(Very) Good Vibrations

drminkinQuestion: What do Yale University and vibrators have in common? Answer: Mary Jane Minkin, M.D.

Dr. Minkin is a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Yale University School of Medicine and one of the nation’s foremost experts on menopause and sexual health. She’s also a major advocate for vibrators. Yes, you heard that right. Here, Dr. Minkin talks about why she thinks a vibrator is vital for your FOF sexual health.


So, you tell your FOF patients to use vibrators. Why?
Women who use vibrators regularly have increased blood flow to their vaginas and increased lubrication. That’s especially important for menopausal women who can experience lack of blood flow to the vagina due to lack of estrogen. Lack of blood flow contributes to vaginal atrophy, which we’ve talked about before. When it comes to your vagina: Use it or lose it! Sounds corny, but it’s true.

Are vibrators for women who don’t want to use hormonal treatments?
Vibrators can be used with or without hormonal treatments. Stimulating the pelvic floor can benefit anyone. Some patients will be using a hormonal treatment, such as estrogen cream, but when they start having sex regularly they find that they probably won’t need it as much. Their vaginas are seeing increased blood flow and lubrication from the sexual activity. Vibrators achieve the same thing.

How do your patients react when you tell them to use a vibrator?
If I were a stern, white-haired man people might be surprised, but my patients know my style. They know I say things that might be considered a little ‘out there.’ The fact is, these are real issues we deal with as gynecologists, and this is a real solution. There are very well-known sex therapists who regularly recommend vibrators as part of sex therapy. It’s much more common than people might think.

minkinarticle2Do you have patients who say they can’t or won’t use a vibrator?
Sometimes. And we always want to work within the patient’s comfort zone. There are women who won’t even touch themselves “down there.” As a doctor, I want to respect their boundaries. But I also have a psychologist on staff to talk to a patient if I sense that she has emotional hang-ups. And sometimes a really good vibator can change her mind!

Is there an age-effect when it comes to how comfortable women are with vibrators?
Some of my really older ladies, years ago, might have looked askance at it–but not among the baby boomers. Baby boomers are pretty savvy about this kind of stuff. According to the data, at least half of women in this country use vibrators, so most people are pretty comfortable with them. This is not shameful–it’s cool. Most people just don’t realize that there also are health benefits.

Is there a specific vibrator you recommend?
I like the We-Vibe vibrators. They’re made of medical-grade materials, and they’re BPA free and reliable. Some brands of sex toys are not not terribly well monitored or checked, so I like that the We-Vibe comes from a reputable, good company.


Also, they’re supplying vibrators for a study I’m doing. I help direct a clinic at Yale for women who have had cancer and want to get back to their normal lives. Often, they’ve had surgery or pelvic radiation which disrupts blood flow and causes scarring. We are getting ready to do a study on how vibrators can help these women keep their pelvic floors functional and happy.

Are there any warnings when it comes to vibrators. I’ve heard it can be dangerous to use them on a vagina that’s too dry.
If you have issues with dryness, you need to use some moisturizer or lubricant so you don’t damage the vaginal tissue. There are topical moisturizers like Replens, that provide long-term moisture, but most lubricants like Astroglide or KY are generally effective only at the time of intercourse… If you find you need more moisture than these provide, you can be assured that vaginal estrogen is absolutely safe. Most people agree with that at this point.

How often should you use a vibrator?
Whatever you feel comfortable with. Several times a week is nice.

Can you use it too much?
Well, Mae West said ‘Too much of a good thing can be wonderful!’ But I do want you to be able to go to work and stuff.

P.S. Get $10 off your We-Vibe at Sinclair Institute. Enter code “10OFF” at checkout!

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{FOF Coach} Making her own rules


All it takes is one conversation with FOF Lin Eleoff to be certain that she can help you “get off the bathroom floor and “seize happiness by the throat.” A former TV reporter and lawyer, Lin is one Smart Ass coach who says she was born to help others “live lives that are on fire.” There’s more to life, she says, than “what women see as their current reality.” Lin talked to FOF about why she makes her own rules and how you can make your own, too.

How old are you?
I’m 55.

Are you married?
Yes, we met on a tennis court and have been married 22 years. I lovingly call him ‘Thurston Howell the 4th’ because he sounds exactly like Thurston Howell the Third (the role played by Jim Backus on Gilligan’s Island). He’s lost his British accent but he was born in Great Britain and he calls me ‘Darling’ and ‘Lovey.’ It’s hysterical.

