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Why Tuesday?

The Girlfriend's Guide to Health will be updated every Tuesday.... Stay tuned dear readers and let me rock your world.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Climb Every Mountain

Greetings from Africa my dear cybersisters…. From the roof of Africa to be precise. Well, not really the roof, more so the attic. Here I am in crater on a glacier in the largest volcano on earth. Actually, I’m really sitting in a coffee shop getting ready for my trip, but when I post this blog I will be at 18,700 feet above sea level getting ready to summit Mount Kilimanjaro in the name of all tings fourty.

Having no access to internet or a shower (and yes my hiking boots are just plain ugly) I thought I would plan and post ahead of time. But in the spirit of my month of misadventures, I did think it best to stay informed about what lies before me.

Let’s talk altitude. No I don’t mean soaring to new preverbial heights. I mean up where we belong… where the eagles fly on a mountain high. I mean the air really is thinner up here and no I can not secure my own mask before helping someone else.

Here’s the 411 on Altitude.

People who ascend to altitude higher than 2350 metres (8000 feet) are at risk for one of three forms of high-altitude illness:

1. Acute Mountain Illness – A nonspecific illness beginning at altitudes of about 8000 feet. It is characterized by headaches, nausea and even antisocial behaviour.
2. High altitude Pulmonary Edema – essentially fluid in the lungs. 50% of people at altitude over 15,000 will have some form of this.
3. High Altitude Cerebral Edema- this one is REALLY bad. Brain swelling. Need I elaborate?

The major risk factor for high altitude illness is a rapid ascent. Finally my “go slow” hiking attitude will pay off! Safe ascents involve no more than 500 metres per day above 2000 metres. We are taking 10 days to go up 5000 metres. You do the math.

So up and up I will climb, slowly, slowly in search of glory. I have splurged on a FABULOUS gortex suit that does despite its better judgement in althletic wear make me look 10 pounds lighter. It is the perfect outfit (black with hot pink piping). My hiking boots are not stylish but the comfort here is key. I will forgo a red pair of soles for a chance at hiking glory.

Several clinical studies have looked at the medications used to prevent and treat these diseases.

The most common medication used is called Acetazolamide or DIAMOX. Interestingly there is a worldwide shortage of Diamox right now. Apparently all the cool kids are taking it…. Looks like there is a boom in people trying to reach higher ground. Could this be a global warming phenomenon?

Safe to say, I did use my doctor connections to try and score some extra drug. Imagine it my cybersisters…. There I am scouring pharmacies across this great land in search of my Kilimanjaro power pills.

Fortunately a lovely pharmacist in Lethbridge, Alberta (big shout out to Abdul if he’s reading) came through for me like a celebrity dealer at a Lindsey Lohan’s prom.

I am now in safe possession of 30 pills (1/2 a tablet a day for 15 days) and my beloved and I can rest easy with the knowledge that medically speaking we can cheat physiology just enough for me to have my very own mid-life crisis at 19,575 feet above sea level.

Here I am, high above the clouds huffing and puffing and blowing 40 down. Look up dear girlfriends…. I’m waving from the roof of the mother continent…. Can you see me?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Let's Hear it for the Boy

So the annual holiday of Love so to speak has passed and I took a moment on the side of the mountain to think about my relationship. Yes, my girlfriends, here I am at 12,500 feet at a campsite on Mount Kilimanjaro.

I told my beloved I wanted to climb a mountain and he said “sure”. In his defense, I don’t think I gave him another option. That being said, last night in our mountain tent huddled into our -30 degree Celsius sleeping bags, we exchanged Valentine’s Day cards and professed love and devotion. Given there was 30% less oxygen in the room- I could not help but believe him.

You really must love someone to climb a mountain on HIS OR HER whim. Yes, my Jason… you are a God. That being said, I am a Goddess so we’re both good to go.

Please understand my disclaimer here when I say that I actually have imagined this whole “card exchange in the tent” scenario as I write this posting at Heathrow Airport en route to Tanzania. I will not have any access to Internet for the next two weeks so all further postings have been “planned ahead”.

My Beloved, Jason, in fact at this moment has just fallen asleep in the departure lounge. I have been waiting for this moment for at least an hour…. I’ve been watching his eyes bat, bat, bat and then FINALLY close. I will check for sound sleepiness and then make a good clean break to the duty free shops for at least an hour of undisturbed bliss without taxes.

Duty Free Versace and a sleeping husband of 14 years…. Hell it must be Valentine Day somewhere.

But here on the day that celebrates love and relationships I think it is time to examine the science behind it all….

Women who are in satisfying marriages have a health advantage over unmarried women or those in unsatisfying marriages, according to a study published in the September 2010 issue of Health Psychology, a journal of the American Psychological Association (APA).

