The Joys of Turning 50

Time to Get a Colonoscopy

When I turned 50, my doctor urged me to get a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy allows your doctor to look inside your intestines with a flexible tube, as you lie on your side. If polyps are found, they can be cut out and tested to see if there is any sign of cancer.

Unfortunately, I googled “colonoscopy” and read horror stories of people who woke up during the colonoscopy screaming and trying to get off the table. Others still remembered the pain a year or so later.

So I procrastinated until I was 60. I gave myself a pep talk beforehand, and it was over before I knew it. Here are three ways to prepare for a colonoscopy in menopause:

Ask Questions

Once you schedule your colonoscopy a nurse usually calls and goes over your list of medications. If you take aspirin, you may be advised to discontinue taking it a week before the procedure. Essential meds can usually be taken with just a sip of water before you go in.

You’ll be placed on a clear liquid diet a day or two before your colonoscopy, so if you have questions, don’t be afraid to speak up.

Follow Prep Day Instructions

Of course you would rather be out for a fun date with your husband instead of chained to the toilet, but remember it is only for one night, and you’re being proactive about your health.

You drink a big bottle of solution to clean your insides out, and it doesn’t taste like a root beer float. You can use Crystal Lite to cover the nasty taste. It is a temptation to just drink half a bottle, but if you’re not clean enough on the inside, you’ll be doing a repeat performance.

Plan Something Fun

In spite of your best efforts, a colonoscopy is no walk in the park, so after it’s over, do something fun if you don’t have to return to work. Go out for lunch, have a picnic, or catch a movie. In my case, I prefer a large slice of cheesecake smothered in whipped cream.

If I was flexible enough to give myself a good kick in the rear I would – for waiting so long. I had three polyps removed that could have turned malignant. Colorectal cancer death rates increase with age, so it is well worth a few days of inconvenience to save your life.

 

Soak Arthritis Pain Away

Why You Should Buy a Walk-in Tub

 

As you age, the pain of arthritis can make the simplest things seem more difficult. For instance, climbing in and out of the bathtub. In your younger years you could step confidently over the edge of the tub, but now it gets harder, and there is a greater chance you will suffer a fall, or at the very least pull a muscle or two.

This is where a walk-in tub can change your life for the better. There is a low-step entry that allows you to walk in and the floors are made of non-skid materials so you won’t have to use a bath mat. If standing is hard for you, a shower seat can be attached to the side wall.

Tubs are deep enough to fully submerge your body, and you can add some bubble bath to the warm water and have a long soak. Your tired aching muscles will thank you. Once you’re finished, grab the safety bars to pull yourself into an upright position.

If taking a tub bath is not your thing, there is usually a faucet head that allows you to take a shower. If you’re lucky, a bidet will be included with the tub so you can clean those hard-to-reach places.

All of this comfort comes with a steep price and you’ll pay an average of $5,000 to $7000 including the tub. Don’t count on Medicare or Medi-Cal to pick up the tab, but do check with your private insurance to see if this is a covered expense. Ask your doctor to write a note that the walk-in tub is a medical necessity.

A walk-in tub will make your life a lot easier, but insurance providers don’t want to provide coverage because it is not something that’s essential, and other members of your family may also use the tub.

If your private insurer won’t pony up the funds, there are some other options you can try. The United States Department of Agriculture may have grants or low-interest loans available. You’ll have to meet income requirements, but if you don’t qualify, they can refer you to other resources.

A good organization to have in your corner is the National Home Modification Action Coalition Inc. They can help you find grants and loans, and there may be other modifications available.

Check with the AARP to see what grants and loans you might qualify for. If you’re a Veteran, check with the Veteran’s Administration.

4 Ways to Add Dark Leafy Greens to Your Diet

And Not Feel Like You're Just Eating Rabbit Food!

 

It’s important to keep up healthy eating habits in menopause. Eating the required number of fruit servings is easy to do, but including dark leafy greens in your diet is more challenging.

Dark leafy greens such as salad greens, kale, and spinach are excellent sources of Vitamin B, which your body needs to produce healthy red blood cells and you’ll feel more energetic.

There are many choices to choose from, and the trick is knowing how to prepare them so that it’s something you look forward to eating. Here are four delicious ways to prepare dark leafy greens:

Soups

Soups are one of those foods that allows you to stir in any vegetables you have on hand. A handful of spinach can be added to the soup during the last five minutes of cooking. If you’re making a cream soup, like potato, blend in some de-stemmed kale leaves.

Wraps

Spread your favorite tortillas with protein such as chicken or turkey, and pile on the romaine lettuce, spinach, or arugula. I like the spinach tortillas, but use the kind you like or experiment with a new flavor.

Kale Chips

Kale is rich in Vitamins A, C, and K. Kale chips can be purchased at a health food store, but you may want to try making them at home. This easy recipe only calls for three ingredients and then bakes in the oven.

