Fix Your Sex Life At Any Age

April 21, 2014 at 3:27 pm , by

 

When I heard that ob-gyn Lauren Streicher, M.D., a trusted member of our hard-working LHJ Medical Advisory Board, had written Love Sex Again, I wrote it off as a book for an older crowd—definitely not for a 20-something like me. But when I met with Dr. Streicher, a super energetic woman who has been the go-to person on sexual health for Dr. Oz and The Today Show, her enthusiasm won me over. I was surprised at how much I learned and how interested I was in what she had to say. Because let’s face it—she’s one of the few candid voices actually talking about this stuff.

In the book, which comes out this week, she covers topics such as how your hormones affect your sex life, what to do when sex is painful, how to re-spark your libido and how to improve your orgasms. She puts words to things you didn’t know you had and offers solutions to problems that are common. Her personable, humorous tone makes the book fun to read, and it’s useful, whether you’re in your 20s or your 70s. Here are three things from the book that grabbed me most.

WHAT 20-SOMETHING KAYLA LEARNED

1. Not many women are talking about their sexual problems.
Even though 100 million women in America have troubles in the bedroom (at all ages), very few talk about it—not even with their doctors. And even if they are seeing a physician, the doctor generally won’t bring it up. When surveyed, almost 42 percent of women said their doctor never asked about sex or libido. Dr. Streicher says it’s time to speak up!

2. Endometriosis can affect you (and your sex life) when you’re young.
The disease, which is often misdiagnosed, can be genetic and start at birth. In fact, 52 percent of teen girls with severe chronic pelvic pain had surgically proven endometriosis. It was news to me that this health problem didn’t just start later on in life. It reminds me of the popular article LHJ published recently about a woman who suffered from endometriosis for 20 years without being diagnosed!

3. The HPV vaccination is safe after age 26.
Because the HPV vaccination Gardasil is only FDA-approved for ages 9-26, I thought for years that it was unsafe after that time. In reality, age 26 is the cutoff not because it’s dangerous, but because the FDA has determined it doesn’t have a high enough cost benefit. Most women don’t ask for the vaccination because they think they’re too old for it, but Dr. Streicher says she gives the vaccine to anyone who asks. So if you’re, say, divorced and starting to date again, you should ask your doctor about it. The HPV virus can lead to several types of cancer, including oral. Just be prepared to pay, since your insurance probably won’t cover the cost.

I asked a friend in her 50s what she found most compelling from the book.

WHAT 50-SOMETHING JULIE LEARNED

1. Your sexual organs can atrophy?
Of course I’d heard that the drop in estrogen during perimenopause can cause your sexual desire to plummet, but I’d never heard about vulvovaginal atrophy. Lack of estrogen changes the pH so you have less lubrication and less protection from infections, as well as dryness, burning, itching and pain. No wonder so many women my age don’t feel like having sex! Yes, systemic hormone therapy can help. And we now know that new lower doses and different formulas are safer for many women (although there still are risks). But with local vaginal estrogen, via cream or a ring, only a tiny amount is absorbed into your system and can restore your lubrication and elasticity to more like your younger self within a few weeks. And yes, you do have to use it or lose it!

2. STDs… they’re not just for young people!
For some reason, we seem to think that 20-year-olds have more to worry about when it comes to sexually transmitted infections. There are more than 50 of them floating around out there; syphilis and chlamydia, for example, are skyrocketing in those over 55. And 80 percent of adults will have been exposed to HPV by the time they’re 60. “So many times my patients say, ‘I’m not worried… he’s a really nice guy,’ says Dr. Streicher. “I’ve got news for you. Sometimes the nice guys are the ones most likely to have an infection. Face it: Creepy guys usually have a harder time getting someone to sleep with them.”

3. Where is the women’s version of Viagra?
Women’s sexual function and desire are just more complicated than men’s. “Even if someone does discover the perfect pill to keep women lubricated, interested and highly orgasmic,” says Dr. Streicher, “the chance that the FDA will approve that pill before our daughters are grandmothers is extremely small.” So what till then? Dr. Streicher says some women with low libido benefit from small doses of testosterone, which can be prescribed off-label. A good lubricant can help a lot, too (or vaginal estrogen; see above). Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor.

 


Snack Girl to the Rescue!

April 15, 2014 at 10:20 am , by

We at Ladies’ Home Journal have been big fans of Snack Girl, Lisa Cain, for years. As a member of our LHJ Health and Wellness Blogger Network, Lisa is always keeping us informed of the latest healthy food news. As for her recipes? Both easy and delish.

