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Age against the machine: the secret to enjoying a long life
Three years ago, Carl Honoré, the journalist whose series of books, starting with In Praise of Slow in 2004, has made him the guru of slow living, had an epiphany. Like a true Canadian, though one born in Scotland and domiciled in London, he adores ice hockey, and still plays hard and fast at the age of 51. But one day, at a tournament in Gateshead, someone pointed out that he was the oldest player among the 240 competitors. “I knew that I was one of the oldest, but being told in such raw terms that I was the oldest – it just shook me. It knocked me for six in a way that shocked me.”
Honoré was 48 at the time, “the big 50” was looming, and what he calls “the terrible weight of the number” started dragging him down. Was ageing really going to be as bad as everyone said? Was all he had to look forward to now decline, decrepitude and death? On the train back to London, as his team-mates knocked back the beers, he decided to embark on a book on the subject.
“I’ve found with all my books that they start with what is almost an out-of-body experience when I see myself in sharp relief from the side,” he tells me. “I needed to understand my own relationship with the number, with what ageing means, and where I was going to be in 10 or 20 years.” The result is B(older): Making the Most of Our Longer Lives – a call for society to become less ageist and for individuals to stop worrying about the process of ageing and wring every drop out of whatever time is allotted to us.
Honoré has travelled the world in search of active, high-achieving older people, but he stresses that he doesn’t want to hold the “outliers” up as the norm. He is more interested in a state of mind in which the average 70- and 80-year-old goes on working if they want to, volunteering, starting their own enterprises, playing competitive sport, having great sex – and society doesn’t bat an eye. It is ageist, he argues, to stop people being able to do those things; but it’s also ageist to make a big deal of it. Still having sex at 80, still making TV programmes at 90, even running marathons at 100? Why shouldn’t they
The conclusion Honoré came to, after three years of research and an examination of the way older people are treated around the world, was that it was in many ways a golden age for “the old” (a term he would never use): there were more of them, they were healthier, more active and many were better off than in previous generations. They could no longer be ignored or marginalised. But, in his view, that is just a beginning. “It can be so much better,” he says, “if we move a lot of goalposts and change the way everything from healthcare to politics to the business world to education is organised.” He argues that the idea of being educated between the ages of five and 21, working for 40 years and then retiring on a pension at 60 is completely out of date, imagining a much more fluid way of life where we dip in and out of education and the job market and never formally “retire”.
I ask Honoré at what age we become “old”. He refuses to supply a number. “I use the word ‘older’ in a very elastic way,” he says. “The definition is so fluid, and to box people in and say: ‘This is old’ narrows horizons. What do we gain by saying: ‘This person is old’?” He believes ageism is lessening but remains endemic. In fact, he says that when he began the book he was one of its worst proponents. “When I was younger, I was so ageist. I had a dread of growing old. I had bought into that idea that you hit 35 and it’s just a downward spiral. I used to think of old people as just sad and cantankerous. But, if you look at the stats, the people with the highest levels of happiness and life satisfaction in Britain are the over-60s. That doesn’t take away from the fact that many people will be very unhappy, but the story we are told and that we tell ourselves is that everyone is unhappy. It’s always the worst-case scenario: that’s what we are contaminated by.”
Honoré no longer frets about ageing. “My biggest worry was that I would end up in a gloomy place,” he says, “but, thankfully, the opposite is true – I feel so much more optimistic now than I did when I embarked on the book. We have created a culture where ageing is seen as a chamber of horrors. There is no chink of light in it. I suspected that was not true, and along the way I found it to be utterly untrue.”
Carl Honoré’s 12 steps to help you be happy in later life
1. If you think of yourself as old, you will be old. The media will bang on about dementia and loneliness, but ignore them. Concentrate on the upside.
2. Take yourself out of your comfort zone. Resist being pigeonholed; keep experimenting; challenge yourself and society’s stereotyping of you.
3. Try to stay healthy. Eat well and take lots of exercise – it’s good for brain and body. Exercise doesn’t have to mean playing competitive ice hockey; the odd brisk walk will keep you in shape.
4. Look for positive role models. Helen Mirren, David Attenborough and, best of all, Michelangelo, who lived until the ripe old age (in 16th-century terms) of 88 and spent the final 20 years of his life designing and overseeing the construction of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Now that’s a way to go out.
5. Seek to become the person you always wanted to be. One reason many people are at their happiest in their 60s is that they feel freer and less beholden to others. They contain all their previous selves and can start to make sense of them.
6. Don’t just maintain social connections with your own age group: mix across the generations as much as you can. Inter-generational contact has become increasingly difficult, but if we can do it we benefit – and society benefits.
7. Be willing to let stuff go. If that friendship isn’t working, drop it. Streamline your life. There is less time left, so make it count.
8. Ageing should be a process of opening rather than closing doors. “We will lose some things – speed, stamina, a bit of mental agility – but in many other respects we gain,” says Honoré. We learn new skills, have greater social awareness, are likely to be more altruistic, are “lighter” in our approach to life – because we are less hung up on creating a good impression – and can see the bigger picture. It may be that we are in a position to make a greater contribution to society in our 60s and 70s than in our so-called prime.
9. Honesty is the best policy. Don’t try to pretend you are not 75 or 85 or whatever age you are. “As soon as we start lying about our age, we’re giving the number a terrible power – a power it doesn’t deserve,” says Honoré. People do it because there are so many ageist assumptions attached to age, but the way to fight back is to subvert those assumptions.
10. Society tells us that sex, love and romance belong to the young, but it’s not true. Plenty of older people continue to experience the joy of sex. But there are no rules: have as much – or as little – as you want. Some older people see it as a blessed release to escape the shackles of falling in love (and lust), but others can’t imagine life without it. Whatever turns you on.
