Demystifying menopause: Change in life doesn’t have to be life-changing

It doesn’t take many cobra poses or pickup games of basketball with your kids to realize that, as we age, we can’t do the things we were once accustomed to doing.

As a woman at the threshold of 40, it takes a little longer to catch my breath, to bend down to pick up a ball, or to recover from a particularly physical game. This week, I played a casual game of soccer with my family and was sore for three days. Even my 3-year-old was in better shape than I was.

One of the main concerns I have as I age is menopause. I have had friends enter this stage as early as 40 and as late as 55, and I have noticed many physical and emotional changes that accompany this very real condition. So, I sat down with Dr. David Young, an OBGYN and menopause specialist, to help demystify this part of the aging process.

What is menopause?

Menopause, very simply, is the time in a woman’s life when menstruation stops and she is no longer able to become pregnant. During this time our estrogen levels decrease.

“Ovaries tend to stop producing estrogen,” explained Dr. Young. “As the production of estrogen begins to decrease, it can affect our cardiovascular health and the way we feel. All of the hormones in our bodies are interrelated, so if one hormone has an issue the other hormones can be affected negatively.”

Although the average age for this gradual change is around 50 to 52 years of age, many women in their early 40s experience symptoms of peri-menopause and early signs of the menopause.

What are the symptoms of menopause?

Experts say that technically, menopause is confirmed when a woman has not had a menstrual period for one year. However, the symptoms and signs of menopause generally appear long before the one-year period ends. Symptoms include hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, feminine dryness, weight gain and irritability, among others.

How can I manage the effects of menopause?

This is a natural process in the life of every woman. However, there are ways to control the lingering effects of menopause. Dr. Young is a big supporter of preventative care, particularly in preparing a woman for this often uncomfortable and discombobulating physical transformation.

He advocates regular checkups with your healthcare provider. “Seek regular mammograms starting at 40 or sooner if you have a history of breast cancer or other diseases in your family,” said Young. Incorporating regular exercise in your daily routine is also important.

Young suggests considering taking a supplement, as well. “When we are in our modern-day, fast-paced life, we don’t eat as well, we don’t eat healthy, and we eat out a lot. So supplementing with a brand that contains good vitamins and minerals is very important.”

Although few women openly discuss the onset of menopause with their peers, it is important to track the changes in your body. “Taking care of things before they become a problem is important. If you have something that you are concerned about, have it evaluated and don’t ignore it,” said Young.

In sum

By being proactive in eating right, getting regular exercise, quitting smoking and other harmful habits, and considering supplements, the process of menopause need not be the dreaded phase Grandma warned you about. Instead, it can be a transformative time where women say hello to a new life filled with newly defined freedoms and opportunities just waiting to be discovered.

How to Find the Best Home Health Care

You’ve spent your life knowing your parents and loved ones were there for you providing support, safety, and love. Now, as the roles reverse and the health of your loved one declines, you may be facing the reality of finding proper home care.

Mindy Hill, marketing director for iCare Home & Hospice understands this process and respects the importance of finding proper care for those who need it.

The key is knowing what you need. There is a difference between Home Care and Home Health.

 

“Home health is focused on the clinical needs of a patient,” explained Hill. “Nurses, certified nursing assistants, and occupational and physical therapists provide trained medical care. Home Care providers cater to everyday needs such as shopping, housekeeping, and general companionship services.”

Most people are not aware that Home Health services are even available. Yet, Hill explains where this type of service may need to be considered. If your current situation requires clinical care, Hill offers some suggestions in choosing the proper provider for you.

