.
  5. The colonoscopy prep was definitely not enjoyable, but my days of water loading for contests made drinking the vile electolyte prep solution (bastards gave me the unflavored version…blech) a bit more tolerable.  Aside from a small polyp, my colonoscopy was unremarkable.

Evidently, my body is doing a pretty good job of fending off aging.  With a clean bill of health, I will continue to engage in my physical pursuits, eat clean food, meditate daily, and be thankful.