PMS and Conventional Treatments

While the causes of PMS still evade us, there are several circumstances that we know seem to predispose women to the condition. So, you’re more likely to suffer from PMS if you’re between the ages of 30 and 50, or if you’ve had more than one child, have given birth recently, had a termination or miscarriage, or have had several pregnancies in quick succession. PMS also appears to run in families, so if your mother suffered from the condition, you’re more likely to suffer from it, too.

The following are the most common medications prescribed to women who suffer from PMS.

Ovulation suppressors The contraceptive pill, danazol (a weak male hormone), and GnRH analogues all have the effect of suppressing ovulation by various hormonal actions on the body, and you may be prescribed any one of these. However, they all also have unwelcome side-effects, including some of the symptoms of PMS itself, such as mood swings, and menopausal-like symptoms, such as hot flashes. Your doctor may suggest you wear estrogen patches, which some women find offer relief from symptoms. However to bear in mind that these are basically hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which carries with it some serious side effects.

Progesterone supplements Some experts believe that PMS may result from low levels of progesterone in the second half of your cycle, so your doctor may prescribe a synthetic form (known as progestin or progestogen) of this hormone. It’ll raise your progesterone levels to reduce your symptoms. In the USA, women are able to buy (literally over the counter) what’s known as “bioidentical” progesterone – that is, progesterone that is chemically identical to the progesterone produced in your ovaries. It’s usually available as a cream or a pessary. However, to make things really clear, although bioidentical hormones match the chemical structure of the natural versions, they’re still powerful hormonal drugs. Taking a synthetic hormone is not the same as using a wholly natural help to balance your hormones.

Specific symptom relief If you suffer from PMS-related breast pain, your doctor may prescribe the drug bromocriptine. It’s side effects include nausea, vomiting, and headaches, and I personally think its effects are too strong to justify its prescription for PMS symptoms alone. For help with bloating, your doctor may give you diuretics, which help your body to flush away fluids – and vital nutrients, too.

Surgery Surgery is the most drastic option your doctor could recommend to treat PMS. The logic is that if you don’t have a menstrual cycle, you can’t have PMS. In order to prevent he cycle, a doctor can suggest removing your ovaries. However, doing so sends you into immediate menopause, which means you‘d then have to take estrogen-only HRT to protect your bones. Please make sure you’ve considered all the options –including the natural approach – before you consider this serious surgery.

Because the causes of PMS elude us, conventional medicine teds to relieve only its symptoms – if you take medication for PMS and then stop, your symptoms will return. For this reason alone, I urge you to try the natural methods first. With nutrition, herbal, and lifestyle approaches, you can treat not only the symptoms but also the causes (even the ones we don’t know about yet!), for long-lasting relief. Many of the patients have eliminated their PMS symptoms completely using natural approach. You should allow three months to see the full effects, but you should start see an improvement after even one cycle.

It can take up to five years to get a diagnosis of PMS.

Conventional Treatments for Osteoporosis

In the past, the usual recommendation for preventing and treating osteoporosis has been hormone replacement therapy (HRT). In the USA, pre-menopausal women can still use HRT (or HT, hormone therapy) to prevent osteoporosis. However, the country’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommend that, because of the side effects of HRT, women should, where possible, use other medications to prevent osteoporosis. It also states that doctors should not prescribe estrogen as a preventative, unless the patient can’t take osteoporotic drugs. In the UK, the Committee on the Safety of Medicines has stated that women who are undergoing a normal, natural menopause should use HRT for a maximum of only five years, and only for the relief of symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats. They don’t advocate it to prevent osteoporosis, unless you can’t tolerate osteoporotic medication.

Although HRT is effective in most cases against osteoporosis, as soon as you stop taking the medication, your bones break down as before. This means that you would have to be on HRT for the rest of your life to permanently prevent bone loss. Prolonged use of HRT poses considerable health risks, and so now there are several other medications for osteoporosis.

Selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMS) These drugs aim to stimulate the estrogen receptors in your bones and brain – but not your breasts and uterus because doing so may increase your risk of cancer in these areas. In other words, the drugs make certain parts of your body more sensitive to estrogen; and other parts less sensitive.

Bone-saving medications You may be offered one of two drugs that help preserve your bones. Biphosphonates work by stopping bone breakdown: you won’t lose “old” bone, so your bone density will increase. However, there are concerns about the usefulness of keeping old bone. Strontium ranelate is a newer drug that has a dual action, stopping the breakdown of old bone and helping to build new bone, too. Both drugs carry side-effects: The bisphosphonates cause digestive problems and strontium ranelate can cause nausea, skin irritation, and blood clots.

Your diet

A healthy, balanced diet helps ensure strong, healthy bones. Reduce those foods and drinks that are known to increase your risk of osteoporosis but also watch the amount of dairy products you eat. Although cheese is a good source of calcium, it also encourages the excretion of calcium (cheese is more acidic than milk). And remember that tea contains caffeine – and tannin, which can hamper calcium absorption. Increase your intake boron-rich foods, too, by eating soy beans, apples, pears, raisins, broccoli, hazelnuts, and almonds.