11. Ignore people who say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. You can. Despite the common perception that creativity is the preserve of the young, we can get more creative as we get older. Our neural networks loosen up and we have the confidence and freedom to challenge groupthink. Honoré was encouraged last year when the Turner prize abolished its age limit for artists. Michelangelo could have been a contender.
12. Don’t pretend death isn’t coming. Embrace it – just not yet. “It’s useful to know our lives are bookended,” says Honoré. “When time is running out, it becomes more precious. It gives life shape and, in some ways, meaning.” Don’t dwell morbidly on it, but don’t shy away from it either. The closer you get to it, the less you are likely to fear it and the greater your focus will be on the things that really matter.
Dec 3rd 2018
Billy Connolly I Tried Marijuana To Treat My Parkinson's But I Ended Up Getting Stoned Instead
The Scottish comedian was diagnosed with the incurable condition in 2013.
The 76-year-old comedian had decided to start using the drug to help him manage his incurable condition, which leaves him shaking and struggling to move.
“I just got bomb happy. Just stoned,” he said. “It was quite pleasant, but I don’t want to do that every day.
“I was never very good with marijuana, I always got too stoned and it always lasted too long. I stopped all that about 30 years ago.”
The Scottish comedian was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, along with deafness and prostate cancer, in 2013.
His wife, Pamela Stephenson, was forced to speak out about fears for his health earlier this year, when Billy’s friend Sir Michael Parkinson claimed he had taken a turn for the worse following a “sad and awkward” dinner he shared with Billy in 2016.
Addressing Michael’s comments in the Radio Times interview, Billy revealed he hasn’t spoken to his friend since he made the comments back in August.
“These Yorkshiremen, I don’t think they apologise much. I wasn’t disappointed, it just made my life a bit difficult,” he said.
“People feeling sorry for me, I don’t like that. They read about me in the papers and think, ‘Oh, he’s not well.’
“They’re right, but I’m not as bad as they think I am... He should get on with selling funerals and leave me alone.”
In recent years, Billy has spoken frankly about his battle with Parkinson’s disease, telling the Mail that a “sense of humour is absolutely essential” last year.
“It’s the only thing that gets you through,” he said.
“Sometimes I get kind of dark about it. It’s because it’s forever, you know. It’s not like having pneumonia and you’re going to get better. You’re not going to get any better.”
Nov 20th 2018
Gut bacteria may guard against diabetes that comes with aging
Losing one variety of gut bacteria may lead to type 2 diabetes as people age.
Old mice have less Akkermansia muciniphila bacteria than young mice do, researchers report November 14 in Science Translational Medicine. That loss triggers inflammation, which eventually leads cells to ignore signals from the hormone insulin. Such disregard for insulin’s message to take in glucose is known as insulin resistance and is a hallmark of type 2 diabetes.
Researchers have suspected that bacteria and other microbes in the gut are involved in aging, but how the microbes influence the process hasn’t been clear. Monica Bodogai of the U.S. National Institute on Aging in Baltimore and colleagues examined what happens to mice’s gut bacteria as the rodents age. The mice lose A. muciniphila, also called Akk, and other friendly microbes that help break down dietary fiber into short-chain fatty acids, such as butyrate and acetate. Those fatty acids signal bacteria and human cells to perform certain functions.
Losing Akk led to less butyrate production, Bodogai’s team found. In turn, loss of butyrate triggered a chain reaction of immune cell dysfunction that ended with mice’s cells ignoring the insulin.
Treating old mice and elderly rhesus macaques with an antibiotic called enrofloxacin increased the abundance of Akk in the animals’ guts and made cells respond to insulin again. Giving old animals butyrate had the same effect, suggesting that there may be multiple ways to head off insulin resistance in older people in the future.
Nov 17th 2018
It's Not Weird To Get Hot Flashes Before Your Period
If you're younger than a certain age and have ever gotten a hot flash, you know two things. First, you've seen that when they hit, they hit hard: Within seconds, you've gone from reasonably comfortable to totally red and sweaty, and there aren't enough fire emoji in the world to describe the out-of-nowhere heat. And second, you know that freaky feeling that you've somehow skipped a decade or two of life and are about to head straight into an early menopause. But it turns out there's a much simpler explanation.
Despite the fact that we associate hot flashes almost exclusively with menopause, "they're normal even in young women," says Taraneh Shirazian, MD, assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at NYU Langone Medical Center.
For those of you who have been lucky enough to never have a hot flash, let's break it down: People describe the sensation as a wave of heat starting in the middle of the body or neck, which then quickly moves up to the face. The worst of it only lasts for about 20 seconds, Dr. Shirazian says, but it may take a few minutes to feel normal again. And even if your hot flashes are brief, they can come increasingly frequently as you age. Oh and — fun bonus — people are more likely to report having them at night.
"For women who are peri- or postmenopausal, hot flashes can be debilitating," Dr. Shirazian says. They may have trouble getting good sleep and can even develop anxiety around hot flashes.
But again, it's not unusual for younger women to get hot flashes, too. However, the ones you'll experience in your 20s tend to be milder than those you'll have later on. That's all thanks, as usual, to your hormones.
Although we don't fully understand why hot flashes happen, Dr. Shirazian explains that they do seem to be related to the hormone shifts that happen during menopause. It's at this point and in the years leading up to it that you'll experience a drop in estrogen, which may mess with your body's normal methods of regulating your temperature.
The other major time you'll have significantly less estrogen flowing is — you guessed it — right before your period. So it's (unfortunately) totally normal to experience a mild hot flash or two before and during the first day or so of your period.