The study, involving middle-aged women over a 13-year period, finds that women in good marriages were less likely to develop risk factors that lead to cardiovascular diseases compared with other middle-aged women.

Researchers from San Diego State University and the University of Pittsburgh compared cardiovascular risk profiles of women who were married or living with a romantic partner and who had high relationship satisfaction with those of women with moderate or low relationship satisfaction and with those women who were single, divorced and widowed.

Risk factors were measured during an average of more than five visits over 13-years. Each visit included a blood draw to measure cholesterol and glucose levels, blood pressure evaluation, body-size measurements and assessment of health behaviors (such as diet, smoking and exercise) and psychosocial characteristics (such as depression, anxiety, anger and stress).

Participants who were married or cohabitating completed a seven item marital quality questionnaire that assessed satisfaction with amount of time spent together, communication, sexual activity, agreement on financial matters and similarity of interests, lifestyle and temperament.

The questionnaire was completed at the beginning of the study and during the three-year follow-up assessments.

Results indicate that women in marriages characterized by high levels of satisfaction showed a health advantage when compared with participants in marriages characterized by low levels of satisfaction and with unmarried participants (single, widowed or divorced).

This included lower levels of biological and lifestyle cardiovascular risk factors - such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels and body mass index - and lower levels of psychosocial cardiovascular risk factors - such as depression, anxiety and anger.

Those women in highly satisfying marriages also showed this same health advantage when compared with women in moderately satisfying marriages, but to a lesser extent.

How might being in a good marriage influence health? Previous research indicates several direct and indirect factors may be a work, according to the authors.

Marriage itself may offer a health advantage by providing social support and protecting against the risks associated with social isolation. Also, spousal influence and involvement may encourage health-promoting behaviors and deter unhealthy behaviors. Married people, especially women, may also be at a health advantage relative to their unmarried counterparts through the increased availability of socioeconomic resources.

SO there you have it. My beloved (the dude in the tent on the side of the mountain) makes me a healthier person.

Not only does he feign ignorance over the size and cost of my shoe closet and not only does he entertain my adventure whims so to speak (mountain company included). but in fact he may be lowering my cardiovascular risk as well….

So excuse my indulgence dear girlfriends as I give a little SHOUT OUT…. To the man behind the woman…. For lowering my cholesterol but not my standards. Hell throw back your heads and sing it with me sisters, “Let’s hear it for the boy!”

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

She Squats to Conquer

In a few days I will lose my ability to shower. No, I have not chosen to buy another pair of Louboutins instead of paying the water bill….

Instead, I have decided to celelbrate my midlife crisis by climbing the highest peak in Africa. Literally. Yes, on Thursday, we leave for a three week trip to Africa, kicking off with a 10 day hike up Mount Kilimajaro.

What does one wear for said adventure? Safe to say… Karl lagerfeldt was no help. Yes, my sisters… I spent a good part of my shoe budget at Mountain Equiptment Co-op. Make no mistake, I am all about democracy… helll I love socialism… But shopping at a Co-op… not really my thing.

I love to support equal rights and left wing ideals EXCEPT when it comes to fashion- in fashion…. There must be a hierarchy. In fashion… autocracy reigns supreme.

So imagine my well, my horror when I had to by A LADY NALGENE bottle to put in my tenet so that in the middle of the night when at 17,000 feet above sea level I have to pee…. I can just get up, unzip my -30 degree celcius sleeping bag, and squat over a plastic contraption that takes away both the pain in my bladder and all my dignity just like that.

Safe to say, I bought the hot pink one. I do have standards afterall.

But the whole process got me thinking… how does one maintain a sense of feminine cleanliness well above sea level and reason for that matter?

The answer came to me in a lovely gift bag from a fellow girlfriends fete. LOVE MY MUFF femininie wipes. If Miss J is reading many thanks to here, by the by, for a splendid evening of laughter and Prosecco.

Make no mistake, I hate the name. LOVE MY MUFF sound crude, not cute. I don’t have a better suggestion for what to call feminine hygiene wipes and make them sound appealing and fashionable. You’re kind of screwed to begin with.

But aside from the name, my bigger question is “Who is their market?” Is there a whole host of cyber sisters out there by the thousands who are using these “feminine hygiene accessories” on an every day basis and not just for a midlife crisis/hiking trip.

A study published in November, 2000 in the Journal of Obstetric Gynecologic and Neonatal Nursing 20-30% of women reported douching. This number persisted despite reports of the dangers of this practice. Douching has been shown to increase the risk of bacterial vaginosis.

Understand I came of age “post douche”. I was sort of on the cusp when women had just stopped douching and just started with wet-wipes. As a result, my generation got lost in the middle. We really were not the girls who used any more than soap and water to clean our good china so to speak.