If you want to experiment, blend in some herbs or spices. For extra crunchy chips, try adding sunflower seeds or cashews.

Omelet

The sky is the limit when it comes to making an omelet, and it’s also the perfect opportunity to sneak in some vegetables. This tasty omelet calls for a pound of leafy greens including collard greens, mustard greens, and beet greens.

How do you use dark leafy greens in your diet?

Why You Should Use Prescription Toothpaste

It Costs An Arm and A Leg, But Your Dentist Will Be Happy!

 

I just finished the second part of my root canal and am feeling intense pain in my wallet.  Just to jog your memory in case you missed my last rant, I had a root canal on one of my molars and a temporary seal was applied.

After a few weeks I had a post put in to stabilize that area and now I am good to go until next year when my dental benefits start again. I usually need another root canal, or have an old decayed crown yanked out and a new one put in its place.

One thing that changed this year was that my dentist started me on prescription toothpaste with fluoride.  I thought it would be a lot better than swishing around the liquid fluoride that you get at the end of every cleaning that you feel like you want to spit out from the moment it hits your mouth.

You produce less saliva in menopause and the resulting dry mouth can lead to more cavities. Bone loss also increases your risk for cavities. In some cases, your roots can be showing and your teeth look a lot longer. All of these things make prescription toothpaste a no-brainer.

Prescription fluoride toothpaste is absorbed into the roots and enamel and makes your teeth stronger. When your brush your teeth, use your regular toothpaste, but switch to the prescription toothpaste when you brush before bedtime.

You’ve probably heard that most dentists say to brush for at least two minutes and preferably three if you can stand it.  You only need a thin line of toothpaste and it’s better if you use an electric toothbrush. I stand in front of the clock and hum the happy birthday song.  It seems like an eternity waiting for two minutes to go by, but when the time is up, I make a mad dash for the bathroom to rinse it all out.

According to the American Dental Association, you should change the head of your toothbrush every three to four months, and sooner if the bristles are frayed. Don’t forget to floss because toothpaste doesn’t always clean those hard-to-get-to places.

Check with your insurance plan to see if this is a covered benefit. Mine would not pay, and I ended up spending $25 for a four-ounce tube. It sucks that you have to pay that much, and you would rather spend the money on yourself, but think of it as an investment in your dental future.

The Great Cholesterol Debate

How Many Eggs Can You Safely Eat in a Week?

 

It’s challenging enough to cope with menopause symptoms such as hot flashes, weight gain, and high blood pressure, without having to worry about high cholesterol levels. This is meant to be an enjoyable time in your life, and that includes eating your favorite foods.

If you go to a breakfast buffet, you’ll see a long line at the omelet station. Most people wouldn’t even think of eating breakfast without eggs, and a made-to-order omelet with all the meat and cheese you want is an egg lovers dream.

There has been a debate in the medical community for years over how many eggs you can eat without raising your cholesterol levels. Now, there is good news for egg lovers. According to a 2015 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, it’s safe to eat twelve eggs a week. The trick is to find healthier ways to prepare eggs, so you don’t have to feel deprived.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one large egg has about 180mg cholesterol and it’s all in the yolk.  I like hardboiled eggs, which are high in potassium, zinc, iron, vitamin E, and folate. At only 80 calories, I can have a nutritious breakfast or snack without breaking the calorie bank.

Poached eggs are easy to prepare. Add a splash of vinegar to a pan of simmering water, tip in the egg, and leave for three minutes. Drain with a slotted spoon and you’re ready to chow down.

Eggs are not usually prepared as a stand-alone dish, and are often accompanied by bacon, sausage, ham, or hash browns, and the saturated fat or oil you’re using to prepare these side dishes can increase your risk of a heart attack.

If you like a more substantial breakfast, take a whole-grain tortilla, and stuff it with scrambled eggs, lean turkey sausage, and diced tomato. You can bake low-fat eggs in a bread bowl for a special weekend breakfast or brunch.

Stay away from high-calorie toppings such as sour cream or cheese. Invest in a non-stick skillet so you don’t have to use oil when you fry your eggs. You can top eggs with salsa, or use herbs such as parsley, tarragon, or chives.

Prepare a whole-grain cereal to go with your eggs so you cover all the nutritional bases, or if you want to serve eggs for dinner pair with your favorite vegetables.

 

 

Comfort Foods You’ll Go Nuts Over

You Won't Even Have to Buy a New Wardrobe!

I have to admit that I am a foodie and comfort foods are high on my favorites list.  Extra crispy fried chicken, pizza, meatloaf, macaroni and cheese, I could gain weight just thinking about them. If I knew I wouldn’t put on ten pounds, I would probably cook them every week.

