Monday, January 25, 2010

Suffering From Hot Flashes?

by Staness Jonekos
Hot Flash 101
The most common and often the most irritating symptom associated with menopause is the hot flash. As many as 75 percent of women going through menopause in the United States experience hot flashes with 10% to 15% of women having severe or frequent hot flashes. I had miserable hot flashes that heated up at the most inconvenient times and sometimes flaring up every few hours. I tried every trick in the book to eliminate this miserable symptom – from herbs, to teas, to exercise, to diet, to praying hourly that they would disappear – but they persisted.
With confusing and conflicting information online and in best-selling books, I teamed up with leading menopause expert and co-author of The Menopause Makeover, Dr. Wendy Klein, to get the latest scientific information on alternative, complementary and medical options to relieve hot flashes.
Understanding available hot flash options will give you the opportunity to discuss menopause management with your clinician. This interview with Dr. Klein is the first in a series that addresses the various menopause symptoms.
Hot Flash Interview
Staness: Dr. Klein, what exactly is a hot flash?
Dr. Klein: A hot flash is a sensation of extreme heat in the head and upper body generally associated with sweating.
We know from studying women that the internal core temperature does increase. You can a put a sensor on the skin and before a woman experiences a hot flash she will be able to tell you, “I am going to have a hot flash.” And sure enough, there will be an increase in internal core temperature followed by profuse sweating which is very uncomfortable. As you know, the purpose of sweating is to cool the body so there is often a reflex of sort of chill that follows the hot flash. It is a very uncomfortable and distracting sensation. It can occur at any time of the day. It can occur with tremendous variability, it can happen many times an hour or only just once or twice a day. Some women have one or two hot flashes a day, and get through menopause with no problems while other women have fifteen or twenty a day. We are all different.
Staness: What causes a hot flash?
Dr. Klein: We are still trying to understand exactly what causes hot flashes. We know that they are related to the hypothalamus, which is in the center of the brain and acts like the thermostat for the body. What we don’t understand is why some women are so troubled by them and others are not.
Certain women seem to have triggers. An alcoholic beverage may bring on a hot flash, or a change in external temperature can cause a hot flash for some women. In general, the hormonal flux or variation in hormone levels seems to be related to this sensation in some women.
Staness: Are there other causes?
Dr. Klein: We know that smoking is associated with hot flashes. Women who smoke have a higher risk of troublesome hot flashes, so obviously you should not smoke.
Also certain medicines can cause hot flashes such as certain antidepressants SSRI, Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, are common antidepressants that can actually cause an increase in hot flashes. Yet, for some women, a very low dose can actually alleviate hot flashes, making antidepressants an alternative to hormone therapy.
Illnesses and fever can cause hot flashes, as can malignancies, and tuberculosis – many illnesses can cause hot flashes.
Increased BMI, Body Mass Index, has been associated with hot flashes. We used to think that women who were heavy had excess estrogen, and therefore fewer hot flashes. Now from the major study that was done in the SWAN, Study of Women Across the Nation, we know that women who are heavy, who have abnormally high body mass index, are at increased risk for hot flashes.
Staness: What’s a menopausal gal to do if she suffers from hot flashes?
Dr. Klein: The real issue is how troubled are you. Some women find that they can manage their hot flashes with simple lifestyle changes, such as wearing layered clothing, lowering the thermostat, carrying a fan, drinking cool beverages, avoiding triggers like caffeine and alcohol. Some women can have a few hot flashes a day and over time, seventy-five to eighty percent of cases the hot flashes will diminish and disappear. Then there is a subset of women for whom hot flashes are really troubling and don’t go away. Lots of women have recurring hot flashes waking them up over and over again and they can’t go back to sleep. They are not getting enough rest; they wake up grouchy, tired, and sweaty. If it is really a problem, there are hormonal therapies that will alleviate these symptoms. As you know hormone therapy can have side effects, so you must always weigh the benefit versus the risk. There are very low dose hormone therapies that are now available that can be extremely useful for alleviating hot flashes.
There are some other options to consider such as soy and black cohosh. The studies regarding soy are mixed, with some showing that soy can be helpful; while there are other studies that show soy may help with mild symptoms. Soy is benign and easily available and may be worth trying. Black cohosh is another herb and has been used in Europe widely, but you have to be careful because there have been reports of toxicity with high doses. Used in limited amounts in standardized doses black cohosh supplements may help some women with hot flashes. Again, there have been mixed studies, so whatever you do, and with anything you take, you should always discuss with your clinician.
You can also try lifestyle changes – wearing layered clothing, practice deep breathing, meditation and yoga, exercising – all of these things that can be really helpful in learning to live with the symptoms if they are moderate.
Another option to treat hot flashes is gabapentin. This is a drug that was originally developed as an antiseizure medicine. Gabapentin is widely used for pain relief, because it was discovered that with patients in whom it was used for seizures, it helped with pain. It was then found that it helped with hot flashes. Gabapentin is a reasonable alternative to discuss with your clinician if you do not want to or if you cannot take hormone therapy.
Staness: I was on birth control pills for years and had no idea I was perimenopausal until I stopped them, then the hot flashes started erupting. Are birth control pills a good option for hot flashes?
Dr. Klein: Birth control pills are a form of hormone therapy. They are a higher dose than standard menopausal therapy, but there is estrogen in most birth control pills and that keeps hot flashes away. If you are in the perimenopausal phase, birth control pills can also be useful for regulating your periods, plus they keep hot flashes away.
Understanding the causes and solutions for hot flashes is the first step to managing your menopause. If you suffer from hot flashes, discuss your treatment options (alternative, complementary and medical) with your healthcare provider.
Staness Jonekos is an advocate for women's health, wellness and empowerment. An award-winning television writer, producer and director, she was one of the original executive producers who launched the television network Oxygen Media, cofounded by Oprah Winfrey. Following her commitment to health, Staness co-executive produced the premiere season of VH1's Celebrity Fit Club, and post produced Lifetime's Speaking of Women's Health. Recently, Staness launched into the publishing world sharing her 8-step 12-week Menopause Makeover program in her first book The Menopause Makeover, co-authored with menopause expert Dr. Wendy Klein. Visit Staness at