Naturally we were super excited when her latest book, Snack Girl to the Rescue!, came across our desk. Whether you’re looking to get off the constant diet roller coaster, learn how to eat better on a budget or start to live an overall healthier life, you’ll want to check out this book.

Part one is all about encouragement and guidance. Lisa hilariously details her own journey with food and health and shares the little tips that have helped her maintain a healthy lifestyle. She even touches on body image—and not in the way most diet books do. Lisa’s approach is downright inspiring.

“If you find yourself staring at your muffin top when you look in the mirror, look up. Look at your face and decide that it is a waste of time to obsess over imperfections that do not encompass or define who you are. I’ve never met one person whose entire self was constructed around a muffin top.” Truth!

Part two of the book is full of simple, satisfying recipes—all for 400 calories or less. Lisa includes meals and snacks for any time of the day. Her recipe ideas are approachable and don’t require too many ingredients. We especially appreciate her list of pantry must-haves, as well as a five-day grocery shopping list that’s perfect for anyone new to cooking. We can’t wait to test out her pumpkin overnight pancakes, airy and easy mac and cheese and homemade skinny fries.

Snack Girl to the Rescue! is on sale today.

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Travis Stork’s Top Weight-Loss Tips

January 30, 2014 at 3:28 pm , by

It’s one thing to lose weight, but how do you successfully keep it off? In his new book, The Doctor’s Diet, Dr. Travis Stork from The Doctors has smart strategies for not only losing weight, but also learning how to eat healthy for life. We asked him to share his three top tips for rethinking the way you eat.

1) Be carb smart. “If you got to the gym for an hour, or you’ve been on your feet all day long, it’s okay to eat good, complex carbohydrates like whole grains. But if it’s a day when you’ve been stuck at your desk, cut back on the carbs. Carbs are energy. If you’re not burning that energy, it’s going to get stored as fat.”

2) Recreate your food cravings. “You never lose your cravings for the foods you love, but you can learn to make them in a healthier way. I now make a pizza that’s actually a vegetable delivery system: I’ll take a really thin whole grain crust and top it with chopped veggies, shredded chicken and spices like oregano and basil. All of a sudden something “unhealthy” becomes healthy and you can eat it the rest of your life.”

3) Think long term. “Maintaining weight loss is really about maintaining your health. When you learn to eat healthy and lose weight, all of a sudden your blood pressure goes down, and you’re blood glucose levels are normalized. That’s a huge victory–and should be the real incentive for keeping weight off.”

Hungry for more? Check out Dr. Stork when he talks to three leading weight-loss bloggers featured in the March 2014 issue of Ladies’ Home Journal on The Doctors February 10. And learn more about Dr. Stork’s new book, The Doctor’s Diet.

 


A New Plan For Weight Loss

January 10, 2014 at 8:00 am , by

We were skeptical at first when we heard that Rick Warren, D.Min., founder of the Saddleback Church in California and author of The Purpose Driven Life, was writing a diet book. Really? A weight-loss program based on religion? But when we got a copy of The Daniel Plan, he hooked us on page 1 with his candor and humor. In fact, the first three words of the book are: “Wow! Everybody’s FAT!”

You see, a few years ago, Warren had a eureka moment when he was baptizing members of his church and noticed that the majority of them were, well, obese—and so was he. That baptism was a wake-up call to the health issues in his own life and to those of his parishioners. So he teamed up with Daniel Amen, M.D., and Mark Hyman, M.D., two of the top doctors in the country, to create The Daniel Plan.

From left to right: Dr. Amen, Maggie, Julie, Pastor Warren and Dr. Hyman.

Warren got 12,000 of his church members involved, and in their first year of following the program, they lost more than 250,000 pounds! But when his son Matthew committed suicide last year, Warren stopped making healthy choices and gained back half of the 65 pounds he initially lost.

Yet relapse is part of recovery, he says. After grieving for Matthew, Warren got back on the plan—and re-lost 30 pounds. He knows what it’s like to be overweight and discouraged, so he made sure his plan is realistic, relatable and doable.

Our health director Julie and I met with Warren (second from right in the photo) and his co-authors to talk about The Daniel Plan. As the three told us (sometimes all talking at once, they were so excited), it’s not a diet but rather a prescription for living a healthy, happy life. The plan incorporates five factors: faith, food, fitness, focus and friends. Here, a few of the basics:

1. Faith
There’s nothing preachy here! For many people, faith is about religion. But it doesn’t have to be. The faith factor refers to your motivation for getting healthy, says Warren, and it’s essential for everyone, regardless of religious beliefs. Faith can simply mean wanting a better quality of life. Identify what motivates you—and use it to get healthy.