If you’re like me, you want to be healthy in menopause, but you don’t want to miss out on your old favorite foods. The trick is to learn to cook the same foods with a healthy twist, and you can maintain your shape and still be satisfied.

Here are five healthier versions of your favorite comfort foods:

Meatloaf

My family had meatloaf every week growing up, and I always looked forward to a big slice drowned in catsup.

The traditional meatloaf recipes are usually made with ground beef or pork, and that is an awful lot of fat and sodium. Lighten things up by substituting ground turkey and you’ll lose half the fat but none of the taste.

Fried Chicken

Who can resist an extra crispy piece or two of fried chicken? I have to admit our family often made the short drive to KFC and bought a barrel of chicken and a few sides.

Try this tasty recipe that browns on the stove, then finishes in the oven. Flour and cornmeal make the chicken crunchy so you won’t feel deprived.  Each piece is only 2.5 grams of saturated fat.

Lasagna

Lasagna is easy to put together and my version starts with uncooked noodles. Unfortunately, the other layers of ground beef, sour cream and cottage cheese pack a big fat wallop. I never forgot to add a pretty good-sized package of mozzarella cheese to make the final fat count go sky-high.

A lighter version of lasagna features store-bought pesto, and whole-wheat lasagna noodles. Skim milk mozzarella and ricotta cheeses give you that tasty cheese bite, but not all the fat and calories.

Yummy Brownies

Of course you have to have dessert, at least according to my mom, who served dessert every night. Brownies are one of my favorites, and the more chocolate the better. I guess I have to be a killjoy and say that most brownies have too much sugar, fat, and calories. I am still waiting for new research that says brownies will prolong your life.

I found an unusual brownie recipe that calls for spinach, black beans, and applesauce. There is still an abundance of chocolate and even some pecans to give them some crunch.

Give these recipes a try and see if they fit into your healthy lifestyle.

My Knees Are Killing Me!

5 Helpful Tips To Deal with Osteoarthritis

 

You have to love menopause. One year I have an aching back, then an aching neck, and now I have a pair of aching knees. Welcome to the world of osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is often referred to as degenerative joint disease, and affects approximately 27 million people, according to the Arthritis Foundation.

I have always been an active walker and usually logged 10,000 steps a day on a regular basis. I use a Cho-Pat strap to hold my patella in place, but that’s not working as well now. So I am looking into combining the walking with something like biking or shadow boxing.

I found an interesting article that details how eating the right foods may also help knee pain and I would always rather eat delicious food than down a multitude of pills. Here are five helpful tips to deal with osteoarthritis:

Lose Extra Pounds

A recent study was conducted with people who were overweight or obese and suffered from knee osteoarthritis. For each pound lost, there was a four-pound reduction in knee joint stress.

It would be nice if you could eat chocolate cake with a gooey frosting to help you lose weight. Unfortunately, it’s sticking to the basics of less food and more exercise. Eat smaller portions, limit sugary treats, and drink water instead of soda or juice.

Replace Fats with Olive Oil

There is a compound in olive oil called oleocanthal that may help prevent inflammation.

Olive oil can usually be used in recipes that call for butter or vegetable oil, or as a delicious addition to spaghetti sauce. Do as the Italians do and use it as a dip for crusty French bread.

Eat More Fish

It’s always nice when you’re trying to eat healthier, to eat something that actually tastes good. Tuna and salmon are good sources of Omega-3 fatty acids, which help lubricate stiff joints in the morning, so it’s easier for you to start your day. Other fish that are rich in Omega-3 acids are herring, mackerel, and sardines.

Boost Vitamin C Intake

Vitamin C helps build healthy collagen and connective tissue. Strawberries, oranges, and grapefruit are all good sources of Vitamin C. On the vegetable side, broccoli, cabbage, and kale can be cooked alone, added to a stir-fry, or tossed in a salad.

Ask you doctor if you need to take a Vitamin C supplement.

 

 

Tired of Wondering What’s for Dinner?

5 Benefits of An Online Menu Planner

Dinnertime has its challenges. You want your family to eat healthy, but at the end of a long day, you don’t feel like standing over a hot stove all night, so fast food is often a convenient option.

What if you could have a pre-set menu for each day and not have to make a last-minute run to the grocery store? Best of all, what if these foods were family favorites, and even the picky eaters in your house would clean their plates.

Using an online menu planner makes all the difference, and you’ll be able to put a nutritious meal on the table in no time. Here are five benefits:

Keeps Your Recipes in One Place

If you’re like me, you probably have your favorite recipes in different cookbooks, filed in a recipe box, or saved online. Plan to Eat is an online menu planner that keeps your recipes all in one place. Using a simple bookmark tool, you can also drag and drop any online recipes you want to try.

Choose Recipes for Specific Dates

Your recipes will be on the left side of your screen and a calendar will be on the right. Choose which recipes you wish to use and drag it to the date and meal that you want to serve it. You can plan weekly menus or if you want to be more organized, plan for the whole month.