The bad news is that, if you're someone who gets hot flashes, there's not a whole lot you can do to stop them. "I have patients that swear by cooling wipes," Dr. Shirazian says, and others find that keeping their bedroom at a cooler temperature and keeping a fan on their face can help reduce the intensity of their hot flashes.
If younger patients are getting them frequently, Dr. Shirazian suggests trying hormonal birth control to balance out hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle. And if your hot flashes are really bothering you, or you're getting them at times that are unrelated to your menstrual cycle, definitely chat with your doctor about ways to manage them.
However, Dr. Shirazian assures us that having hot flashes when you're younger is not a sign that you're going to have a harder time with them when you get older. You may just be stuck with them for a very sweaty minute or two.
Nov 12th 2018
Five-minute scan 'can predict cognitive decline'
A five-minute scan could be used to spot people at risk of dementia before symptoms appear, researchers claim.
Scientists used ultrasound scanners to look at blood vessels in the necks of more than 3,000 people and monitored them over the next 15 years.
They found those with the most intense pulses went on to experience greater cognitive decline over the next decade than the other study participants.
Researchers hope it may offer a new way to predict cognitive decline.
An international team of experts, led by University College London (UCL), measured the intensity of the pulse travelling towards the brain in 3,191 people in 2002.
A more intense pulse can cause damage to the small vessels of the brain, structural changes in the brain's blood vessel network and minor bleeds known as mini-strokes.
Over the next 15 years, researchers monitored participants' memory and problem-solving ability.
Those with the highest intensity pulse (the top quarter of participants) at the beginning of the study were about 50% more likely to show accelerated cognitive decline over the next decade compared with the rest of the participants, the study found.
Researchers said this was the equivalent of about an extra one to one-and-half years of decline.
Cognitive decline is often one of the first signs of dementia, but not everyone who experiences it will go on to develop the condition.
Researchers said the test could provide a new way to identify people who are at risk of developing dementia, leading to earlier treatments and lifestyle interventions.
Controlling blood pressure and cholesterol, having a healthy diet, doing regular exercise and not smoking can all help to stave off dementia, evidence suggests.
Dr Scott Chiesa, from UCL, said: "Dementia is the end result of decades of damage, so by the time people get dementia it's too late to do anything.
"What we're trying to say is you need to get in as early as possible, identify a way to see who's actually progressing towards possibly getting dementia and target them."
However, the study, co-funded by the British Heart Foundation, does not contain data on which study participants went on to develop dementia.
Researchers next plan to use MRI scans to check if people in the study also display structural and functional changes within the brain that may explain their cognitive decline.
They also want to test whether the scan improves predictive risk scores for dementia which already exist.
Dr Carol Routledge, director of research at Alzheimer's Research UK, said it was not yet clear if the scan could improve the diagnosis of dementia.
She added: "What we do know is that the blood supply in the brain is incredibly important, and that maintaining a healthy heart and blood pressure is associated with a lower risk of developing dementia."
Nov 9th 2018
Seven health considerations if you’re thinking about cosmetic surgery
No matter what your stance on cosmetic surgery, if you’re thinking of undergoing a procedure for whatever reason, it’s important that you’re physically and mentally healthy and understand the risks associated with the surgery you're considering.
To understand some of the health factors involved in cosmetic procedures we spoke to Dr Hagen Schumacher, expert aesthetic surgeon at MyAesthetics, for the facts.
1. You must be open about allergies
It’s important to tell your surgeon if you have sensitive skin and about any known allergies, as some dressings contain ingredients which you may react to, including acrylates, silicones, rubber and latex.
Even telling your surgeon about minor past reactions from silver or nickel in jewellery, bra clips, watch straps or waistbands, can provide them with useful insights about potential allergens.
Most allergic reactions are minor but can be uncomfortable and in some cases may need extra treatment like topical corticosteroids or antihistamines. So, it can be worth pre-empting and discussing any concerns with your surgeon in advance.
2. You need to watch your BMI
Results are best for cosmetic procedures if your body mass index is under 30.
If someone is overweight or obese and planning to have surgery, it’s important to be aware that excess weight can possibly put the body under more strain and at risk of certain side effects and complications. These can result from the surgery itself or the anaesthesia which may be needed.
Being overweight also increases chances of sleep apnoea, which can be a complicating factor in the administration of general anaesthesia. Anyone prone to this already must tell their surgeon during a consultation, so they can tailor surgery to individual needs.
Improving your health before surgery can help make it as safe as possible, decrease chances of complications and help you get back on your feet faster.
If you are told by your surgeon or doctor that your weight might impact the results of your surgery - and the circumstances aren’t urgent - consider losing some weight under a doctor’s supervision. Any weight loss must be stabilised for at least six months prior to surgery.
3. You’ll need to quit cigarettes and cut back on alcohol
Many people don’t realise the importance of quitting smoking, before, during and for some time after surgery.
Nicotine causes the blood vessels to constrict, reducing them in size and restricting blood supply to organs and tissues which can slow down a wound’s healing post-surgery.
The complication rate risk for smokers has been reported to increase and according to a recent study, smokers needed 33 per cent more anaesthesia during an operation and 23 per cent more pain medication afterwards, compared to non-smokers.
The general advice is to stop completely for six weeks before and six weeks after surgery which includes all nicotine-containing products too.
Doctors also recommend cutting out alcohol one to two weeks before surgery, due to possible interaction with anaesthesia and increased risks of bleeding.
A still from 'Greys Anatomy'. Image: Getty
4. Extra care is needed if you have certain health conditions:
If you are scheduled for surgery, make sure your asthma is well controlled before it takes place, as this minimises the possibility of an asthma flare-up before or during surgery.
Make sure you have a check-up with your doctor at least a week before the surgery to make sure you’re in the best possible health for a procedure to take place.