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Flattering Styles for a Disappearing Waistline

Shopping for a new outfit can be frustrating when your body is changing as fast as your hormones and designers are focusing on younger smaller woman.
For the past year I have been hiding my disappearing waistline with baggy clothes. With my body fat shifting to my belly, it’s time for a shopping spree. With my new larger body measurements I quickly learned what styles were flattering on real women.
Click here then page 3 to purchase these flattering outfits.
Flattering Styles
With an increasing waistline, longer length tops and jackets that sit lower on your hips create a “longer” line. A top that sits at the waistline will accentuate an area you wish to diminish. Make sure your top does not hit the largest area of your hips. The length should hit just below the waistline to mid-thigh. It is best to wear jackets open for a clean vertical line. V-necks, open collars, turtlenecks and wrap tops will bring the attention to your face.
Layering can create a comfortable and stylish look. If you are suffering with hot flashes layering will be your best friend. Be careful to layer properly. Too many bulky layers will only make you look bigger. Try a fitted camisole under a fun blazer or oversized sweater.

Whether your bottom has gotten bigger or dropped from age, an A-Line Skirt is a must in your new wardrobe. Not only will it flatter a fuller figure, the waist is fitted and flairs out so the smooth lines don’t show the problem areas. You can also wear a longer top without adding bulk at your waistline. You should wear an A-Line skirt at knee length. Try wearing a dark color for the skirt and a fun top with accessories to bring the attention to your face.
Pants are one of the hardest wardrobe items to buy. Even before menopause finding the perfect fitting pant was tough. But, pants can be flattering with a straight (if you are 5′4″ or shorter) or boot-cut leg (taller than 5′4″) with the waistline falling just below your natural waistline. Try solid darker colors to create a nice straight line. Do not buy pleated or tapered legged pants, these styles will only bring attention to your disappearing waistline and hips.  The jeans pictured, Not Your Daughters Jeans, are awesome!  They are comfy, give you a little support and very flattering –  menopause makeover approved.