Avoid bran Avoid adding bran to your food or having it as a breakfast cereal. Bran is a refined food, which means that the best part of the grain has been stripped away. It also contains phytates, which have a binding effect on crucial minerals, including calcium, and can stop your body absorbing them.

Sweeten naturally Try using a natural sweetener called xylitol in place of sugar. Found in fruits and berries, especially raspberries and strawberries, plums, and cauliflower, xylitol has a low glycemic index and does not cause blood sugar swings. It may also directly benefit osteoporosis. Incredibly, studies on animals show that xylitol can increase bone calcium and bone density and prevent bone loss. Xylitol should be available in health-food stores and you use it in exactly the same way that you would sugar.

See the light Try to boost your intake of vitamin D, which is essential for your body’s absorption of calcium. Eat plenty of oily fish and eggs, which contain this vital nutrient, and spend time outdoors. Sunlight encourages your body to manufacture vitamin D.

Vitamins and Supplements

B-complex and Folic Acid Vitamins B6 and B12 help reduce levels of homocysteine, a hormone that may increase the risk of osteoporosis.
Vitamin C with bioflavonoid This vitamin is essential for the formation of healthy collagen, the cement that holds your obne structure together. Take it in the form of ascorbate (such as magnesium ascorbate) rather than ascorbic acid, which is too acidic for bone health.
Boron (daily intake in multi-vitamins and minerals) This mineral is concentrated in bone and improves calcium absorption. It’s also found in a number of different foods.
Calcium and Magnesium (combine supplement containing calcium citrate and magnesium citrate) The most difficult form of calcium for your body to absorb is calcium carbonate, so it is advised that to supplement with calcium in the form of citrate, which is 30 percent more absorbable. For the best effects combine it with magnesium, which is just as important for your bone health: Magnesium deficiencies can make your bones more fragile.
Zinc This vital nutrient is often found to be deficient in women with osteoporosis, and we know that it’s important for healthy bone metabolism. Take a supplement to make sure you keep your levels up.


Use herbs that provide you with valuable bone strengthening minerals or those that help improve your absorption of these nutrients. Blend equal parts of the dried herbs to make an herbal tea infusion and drink it up to three times a day.

Alfalfa Herb (Medicago sativa) and OAT STRAW (Avena sativa) Both these herbs are thought to help with osteoporosis because of their high calcium content.
Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) This help contains the highest amount of silica of any herb. Silica is important for healthy skin, ligaments, and bones. It helps with the formation of collagen, which is part of your bone structure, and it’s thought that it can help keep bones flexible.
Nettles (Urica spp) Nettle contains good amounts of the minerals calcium and boron, but it can also help improve the general absorption of nutrients form your food.

Other Natural Treatments

Homeopathy Constitutional homeopathic treatments are best, but if you can’t visit a homeopath, Calccarb and Calc phos can help your body to absorb calcium. Take both in a 30c potency, twice daily.


Increase the demand on your bones Do some weight-bearing exercise; for example, walking, jogging, dancing, aerobics, and racket sports. Aim for 30 minuts to an hour of activity, five times a week.

Watch your stress levels When stress levels are high, your adrenal glands have to work overtime, exhausting them so they can’t produce the replacement estrogen your body needs at menopause. Also, when you’re stressed, your digestion suffers, which will affect your nutrient intake.

Balance your weight Make sure you’re not underweight, which can reduce estrogen levels in your body, contributing to bone loss.

Bone-Strengthening Yoga Pose

The Camel pose works on strengthening the bones in your spine and pelvis. It’s a deep stretch that may take time to perfect –only go as far as is comfortable. Practice daily.

1. Kneel, legs hip-width apart, toes pointing behind you. Keep your back straight, your tailbone lifted, and your head erect. Imagine a cord is pulling you up from the top of your head, gently lengthening your spine. Place your hands at the tops of your buttocks, fingers pointing downward. Keep your thighs at right angles to the floor. Move your shoulder blades towards each other, feeling a stretch across your chest.
2. Breathe in through your nose. As you breathe out through your mouth, bend backward. Keep your thighs upright, arch your lower back, and slide your hands down your legs until they reach your ankles, heels, or soles of your feet. (Turn your toes under if it helps). Drop your head backward; keep your throat soft. Lift your pelvis to relieve pressure from your lower spine. Hold the pose for 30 seconds; release and repeat.

It’s OK to ask Questions about Hysterectomy

It’s been over 10 years since I had a total abdominal hysterectomy and bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy (TAHBSO). Back in 1991, my family physician told me I had endometriosis, though no diagnostic measures were taken to determine if I really had this disease. I didn’t. The pathology report revealed that all my organs were perfectly healthy, so as in the case of many other women, the procedure was unnecessary. At the time, I didn’t think it appropriate to question a doctor’s advice or seek another medical opinion. These days, however, my personal health care is a responsibility that I take very seriously, and so should all women.

