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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 26, 2013

Get Cracking.

My girlfriends know that I am a LIVE AND LET LIVE kind of girl. On most occasions. That is until some raging lunatic tries to take away something near and dear to me. I am a woman of science after all and if there is a good sound scientific argument around why to do or not to do something I can of course be swayed in my beliefs. Give me a well-rounded study that shows that 4-inch heels cause cancer- I will of course weight the pros and cons and perhaps take my chances. 

So imagine my shock and horror when just a few months ago (okay- it was April- but I am a bit slow) the medical community came out with a statement that eggs were as bad as cigarettes. 

Could it be true? Could my Sunday brunch ritual be as bad for me as the weekends I spent in University with a pack of Du Maurier Special milds 100's? Let be clear my sisters- I am an ex-smoker. It began when I was 16- and yes, I started it because I thought it was cool. Sure I wish I had never started but we all have to make our way in the world.

Fret not, my girlfriends- for now it has been over 15 years since I last engaged in such nicotine behaviours and THAT is the coolest thing of all. I love being a non-smoker. I love the feeling of self-righteousness I have every time someone lights up in front of me in a line or on a patio.

I love the dirty look I happily give them- as they blow smoke into the air and I send them an unspoken vibe of “Yo, Asshole, stop killing my oxygen supply”

Any and all of my sisters out there who’ve spent more than 20 seconds in my presence will know that I am a cheerleader for health. So imagine my surprise when some doc out of London Ontario made the statement that based on the evidence egg yolks were now the culinary equivalents of a pack of Marlborough Lights.

Oh the shock, oh the horror, oh the shame. Would someone now be shooting my omelet and ME the dirtiest of looks on a Sunday morning? Rest assured of course that in my fantasy this dirty look would be done while the said individual was glancing over their  iPhone while taking pictures of their egg-free breakfast.

Would restaurants now have a “cracking” and “non-cracking” section if you will?

Armed with my scientific mind, my investigatory nature and the need to decipher the meaning of brunch I went to the evidence.

Sure enough…. The dude in London mat be a scientist, but hey- he’s full of shit.

Firstly the Harvard Egg study published over 20 years ago showed that eating one egg a day was no different for rates of heart attacks and strokes than eating one egg a week in high risk populations. This was a population-based study of over 10,000 people over a period of 7 years.

And then just last week, a met-analysis published in the British Medical Journal sealed the deal for me. God bless the BMJ for saving my Sunday mornings….. all praise to the Brunch Goddess.

The Meta-analysis looked a total of eight articles and 17 reports (9for heart disease, 8 for stroke) to assess the risk of cardiovascular events in association with consumption of an egg a day versus no eggs at all (or less than one per week). This came out to 3081269 person years and 5847 incident cases for coronary heart disease, and 4148095 person years and 7579 incident cases for stroke.

The study showed no increase risk in all studies for cardiovascular disease in patients taking an egg a day versus none at all. YES.

Sure, I am a biased researcher but on this one…. The data is there. A study out of London, Ontario may show increased plaque formation in the egg consumer’s blood vessels, but it appears that this study is indeed flawed….

Firstly- plaque in a vessel does not necessarily mean a heart attack waiting to happen. We’ve known this in the medical community for years. Not all plaques behave equally. How do I put this? Think of it like your closet…. It may be “full” of clothes but sometimes you still have nothing to wear.

Secondly…. The sample size in London was rather small and not a reflection on real world data…..

Thirdly… well, must I go on my sisters?

Enough with the eggs debate.

As for me? It’s a lovely morning as I write this…. I must go grab a coffee, pick an outfit and prepare for a celebratory sit down brunch. Don’t worry my sisters…. I’ll be sure to crack a few for you as well. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Bitch is Back

I must admit my dear girlfriends….I am bit cranky these days. Perhaps it’s the weather, perhaps just the way but I have lost my usually sunny disposition. Yes… this is bullshit- I really don't have a sunny disposition. Make no mistake, I don’t delude myself that I ever had one. I’m not one of “those girls” who thinks they are pleasant when in fact they suck. I realize I’m a bit of a bitch… but hell- if you dress a bitch up in pretty clothing she can be tolerable- can’t she? Look at Anna Wintour. The woman has a reputation for being evil- but she is a style icon and thus- really she’s fabulous.

Stick a bitch in a pair of great shoes and hell- she’ll walk a mile in them…

But lately I am blue. Bluer than…. the fabulous pair of Louboutins I had to buy last week just to get myself out of this funk… and I could not help but wonder… was this seasonal? Was this hormonal? Worse… was this permanent?

Let’s take a poll my cyberissters… raise your hand if you can’t be in the same room with yourself lately??

I notice my recall is not what it used to be… Make no mistake- I have a pretty good memory to begin with- I can multitask with the best of them. But lately I notice I’m not as snappy as I used to be. I can play a wicked memory game in my closet…. Which shoes are in which box? No problem. But I am finding that I am often forgetting my keys a bit too often.

This is topped off with a touch of sleep disturbance. Yes I am now one of "those old ladies" who wakes up at 4 am bright eyed and a bit neurotic. 