2. Food
Eat real, whole foods as much as you can. “It’s all about learning to love foods that love you back,” says Warren. The Daniel Plan plate is half non-starchy vegetables, 25 percent lean proteins and 25 percent whole grains or starchy vegetables. Add a side of low-glycemic fruit and drink water or herbal tea. Eat this way most of the time—but remember it’s a learning process and be gentle on yourself when you slip up.

3. Fitness
Make exercise fun! Don’t worry about what other people are doing—choose activities that you enjoy. Try to fit in 20 to 60 minutes of aerobic exercise, three to five days a week.

4. Focus
Change the way you think about food and about yourself. Dr. Amen suggests writing down your automatic negative thoughts, such as “I’m weak” or “I’m fat.” The more you repeat these thoughts to yourself, the more you believe them. “Writing them down gets them out of your head and forces you to question your erroneous beliefs,” he says.

5. Friends
Find a buddy or start a group—with your family, friends, coworkers, church. “The secret to living healthy is people loving each other in a community, and helping and encouraging each other,” says Dr. Hyman.


Behind the Scenes Photo: What We Did With All That Flour And Sugar

December 30, 2013 at 12:08 pm , by

Have you read Emily Sandford’s story in our December/January issue yet? Here’s a little tease: “I’ve been fat my whole life. I was a chubby kid, an obese teenager and at 24 I weighed 445 pounds. I’m still big so this is definitely not your typical miracle makeover article. But it is a story of hope because I’ve finally realized that I had to change how I felt inside before I could change the outside. I’m learning to love myself. And I’m already 113 pounds lighter.” If you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, click here.

That’s Emily on the left, me in the middle and LHJ photo director Clare Lissaman on the right. And that big pile of 5-pound bags of flour and sugar in front of us? Our props for Emily’s photo shoot. At her highest weight, Emily was as heavy as 91 of those brick-like bags, which we used in the photos to symbolize all she’s conquered since beginning her weight-loss journey a few years ago.

After the shoot, we donated all of it to the Food Bank For New York City, which provides programs and services to 1.5 million New Yorkers in need.


An End to Breast Cancer By 2020?

October 21, 2013 at 4:42 pm , by

In May of 1961, President John F. Kennedy stood before Congress with his ambitious plan to land a man on the moon before the end of that decade. Critics across the country balked. How could NASA possibly pull off something so incredible in such a short time? But the following year John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth. And on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin planted a flag on the moon.

Today, Fran Visco, president of National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC), says we need a similarly bold goal to end breast cancer—not in some distant future for our daughter’s daughters, but by the year 2020. “The Apollo Project looked at where technology was at the time, and simply asked, ‘How can we apply this to getting on the moon?’ NBCC is doing the same thing,” she explains.

Two Octobers ago, LHJ ran an interview with Visco (right) to mark the launch of NBCC’s deadline. (Click here to read that interview to get a primer on Visco and NBCC.) Recently, we caught up with her to chat about the progress so far.

LHJ: The last time you talked with us, NBCC had just announced its ambitious goal to end breast cancer by 2020. What’s the latest?

FV: The scientists we’re working with have made progress in identifying targets for a preventive vaccine against breast cancer, and we’re on track to be in Phase 1 clinical trials with it in three years. We’re also making progress in our work on stopping metastasis.

We’ve been able to change the conversation among the research community, which is huge. To give you an example, recently I was invited to speak to an auditorium full of clinicians and researchers at a major cancer center. When I asked the organizers why they wanted me to speak, they said the researchers talk about the deadline campaign a lot among themselves when they talk about their work. That’s exciting because no one even thought this was a possibility when we started, and now there’s enthusiasm and momentum. Instead of asking us, “How on earth are you going to end breast cancer?,” researchers and doctors are now asking us, “How can I help you end breast cancer?” That’s a big deal because the National Breast Cancer Coalition isn’t going to do this alone.

LHJ: What drove your decision to focus on those two areas—metastasis and developing a vaccine?

FV: What we want to do is move away from toxic drugs. If you were diagnosed with breast cancer today, you would be treated with drugs and possibly radiation, both of which can have life-threatening side effects. One of my dear friends, Carolina Hinestrosa, who was the executive vice president of NBCC, died in 2009 of a cancer caused by the radiation treatment she got for her breast cancer. That’s why we’re focusing on developing a safe preventive vaccine—so women don’t have to go through that in the first place.