No one prepared me for the many side effects I began to experience just days after my surgery, and no one told me how hysterectomy and oophorectomy would change my life. If you are contemplating having your uterus and your ovaries removed, you owe to yourself, and to the people who love you, to do the research.

As confirmed by many gynecological specialists I have consulted over the past four years, surgeries like hysterectomy and oophorectomy should be considered only as a last resort, and only if cancer has been detected. But according to the latest statistics, 90 percent of hysterectomies are performed for reasons other than cancer! How can this be?

A new report addressing the issue of the overuse of hysterectomy in Canada was made public in June 2002. It confirmed that Canada’s situation is similar to that of the United States. Dr. Donna Stewart, professor at the University of Toronto and chair of Women’s Health at the University Health Network, led the expert panel on hysterectomy practices in Ontario. A complete copy of the panel’s report can be viewed at

According to Dr. Stewart, there are many factors contributing to the high rate of hysterectomy. For instance, many doctors are unwilling to explore other less invasive treatments with their patients. This is an unfortunate situation in itself, because if a woman is not offered less drastic options, she is not given the opportunity to make an informed choice.

Education and social class are two other important factors, and Dr. Stewart’s report shows that the hysterectomy rate is highest in poor, rural regions where the level of education is low. Similarly in the United States, the hysterectomy rate is highest in the southern states. And surprisingly, some women view hysterectomy as a permanent solution for birth control, while others feel it’s the “thing to do” because it’s what their mothers and sisters did before them. In any case, none of the above explanations justify a prolongation of the current situation of unnecessary surgeries performed on female patients, but all confirm the need for greater education efforts to help women and their doctors discuss less invasive alternatives to hysterectomy.

Aftereffects of Hysterectomy

In addition to the risks involved with the surgical procedure itself, the potential side effects of hysterectomy, and/or oophorectomy, can be horrendous, debilitating. Many of the books I read list the following aftereffects: depression, anxiety, osteoporosis, increased allergies, arthritis, loss of orgasm, loss of sexual desire, loss of sexual function, hot flashes, night sweats, migraines, weight gain, thyroid dysfunction, bowel dysfunction, memory loss, generalized fatigue, loss of bladder control, stress and urge incontinence.

If your ovaries are removed at the time of the removal of your uterus, you will experience surgical menopause or the castration menopause, the side effects of which are greater than those experienced by a woman undergoing natural menopause. This is not a new phenomenon. In fact, gynecology textbooks dating back to 1950 confirm that this is so. Here’s a reference to support my comment:

“The castration menopause is generally stated to be the same as the natural menopause. In our experience, it differs in that it varies much more in its intensity. The vigor of some castrated patients appears to help them to withstand the menopause without discomfort. In other cases, the reaction is rather violent and requires large doses of estrogen for the control of symptoms.” -Curtis, A.H., M.D., and J.W. Huffman, M.D. Textbook of Gynecology, Saunders Publishing Co., Philadelphia: 1950, 103.

Of course, the comment about the “vigor” of castrated patients is somewhat derogatory. As a 49-year-old woman who had a hysterectomy and oophorectomy, I can assure you that I have a lot of vigor, but it does little to control any of my symptoms. It’s not that simple.

Many gynecologists believe that hysterectomy linked side effects can be alleviated by estrogen replacement therapy. Not so. Some women may be hypersensitive to estrogen or other traditional forms of hormonal replacement therapy. If you happen to be one of those unlucky women, you may experience some or many of these side effects: rapid weight gain, water retention, loss of bone mass, mastalgia (soreness and tenderness of the breasts), abdominal cramps, nervousness, irritability, and recurring vaginal yeast infections.

Problems like these can seriously impact the quality of a woman’s life. Imagine the stress of having to cope with any one of these difficulties while maintaining a full-time job. Is it any wonder that many hysterectomized women become reclusive?

Of greater concern, is the fact that we now have strong evidence that long term use of hormonal replacement therapy is not safe. It can lead to an increased risk of breast cancer, heart disease, stroke and blood clots. This information was released in July 2002 by the U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institution, after it abruptly halted its most significant study to date into the effects of hormone replacement therapy.

Long-term use of hormone replacement therapy is not an option for women whose ovaries are surgically removed, unless they don’t mind living out the rest of their lives as boiling kettles. And of course now that our suspicions about HRT have been confirmed, the decision to retain or remove non-cancerous ovaries should be weighed very carefully. Doctors would not recommend the removal of a male patient’s testicles once his family was complete, so why subject women to unnecessary castration?

Great Sex? Maybe not…

Some hysterectomized women claim that sex has never been better, however, great sex following a hysterectomy is NOT a guarantee. Why? Because hysterectomy is not a simple operation. It happens to be a very complicated procedure requiring great surgical skill to avoid perforations of the bowel, bladder and vaginal walls. If perforations are made during this surgical procedure, these can result in further scars and adhesions (internal scar tissue) that may impinge on a woman’s sexual response.

