Yes You Are Shrinking

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Have you ever noticed that people tend to shrink as they get older? This phenomenon is pretty much unavoidable, but at least we can take steps to minimize the amount of height loss over time.

On a personal note, I hit 5 feet, 5-1/2 inches at my tallest when I was 17, and remained there until I reached the age of 40. Then I noticed a loss of 1/4 inch, putting me at 5 feet, 5-1/4 inches. By the time I began competing in NPC bodybuilding events, I was at 5 feet, 5 inches. Now, at the age of 49, I stand at 5 feet, 4-1/2 inches. Though I will never be as short as my 4 foot 8 inch Japanese grandmother was, I am definitely losing height as I get older.

Numerous research studies have demonstrated that the process of shrinking stature begins as early as our 30’s, with men losing about an inch between the ages of 30 and 70, and women losing twice that amount. The shrinkage continues into our 70’s and 80’s too. There are a number of reasons why we lose height over time:

1. Cartilage which cushions the joints begins to compress and wear down, and in weight-bearing joints like the spine, hips, knees and ankles, results in a loss of stature.
2. The ratio of bone formation versus bone absorption decreases, and the bones become more weak. In women, the loss of estrogen after menopause further decreases the rate of bone formation.
3. Over time, muscle mass gradually decreases, a process known as sarcopenia. This results in a decrease in postural strength and stability.

How can we minimize the rate of shrinkage in height as we age? Here are some guidelines to follow:

– Perform weight-bearing exercise at least three days per week.
– Consume foods rich in calcium and vitamin D.
– Sit up straight!
– Quit smoking.
– Avoid excessive intake of alcohol and caffeine.
– Don’t starve yourself or practice perpetual dieting.

When you visit your primary care provider for your annual checkup, make sure that your height is measured. If you avoid regular checkups, get into the habit of checking your height once a year, either on your birthday or at the beginning of the year so that you have a standard time of year to measure it. According to numerous studies, a loss of 1 to 2 inches within a year correlates with a higher risk of hip and non-vertebral fractures, and should be investigated by a physician.

Hot and Cold

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Many women who are in their early 40’s and beyond experience a roller coaster ride with their internal thermostats which is absolutely maddening. They can go from sitting comfortably one minute, to a sudden sweat and flush which makes them feel like they are standing next to a fiery blaze the next minute. Such a roast-fest can last from seconds to minutes, after which a woman may feel pretty comfortable. But the pendulum can swing the other way, and the woman may suddenly feel very cold once the air conditioning has kicked in, prompting her to put on a sweater. Guess what? Chances are that sweater will be peeled off in a matter of minutes when the woman has another hot flash. Hot, cold, hot, cold, hot, cold. Fun times. Such fluctuations in a woman’s perception of temperature, coupled with her constant putting on and taking off layers of clothing, are often perceived as pretty nutty by people who don’t have a clue about the torture these women go through.

I can relate to the constant temperature fluctuations because I have been suffering from it for over a year now. I fully realize that my body doesn’t know what temperature it is. Thanks to hormonal imbalance and the decline associated with peri-menopause, I am very familiar with the sweating which is sudden and intense, and I know that feeling of desperation which has me peeling off clothes, fanning myself, and sticking my head in freezers and in front of blowing fans. However, I only recently began experiencing the feeling that I am suddenly freezing my butt off, and I truly can’t stand it. My perception of the ambient temperature can go from upper 70’s, to 120 degrees, to 60 degrees, within 5 minutes flat.

woman with chills

On my worst days I will have maybe five or six of these episodes, so the daytime hours aren’t too bad, but my evenings make up for the relative break I get during the day, because I am hot and sweaty for many hours and cannot cool down at all, even if I wear a cooling towel around my neck, lie on the floor under my ceiling fan (the darned thing is positioned right over the foot of the bed and doesn’t cool me off at all when I am in bed), and lie over the covers. My bedroom feels like it is 100 degrees and I cannot get away from the heat because, of course, the heat is emanating from ME. My hypothalamus is tricked every night into perceiving that my body needs to release excess heat. I know that this is the result of low estrogen levels, but my professional knowledge of estrogen therapy is enough to keep me from ever supplementing with estrogen, so I will continue to suffer as long as my hypothalamus triggers the way it does. At least I know I am not alone: about 85% of women who are peri-menopausal experience hot flashes. Hot flashes can last from several months up to 15 years, with an average of 2 years. I hope and pray that I fall into the average! Seriously, hot flashes and night sweats are absolutely miserable. I often get as little as two hours of sleep at night when my night sweats are in full effect!