What does he do?
He’s a corporate guy… all business. I’m the entrepreneur in the family.

We have four, from 16 to 25 years old.

Where did you grow up and what did your parents do?
I grew up in Toronto. My dad died when I was 17. My mom was an entrepreneur. She launched the first domestic employment agency in Canada.

What did you do before becoming a coach?
My first career was as a TV news reporter and anchor in Toronto, where I won a couple of CanPro awards as well as a New York Film Festival award for news documentary, which delved into the topic of adoption. When my husband’s career took us to the U.S., I decided to switch careers and follow my long time dream of going to law school. When my youngest turned one, I applied to the Roger Williams School of Law, which was 20 minutes from our house in Providence, RI. I practiced for several years and then decided I wanted to be a coach.

Why a coach?
I became a coach at the age of six, when I saw my parents fighting for the first time. I remember thinking, ‘I can fix this, if they would just listen to me.’ As an attorney, I always wanted to help people fix their lives so they wouldn’t need to hire me again. As a TV news reporter, I was always drawn to the personal interest stories. I’m a big sap, but I’ve come to believe that I have a duty to get my ass to Happy and have learned how to do that. I was born to help others do the same, to get up off their asses to live lives that are on fire (instead of being burnt out).

I think women are coming to realize that there’s more to life than what they see as their current reality. Plus, I get to run my own business, work from home, and be the boss of me. It’s heaven. I’ve met women from all over the world and we’re all the same — we just want to belong.

What kind of FabOverFifty woman can most benefit from coaching?

All women can benefit from coaching, but especially those past 40 and 50, who are ready to plan out their lives going forward (instead of looking back). That can be so exciting and empowering.

What is your mission?

I want to get women up off the bathroom floor (where they hide their sadness, pain and tears) and take responsibility for their lives. We tend to ‘wait’ for happiness to come to us. That won’t ever work. You have to go out and get it. Seize it! Claim it! I know how to do that and I love teaching women how to do it for themselves. Some crazy stuff can happen once you take responsibility and seize happiness by the throat!

Tell us about a typical client.
My clients are in their 40s and beyond and most of them want to lose weight, feel normal, not feel deprived, and end the war around food. They’re looking for Thinner Peace. I use charts, graphs, lip gloss, sarcasm, and my black belt, Ninja-style coaching skills to show them how to do that. It works like a charm. It’s crazy good how well it works.

How did you come up with the Smart Ass idea?

I learned how to be a Smart Ass from my parents — it’s a unique blend of love and sarcasm. I don’t think self help needs to be so damn serious. There’s no reason why we can’t be laughing our asses off while we’re bawling on the bathroom floor, right? You see, a Smart Ass makes up her own rules. Like I just did. Smart Ass Radio connects me to other like-minded women who make their own rules, without apology.

Have you written any books?
I have written Why the (BLEEP) Can’t I Lose Weight – Lose the Weight in Your Head, Shrink the Size of Your Ass (available on Amazon), and I’m currently writing a book called Extreme Self Coaching — it’s going to be epically Smart Ass and highly effective for getting out of the life you seem to be stuck with and creating the life you want.

What’s the greatest piece of advice you can give FOF women?
Take seriously your responsibility to the world to get your ass to Happy. Otherwise you’ll just have to come back and do it all over again, until you get it ‘right’… kinda like the movie Groundhog Day.

How do women most sabotage themselves?
Women sabotage themselves by not understanding what it means to take care of themselves first. It’s not a mani-pedi once a week. Self Care is a full time job. If you’re happy, then everyone else around you feels that energy and benefits from it. Otherwise you’re just shortchanging the ones you love the most.

What famous women do you most admire?
Hillary Clinton is an all-round rock star in my eyes. She’s a hard-core fighter, she never backs down, and she gets back up off the bathroom floor when she hurts, dusts herself off and moves on.

Stevie Nicks is another real rock star. In a way I see myself in her. I even named one of my daughters Rhianon, after my favorite song. I feel a connection that I can’t explain without sounding woo woo.

Do you have a mentor?

My mom has always been my mentor. She’s a rock of a mother — fierce, loves unconditionally, always, always, always there to support me and is the best grandmother ever. She taught me how to be a good mother.