When considering a hysterectomy, women should know that the surgical removal of the cervix means that the vagina will be made shorter because of the “vaginal cuff” made by the surgeon, a procedure that often results in discomfort with intercourse. If the nerves going from the cervix to the clitoral area are damaged, it may diminish your orgasmic response. These outcomes of hysterectomy can be avoided if a woman insists on keeping her cervix, especially if it is non-cancerous.

In its 1999 pamphlet on Understanding Hysterectomy, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) states clearly that if the hysterectomy procedure required vaginal shortening, deep thrusting with intercourse may become painful. It makes the following two recommendations:

Being on top during sex or
Bringing your legs closer together may help

Any woman will tell you that intercourse wouldn’t be pleasurable, if at all possible, if she had to keep her legs closer together, and women living with the condition of a shortened vagina will tell you that attempting the “on top” position would be excruciatingly painful. That’s why it is so important to get all the facts on post-hysterectomy sexuality before you get to the operating room.

Ask away!

If I had to do it all over again, here are a few of the questions I would ask my gynecologist. I would ask these questions again and again until I had a clear understanding of all the consequences that can arise from this surgery.

Why do I need a hysterectomy?
If I don’t have cancer, why should I agree to have my reproductive/sexual organs removed?
Have all the proper diagnostic tests been taken?
Are there any other less invasive treatment options for me to consider, and if so, what are they, and what are the risks involved with these options?
What are the risks involved with the surgical procedure of hysterectomy itself?
If my ovaries are removed, will I be able to maintain a healthy libido?
If my cervix is removed, will my vagina be shortened?
If my vagina is shortened, will sex be the same?
If my uterus is removed, will it have an impact on orgasm?
Will I be going into menopause?
What’s the difference between natural and surgical menopause?
Can hormone replacement therapy provide adequate relief from all the side effects I may experience following a hysterectomy?
Hysterectomy is an irreversible operation with potentially devastating consequences. It is your health right to ask questions, and insist on answers. If you do, you can make a truly informed choice, one that is right for you.

Lise Cloutier-Steele is a professional writer and editor. She is also the author of “Living and Learning with a Child Who Stutters,” and she is the recipient of a Canada 125 Award in recognition of a significant contribution to the community and to Canada for her volunteer efforts to help the parents of children who stutter.

Source: Ivanhoe News

Minimize Your Cellulite

At least 80 percent of us have visible patches of cellulite, usually on our backside and thighs, but also on our breasts, belly and upper arms. For most women, it’s just an inevitable fact of life why is the puckering so persistent? Cellulite is caused by the way fat naturally bulges out from the connective tissue (called septa) that binds muscle to the skin and holds our fat in place. Think of a down comforter puffing out between its quilted seams. Over time, this dimpling can deepen due to hormonal shifts linked to pregnancy, breastfeeding, and taking birth control pills or hormone-replacement therapy drugs. Cellulite can also grow more apparent due to age (which thins skin and makes it less elastic). We can’t eradicate cellulite because we can’t change the way our bodies are made.

Maintain steady weight Yo-yo dieting can compromise your skin’s elasticity and make your fat cells grow larger, making them bulge through your connective tissue even more. To fend off cellulite, try to stay in the same ten-pound weight range.

Work out Getting the 30 minutes of moderate-intensity, daily exercise that experts recommend will help you shed excess fat and improve circulation – both of which can minimize cellulite’s appearance. Weight lifting may be the best available treatment for cellulite. It tones muscle. Doctor’s prescription: 30 to 40 minutes of strength training at least twice a week.

Those are the two soundest strategies to minimize cellulite. But the U.S. market for reduction strategies is more than $47 million. Here’s the lowdown on some of those methods.

Cellulite creams Lotions containing antioxidants, vitamins, herbal extracts, and/or Retin A, promise to improve blood flow and even reduce the size of stubborn fat cells, though there is limited scientific proof to back these claims. Most work by irritating the skin which can cause swelling that camouflages cellulite. But it can also cause rashes and trigger allergic reactions in some users.

Mesotherapy A therapist uses a fine-gauge needle to inject the skin with substances that supposedly melt cellulite so the body’s lymph system can drain it away. Studies on mesotherapy are limited, and it may cause infection, rashes, and uneven skin contours.

Massage “Mechanical massages” involve some combination of infrared light, radio frequency, and/or a device that kneads or rolls the cellulite. Some massage treatments can result in improvement.

Health conditions for baby boomers and how to prevent and/or treat them

OSTEOPOROSIS: Despite the high level of physical fitness among baby boomers, an alarming number are afflicted with osteoporosis. The National Osteoporosis Foundation says 44 million American men and women aged 50 and older have either low bone mass or osteoporosis, and by the year 2020, that number will climb to about 61 million if bone health does not become a top priority in this generation. In fact, osteoporosis accounts for more than 1.3 million fractures in people over age 45 with both sexes losing 1 percent of bone mass each year after age 40. Osteoporosis is not just an American disease either. It is widespread around the world. According to the World Health Organization, as large populations age, osteoporosis will become more of a disease burden predominantly because of its risk for major fractures of the hip and vertebral bodies, which can cause serious debilitation and dependent lifestyle changes.