Dresses look best when they are one-piece, not separates. They will elongate your body. The length should hit between your knees and mid calf. If you have great legs, show them. Choose a dress length just below the knee. If you have great cleavage, choose a neckline that celebrates your bust line. Accessories can bring the attention to the top half of your body. And for a dressy occasion, bare your shoulders and arms. If you are uncomfortable with your arms, cover them with a shear wrap or bolero jacket.

Undergarment foundations are my newest discovery! I purchased an all-in-one shaper. I was firmer and my soft lumpy spots didn’t ruin the nice line in my outfit.
Know your best feature. If it is your legs, wear knee length dresses. If it is your bust, enjoy a plunging neckline. Whatever your special asset, this is the time to flaunt it.
If you are pear-shaped bring the attention to your upper body using style, color and accessories. If you are apple-shaped, show off those legs with shorter hemlines (around the knee) and sexy shoes.
51yuFuwkp3L._AA280_Once you update your wardrobe, add a few sexy shoes, a fun handbag and accessories for day and nighttime.
Enjoy looking and feeling beautiful.


Staness Jonekos is an advocate for women's health, wellness and empowerment. An award-winning television writer, producer and director, she was one of the original executive producers who launched the television network Oxygen Media, cofounded by Oprah Winfrey. Following her commitment to health, Staness co-executive produced the premiere season of VH1's Celebrity Fit Club, and post produced Lifetime's Speaking of Women's Health. Recently, Staness launched into the publishing world sharing her 8-step 12-week Menopause Makeover program in her first book The Menopause Makeover, co-authored with menopause expert Dr. Wendy Klein. Visit Staness at

Monday, January 18, 2010

Midlife – The Madness and the Magic

by Raewyn Hamilton

Why is midlife such an important rite of passage and why isn’t there a manual for it?  There is for every other key life experience such as puberty, marriage, pregnancy etc, etc.

My midlife transition finished with an emotional collapse which stopped me dead in my tracks after  3 years of personal unrest, inner conflict and a lack of interest in a 30 year career.  I had completely ignored all the other signs. I recognised my life had to change dramatically as I had to a large degree lost my self esteem and was totally off centre.  I had tried talking to a counsellor; I searched the internet and the bookshops and found a yawning gap where helpful books or similar stories should have been.  Then I started sharing my story with other women and was amazed at the parallels in similar women’s lives.  This is what I discovered.

Many of the women I spoke to in the 50+ age group are floundering in their search for  1. what matters in their lives,  2. what works for them  and 3. what’s next..  They are adamant there is a next, and they do not want to stay confused, or dependent, or depressed, or unfulfilled. 

They have probably realised their mortality is limited, they know they have at least 20-30 good years ahead of them, they know life is hard and that calamities are inevitable throughout midlife and they care less about what society thinks so they are feeling empowered but frustrated.

They recognise the importance of the sisterhood (ie. talking to their good friends about what is a common theme and about problems) and delight in sharing ideas and they will take advice from others in the same situation.  They are not interested in young fashion as they know what suits them and they are not interested in endless goal setting, the latest life coach or most of the ra ra stuff that is being offered through motivational speakers. 

They are more than willing to approach health alternatively and will not take conventional medicine as gospel.  They have in many cases had a ghastly time going through menopause with the resultant emotional and physical turmoil as it may take up to 10 years in some cases.  They have felt at times they were going mad and in previous years women accepted HRT or anti-depressants as a way through.

They are much younger as 50-60 year olds than their mothers as they have been trail blazers since the 60’s with contraception, child-rearing, juggling sometimes great careers and are used to running on adrenalin. They recognise they do not think the same way as they did prior to menopause. There are different hormones running their systems and in some cases they wake up one morning, in careers they have enjoyed, not wanting to go to work. One of the main reasons they are trail blazers is that in 1900 women’s average life expectancy was 47.5.  It is now in the early 80’s. Because of this they are having to experience more divorce, death, sickness, children’s ongoing dependency, care of aged parents and financial responsibility for own retirement years, plus in many cases how to make new mid-life relationships work or rejuvenate a marriage of 30plus years..