For the most part, women do not die from a breast tumor. Metastasis is responsible for 90 percent of all breast cancer deaths. If we could stop that process, so that if you do get breast cancer you won’t die from it, that would be enormous. Most recently we put together a think tank of 17 scientists and advocates to look at the issue of tumor dormancy. Why does cancer stay dormant for months or years in some women? Can we learn how to keep it that way? I recall reading several years ago about a group of engineers who were talking about filters for blood flow to “catch” cancer cells. I have no idea if that is even possible but that is the kind of innovative thinking we want to encourage. We still lose too many women to this disease, and unfortunately, early detection is not the answer.

LHJ: Do you think the major focus on early detection has actually slowed progress?

FV: The problem is early detection can only do so much. We’ve spent way too much energy, attention and resources on early detection and it hasn’t gotten us very far. This year, an estimated 108 women will die of breast cancer every day. In 1991, just a few years after I was diagnosed, that number was 119.

The world has raised billions of dollars for breast cancer research, but the mortality rates haven’t changed very much. So it’s not that we’re not catching breast cancer early enough or that we haven’t raised enough money, it’s that we’re not focusing our efforts on the right things. That’s why we want NBCC to have an oversight role, which means we want to set priorities and oversee how the money is being spent.

LHJ: You are also lobbying Congress to pass the Accelerating the End of Breast Cancer Act. What would the bill accomplish? And we have to ask, has the current political climate in Washington gotten in the way?

FV: It is definitely slowing things down because Congress is dealing with other pressing issues, but I hope it won’t be a barrier to getting it done.

What we are trying to do with the bill is create a systematic way to leverage the investments we’ve already made in research. We’re not asking for more money, we’re asking to create an entity that can bring people together to collaborate. We have a lot of tools, technology and knowledge already, but none of this stuff is being translated into things that actually help people. That’s exactly how this is like the Apollo project. Let’s look at where the science is and figure out how to accomplish the goal, rather than just making another drug or another tool. I truly believe that now is the time to do that. Let’s take all this awareness, all this funding and work together to end breast cancer for good.

To learn more about NBCC’s work and how you can help, head to breastcancerdeadline2020.org.


Cate Edwards To Advanced Breast Cancer Patients: You’re Not Alone

October 10, 2013 at 6:15 pm , by

Back in 2004, on the same day the Democratic ticket lost the bid for the White House, Elizabeth Edwards was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had been campaigning tirelessly with her husband Sen. John Edwards, the Democratic nominee for Vice President. You’d think a lost election and a breast cancer diagnosis would slow someone down, but it wasn’t so for Elizabeth.

Over the next two years, while she was being treated and monitored for her disease, she became a tireless advocate for women’s health, published a best-selling book and started back on the campaign trail with John when he ran for President.

Her oldest daughter, Cate (right), remembers how at first, her mom thought of her cancer as something she’d have to deal with for a while but ultimately would conquer. Then in 2007, after she’d been in remission for a while, Elizabeth learned that her cancer had spread. It sunk in that she’d be living with breast cancer for the rest of her life. “It was a big change in how my whole family thought about the disease,” Cate explains.

If you’re one of the thousands of women living with advanced breast cancer, or caring for a loved one with the disease, you’re probably very familiar with the change Cate is talking about.

This year about 230,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. New treatments and greater awareness have lead to better outcomes for early stage disease. But about 30 percent of those women may have their cancer return and metastasize, which is called advanced breast cancer. These women and their families face specific challenges and a lot of uncertainty—issues that aren’t a major focus in the “bigger pink movement,” Cate says.

“I had this notion in my head of breast cancer patients falling into two categories: you either become a survivor or you become someone who ‘lost their battle,’” she says. “And that’s just not true. There are so many people living with cancer.” That’s why Cate has joined forces with the Count Us, Know Us, Join Us campaign, a new effort sponsored by Novartis Oncology to raise awareness and connect advanced breast cancer patients to resources and foster community.

Elizabeth passed away in 2010, but not before making the most of her time left. She continued on the campaign trail with John, even amid rumors of his affair. She became President Obama’s adviser on health-care issues during his first campaign, and she published another best-selling book. She and John eventually separated after one of the ugliest public breakups in history. But she remained an inspiration, writing on her Facebook page the day before she died: “I have found that in the simple act of living with hope, and in the daily effort to have a positive impact in the world, the days I do have are made all the more meaningful and precious. And for that I am grateful.”

“She didn’t know how long she had, but she recognized that none of us do,” Cate says. “By watching her go through everything, I learned how to be strong, but also gentle and supportive in times of difficulty. Her mantra was to live every day with purpose, and she exemplified that.”

To learn more about the campaign, head to advancedbreastcancercommunity.org. You’ll find resources from  advocacy groups like breastcancer.org and The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, as well as info on navigating treatment and forums for connecting with other patients.