Those with more acute asthma may need to take inhaled bronchodilators, inhaled corticosteroids, or steroids by mouth before surgery to manage their symptoms better and ensure surgery is as safe as possible.
If you are diabetic then hyperglycemia (high blood glucose) or hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) could be an issue after surgery and wound healing could be slower.
However, the better you control your diabetes, the better your chances of an excellent surgical outcome. Keeping your blood glucose within the parameters your doctor recommends is key, as is optimum nutrition.
Make sure you eat lots of high-quality protein, which can help contribute to faster wound healing. It is important to try and keep stress to a minimum as well because this can elevate your blood glucose levels.
5. Consider emotional aspects, too
Cosmetic surgery doesn’t just come with physical implications, there are important emotional aspects to consider as well.
Surgery can be nerve-wracking for anyone - don’t forget, in some cases, it’s the equivalent of a major operation - so even the most prepared of us can feel anxious in the run-up to it.
Worry, lack of sleep and recuperation that may include some pain, fatigue and swelling can be difficult to deal with physically and emotionally, so it’s important to be prepared.
Your surgeon has a duty of care to protect your emotional wellbeing, as well as your physical safety before surgery. If you’ve experienced mental health issues in the past, they may ask you to consider psychological screening first, prior to any surgery. This is a precautionary measure, so your surgeon has a second professional opinion on how well you understand the implications of surgery and if you will be able to cope with unexpected outcomes.
Your surgeon is responsible for providing you with honest and detailed information in your consultation, as to what your procedure will entail and what the recovery process will be like. They should do everything they can to ensure you are both physically and mentally prepared for a procedure.
Genuine online reviews can also be helpful here too, as you can read up about other people’s experiences and make a good judgement call as to whether surgery is right for you, what type of additional support you may need and how to access it post-procedure.
6. Consider your post-surgery care, too
Health considerations are not only important prior to surgery, but also post-surgery too. Remember post-surgery you will need a constant caregiver for up to 48 hours after a procedure, who will be instructed by your surgeon to assist with medication and any post-operative care.
Organising care for your children or pets is also highly recommended. Ask a relative, friend or enlist the services of a professional so you can focus on recovery.
7. Most importantly, find the right surgeon for you
At the surgical clinic I practise at, MyAesthetics, we believe the more scrupulous, face-to-face time that surgeons have with the individual, the better. Your chosen cosmetic surgery practice has a duty of care to support you every step of the way from the initial first consultation all the way through to the final stages of post-operative care.
They should be honest with you about what surgery could entail, and proactively make sure you are as prepared as possible, with realistic expectations. The latest GMC guidelines highlight that all industry professionals must give patients time for reflection and that they need to have the time and information about risks, to decide whether to go ahead with a procedure.
A cosmetic surgery practice should never try to rush you into deciding or try to influence your decision by offering any last-minute ‘deals’ or discounts.
Oct 14th 2018
Vaginal 'Rejuvenation' Procedures Are Unproven, Pose Serious Risks, FDA Warns
Women are being warned that so-called "vaginal rejuvenation" procedures may pose serious risks.
On Monday (July 30), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning about these procedures, which claim to treat vaginal symptoms and conditions, such as vaginal dryness, pain during intercourse and vaginal laxity.
The procedures use lasers or radiofrequency devices to destroy or reshape vaginal tissue. Although these devices have been approved to treat certain conditions, such as pre-cancerous lesions in the cervix, they have not been approved for vaginal rejuvenation, the FDA said. What's more, vaginal rejuvenation procedures have been tied to serious side effects, including vaginal burns, scarring, pain during sexual intercourse and recurring or chronic pain.
"These products have serious risks and don't have adequate evidence to support their use for these purposes," FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said in a statement. "We are deeply concerned women are being harmed."
The FDA recently sent warning letters to seven companies, notifying them about the agency's concerns regarding inappropriate marketing of their devices for vaginal rejuvenation.
"The deceptive marketing of unproven treatments may not only cause injuries but may also keep some patients from accessing appropriate, recognized therapies to treat severe medical conditions," Gottlieb said.
Women who've experienced adverse side effects tied to vaginal rejuvenation devices are encouraged to report their problem to MedWatch, the FDA's adverse-event-reporting program, the agency said.
Originally published on Live Science.
Sept 12th 2018
TEST ABLE TO TELL WHAT TIME OUR BODY THINKS IT IS
Do you feel most productive in the middle of the day, or are you someone who works best in the wee hours? Whether you're a lark or a night owl actually has very little to do with personal preference and everything to do with your circadian rhythm.
A circadian rhythm is an internal body clock that dictates a person’s sleep/wake cycle; it’s what enables us to feel sleepy at night and energised during the day and offers fundamental insight into how someone’s body functions.
Now, a team of scientists have found a way to measure a person’s circadian rhythm via a computer algorithm calls TimeSignature, which uses blood samples and artificial intelligence data to identify a person’s physiological time i.e. what 'time it is' in their body.
Plenty of research has gone into understanding circadian rhythms as this can help identify when someone will feel fatigue and when certain hormones are released in their body.
A measurement tool such as TimeSignature may also help prevent the disruption of one’s circadian rhythm, which can lead to a series of health problems such as insomnia and heart disease.
“Before we didn’t have a clinically feasible way of assessing the clock in healthy people and people with disease,” explains the study’s co-author Ravi Allada, professor of neurobiology at Northwestern University.
“Now we can see if a disrupted clock correlates with various diseases and, more importantly, if it can predict who is going to get sick."
In order to work, TimeSignature requires patients to take two blood tests 10 to 12 hours apart.
The algorithm then analyses 7,000 genes in the blood samples, examining when these genes peak throughout the course of the day.