So between the moodiness, the forgetfulness and the sleep disturbance I am either a nasty insomniac with early onset Dementia or I’m premenopausal.

I’d love to be dramatic… but I think it’s likely the latter. FU$# (I promised my mother I would swear less in this blog... add the "CK" if you must).... Her comes menopause, here comes menopause… rolling down menopause lane?

Menopause is the term used to described the gradual cessation of reproductive functions in association with systemic symptoms associated with the withdrawal of certain hormones in the body.

Menopause is an unavoidable change that every woman will experience, assuming she reaches middle age and beyond. Menopause has a wide starting range, but can usually be expected in the age range of 42–58.

Early menopause can be related to cigarette smoking, higher body mass index, racial and ethnic factors, illnesses, chemotherapy, radiation and the surgical removal of the uterus and/or both ovaries.

It is officially declared after a woman has ceased to menstruate for one year.

Perimenopause is defined as the period around menopause when periods become irregular. Pre-menopause is defined as the period around perimenopause where systemic systems of menopause occur without the change in menstruation. In other words… you are bitchy and you don’t know why.

I recently read an article that cited that human beings are not the only animals to go through menopause.  Apparently menopause is quite uncommon among other animals.

Yes, again, I envy my dog Lola. Not only is she so freaking cute that perfect strangers stop her on the street, but she is seriously cuter when she is chubby and apparently sails through her change of life without a nod of her chew toy.

Nonhuman primates such as rhesus monkeys and chimpanzees have been reported to go through menopause. It has also been observed in the guppy, the elephant and some whales.

The hot flashes result from vasomotor instability as a result of drops in estrogen.

The moodiness associated with premenopause have been shown to be associated with fluctuations in the levels of serotonin found around this period of time.

Recent studies have shown that antidepressants can be helpful in the treatment of hot flashes, improving sleep, mood, and quality of life. There is a theoretical reason why SSRI antidepressants might help with memory problems: they increase circulating levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain and restore hippocampal function.

Look… I may be premenopausal. I may just be paranoid. I will turn 42 this week and I'm getting kind of tired about the comments on my appearance and my age.... you know "you don't look 42..." Blah, blah, blah. It all has hit me like a ton a bricks and I am spending some time learning to cope with it. Rest assured I'm working it through. Give me time. By my 43rd birthday I will be very well adjusted. Bear with my my cybersisters…. We will make it through.

Make no mistake, I am a FAN of drugs…hell I prescribe them every day. If you need em- use em.

But I think I will deal with my premenopause with a trip to NYC in the next couple months. The spring lines should be in stores and nothing resets the hormonal levels like a three day shopping bender. The Big Apple and its Fashion Trends need me and it turns out my life changing physiology needs them as well….

If it turns out I am not premenopausal… my wardrobe will definitely be no worse for wear….

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Call Me Maybe

It is my firm belief after much debate and research that the decline of manners everywhere is in part due to text messaging. I have tried, dear girlfriends to like this means of communication. Truth be told it has taken me at least two years to “get the hand of it”.

At first, I seriously could not wrap my fingers, so to speak, around this form of technology. I understand that texting came about as a cheaper form of communication for cell phone users. Perhaps this was the first flaw for me. As a woman with an addiction to high end footwear, how could I be economical when it came to communications?

Was human discourse the time for pinching pennies? A huge fan of language and a life spent trying to master it suggested that this was not MY new means of interconnectivity.

I realize I am still a dinosaur. I send birthday cards and thank you cards when I REALLY want to say Happy Birthday or Thank You.

Furthermore, I am not physically text friendly. I have really chubby fingers and terrible spelling. The two combined make all of my messages seem as though they were sent by a drunk 17 year old girl.  Furthermore, As fourty approaches like a bullet train from hell, I am now in need of reading glasses.

This triumvirate of inadequacy makes a tiny keyboard and a void of silence a really shitty way for me to tell people how I am, where I am and what time I will meet them for lunch.

Isn’t a phone call so much better? You can judge the nature of someone’s response in an instant. Ever a fan of gauging human behaviour,  I strongly maintain that how a person answers a question is as important as the answer itself.

Enter the text….

Do you ever notice that texting has become the “cowards manifesto” for communication.

Don’t have the balls to tell someone you can’t make lunch? Try saying it in 30 characters or less….

Wanting to just “check in” with a “friend” that is really more of connection that a relation? Text a cute “hello” and be done with it.

Just had a one night “experience” with a pseudo stranger and don’t want to face the morning after call? No need…. Nothing says “I am a gutless wonder” like  “THX 4 LAST NITE. WUZ FUN ;)”

How did fall so far as a species? We are the only animals on the planet to have the true gift of language? We are blessed with an amoury of telecommunications and the gifts of being able to in an instant hear another’s voice at will. And yet, we have reduced much of our “back and forth” to an economized version of human contact.
“Reach out and Touch Someone” has been replaced with “reach out, but don’t come too close”.

Nonetheless, I was willing to give this means of communication a chance. Afterall,
texting has been shown to improve patients’ compliance in taking asthma medication and applying sunscreen.