Previously in their lives such women explain they had always had a purpose going forward as an adolescent, a wife, mother, career person etc etc .Now none of those apply or are enough of a reason to sustain fulfilment.  Some find as they age they are invisible to employers and are not seen as valuable members of the community as they are in some societies. 

One such woman spoken to had written the following poem by way of explanation:
If the universe has a plan for me
Would someone let me know
Because I have somehow lost my way
I don’t know where to go
I know there’s a purpose for me on earth
But I don’t understand
Where to look for my spiritual road
I need a helping hand
True happiness and peace elude me
Purpose is lost somewhere
So before I go mad- please let me know
Just why on earth I’m here.

Women are feeling a need to claim back their strength without dependency and are willing to make changes in their 50’s.  They are also willing to accept a concept of wealth by understanding the need to take charge of their finances. This was never part of their mother’s job description so most have not been programmed to deal with finance and investing.

Thank goodness sites like this exist where women can air their issues, have a laugh at themselves, share and grow in the online company of other like minded and supportive women in their collective quest for a new happiness.

In the words of Carlin Flora in an article in Canvas mag. 7.2.09, NZ Herald,
‘Happiness encompasses living a meaningful life, utilizing your gifts and your time while living with thought and purpose’.


Raewyn Hamilton is a co-founder of – an online, one stop destination for midlife and beyond women.  Wiseanow is  for midlife women launched in November 2009 in New Zealand.  30 years heading a residential real estate company, MBA graduate, mother of two gorgeous daughters and grandmother to 5 grandchildren, happily married but not for the first time of course and caught short wondering what's next at 60.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Seven Myths About Women Over 50


The co-authors of Saving the Best For Last: Creating Our Lives After 50 really do believe that this is the best part of their lives. They want to dispel some of the myths people have about women over 50. There are lots of them, but they have chosen the top seven to write about.

We three women over fifty decided some years ago to change the conversation about aging and dispel myths about women over fifty. These myths may have had validity when none of us humans lived much past age fifty or sixty. Remember our grandmothers? They looked old at forty. They wore housedresses and sturdy shoes. Their lives were all about raising their children, and when that was done it seemed that at least in society’s eyes, their lives were done.

Today we women over fifty have changed considerably. Our average life span is eighty-plus years. We are out in the world, making art, saving villages, improving our communities, keeping up with runway fashions, and living our lives. Yet somehow, myths remain. Here are the ones we keep encountering..

1. Women over fifty don’t care what they look like.

Since two out of the three of us are planning to have our next round of cosmetic surgery, we take exception to this. We now remember with fondness that construction workers used to give us wolf-whistles. We thought it obnoxious then. We miss it now. Women like us drag ourselves to the gym, where we get to compete with twenty-somethings for parking spaces and treadmills. We take Yoga and Pilates, go on diets, run marathons, go on diets, dye our hair, go on diets, get contact lenses, go on diets. We care. A lot.

2. Women over fifty don’t like sex.

Since one of the three of us is married, this is a touchy subject. The answer is, just let a healthy, willing, attractive male show up in our vicinity and we will be ready. Or, if even two out of three of those categories show up, we will be ready. Actually, “willing” might make up for any other shortfalls, depending on how long it’s been. And just think, since we can’t get pregnant, we can just zip past the pregnancy prevention shelf at the drug store.

3.  Women over fifty find menopause terrible and debilitating.

YES! Menopause is TERRIBLE and DEBILITATING. It ruins our lives. It is the worst thing that has ever been invented in the history of the universe. It is worse than diet ice cream. OK, now that we have acknowledged that, can we please move on? The fact is that two of us didn’t even notice menopause, except that we could also zip right past the sanitary products shelf too. So, menopause exists and we’ll have it for awhile, and then we’ll get over it.