This allows it to identify 40 genes which make up the patient’s circadian rhythm.
From there, scientists can predict how strongly those genes will be expressed at different times of the day; comparing this to the actual times that the blood samples were taken allows them to understand what 'time it is' in their body.
If TimeSignature is as effective as the authors believe it to be, physicians could use it to detect the times of the day that certain medications should be taken in order to be most effective, which could be hugely beneficial for treating an array of major and minor illnesses.
“Knowing what time it is in your body is crucial to getting the most effective benefits,” said co-author Dr. Phyllis Zee, chief of sleep medicine in neurology at Northwestern University.
“The best time for you to take the blood pressure drug or the chemotherapy or radiation may be different from somebody else
Measuring one's circadian rhythm doesn't just offer physical health benefits, but possibly mental ones too that could significantly boost professional performance.
For example, a recent study found that night owls are far more productive later on in the day, advising these people to actually start their work in the afternoon as opposed to the morning.
Meanwhile, another study of more than 14,000 students revealed that night owls often perform worse academically; experts suggested that these people avoid taking early morning classes.
Aug 30th 2018
Don’t hide the menopause – celebrate its creative power
traight out of university, landing a job as a junior curator at the Royal Museum of Scotland, I was lucky enough to have a female boss. Clever, confident and with one eye determinedly fixed on her progress up the steep incline of the civil service ladder, she was everything I aspired to be. She leaned in, decades before Sheryl Sandbergthought to do the same.
Although desperate to impress her, I quickly lost any professional credibility in her eyes when I was forced to petition her for time off because my periods were abnormally heavy. Once a month, I would appear at her office, deathly pale, practically passing out as a result of extreme blood loss, yet she begrudged sending me home. One time, she explicitly told me I was letting the feminist side down. That stung.
This was in the late 1980s. I am thrilled that today my former boss’s mind-over-matter brand of feminism looks distinctly shabby for failing to take account of women’s lived experience – their bodily reality. Today’s feminists are much more inclined, if not to make a virtue of biology (personally I stop short of an out-and-out celebration of monthly bleeds, or a revelling in labour pains), then at least to make political grist of the practical accommodations that our bodies demand.
I was reminded of my former boss when I read about Andrea Davies’s initiative to make menopause a regular topic of conversation with male colleagues: the female body – once a source of shame, its outlaw flesh forever misbehaving, oozing, bleeding, backfiring and renegading – at long last accorded a little respect. Davies, an academic at Leicester University, wants to encourage men to mention menopause several times a day, as a female-friendly mantra designed to overcome their natural shyness. In the interests of solidarity, she has instituted a Menopause Cafe at work, where co-workers gather over cake to compare notes about the way hot sweats, aphasia(language problems), insomnia, dry vaginas and the ins and outs of HRT might affect women’s sense of wellbeing at work. Male colleagues wanting to better understand how to support their female partners are warmly welcomed.
The answer to the menopause taboo? Start with a cafe
Menopause Cafes are a thing. Already this year 14 have been set up by working women across the UK, from Perth to Petersfield, following the lead of their founder, Rachel Weiss, a counsellor who was inspired to emerge from the menopause closet after watching Kirsty Wark’s televised struggles with her own suddenly wayward biology. But do Menopause Cafes do enough? Wark is not alone in coming forward to discuss menopause. Kate Garraway, Gillian Anderson and Emma Thompson are among a small army of high-profile women who have made a point of outing menopause. Kim Cattrall became a poster girl for menopause with her series Sensitive Skin, as did Angelina Jolie after publicising the elective double mastectomy and oophorectomy (removal of the ovaries) that plunged her into early menopause.
Jolie, 39 at the time, remarked: “I feel at ease with whatever will come, not because I am strong, but because this is a part of life. It is nothing to be feared.” I thought this statement perfectly picked up on women’s apprehensions over menopause while at the same time dismissing simple-minded notions of female empowerment. As I argue in my memoir The Middlepause, the kind of cheerleading that insists we can become strong by embracing menopause does women few favours, since it makes those of us who suffer and struggle with it feel cowed by failure and self-recrimination. We have a right to complain, damn it.
Still, a combination of top-down and grassroots activism, combined with renewed awareness of women’s vulnerability in the workplace – a byproduct of the #MeToo movement – goes a long way towards improving the treatment of menopausal women in professional life. The key is understanding that accommodating women’s biology does not equate with compromise. Men, your female colleagues are not operating under a handicap!
The next step perhaps is to recognise that we are all of us embodied. It is the human condition. But we are not just meat machines, our bodies mere locomotive vehicles for carrying our minds around. Our physical selves interact with the world at every level.
Should men say 'menopause' three times a day to help working women?
They are the prime sensors of pleasure and pain, heat and cold. We learn about our environment through our bodies, acquiring a sense of the world we inhabit – how it invites or inhibits our interaction. Our bodies “remember” how to play the piano or ride a bike; they “know” when to cross a busy road. We possess a bodily understanding of whether we have enough spring in our jump to take that narrow bend in a stream. And anyone whose hand has unconsciously caught a falling object dropped from a table top has direct experience of the mysterious way the body navigates its immediate surroundings, without us being the least aware of its proprioceptive talents.
The philosophical underpinnings of the new materialism may not have yet trickled into everyday feminist thinking, but there are plenty of vocal and visible women on the comedy circuit and in popular culture, from Hannah Gadsby to Loose Women, making bodily functions a part of ordinary conversation.