Causes: The causes of osteoporosis can be many and cumulative. Sedentary lifestyle and lack of bone-building exercise such as running or walking on pavement (the vibration/pounding of the foot hitting a hard surface stimulates bone mass to increase), smoking, a family history of low-density bone mass, estrogen decrease in women, androgen decrease in men, as well as the use of certain medications such as long-term corticosteroids and glucocorticoids (used to treat asthma and lupus), as well as thyroxine (used to treat hypothyroidism) can all contribute to developing osteoporosis. In addition, a higher number of baby boomers are likely to be vegetarians and have not adequately replaced calcium and/or vitamin D in their diet, which can set the stage for osteoporosis.

Who’s at Risk? The disease typically affects women more than men because the bone-protecting effects of estrogen are lost in menopause unless hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is instituted. However, osteoporosis is also an important concern for men over age 50 as well. In fact, according to a study cited in the Australian Family Physician Journal, osteoporosis is relatively underdiagnosed in men as it may not be considered a male issue whereas cardiovascular health and hypertension typically is. In a Spanish study, researchers found that bone thinning was high in men over 50 and is associated with lower testosterone levels in much the same way that osteoporosis in women is associated with lower estrogen levels. Treatments with the bisphonate class of osteoporotic drugs, specifically alendronate, along with calcium and vitamin D, along with supplementation of androgens (male hormones) were successful in improving bone density in the male skeleton, and preventing fractures and loss of height.

Prevention: Prevention of osteoporosis can be successfully accomplished by engaging in regular physical exercise, especially exercise that stimulates bone building like weight-lifting, running or walking on pavement, etc. Quitting smoking and cutting down on alcohol goes a long way to both prevent osteoporosis and help treat it. Specific supplements that can offset or prevent osteoporosis are calcium and vitamin D. Maintaining an adequate intake of calcium and vitamin D helps assure that osteoporosis will not develop. People need approximately 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day or 1,500 milligrams for postmenopausal women. Spending at least 15 to 30 minutes in the sun every day also helps the body manufacture usable vitamin D that aids the maintenance of good bone tissue. Drinking tea several times a day may also help prevent osteoporosis as research done at the University of Cambridge School of Medicine in 2000 revealed that tea drinkers have higher bone-mineral density than people who don’t drink tea. On his Web site, Cocoon Nutrition, naturopathic expert Stephen Heuer recommends taking cod liver oil daily as it supports proper mineral absorption and bone density. The National Osteoporosis Foundation also recommends everyone ages 50 and over have a bone mineral density test and/or a DEXA scan to assess your risk for fractures.

Treatments: Treatments for osteoporosis can be managed with estrogen replacement therapy (ERT), selective estrogen receptor modulator (SRMEs), vibration exercise (VE), bone-building physical exercise, cessation of smoking and excessive alcohol use, re-assessment of steroid use and dosage to treat chronic conditions, and an array of selective drug therapies. ERT is the most common treatment of osteoporosis and typically consists of replacing estrogen as postmenopausal osteoporosis in women is caused by the lack of estrogen. SERMs are derived from steroid hormones and have both estrogenic and anti-estrogenic properties according to the substance and the target tissue. Relative to bone tissue, SERMs have an estrogenic effect and protect bone mass. The drug Raloxifene currently in use for treatment of osteoporosis is a SERM. It increases bone mass by 1 percent to 3 percent, and after three years of therapy at the dose of 60 milligrams per day, it reduces the incidence of vertebral fractures by 30 percent to 50 percent and is approved for the prevention of vertebral fractures in post-menopausal women at increased risk. Vibration exercise is a new mode of exercising muscle that is touted as equivalent to a strenuous weight-training workout, building bone like weight training does. It involves passive exercise that is performed while standing on a vibrating plate for 12 minutes. Vibration exercise works by causing vigorous vibrations in the muscles, which then have to flex to “right” themselves. Doing this uses 100 percent of the muscle’s capacity and therefore, over time, makes it denser and more toned. Old-fashioned weight training, however, seems to be the bone-building method of choice. Weight training causes muscles to pull on and against bone, which in turn stimulates the bone to both retain their density and also grow more dense.

Drugs: Two classes of drugs for treatment of osteoporosis include biphosphanates and SERMs. The biphosphanates include risedronate, alendronate and pamidronate, which help the bones absorb calcium. The SERMs include the drug Raloxifene. Tamoxifen is also a SERM used in breast cancer treatment that may have some protective bone benefit. A different class of drugs that just became available in 2002 is teriparatide, or Forteo. Made from a parathyroid hormone, Forteo actually builds bone density as well as preserves bone density. Studies show Forteo significantly increases bone density in 90 percent of the men who were given daily injections of the hormone. Richard Bockman, M.D., Ph.D., from the Weill College of Medicine/Cornell University in New York, says, “Forteo is indicated for the treatment of postmenopausal women with osteoporosis who are at high risk for fracture. These include women with a history of prior fragility fractures.” He warns certain patients should not be treated with Forteo, including patients with Paget’s Disease of bone, pediatric patients, patients with a history of skeletal irradiation, and patients with bone metastases or prior history of bone cancers. Dr. Bockman also comments that, “The safety and efficacy of Forteo have not been evaluated beyond two years of therapy, consequently, treatment beyond two years is not recommended.”