The study conducted from 1998-1999 asked 718 women ages 18-65 in California about their body cleansing practices.

There were significant age-related differences found in several areas of body cleansing including use of feminine and deodorant spray, wet wipes, and panty liners. 20% of women reported using wet-wipes, most of whom were under the age of 30. The highest rates of douching was found in Hispianic women over 45.

There you have it. I am too young to douche, too old for wet-wipes.

But as of February 12, 2011 age is no longer an issue. With 10 days on the side of a mountain and no showers to speak of I have 6 packages of travel size wet-ones. So send me up a big GGTH cyber prayer…. For good hygiene and safe travels. Here we are my cyber sisters…. Bringing a whole new meaning to the phrase “she stoops to conquer”. And now I must wash my hands.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

See No Evil

Last week I lost my reading glasses.

Don’t feel sorry for me my dear girlfriends… this is not a new occurrence. In fact lately I would argue that I lose my reading glasses as often as I can. This is pair number five in the last three months.

Considering I only started wearing reading glasses less than a year ago, give me time and I would argue, that I could get rather good at this.

I’ve lost all kinds of reading glasses. The really pretty designer ones that cost just enough to make me feel better about getting older to the cheap drugstore 10 dollar ones my mother wears and I swore I never would.

I’ve lost black ones that I bought to make me look smarter and tortoise shell cats’ eye frames to make me look like Tom Ford is my boyfriend. Pick a colour and pick a frame and I have lost it.

On Friday I found myself at the Joe Fresh section of the Great Canadian Superstore. Reading glasses were 50% off. Jackpot. For seven dollars a pair I can now lose my glasses for almost the price of a ginger martini. If I give up cocktails all together, I may just be on to something.

I’ve tried my dear girlfriends. I’ve tried to be more responsible. I’ve bought lovely stylish chains to wear around me neck to link my glasses into. I AM a somewhat responsible person. I AM NOT A LOSER.

But give me a pair of +1.25 magnifying spectacles and I lose perspective, reason and the damn glasses.

Here’s the thing…. I’m actually short sighted. Not in life, but in vision. I am in fact, as they say, myopic.

Three years ago I had laser surgery.

Yes, I paid good hard earned shoe money to have some lovely Ophthalmologist point and shoot a laser to each of my eyes and reshape each of my corneas with photorefractive keratectomy (PRK). Two milligrams of Ativan and ten minutes later I had 20/20 vision and one hell of a buzz.

Days before the procedure, I remember Dr. V. (my Ophthalmologist) telling me about the healing process and explaining the surgery to me in great detail. I remember him giving me a variety of prescriptions for eye drops and expressly detailing for me the scheduling for the eye drops.

I also remember him telling me that eventually around age 40, I might need reading glasses.

Days after the procedure, my drops were well underway, my eyes healing and I relished my time spent on a couch with fabulous sunglasses watching cooking shows and reruns of Project Runway.

As for the warning for a future need for reading glasses…. POOF. GONE.

Now three years later… drops are long gone and I am losing reading glasses as the new Olympic sport.

According to the Vision Council of America, approximately 75% of adults use some sort of vision correction. About 64% of them wear eyeglasses, and about 11% wear contact lenses, either exclusively, or with glasses.

Over half of all women and about 42% of men wear glasses. Similarly, more women than men, 18% and 14% respectively, wear contacts. Of those who use both contacts and eyeglasses, 62% wear contact lenses more often.

Approximately 30% of the American and Canadian population is near-sighted or myopic. About 60% of the population is far-sighted; they have trouble reading or seeing things “close up” without glasses, but can focus well at a distance.

As people age, they are more likely to need vision correction for far-sightedness. About 25% of people who wear glasses to see distances will end up needing reading glasses or bifocals, as they get older.

Certain types of visual disturbances affect some races more frequently. Asian Americans, for example, are more likely to be near-sighted than Caucasians. African-Americans have the lowest incidence of near-sightedness, but are more prone to cataracts than Caucasians.

And so having lasered my eyes I thought my days of glasses would be somewhere perhaps in my distant future.


Instead I’m wearing reading glasses… that is when I can find them.

Make no mistake, I love being far sighted. I love NOT wearing contacts. As a swimmer, it is a dream come true to not worry about corrective lenses in an ocean or a pool.

And yes, forty is upon me. I can handle the wrinkles and the fact that gravity works. I can handle the grey hair and the chin hair and the new need for “age appropriate” wardrobe pieces.

Hell, I don’t mind putting on a pair of reading glasses to see the price tag on the fabulous red soles I deserve to have just so I can cushion the blow of it all.

Why? Because God is a woman with a shitty sense of sisterhood and if that how she is going to play it…. Bring it on.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to find a pair of $7 glasses in order to edit this post. Bless you my sisters… AMEN.