Use An Automated Grocery List

How many times have you shopped and forgot the most important ingredients you came for? It’s not fun to have to make another mad dash to the store. When you decide to make a recipe from your online planner, an automated grocery list is generated, so you can quickly pick out your items and head for the checkout line.

Waste Less Food

It’s easy to buy too much food and end up throwing it away. Now, you can stick to your automated grocery list, and if you end up with leftovers, you can schedule them for another day.

Cook in Batches

If you’re like me, you have a busy schedule. However, if you can carve out some extra time, maybe on a weekend, cooking meals ahead and freezing will allow you get dinner on the table in record time. Use stackable plastic jars or plastic freezer bags that keep out moisture and oxygen.On the day you plan to serve, all you have to do is defrost,  add a salad or bread, and dinner is ready.

Online menu planners may offer a 30-day trial so you can use it and see if it works for you.

Taking Care of Your Health in Menopause

4 Changes to Make for Better Bone Health

 

I‘ve always been interested in good health, but when I took a bone density test, I was given a diagnosis of osteopenia. Osteopenia occurs when your bones are weaker than normal, but not to the point of having osteoporosis, when bones are more likely to fracture.

A woman in menopause has enough problems with hot flashes, depression, weight gain, and dry skin without having bone health added to the mix.

Here are four changes you can make for better bone health:

Eat Calcium-Rich Foods

Foods that are rich in calcium usually include some of your favorite foods. In the main dish department, cook dried beans such as pinto, navy, or kidney beans. Dairy products such as low-fat or non-fat milk can be used in cooking or poured over your morning breakfast cereal. I have developed a taste for Greek yogurt, which is also a good source of calcium.

Take Calcium Supplements

It is hard to eat enough calcium-rich foods for optimum bone health, especially if you’re watching your calories.  Your doctor may recommend taking a calcium supplement. For a woman in menopause who might not be producing as much stomach acid, calcium citrate may be more easily absorbed.

Increase Vitamin D Levels

One of the best sources of Vitamin D is sunlight.  Now, with all the emphasis on making sure you apply sunscreen every 20 minutes when you’re outside, you don’t get those beneficial rays that could increase your Vitamin D.

A Vitamin D3 supplement promotes calcium absorption and bone mineralization. Your doctor will advise which dosage requirement will work best for you. I take 1000 IUs a day, but if your levels are lower, you may need to take more until your bone density increases.

Strength Training

Any exercise is beneficial but when you’re working on better bone health, you need to do some strength training. When I first heard about strength training for women, I had a picture in my mind of standing in the gym lifting weights. You can lift weights, but not everyone can pony up the big bucks for a gym membership, and there are exercises you can do at home that are just as beneficial.

Start out slowly, and if you have physical limitations such as joint replacement, bad knees, or high blood pressure, talk to your doctor first.

Since I have been following these tips, my last bone density test showed my bone mass had increased.

Are You Doing More Forgetting Than Remembering?

3 Off-Beat Tips to Improve Memory Loss

Remember Fred Mertz on “I Love Lucy?” He couldn’t find his glasses and he would search and search, and finally found them right on top of his head. It’s amusing to watch that kind of thing on TV, but when it crops up in your own life it is not that amusing.

I find myself going into a room and forgetting why I came, leaving my glasses on the restaurant table, and walking out of the store with a full basket minus the most important item I came for.

What causes these memory lapses in menopause? The most likely culprit is declining levels of estrogen, because it affects our attention, mood, memory, and other brain processes.

Here are three off-beat tips you can use to improve memory loss:

Chew Gum

I used to chew the Bazooka gum when I was a kid, and of course I like to get a gumball out of those high-priced machines at the mall, but I never thought it could improve memory loss. Psychologists in the UK report that people who chewed gum throughout a series of short- and long-memory tests, scored nearly 25% higher others taking the test.

How is this possible? There is no clear explanation, but some researchers think that there is increased activity in the hippocampus, an area of the brain responsible for memory and attention.

Write Instead of Type

This is a hard one for me because I have to wear splints when I type, and writing aggravates my arthritis symptoms. If you don’t have physical problems with your hands or fingers, writing with a pen or pencil is better.

In a study conducted by UCLA researchers, laptop users took more notes than hand writers, but the hand writers had a stronger memory of what they were learning.

Move Eyes From Side to Side

This is exciting because it is so easy to do and takes little time.  Participants in a research study were asked to move their eyes from side to side for 30 seconds. When performing recall tasks later in the day, they performed an average of 10% better.

You may be wondering how moving your eyes could help your memory. While there is still a need for more studies, researchers think that the eye movements link the right and left hemispheres of the brain.

Memory loss is a complex subject, and more research is definitely needed. Try these three tips and see how they work for you.