Every woman is individual, of course, and will experience menopause differently. But in my experience, most feel a surge of creative energy in midlife that is directly at odds with the physical and psychological debilitations of menopause. Multitasking like dynamos from dawn to dusk, they are receptive, inventive and curious, while bringing a depth of knowledge to whatever problems work throws their way. It is a shortsighted employer indeed who does not capitalise on this energy surge (what the anthropologist Margaret Mead termed “zest”) that their silverback staff are riding high on – into their 60s and beyond.
Aug 29th 2018
Brazilian butt lifts are the deadliest of all aesthetic procedures – the risks explained
The desire for a larger bottom is becoming more popular, with the number of so-called Brazilian butt lifts more than doubling in the last five years.
However, a recent high-profile case involving a doctor in Miami who was banned from operating after the death of a patient during surgery, highlights the risks associated with having this procedure. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the Brazilian butt lift (BBL) has the highest rate of death of all aesthetic procedures.
What is a Brazilian butt lift?
Some people have a BBL for aesthetic reasons, but many have it after losing lots of weight, serious disfigurement after pelvic trauma or practical problems, such as holding up trousers.
The procedure involves taking fat from areas of the body where it’s not wanted and transplanting it into the glutes to enlarge them.
To be successful, a fat graft needs nutrition and so has to be injected into tissue that has a blood supply. Fat can survive if injected into other fat, but up to 90% of it can be absorbed if it is. Fat has more chance of staying in place if it is inserted into muscle – but this is where the risk lies.
Injecting fat into the buttock can easily lead to serious problems if done incorrectly. These include a fat embolism, when fat enters the bloodstream and blocks a blood vessel. In the lungs, for example, it blocks oxygen from entering the bloodstream, while in the brain it can cause a stroke – both can be fatal.
The volume of fat is also important. Most surgeons consider 300ml – slightly less than a can of soda – to be a safe amount. However, some more experienced surgeons use a much larger volume of fat that may be measured in litres.
Why is the mortality rate so high?
A 2017 survey of 692 surgeons from across the world investigated the rate of mortality among patients undergoing BBL. Throughout their careers, the surgeons reported 32 cases of death from a fat embolism and 103 non-fatal cases, but there are probably many more that remain unreported.
Fat embolism was recently identified as the leading cause of death in aesthetic surgery. The estimated death rate from fat embolism may be as high as one in 3,000 for BBLs. A 2015 study of deaths from BBL surgery concluded that they probably occur as a result of gluteal blood vessels becoming damaged during the procedure, allowing fat to enter the bloodstream. The authors recommended that “buttocks lipoinjection should be performed very carefully, avoiding injections into deep muscle planes”.
Deaths in the US have caused concern. In one recently reported case in the US that led to death from a fat embolism, surgeons believed injections had been made into superficial fat, but at post-mortem fat was found in the heart and lungs. There was also some evidence of damage to gluteal blood vessels.
However, it should be noted that fat is also injected into muscle for some breast enhancement surgery, with no reported deaths. This suggests that there are other factors involved in the high mortality rate among BBL patients.
Most of these deaths appear to have been caused by inappropriately qualified practitioners working in non-approved facilities, including homes and garages.
Other post-surgery problems, such as gangrene and sepsis, can also be fatal.
Is it worth the risk?
The potential risk of death from a fat embolism has to be weighed against the benefits, especially in cases where there are physical and functional benefits to having the surgery. In the case of the Brazilian butt lift, perhaps the risks outweigh the benefits.
Nevertheless, in a celebrity and beauty obsessed society, the procedure remains popular, despite the risks. So it is important that surgeons make the risks of the procedure very clear to anyone considering it. Patient safety should always be the top priority. And surgeons need to do more to increase the safety of the procedure and lower the unnecessarily high mortality rate.
June 6th 2018
The truth you need to know about eggs
The egg has something of a chequered past. In the 1950s and 1960s, they were heralded as the best way to start your day with the famous "go to work on an egg" advertising slogans. But by the 70s, received wisdom had almost flipped on its head: eggs were the bad boys of nutrition, carrying a dangerously high level of cholesterol, which had been linked to an increased risk of heart disease. Limit your intake to three a week, was the thinking - and never have two at once.
So you'd be forgiven for thinking twice before cracking open your egg in the morning. However, despite those decades of negative PR, the macro-history of eggs is very positive. They've long been seen as a reliable, nutritious, cheap and tasty form of nourishment. In many cultures and religions, eggs are a symbol of life and rebirth - and who can deny their replenishing properties on a particularly heavy hangover?
This century, as our understanding of nutrition improves, eggs are firmly back on the menu. No longer a culinary outcast, eggs, particularly poached, scrambled or baked, are a brunch staple, and have become one of the most instagrammed foods around.
Indeed, a new study has revealed that eating an egg a day may reduce the risk of strokes and heart disease.
Researchers from Peking University Health Science Centre in China observed the egg-eating habits of 416,213 participants. Those who reported daily consumption of eggs at the beginning of the nine-year study were found to be at lower risk of the diseases than those who never or rarely ate eggs.
* So eggs actually lower your risk of heart disease? It's time we unscramble this confusing story.
For years, eggs were to be avoided because they were high in cholesterol. A large egg contains roughly 185mg of cholesterol, and the American Heart Association used to recommend a maximum of 300mg of cholesterol per day - so two eggs would see you over the limit. As cholesterol was linked to heart disease, it was logical that eating too much would be dangerous. Warnings were issued, and egg-phobia was disseminated.
Cholesterol is a substance found naturally in the body and produce by the liver. It plays a crucial role in how our cells work, and is required to make Vitamin D, hormones and bile. Too much cholesterol in your blood can accumulate on artery walls, which increases risk of heart attacks and strokes.
But here's the thing: the cholesterol in food has "very little effect on the cholesterol in your blood. It's much more to do with the saturated fat in food" says nutritionist Fiona Hunter. A boiled egg has about 3.3g of saturated fat per 100g; for butter, the figure is 51g per 100g.
