April 2016 Hot Flashes

3 Dumb Things We Do with Our Smart Phones

From posture to performance, these phone habits may take a toll on your health.

1. Slouching and Staring

Looking down can strain neck and back ligaments, suggests a computer-model analysis. Your head weighs 10 to 12 pounds, but focusing downward can increase forces on the neck by five times or more, leading to poor posture and pain. Straighten up with tips from report author Kenneth Hansraj, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon in Poughkeepsie, NY.

  • Hold It Right There. Carry device at chest height with head up, chest open and shoulder blades back. Move just your eyes downward. 
  • Take a Break. Your neck is not supposed to stay stuck in one position for a long period. If you’re reading on a tablet or phone, stop every so often to swivel and tilt your head—up and down, then side to side. 

2. Treating It Like a Toy

People who are glued to their cell phones may have lost the ability to entertain themselves without one, found Kent State University study. Less frequent users (under three hours a day) can more easily plug into relaxing low-tech activities like reading and exercising. 

3. Taking It to Work

Having your cell out on your desk is distracting, even when it’s turned off. Researchers at the University of Southern Maine found that students with phones out did poorly on focused tasks, versus those whose devices were hidden. Stash yours when you’re on the job!

(Good Housekeeping, March 2015)

Sneaky Sculptors

Trick your abs into flattening fast with allover toners that feel nothing like core work

1. Cross Over: Works hamstrings thighs, glutes, abs

Stand on right foot, left leg bent back and lifted. Extend left arm over head. Hinge forward from waist, keeping back flat, reaching left hand toward right foot. Return to start. Do 12 reps. Switch sides; repeat.

  • Go easy! Keep back toes lightly planted.
  • Fit Tip: Contract abs throughout

2. Booty Lifter: Works hamstrings, thighs, glutes, abs

Sit with right foot flat, left foot off floor. Press into right heel and quickly stand. Return to seated position. Do 12 eps. Switch sides; repeat.

  • Go easy!  Use arms to push off the seat.
  • Fit Tip: Stare forward to stay balanced.

3. Hip-Hopper: Works glutes, abs

Stand with feet hip-width apart. Jump to the right, landing on right leg with left leg lifted slightly. Repeat to the left to complete one rep. Do 12 reps.

  • Go easy! Pause between hops.
  • Fit Tip: Put pennies on the floor where you want to land, and aim for one of them with each leap. 

(Good Housekeeping, March 2015)

Avoid a Midriff Crisis: Menopause isn’t the boss of your scale. 

Menopausal weight gain is like a chubby bogeyman lurking in the dark closet of women’s lives. On top of the hormonal free-for-all of hot flashes and night sweats, most women—thin, healthy weight, and overweight alike—can expect to gain an average of 10 to 15 pounds before, during, and after menopause. 

But those climbing scale numbers may not be the fault of menopause. “It’s not 100% clear whether women’s midlife weight gain is related to the hormonal changes of menopause or whether women’s midlife weight gain is related to the hormonal changes of menopause or whether it’s related to the gaining process itself,” says Bette Caan, DrPH, a senior research scientist with Kaiser Permanente. In fact, research shows that both men and women are likely to put on pounds in midlife. For both genders, that creeping weight gain is associated with a loss in muscle mass, particularly bad news because less muscle means a slower metabolism. 

Unfortunately, whether the weight gain is the result of menopause or midlife, it’s not dark magic. It’s only pounds, and pounds can be shed. Caan recalls a study of menopausal omen that she worked on decades ago: “We weren’t trying to help them lose weight. Our focus was on decreasing fat in the diet to try to decrease breast cancer risk.” The diet included increased fruits and vegetables and whole grains, “but this was the ‘90s,” she notes, “and our big focus was cutting fat, s we didn’t really pay attention to what we were substituting for the fat, and our diet was very high in refined carbohydrates—it might have included fat-free cookies and pudding with whipped topping. It’s not a diet we’d pick today.” But even on this les than ideal regimen, the women on the diet were three times more likely to drop weight than control subjects. 

And they lost that weight without the added boost of exercise. Midlife pounds can be slightly more stubborn (thanks, slowed metabolism), so it may take the one-two punch of healthy diet plus exercise to budge them. Bonus: While it’s burning calories, exercise also builds muscle and strengthens bones. 

Finally, Caan notes that overweight women report more hot flashes and night sweats than their leaner peers. “More research needs to be done before anyone can definitively say that weight loss is an effective treatment for hot flashes, but there’s a growing body of evidence that suggests that losing weight may decrease menopausal symptoms.” 

(Cooking Light, August 2015

Escape from Hormone Hell

If, once a month, you turn crazy pants, go on cupcake benders, or QVC-binge at 2 a.m., guess what? You’re normal. Ricocheting reproductive hormones can influence your period, fertility, and sex drive—and your mental state and sleep cycle and appetite. Use this advice to keep everything in check. 

ESTROGEN

  • The hormone:  estradiol, the most potent type, prepares the uterus for conception. Stable levels can boost sex drive and immunity.
  • Big impacts: Estrogen sends “grow” signals to your body’s every cell, from your breasts to your bones. But too much can lead to severe PMS, fertility woes, even breast cancer. Too little can lead to osteoporosis. 
  • The balancing act: Being way too thin can hinder production, while extra fat cells can produce a type of estrogen that messes with estradiol. The key: maintaining a healthy weight. Aim for a BMI between 18.5 and 30. 

PROGESTERONE

  • The hormone: It creates a cushy uterine lining (i.e., an embryo crib) each month. No conception? Levels sink, triggering your period. 
  • Big impacts: Talk about a love-hate affair: Progesterone has a mild sedative effect that can lead to solid sleep (hence those sounder pre-rag z’s). It can also ramp up water retention, gassiness, and constipation…ouch. 
  • The balancing act: Since regulating this hormone is critical for baby-making, many wannabe mamas turn to OTC creams. Don’t. Studies show they’re useless. What may work: meditation, as little as five minutes per day. 

TESTOSTERONE

  • The hormone: Not just for guys, the androgen hormone supports regular ovulation and a hearty libido. 
  • Big impacts: Too-high levels—often associated with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)—can cause acne, dandruff, or dark hair in abnormal places. Lacking levels can zap your mojo and overall sense of well-being. 
  • The balancing act: Excess testosterone has been closely linked to obesity, so strive for that beneficial BMI. If you’re low, zinc-rich foods like hummus may increase levels. (Relax—you’ll get an energy lift, not a man-beard.)

PROLACTIN

  • The hormone: This one’s made in the brain, and its main jobs are to govern egg release and stimulate breast-milk production in new moms. 
  • Big impacts: Rare sky-high levels can squash your sex drive and bring on menopause-like symptoms. Slightly elevated levels can suppress ovulation. Post-childbirth, normal levels can help you ditch pounds faster. 
  • The balancing act: Skimping on sleep can spike stress hormones such as cortisol and prolactin. Score optimal levels by committing to seven to eight hours of uninterrupted shut-eye every night. 

FSH/LH

  • The hormone: Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) readies eggs for prime time; luteinizing hormone (LH) makes them drop. 
  • Big impacts: Ideal FSH/LH amounts can also contribute to favorable progesterone levels, while spiked FSH has been linked to memory problems, insomnia, and acne. 
  • The balancing act: Keep a lid on your booze intake, especially if you’re looking to have a baby: More than two drinks per day can throw FSH and LH production out of whack. 

(Women’s Health, November 2014)

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