4. Women over fifty can’t keep up with the times.

Interesting, since women over fifty are the fastest growing group on Facebook. We three have six computers among us. We have and use PDAs, GPSs, and iPods. We have almost outgrown email, and are Facebooking and twittering. And let’s face it: Without us, a lot of the Help Lines would go out of business. We may have grown up in the Stone Age, but we have managed to survive into the computer age.

5. Women over fifty miss our children and only want to be with our grandchildren.

We love and adore our children. We love and adore our grandchildren. That’s the only acceptable answer, isn’t it, since this will be in print? We love them the most when they don’t ask us to baby sit too much. But seriously, we can love them and still want a life. That’s the bottom line.

6. Women over fifty fear change.

That’s really funny, since virtually everything about us is changing. Body parts are moving to different locations or vacating entirely. Hair is now appearing in places it never was and disappearing from places it used to be. We could go on and on. So, we say we don’t fear change. We are, and have been, the movers and shakers of our lives. Go to any art class and see who is involved in creative pursuit. Go to yoga or meditation classes to see the same. Look at the women starting new careers, or the ones running for office. Check out writing classes, art appreciation classes, cooking classes. Look at who is doing work in developing countries, starting foundations, traveling the world, raising money for causes, marching for causes. Change? Bring it on! We are well-practiced, and good at it.

7. Women over fifty are counting the days until retirement.

We agree with this statement. No matter how much we love our careers, we are chomping at the bit to have the time to travel, to explore, to start new businesses, to enroll in college, to volunteer, to write books, to inspire our daughters’ and granddaughters’ generations with the unlimited possibility we have. We can’t wait to retire so we can see what’s next. We have lived only the first half of our lives and are anxious to see what we will create in the second half.

So, let us bury the useless, outworn myths along with all other outmoded notions of who we women are and what we are up to in our lives. We are here. We’re living, laughing, and loving, and planning to be so for the next fifty years.


Renee Fisher is a former special ed teacher, now a realtor in Northern Virginia and the DC Boomer Humor columnist for She lives in Arlington, VA. Joyce Kramer is a former English teacher, now an international HIV/AIDs consultant. She lives on Anna Maria Island, FL. Jean Peelen is a retired civil rights attorney, now an actress and model. She lives on Anna Maria Island, FL

All three are the authors of Invisible No More: The Secret Lives of Women Over 50 and of Saving the Best For Last: Creating Our Lives after 50. Their new book was published in April 2009. In addition to writing books, they speak to women’s groups and organizations, conduct workshops, write magazine articles and thoroughly enjoy their lives.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Productive Procrastination

By Kerul Kassel, © November 2009
[Note that client names and identifying details have been changed to protect confidentiality.]

Kelly Higgins had a wonderful idea for a new business initiative – one that was nicely aligned with her current business model and values: A membership continuity program to give her consulting clients more support and value while increasing her visibility and enhancing her “expert” status. Higgins, a New York-based leadership consultant, had been thinking about how to move forward with it and how it might look, though nothing much seemed to have come of it yet … it had been months. When she told colleagues and friends about this idea, they had been excited for her and offered their encouragement. Six months later, though, they were wondering why she had involved herself in other projects, as she seemed to be making little headway with this more heart-connected effort.

Kelly, too, wondered why she wasn't making more of an effort, and began to doubt herself. She couldn't decide if she wasn't managing her time well, if her priorities were off kilter or if she was being just plain lazy.  Then she called me.

We discussed that there was another alternative. Perhaps she really was making progress, though it was less tangible than she expected it to be. She had been experimenting mentally with some of her ideas, making contacts with people who had done similar or related things and talking with people who were in her target market about what their needs might be in this area. All of this was percolating and marinating in a positive way, so that when she was ready to take action on it, that action would be informed, inspired and highly focused, and there would be little wasted effort.  Meanwhile, she was investing most her energy into strengthening her current revenue streams.

Most business people face this kind of postponed initiative, and it affects not only their self-perception, but their effectiveness and productivity.   And the fix isn’t what you’d expect it to be.