THE AGING BRAIN: The brain starts to really show wear and tear by age 40 with increasing memory loss and cognitive decline including the inability to learn new concepts as quickly as in younger years. But, the brain starts to lose memory as early as age 18 with memorizing tasks becoming much more difficult by age 30. Even diseases typically thought of as geriatric concerns (Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s) can start taking a foothold at age 50. Other neurological symptoms typically found in this age group include numbness and tingling in extremities, especially in people with diabetes, and headaches caused by stress, hormone changes or even a misaligned spine, or cervical disc disease with pinched nerves.

Is it Normal to Forget? Jeff Victoroff, M.D., from the University of Southern California, and author of “Saving Your Brain: The Revolutionary Plan to Boost Brain Power, Improve Memory, and Protect Yourself against Aging and Alzheimer’s” [Bantam Books, New York], has this to say about memory loss: “[Baby boomers] complain of forgetfulness and worry that it might be the first sign of Alzheimer’s. I have good news for them — the forgetfulness is normal and universal and usually does not interfere significantly with everyday functions until age 75 to 80. The bad news is that everyone will get Alzheimer’s if they live long enough”.

Preventing Brain Aging: There are a number of things that can be done to allay, lessen and/or prevent the symptoms of brain aging. Dr. Victoroff asserts that diet plays a big role in how well the brain functions short-term and maintains function long-term. In his book, “Saving Your Brain,” Dr.Victoroff says, “The American diet is almost perfectly designed to interfere with brain function and accelerate memory loss.” He reconstructs the traditional USDA food pyramid to reflect food choices and the amount that will keep the brain functioning optimally. He recommends red meat and eggs eaten rarely with whole grains like wheat, bulgur, buckwheat, potatoes and rice eaten the most, seven to eight times a day. At least twice a week, he recommends a fatty fish like salmon or sardines, and tuna be eaten in addition to drinking red wine one to five times a week. He also recommends taking 400 international units of natural vitamin E and maintaining aerobic fitness by brisk walking for at least 30 minutes a day.

Supplements: Important supplements found by researchers to support brain function are acetyl-l-carnitine, alpha lipoic acid, CoQ10, glyceryl-phosphorylcholine (GPC), melatonin and essential fatty acids (EFAs). A 2002 study (Liu, et al) published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science revealed that elderly rats given lipoic acid and acetyl-l-carnitine resulted in improved memory as well as reversed age-associated mitochondrial structural. With 95 percent of the brain’s function occurring in the mitochondria, the “power center” of the cell, researchers say it is a significant finding when a supplement is shown to have the ability to restore and/or enhance that power. CoQ10 is thought to be a mitochondrial energizer. It regulates the oxidation of fats and sugars and converts them into usable brain energy. Its superior anti-oxidant effects have been proven in clinical studies [Shults, et al, 2002] to slow down the progression of Parkinson’s disease. Another brain mitochondrial energizer is glyceryl-phosphorylcholine, or GPC. A review of the multiple effects of GPC in 13 clinical trials and 4,054 patients with varying brain disorders and impairments shows that GPC in doses of 600 to 1200 milligrams a day significantly improves a patient’s clinical condition in terms of memory and attention-deficit. Melatonin, an antioxidant, is manufactured in the pineal gland. It regulates the internal time clock of the body, keeping sleep cycles balanced. Many researchers feel melatonin holds the key to aging. When the pineal gland shrinks with age, less melatonin is manufactured. The normal sleep rhythms become disrupted, growth hormone release slows down, and the normal repair and regeneration of tissues that took place in younger years when melatonin levels were higher slows down and degeneration of tissues and organs occurs. Thus, aging begins. The typical dose of melatonin in the 50-plus age group is three milligrams to start with, increasing to six milligrams per day, taken 30 minutes before bedtime. Essential fatty acids are very important to brain function as the basic building blocks of the brain are docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), which are essential fatty acids, with DHA being the most important. Studies on DHA have shown that supplementation in elderly rats decreased reference memory errors and working memory errors in younger rats. The hope is that supplementation in humans will have the same results.

THE AGING HEART: In middle age, the heart also begins to show the insults of younger years, displaying the damage that smoking, too much alcohol consumption, a sedentary lifestyle, and poor diet can do. Despite statistics that show baby boomers are more physically fit than previous populations their age, USA Today Health reported recently that baby boomers are “beginning to have heart attacks and strokes tilting the statistical scales and driving up cardiovascular deaths for the first time since 1980.” Nearly three out of four baby boomer’s restaurant meals are fast foods, and compared to the rest of the population, baby boomers are also less likely to read food labels than any other groups — factors that could contribute to high cholesterol levels. High cholesterol levels set the stage for coronary artery disease, heart attack or stroke from plaque-blocked arteries. According to the American Heart and Lung Association, smoking is one of the worst things you can do to your heart. It robs the heart and lungs of vital oxygen, which damages or kills heart cells that regenerate much more slowly, or not at all, in middle age. Alcohol, in large quantities, damages cardiac muscles by weakening them, decreasing pumping ability of the heart with a resultant condition of congestive heart failure.