Menopausal Weight Gain

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Menopause can really break a woman’s spirit, for countless reasons. Her ability to reproduce comes to a screeching halt, her nether regions may start to resemble an arid climate, hot flashes may make her feel like she is spontaneously combusting, and she may have mood swings that would make the Tazmanian Devil look like a calm little bugger in comparison. But it’s the weight gain which often upsets menopausal women the most. Menopausal women will notice that if they drop their caloric intake, weight won’t drop at all, even though it may have easily melted off in the past.

That’s because the plummeting levels of progesterone and estrogen also adversely affect a woman’s ability to mobilize fat. Cortisol levels can go unchecked as a result of the low levels of progesterone and estrogen, and any extra calories will end up getting stored as fat. If a menopausal woman is at a caloric deficit, the switch flips in favor of burning muscle instead of turning to the storage fat she so desperately wants to incinerate. This is especially true for the adipose (fat) tissue around the midsection, because cortisol is notorious for padding that area with extra fat, resulting in an ever expanding belly. Another unfortunate consequence of cortisol is that levels will rise dramatically with prolonged intense exercise. The key is to have more abbreviated, yet still intense, exercise sessions so that the cortisol release is also accompanied by a boost in HGH and testosterone, thus conferring a protective effect on muscle.

Basically, the WORST thing you can do if you are in the midst of menopausal hell and struggling with weight gain is to engage in lengthy gym sessions. That might work for a 20 year old, but it can be devastating for a 50 year old. If you are a gym rat like me, you can still train up to six days per week (that’s how frequently I train), but keep your sessions intense but relatively short, between 30 to 60 minutes. If you train beyond that time window, the excess cortisol release will only trigger your body to cling to fat.

Menopausal women also experience an increase in carbohydrate sensitivity, which means that carbohydrate-rich meals which they used to be able to consume in their younger years without much consequence will suddenly wreak havoc on that waistline. The extra carbs settle in for a long and uninvited stay in the midsection and end up making women miserable. Because of this, dietary shifts need to be implemented in which the intake of starches and grains is dramatically reduced, while the consumption of more lean protein and green vegetables is increased. I also strongly recommend supplementing the diet with digestive enzymes and probiotics to optimize gut health and digestion of different foods.

Don’t Feel Like Yourself? Hormone Imbalance Could Be The Problem.

Portrait of a happy middle aged couple together outdoors

Portrait of a happy middle aged couple together outdoors

Are you experiencing any of the following?

Low energy
Insomnia
Irritability
Hair loss
Weight gain
Mood swings
Hot Flashes
Night sweats
Skin changes
Dry skin
Brittle nails and hair
Decreased libido
Erectile dysfunction
Difficulty concentrating
Memory loss
Depression
Anxiety
Muscle loss
Decreased strength

The above signs and symptoms are usually a clear sign of hormonal balances which are a function of the aging process. It is pretty widely known that women go through a process in which their estrogen and progesterone levels diminish and bring about symptoms of menopause which can be downright frustrating. However, men also go through a decline in testosterone as they age, with some men experiencing a sharp or early decline which manifests in troubling symptoms which have an adverse effect on their day to day lives. This decline, known as andropause, can be monitored through salivary or serum testing of hormone levels and treated with BHRT.

The good news is that in many cases, natural supplements and certain food choices can correct these issues, but some individuals, both men and women, may require supplementation with bioidentical hormones, also referred to as BHRT. Bioidentical hormones have the same molecular structure as the hormones which are produced naturally within the body. As a result, the body treats bioidentical hormones exactly like hormones produced within the body, which means that the body’s hormone balance can be restored.

If you are in the Los Angeles area and interested in booking a consultation with me for hormone balancing, please visit: http://www.drstaceynaito.com/#!natural-hormone-support/c1wd8

Who Turned Up The Heat?