And then the hammer came down…

A study published in the American Journal of Obstestrics and Gynecology last week showed that test messaging offered no benefit for women in remembering to take their contraceptive pills.

Missed birth control pills account for about one in five of the 3.5 million unintended pregnancies in the USA every year.

A study out of Boston Medical Centre randomly assigned 82 new oral contraceptive users to either receive a daily text message reminder to take their birth control pills or to receive no reminders.  The average age of the women in the study was bout 22 years old.

During the three-month study, both groups missed a monthly average of about five pills, as recorded by an electronic monitoring device on the pill packs. None of the women became pregnant.

In both groups, the rate of missed pills was nearly double the average estimated by previous research, hinting that adherence in the general population of Pill users may be overestimated.

I suck at remembering to take any medications. I remember having strep throat and being on a four-times-a-day antibiotic regimen for about a week…. It was truly humbling.

The fact that I don’t have to get a text to remind me to be a better patient is truly and emancipation.

I don’t suggest we abandon the keyboard entirely… My advice, cybersisters as will all things in health is one of moderation.

Some guidelines perhaps?

Text wisely, dear girlfriends, not often.
Text appropriately and with caution.
In social situations, be social?
When in doubt, a phone call will do. 
And of course, if I’m not in, do leave a message and I will get back to you in a timely manner. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

This is How the Heart Breaks

Ah sweet sisters. Welcome to a new month…. Shall we call it February? Truth be told February is always my favourite month. Why you ask? Well even if you didn’t….

Firstly it’s my birthday month. I know there are some girlfriends out there who don’t want any attention around their birthday. They shun the whole getting older and don’t want people to make a scene. I say BULLSHIT. Make a scene. As a doctor I’ve watch far to many people NOT get another birthday so I am taking them whenever they come and in style.

Think about it my sisters…. One day in the year when cake is sanctioned and presents are expected. Trust me – the day in question is three weeks away and already I have picked out a gift (God bless you John Hardy for always meeting my needs) and a cake to go with it. Don’t worry I will only have one piece – as for the jewelry- it won’t be so lucky.

Secondly- the spring lines tend to appear in stores right now and a big shout out to my sisters in retail who always keep me informed of the best and the prettiest. Nothing says February better than being able to try on all those fabulous outfit you saw on the runways in September.

Next, there is the Fall Fashion Shows in New York, London, Paris and Milan. Need I explain? I didn’t think so

Finally, I love me a good short month. You know- one that is over and done with- 4 weeks and lock that shit up. So February… you are indeed my bell of the calendar ball. Mazel Tov.

But kidding aside my sisters- February is also Heart and Stroke Month – a time for awareness of the number one killer of women. I know we always promised to keep this Tuesday blog light but the truth may be heavy and times and I have always prided myself on being a sister who tell it like it is.

If you can’t trust this girlfriend to tell you that bangs are for Michelle Obama and not for you, then who can you trust? Is it not my job to educate and inform and sometimes my darlings- the truth- is more Issey Miyake than Chanel- it’s downright messy.

I’ve been thinking a lot these days about how we live. Perhaps it’s the change of seasons…. Perhaps it’s the change of hormones…. But every now and then I stop and take a spiritual inventory and lately I’ve realized as both a doctor and a patient- we tend to talk about quality of life but pursue the quantity of it all more often. What I mean by that is that all too often we talk about the number of the years lived and not the years themselves. We count birthdays and events and time gone by. We talk about how we are living longer than our parents….

But I can’t help but wonder what it means to have a life of substance. This brings me back to birthdays and Heart and Stroke month.

A recent report from the Heart and Stroke Foundation shows that 80% of Canadians think their doctor would rate them as “healthy” but that most of them would not pass the grade. Indeed the boomer generation is living longer than their parents before them but the rates of chronic diseases are higher than ever.

I know what you are thinking- the longer we love the more susceptible we are to chronic disease like Diabetes and High Blood Pressure- but what really is interesting is that it’s not such a straight line. The evidence does suggest that modern medicine will indeed help us live longer- but I wonder what we- each one of us is doing to make those extra years on the planet better?

Studies show that 10% of Canadian women drink heavily, 25% drink more than they should (no more than one drink a day) and 20% of Canadian women smoke.  Oh yah – 80% of us don’t get enough exercise.

Here’ s the thing my sisters- don’t feel bad, don’t get pissed at me….. ask yourselves what can I do today that I did not do yesterday in order to live better tomorrow?

I would argue that we worry more about the health of our skin than we do about the health of our arteries and that has got to change. 

Here’s the thing, if I may ponder- HEALTH is not a default state of being. We have been taught to believe in the past that if we don’t have a disease than we are by default, healthy. Not so….. Just because you don’t have Diabetes or High Blood Pressure or something else does not mean that the life you live is a healthy one. Contrarily- I know a lot of healthy people with Diabetes and Hypertension.

The point is that health, my sisters- is something we should be fighting for like a crazy lady at a Barney’s sale. Think about it my girlfriends- women as a community have fought for the right to vote, the right to have or not have babies and the right to marry whom they want to- let’s start fighting for the health of our tomorrow.

Get your asses moving ladies…. I’m watching you. Happy February my sisters and Amen.