Prevention: Heart attack and stroke can be prevented with lifestyle changes along with supplementation of certain drugs and vitamin therapies. In an interview with AgeVenture News Service, University of Michigan assistant research scientist, Marvin O. Boluyt, Ph.D., author of “Advances in Organ Biology,” instructs that if people want to know how to prevent heart disease as they age, they must know how the heart itself ages. He explains that it is a progression of conditions that weaken the heart rather than anything that occurs suddenly. By age 20, the human heart begins to slow by one beat a year. By age 30, the heart produces less of a key protein, SR calcium ATPase, that regulates the length of each beat so that the heart has to work harder on each beat to keep up its normal output. Boluyt goes on to explain that the heart changes in two ways — from normal wear and tear such as disease and hormonal natural changes such as the decrease in SR calcium ATPase. Boluyt believes that exercise and a healthy lifestyle can reverse and/or prevent some of the changes of the heart that occur such as the decrease in SR calcium ATPase. Regular exercise seems to boost the amount of SR calcium ATPase, which increases the reserve capacity of the heart that normally decreases with age. The better the reserve capacity of the heart, the better it is able to deal with sudden “insults.” In this way, exercise not only decreases the chances of having a heart attack but it increases surviving a heart attack.

Exercise Helps: To prevent heart disease, researchers agree that aerobic exercise (running, walking, swimming, bicycling, etc.) for one hour at least three times a week to strengthen heart and lungs, eating a healthy diet (low saturated/animal fat), and maintaining a healthy lifestyle (no smoking or excessive alcohol, six to eight hours of sleep a night) are mandatory for a healthy heart. Previously, it was thought that elevated stress levels played a large part in keeping a healthy heart. However, this may not be the case. According to the American Heart Association, current data does not support specific recommendations regarding stress reduction as a proven therapy for cardiovascular disease. More importantly, a clearer relationship does exist between cardiovascular disease and environmental and psychosocial factors such as job strain, isolation, and certain personality traits (type A, “hyper” personalities have a higher incidence of hypertensive heart disease). Preventing second heart attacks in patients is more successful if the patient’s environmental and psychosocial factors are addressed successfully rather than if the patient feels “stress” in relation to having the heart attack.

Vitamins and Supplements: Certain foods, vitamins and supplements can also help prolong a healthy heart. A 1995 study shows that drinking a glass of dark red wine a day improves heart health by decreasing ADP-induced platelet aggregation and increasing HDL (the good kind) cholesterol. More recent studies by researchers at University of California, Davis, have discovered saponins in the skin of dark blue/purple grapes that also contribute to red wine’s cholesterol-lowering properties. Saponins are also present in soy beans and peas. Resveratrol, another anti-oxidant present in dark red, blue grapes, has also recently been proven to not only cut cholesterol but fight general body aging as well. A 2003 Harvard Medical School study reported in “Nature” magazine (August 2003) on resveratrol experiments on yeast cells. Those treated with resveratrol lived 80-percent longer than the nontreated cells. The researchers had similar results on human cells with resveratrol. Thirty percent of the treated cells were able to withstand gamma radiation compared to 10 percent of the untreated cells. The findings in both studies imply that food and drugs that contain resveratrol will prolong the life of the cell. However, one does not have to drink red wine to get the benefits of resveratrol. Indeed, the American Heart Association cautions that too much wine (of any color) can raise triglycerides to a dangerous level as well as adding extra calories that may contribute to obesity, two of the heart’s worst enemies. Two important antioxidant supplements are CoQ10, which increases oxygen to the heart muscle, and vitamin E, which helps blood maintain a healthy viscosity and prevent clots. Folic acid normalizes homocysteine, a blood protein recently discovered to aggravate plaque buildup. The herbal supplement hawthorn berry is revered by alternative health practitioners as beneficial to heart function. It stimulates increased enzyme metabolism in the heart muscle and improves oxygen usage. Uses for hawthorn berry include dilation of coronary artery vessels, strengthening of heart muscles, and lowering blood pressure to name a few of its heart-helping properties.

Cutting calories while maintaining optimal nutrition has recently been proven to have a beneficial anti-aging effect on the heart as well. In a study led by University of Wisconsin-Madison genetics Professor Tomas A. Prolla and Medical School professor, Stephen Weindruch, middle-aged mice were put on a calorie-restricted diet, which caused “uptick” in their heart beats and function in old age. Caloric restriction, among other things, inhibited the genes involved in cell death and inflammation, suggesting that the heart cells of animals on a restricted calorie diet are healthier overall.