Saturated fat, found in meat and dairy products as well as foods containing coconut or palm oil, will up the levels of cholesterol in the blood. Unsaturated fats (oily fish, nuts, seeds, avocados, vegetable oils) can actually lower cholesterol levels.
To understand how this works, you have to know that there are two types of cholesterol: high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL), otherwise known as "bad" and "good" cholesterol. HDL is considered good as it transports excess cholesterol to the liver, where it can then be expelled by the body, rather than stick to your arteries. LDL ushers the cholesterol to your arteries which can build up causing potential blood clots (and by extension lead to heart attacks or strokes).
How do eggs effect LDL and HDL cholesterol levels? A study from the University of Connecticut found that those eating three eggs a day for a month registered no change in ratio between the two types of cholesterol, implying no difference in risk to heart health. A later investigation at the same institution, in 2012, discovered that LDL cholesterol did not rise in middle-aged people who had eaten three eggs per day, though levels of good cholesterol were boosted.
The recent findings are the latest in a line of research suggesting the health risks of eggs have been overplayed in the past. In 2013, an investigation published in the British Medical Journal claimed that an egg a day, if not keeping the doctor away, would not negatively impact heart health.
So does it keep the doctor away? "Nutritionists and dietitians have always known that eggs are a very nutritious food, for lots of reasons," explains Hunter. "They're a very good source of several vitamins and minerals, some of which, like iodine and Vitamin D, are difficult to find in other foods. They're a real powerhouse of nutrients and protein."
A medium egg contains, among other nutrients:
• 63pc of recommended intake of Vitamin D, useful in a country where most people are deficient.
• 36pc daily requirements of Vitamin B2, vital for growth and bodily repair.
• 108pc required daily Vitamin B12, essential for the body's nervous system and blood cells, as well as producing DNA.
• 39pc daily requirements of biotin, for metabolism, nerve, and digestive and cardiovascular functions.
• 71pc of necessary daily Choline, important for liver function and brain development.
"They've also got iodine and selenium," says Hunter. "One medium-sized egg would provide 42pc of your recommended daily amount of selenium and 34pc recommended iodine." Iodine is especially important for pregnant women, as it's linked with your baby's IQ. "As people turn away from milk our iodine levels are dropping, so eggs are a good way to get it into the diet."
“They're also incredibly convenient, quick and versatile. I'm a big fan of eggs, and would probably eat them for lunch two or three times a week. The smashed avocado on toast with a poached egg on top has introduced a whole new generation to the joy of eating eggs. And they're an excellent source of protein for vegetarians too."
› Should we be limiting our egg intake, then? "I haven't seen any recent research suggesting we should," Hunter continues. "Having said that, we need to eat a variety of foods. I don't think there's any harm in having eggs every day, but the only caveat is your diet would not be hugely varied."
And, of course, the way we eat them can have a big impact on how healthy or unhealthy they are. A fried egg with lots of salt is evidently not as wholesome as a boiled egg. "A boiled egg is a very good snack that isn't too calorific but still very filling."
May 3rd 2018
Eating fish and legumes 'could delay menopause by three years'
A diet rich in fish and legumes may help to delay the menopause, while eating lots of refined carbs, such as pasta and rice, may hasten it, researchers have found.
The study of women from England, Scotland, and Wales, which is the first of its kind in the UK, found the average age of menopause to be 51 and certain foods seemed to be associated with its timing.
The researchers found having a high intake of oily fish and fresh legumes - such as peas and beans - was associated with a menopause delay of more than three years. Higher intakes of vitamin B6 and zinc were also associated with later menopause.
In contrast, each eating lots of refined carbs - specifically pasta and rice - was associated with reaching the menopause 1.5 years earlier.
To explore the links between menopause and diet, the researchers drew on participants from the UK Women’s Cohort Study, involving more than 35,000 women between the ages of 35 and 69.
The women provided information on potentially influential factors such as weight history, physical activity levels, reproductive history, and use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
They also estimated the quantities of 217 foodstuffs they ate every day by completing a food frequency questionnaire. The food items were collated into groups according to their culinary uses. Further information on when the women had gone through the menopause naturally was gathered four years later.
In all, around 14,000 women provided information at both time points, and the final analysis included the 914 who had gone through the menopause naturally after the age of 40 and before the age of 65.
The researchers said each additional portion of oily fish and fresh legumes a woman ate per day was associated with a delay of menopause of 3.3 years. Speaking to HuffPost UK, study author Professor Janet Cade was keen to point out this does not mean menopause is delayed by 3.3 years each time you eat a portion of fish. Instead, the research looks at women’s habitual intake. For example, a woman who routinely eats two portions of fish per day will experience menopause on average three years later than a woman who only eats one portion per day.
Following the same principle, each additional daily portion of refined carbs - specifically pasta and rice - was associated with reaching the menopause 1.5 years earlier, after taking account of potentially influential factors such as weight.
Omega 3 fatty acids, which are abundant in oily fish, stimulate antioxidant capacity in the body and legumes are also high in antioxidants. The researchers have suggested antioxidants may preserve menstruation for longer by impacting the release of eggs.
In contrast, refined carbs boost the risk of insulin resistance, which can interfere with sex hormone activity and boost oestrogen levels, both of which might increase the number of menstrual cycles and deplete egg supply faster, they said.
They stressed though that the findings were taken from an observational study, and as such, more research is needed to see if food does definitely cause changes to a woman’s menstrual cycle.
April 28th 2018
How can we stop ageing or at least slow it down?
When you have watched this video, please let me know what your opinion is.
What do you think about these ideas?