Let your feet drag
It sounds counter-intuitive, right?  Put something off just because you don't have crystal clarity?  Shouldn't you be doing something – anything – to create forward movement?

Recently, in an Orlando-area workshop, participants were involved in developing a more in-depth picture of what they wanted their future to look like, including their business or career goals, financial profile, personal aspirations, relationships, home life, etc.  Denise Daniels, who had sold her family business a few months earlier, hoped to leave with a clear and thorough idea of what was next for her.  Despite a variety of visioning exercises, it didn't happen for her that evening.  She simply wasn’t ready yet.  Pushing for “the right answer” when the broad outline isn’t yet settled results in wheel-spinning, at best.
While you’re waiting for that proverbial light bulb to go on, there are certainly things you can do to help the process along, including examining your values, composing missions, mind-mapping, journaling, even dream-boarding and meditating.  Sometimes the most effective technique for defining your vision is to sit alone on a deserted beach or take a solitary hike in the woods.

If you've played with those exercises and the vision is still vague, here's an expert recommendation: wait.  You read it right.  Wait.  Wait for clarity.

To take action simply for the sake of taking action usually results in frustration, exasperation and time lost.  As an alternative, focus on other goals and activities for the time being.  You never know, engaging in them instead might lead to meeting someone, reading something, hearing or seeing an idea, resource or event that becomes the stimulus forward, that connects you to the next steps or removes the veil in front of what you'd like your future to look like.

Stop thinking so much
The cloudiness of your future vision will have you concerned, frustrated, impatient, confused, or just feeling stuck.  Doubt and indecision will dog your actions, if you let them. The focus on the future can often lead to second-guessing and struggle with the present, which causes a HUGE reduction in productivity – at least the kind of effectiveness that produces results that you can be really satisfied with.

For the moment, forget about the future, particularly if contemplating it gets you tied in knots.  Let go of the perceived need to make a decision, particularly if there is no deadline (and if there is a deadline, say “no” unless you feel a definite “yes”).  Put your energy fully into those activities that are most strongly aligned with your clear picture of what you’d like your current – not future – success to look like.   And don’t pay any heed to those self-critical messages running through your brain telling you you’re a slacker for not moving ahead.  Your inner judge is there to help prevent you from failing, so understand its purpose without buying into its bullying.

We’re used to solving problems by analysis and intentional thinking.  This generally works pretty well, unless you’re courting creativity and future possibilities.  We usually manage our lives, work and challenges using logic, reason, categorization, and process – something our culture is quite keen on.  Most of us aren’t practiced at using the imaginative, holistic, more random and feeling dimensions that set the stage for synthesis, possibility and bigger picture ideation.  “Mindless” activities help put us in touch with this part of our brain, and we can more easily make the lateral connections that lead to an “a-ha!”  It’s like the difference between systematically looking under every boulder, around every tree and within every bush with the only aim being to find “it” quickly, versus meandering along where you feel drawn while maintaining a keen awareness of your surroundings, with the purpose of enjoying the search, and allowing the space and time as needed until “it” is found. 

Doing the latter requires faith and trust, as well as self-confidence; faith that the information you need will come to you in time, trust that you’re not missing opportunities or shooting yourself in the foot while you wait, and self-confidence that you’re not being stupid, woo-woo, lazy, or using bad judgment.  It takes some practice to sustain patience in the face of those internal critics, but it’s entirely possible.  As you experience more positive outcomes it gets easier.  In the interim, you’re OODLES more productive, as you put your shoulder into current priorities and efforts, those for which the time is now ripe and appropriate.

About the Author:
Kerul Kassel is the author of “Productive Procrastination” as well as the award winning, “Stop Procrastinating Now.” As the founder of New Leaf Systems -  a consulting firm dedicated to creating higher performance outcomes and business profitability - her clients are solopreneurs, professionals and executives, and she has also worked wtih corporate organizations such as NASA, Sony, Hilton, and Volvo. For more information visit or take her Procrastinator Profiler Quiz at