Other Measures: Other preventative measures include an annual heart check up including echocardiogram which can show dangerous blockages before they cause a heart attack, electrocardiogram which can detect abnormalities of heart rhythms — irregular rhythms can lead to sudden cardiac death; and a C-reactive protein level monitoring. C-reactive protein, or CRP, level testing can predict risk for heart attack even in people who don’t have other risk factors such as smoking, bad diet, or sedentary lifestyle. However, people with elevated CRPs and elevated cholesterol levels run a five-times higher risk for heart attack.

GENERAL BODY AGING: Middle age is the time when aging concerns include slowing metabolisms and hormone decreases which can result in weight gain, loss of stamina, and strength, as well as changing reproductive and sexual health. According to the American Medical Association, 56 million male and female baby boomers are living with heart disease, osteoporosis, arthritis or diabetes. Hearing loss (especially in those who frequently listened to loud music from booming speakers or even headphones) is common in the 45 to 64 age group with 10 million people suffering from the condition — higher than people over age 65 with hearing loss at 9 million.

The Body’s Reaction: While getting older is inevitable, the debilitating conditions and diseases of aging, may not be in the near future. A recent report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Septemer 5, 2003, showed the human body has a built-in defect in its self-defense mechanism. The human body cannot defend itself, it seems, against mitochondrial DNA damage. Mitochondria are the “power centers” of cells that cause growth and activity in the cell. Aging cells constantly undergo genetic mutations, but are also constantly being repaired by DNA mitochondria. When this process slows down, or is blocked, the repair process either becomes less effective or does not occur at all and the effects of aging begin to be seen and felt as the damaged, or faultily repaired cell, replicates itself. The important aspect of this study is that the researchers found the biochemical “roadblock” that prevents the DNA repair enzyme from doing its job effectively, i.e., reaching the mitochondrial damage in aging cells. Finding this roadblock means that they can now devise a chemical process to open the roadblock within the cell and allow the repair enzyme to do its work in a “youthful” way.

Possible Treatments: Having reached middle age now, baby boomer medical and scientific researchers seek to prolong the strength and longevity of both their generation and future generations by finding medical treatments, drugs, supplements and other modalities that will mitigate or completely do away with the debilitating conditions of aging. Indeed, by the year 2003, entire institutes devoted to Anti-Aging, or Age-Management, Medicine have sprung up across America — the American Anti-Aging Society, the American Cenegenics Institute, and the American Association of Anti-Aging Medicine, to name a few. Entire departments of Anti-Aging Medicine attached to renowned medical schools around the country and world have come into being with more medical health care practitioners shifting their traditional practices to include more futuristic, preventative, anti-aging regimes. Alan Mintz, M.D., CEO of the Cenegenics Institute in Nevada, says: “The focus of Age Management Medicine is truly preventive medicine, regaining and maintaining optimal health and vigor. Our therapies are scientifically and evidenced-based and individually structured based on a full (patient) evaluation”. A large, and controversial, focus of anti-aging therapies surround supplementation of deficient hormones, including human growth hormone, or HGH. It is believed that when HGH levels decline, the human body begins to age, often times prematurely. Dr. Mintz has this to say about HGH and other hormone supplementation: “Most individuals over 35 need hormone supplementation including human growth hormone, sex hormones, thyroid, and possibly others. Life gets better when we have a full tank of gas. Hormone supplementation improves sexual desire and performance, increases energy and lean muscle, reduces body fat, improves cognitive function, and reduces the risk of disease. The goal is to return all of your hormones to the upper end of the normal range. Balancing your hormonal levels at the upper 25 percent of the normal range, the optimal range, is where success occurs. That is when we can achieve optimal health and vigor”.

Human Genome Project: Even the Human Genome Project, which is mapping the DNA of the human body, will play a pivotal role in anti-aging medicine. Ironically, the “double helix” of DNA was discovered during the baby boomer era, 1953, and turned 50 years old itself on April 25, 2003. It seems only fitting then, perhaps even providential, that as the Human Genome Project documents the structure of human DNA, so will researchers learn what physical and chemical changes causes human cells to age and how gene therapy (i.e., replacing defective genes with healthy genes through either cloning or chemical intervention) and stem cell therapy (regenerating defective organs and tissues with the cells of young, healthy tissues) can mitigate or bypass certain aspects of aging and/or disease entirely. Anti-aging medicine researchers have predicted that soon it will be commoplace for human beings to live 120 years and longer with many years spent in good, vital health and productive living.

CONCLUSION: It is conceivable, then, that baby boomers might just be pioneers in another area — the first generation of people in large numbers to live well past their 100th birthdays in good, and productive health. Dr. Mintz says: “Perhaps the most important message that we can give to the baby boomer generation and anyone interested in living healthy is not to do anything to shorten your life (bad lifestyle habits, nutritional habits, or exercise habits). The focused goal is to stay alive so we can take advantage of the new breakthroughs that will occur in the next 20 years. These breakthroughs will include things like stem cell therapy, the ability to prevent chromosome aging, gene replacement, and other concepts we have not yet developed.”

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