  1. Check for state certification and accreditation. Every reputable Home Health company must be licensed with the state and accredited with both Medicare/Medicaid and possibly The Joint Commission. Many online sites, including www.medicare.gov provide current information and ratings on healthcare companies in your area.
  2. Check on the company’s history. These same sites may offer information on past write-ups or complaints filed against the company for care-related issues.
  3. Ask questions. When visiting a potential Home Health company, ask about the staff. How often are staff members trained on treatment procedures? For example, Hill explained that iCare has only been servicing the Utah Valley area for 3 years, but the combined experience of its staff exceeds 40 years. “We have a great team and we really care about the older population,” she added. iCare was recently recognized for excellence by the 2014 Daily Herald Best of Utah Valley Readers’ Choice Awards. Also, be sure the services are available 24 hours a day seven days per week and have the ability to place clients in reputable rehab facilities, when necessary.
  4. What is their focus? Hill pointed out many Home Health companies specialize in different things. “Different companies cater to different types of diagnoses. Getting that overall feeling that they really do have knowledge and expertise to help you in that area is important,” said Hill. For example, iCare specializes in vestibular rehabilitation, cardiac and post-stroke treatment. The staff also specializes in matters surrounding varying stages of dementia. “We are seeing an increased need for this diagnoses in the valley,” said Hill.

Addressing the reality of the declining health of a loved one certainly has its share of emotions. But by doing some research and asking important questions, the matter of finding the right Home Care for you can be a positive experience.

Greg and Amy’s Recommendations: Make a plan for (and ideally with) your loved one, balancing what is desired with what is realistic. With a plan in mind, contact your insurance company to find out what services will be covered under what circumstances, as well as what the out-of-pocket cost will be. If you or your loved ones do not have a living will, establish one now. Also, if you will be managing the healthcare decisions for someone else, get a healthcare power of attorney.

Best exercise for older adults

Maintaining a healthy exercise routine is a fundamental part of life for all ages. Each age group stands to benefit from the advantages regular exercise can bring to one’s overall health. This is especially true for older adults who are 50 years and older.

Regular exercise combats all forms of disease by strengthening muscles, including the heart. This improves circulation which reduces the occurrence of high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Regular exercise along with a healthy diet reduces the risks of heart attack and stroke.

Yet not many 60 year olds can start a rigorous exercise routine without injury. Most need to practice an exercise routine that is challenging yet doesn’t provoke stress or cause injury.

The National Institute of Health points out that there are four general types of exercise that are necessary to maintain good health, particularly in older adults.

Strength training

By working with light weights or exercises that use one’s own weight to build muscle increases metabolism which keeps blood sugar in check.

Balance

According to NIH, 300,000 older adults are admitted to the hospital for broken hips each year. Oftentimes, medications can cause side effects such as dizziness or confusion that increase the likelihood of falls with older adults. Other older adults may be suffering from problems with the inner ear which can impede one’s depth perception. Also, impaired vision caused by poor lighting or other household hazards or diseases like cataracts makes it difficult for older adults to safely navigate around the house. Once you have cleared your exercise routine with your physician, you can experiment with various balancing exercises.

Doug Schrift of Eldergym.com describes this type of exercise as an opportunity to ignite your “internal spatial orientation.” For example, if you close your eyes and start raising your arm above your head, you should have a pretty good sense of the location of your arm because of your inner sense of feedback. Balancing exercises strengthen that sensation.

Those who play tennis on a regular basis improve their sense of balance. But sometimes all it takes is placing a strip of masking tape on the floor. With a chair close by for support, you simply practice walking on that line. Dancing, high knee marching, and high above-the-head reaching moves are all beneficial forms of balancing exercises.

Stretching

Encouraging and maintaining flexibility is an important part of good health. The Asian culture, particularly the Chinese community, have been practicing the art of Tai Chi for centuries. This series of movements are ideal in all aspects of exercise. It builds strength, trains on balance and encourages stretching while not creating a negative impact on the body.

Endurance

Strengthening the skeleton and muscles is important. So is strengthening the cardiovascular system. “The most underrated form of exercise out there is walking,” said Dr. Jeremy Osmond, Director of Rehabilitation at Orchard Park Post-Acute Rehab Center in Orem, Utah. “Everybody should be doing it. It’s the simplest form of exercise but it is so healthy and so good for you.”

Also, swimming, biking, low-impact hiking, even household chores increase the heart rate for an extended period of time. Start by exercising in five-minute intervals and build from that.

Exercise is something everybody needs to incorporate into their daily routine, and older adults are no exception. By investing a small amount of time every day for exercise, you can enjoy big rewards in maintaining good health.