Have you got any of your own?
April 16th 2018
These are some of the top signs of getting old
Forgetting people’s names, groaning when you bend down and falling asleep in front of the TV are among the signs you’re getting old, according to research.
A poll of 2,000 adults also found needing an afternoon nap, finding it tricky to sit cross-legged and choosing comfort over style are indicators you’re getting on a bit.
Complaining more often, declaring you’re ‘gasping’ for a cup of tea and feeling flattered when you get asked for ID when visiting a bar also made the list.
The study, commissioned by Future You to highlight the benefits of Turmeric+ tablets, also found feeling stiff and talking about your joints a lot featured in the top fifty signs you’re growing old.
A spokesman said: “It’s fascinating to see nearly half the nation considers joint pain and stiffness a sign of growing age.
“In fact, knees came out as one of the most common body parts giving Brits physical discomfort so it’s important you take care of yourself regardless of your age.”
Researchers named 41 as the age adults typically start exhibiting these signs, with 57 the point at which people consider themselves to be ‘officially old’.
While waving goodbye to their youth, 47 per cent said losing their memory is their biggest worry about getting old, with 29 per cent concerned about the impact ageing will have on their fitness.
More than one third are fretting about becoming lonely as they get older and one in five are agonising over whether they will retain their looks with age.
And nearly half agreed they feel ‘old before their time’.
But the saying “you’re only as old as you feel” is true for three in four, with more than half of adults feeling younger than their actual age.
Millions also admit to making significant lifestyle changes to try and increase their lifespan, typically pulling their finger out by age 40.
Making changes to their diet is the most popular lifestyle change with others cutting back on bad habits such as drinking and smoking or even giving them up all together.
Taking up new sports and opting to cook with healthy spices are also among the ways people try to turn back the clock.
But 28 per cent admit getting old isn’t as bad as they thought it would be.
A spokesman for Turmeric+ added: “It’s interesting to see a number of Brits are making a conscious effort to reverse the ageing process, by recognising the benefits of natural ingredients and taking food supplements.”
1. Forgetting people's names
2. Losing hair
3. Feeling stiff
4. Talking a lot about your joints/ailments
5. Groaning when you bend down
6. Not knowing any songs in the top ten
7. Misplacing your glasses/ bag/ car keys etc
8. Getting more hairy - ears, eyebrows, nose, face etc.
9. Avoid lifting heavy things due to back concerns
10. Saying 'in my day'
11. Finding it tricky to sit cross-legged on the floor
12. Hating noisy pubs
13. Choosing clothes and shoes for comfort rather than style
14. Falling asleep in front of the TV every night
15. Thinking policemen/teachers/doctors look really young
16. Falling ill more often
17. Saying "it wasn't like that when I was young"
18. Complaining about more things
19. Needing an afternoon nap
20. Feeling tired the moment you wake up
21. Struggling to use technology
22. Finding you have no idea what 'young people' are talking about
23. Having colleagues who are so young they don't know what a cassette tape is
24. Losing touch with everyday technology such as tablets and TVs
25. Complaining about the rubbish on television these days
26. Spending time comparing illnesses and injuries with friends
27. Your friends are all ill more often
28. Not knowing or remembering the name of any modern bands
29. You consider going on a 'no children' cruise for a holiday
30. You know your alcohol limit
31. Struggling to think of anything worse than going to a music festival
32. Never going out without your coat
33. Putting everyday items in the wrong place
34. You move from Radio 1 to Radio 2
35. You start driving very slowly
36. You struggle to lose weight easily
37. Buying a smart phone but having no idea how to do anything other than make phone calls on it
38. You say ‘I’m gasping for a cup of tea’
39. Spending more money on face creams / anti-ageing products
40. Falling asleep after one glass of wine
41. Feeling you have the right to tell people exactly what you are thinking, even if it isn't polite
42. You like getting asked for ID
43. Paying by cash or cheque rather than using your card
44. Preferring a night in with a board game than a night on the town
45. Being told off for politically incorrect opinions
46. Joining the National Trust
47. Your ears are getting bigger
48. Preferring a Sunday walk to a lie in
49. You think, 'maybe I'll drive instead of drink'
50. Drinking sherry
April 5th 2018
Telomeres are parts of our chromosomes that affect how cells
age. Like the plastic tips at the end of shoelaces, telomeres are caps at the
end of each strand of DNA that protect it and allow cells to function and
reproduce properly. Telomeres shorten each time a cell divides which, over
time, leaves genetic DNA unprotected and causes cellular function to be
compromised and ultimately leads to cell apoptosis (death) or senescence.
Every organ in the body (skin, liver, heart, etc.) is made up of cells, so telomeres are vital to good health. Slowing or stopping the shortening of telomeres can slow or stop cellular ageing.
The length of a person’s telomeres is a good indicator of
their overall health status. Having short telomeres can accelerate the natural
aging process on a cellular level. Some cells, like those found in the skin and
immune system, are most affected by telomere shortening because they reproduce
For a body to stay healthy, it is important to maintain telomere length.
Telomerase is a naturally-occurring enzyme in the body that
can slow, stop or perhaps even reverse age- and lifestyle-related telomere
shortening. Telomerase is produced only inside functioning cells; it is not
possible to take biologically active telomerase orally.
Activating the enzyme telomerase may be the key to helping cells live longer. Scientific research has shown activating telomerase in human cells slowed cell aging and allowed older cells to begin replicating again.
TA-65® is a patented, all natural, plant-based compound which is designed to help maintain or rebuild telomeres by activating telomerase. TA-65MD® nutritional supplements are the first in a line of products based on the TA-65® compound. TA-65MD® nutritional supplements are the first research-based products that specifically target Telomerase Activation.