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If you have ever awakened in the middle of the night with the feeling that you are burning up, and find yourself drenched in sweat, you have experienced night sweats. Though night sweats can be aggravated by spicy foods or alcohol, or sleeping in an overheated room, the true culprit in night sweats for the majority of peri-menopausal and menopausal women is fluctuating estrogen levels. Such fluctuations falsely signal the hypothalamus to cool down the body by triggering perspiration and blood vessel dilation. For those of you who have experienced this phenomenon, you know how much it interferes with normal sleep patterns!

What can you do to minimize night sweats? Regular exercise can reduce the severity of symptoms. I have also seen a marked improvement in night sweat symptoms in my patients after they have introduced maca root into their daily regimens. On a personal note, maca has been helpful in reducing the intensity of my night sweats so that I don’t wake up completely drenched in sweat in the middle of the night. If you have severe symptoms, you might want to consider being evaluated for bio-identical hormone replacement therapy. I strongly advocate the use of bio-identical hormones for individuals who suffer from the symptoms of hormonal decline or imbalance.

The battle to eradicate my night sweats has not ended. I had a nice little break from them for about five months, then they crept back into my nightly patterns. To combat this, I decided that my comforter needed to be put in storage until the winter, and I purchased a cotton coverlet set. I also purchased a special mattress protector which is comprised of a cooling material, and though it was a bit pricey (about $100 for a Cal King), it was a godsend for me. Here are a couple of brands which are great:

http://www.amazon.com/Sleep-Better-Iso-Cool-11-ounce-Mattress/dp/B000ZK4QBY?tag=hotflashwebsite-20

http://www.amazon.com/Design-Weave-Outlast-Temperature-Mattress/dp/B003J371E8?tag=hotflashwebsite-20

Another thing I highly recommend is to put a fan in your bedroom. I have a ceiling fan in my bedroom, and I almost always sleep with it on so that I can keep cool air circulating over the bed. Make sure the thermostat in your home is set to a cooler temperature so that you don’t overheat during the night, or open a window to allow a cool night breeze drift into your bedroom.

Hopefully these suggestions will have you sleeping more comfortably this summer!

Did Someone Turn Up The Heat?

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I have always heard peri-menopausal and menopausal women complain of hot flashes like they were horrific occurrences, yet I figured they were similar to getting flushed, so they really couldn’t be THAT bad. Oh how wrong I was! Hot flashes can best be described as a SUDDEN and intense heat and sweating in the chest, neck and face which feels like someone cranked up the heater to a thousand degrees. To use fancy medical terminology, it SUCKS. Women look like they’re crazy when they rapidly start loosening and removing clothing, fanning themselves with magazines, standing in front of fans, and sticking their heads in the freezer. I can tell you that I have done every one of these things, and when I am in the midst of finding a way to cool down, I don’t care one whit who thinks I have gone bonkers. You would be in a rush too if you were being cooked from the inside!

If you are still trying to imagine what a hot flash feels like, picture this: you are going about your usual business, when out of nowhere, a switch gets flipped inside your upper chest and you experience a heat quite similar to Bikram yoga rooms. It is relentless too, causing instant sweating and discomfort. Recently I have been experiencing some very strong hot flashes which have necessitated desperate measures such as ripping off every shred of clothing and lying on a linoleum floor to cool off, wrapping a cool pack around my neck while I sat in front of my computer and worked, and walking around Chicago O’Hare International Airport wearing a tank top and fanning myself while everyone else wore heavy coats which were appropriate for the 35 degree Fahrenheit weather outside.

The main reason why hot flashes occur is a drop in estrogen levels which the hypothalamus misinterprets as an increase in body temperature, causing the body to react to cool it down. These episodes can occur at any time, but in my estimation are the worst when they occur during sleep. Over the past two weeks, it has been impossible for me to sleep for more than an hour before I experience a SEVERE hot flash which has me running to the freezer to grab an ice pack to snuggle up with! It has become a ritual: Fall asleep, wake up an hour later drenched in sweat. Spend the next 15 minutes trying to stop sweating, then finally fall asleep exhausted. Repeat cycle each hour to two hours until alarm goes off in morning. It is utter misery. This also may occur for up to fifteen years, even after I go through menopause. In the current vernacular, all I have to say to that is, WTF???