Straight talk about invisible braces for adults

10% off invisible braces, a complimentary bottle of Incognito wine and teeth whitener kit when you book a free consultation with Dr. Adam Schulhof in March! See details, below.

A less-than-perfect smile may seem like an inconvenient tooth of aging…but it doesn’t have to be. FOF recently sat down for some straight talk with Dr. Adam Schulhof, a NYC-based orthodontist who specializes in adult braces.

Dr. Schulhof is a pioneer in a special type of behind-the-teeth braces called Incognito™ and is convinced they will completely reform the orthodontics industry within ten years. “They will absolutely replace front-side braces,” he says. “This is the future.” He’s treated hundreds of patients with Incognito™ and had such successful results, that it is now the sole device he offers at his practice.


{Health} This Thanksgiving: eat to defeat menopause!

This Thanksgiving–eat to defeat menopause. Here, FOF Karen Giblin shows you how.

Karen is the founder of Red Hot Mamas, a menopause education and support program as well as a self-proclaimed FOFoodie. “I wanted to combine my lifelong passions–cooking and educating women about menopause,” says Karen. “It was a natural fit to write a cookbook based on women’s health.”

Last year, Karen partnered up with Dr. Mache Seibel, a leading menopause expert and former Harvard Medical School professor, and the two scoured their own recipes collections, as well as reached out to top chefs in search of recipes with ingredients providing menopause symptom relief. The resulting book, Eat to Defeat Menopause, is part menopause-coping manual and part cookbook. Here, we chat with Karen about symptom-stopping ingredients plus she shares two Thanksgiving recipes sure to dazzle guests while alleviating your menopause ails. Talk about comfort food!


Health News for FOFs: June 2011

Overwhelmed by medical news? Eat meat. Don’t eat meat. Sun causes cancer. Sun prevents cancer…Don’t fret. We pored through the periodicals to find the very best FOF health info this week. Your body just thanked us for you.

  • ImageAdd Certain Foods to Subtract Calories
    • Recent studies show that eating more of certain foods can help reduce hunger and moderate calorie consumption. The foods, including cayenne pepper and puréed vegetables, are natural appetite suppressants. For instance, adding pepper to soup correlated with eating 60 fewer calories in the next meal. “We’re not at all proposing that this is any miracle cure for obesity,” said a lead researcher. “This is a small change with a small effect that is achievable by making just a small change in the diet. It goes in the right direction.”
  • With Liposuction, the Belly Finds what the Thighs Lose
    • A new study showed that fat removed from the thighs and abdomen of women, via liposuction, came back after a year. Surprisingly, it came back in other areas of the body. A doctor associated with the study explained: “it was redistributed upstairs,” mostly in the upper abdomen, but also around the shoulders and triceps of the arms.
  • Boomers are less healthy and heavier than their parents were at their age
    • Perhaps counter-intuitively, boomers are found to be in poorer physical shape than their parents were at the same age. “Boomers think of themselves as forever young, but they’re aging physiologically faster than their parents’ generation,” a health writer said. “What’s happening to boomers, they’re showing a lot of increases in chronic diseases. They haven’t reached 75 or 80, but compared to the previous generations at the same age, they’re showing more of the chronic diseases.” Suggestions for bridging the gap include seeking higher quality health care, exercising, socializing and learning a bit more, eating more healthfully, and even practicing safer sex.
  • Live more years: secrets from a Greek island
    • The residents of Ikaria, a mountainous, 99-square-mile Greek island, live longer than just about any other geographic group in the world. Some of their “secrets” include eating more greens, napping, not worrying about time that much, herbal tea, goat’s milk, walking, and cultivating strong social ties to friends and neighbors.
  • Why long-married couples split Image
  • Does Late Night Eating Cause More Weight Gain?
    • A recent study on adult men and women has added support to the claim that eating late does facilitate more weight gain. Eating after 8 PM was associated with a higher body mass index, suggesting that late night calories carry more weight than those consumed earlier in the day. Still, researchers are generally at a loss as to why this is.

Not Your Mama’s Pill Box

ImageMyMedSchedule.com offers free text message reminders and other fab (free) ways for FOFs to keep their health on track

As FOFs, we’ve all had that moment: You’re staring at your pill bottle thinking, “Did I take my pill today, or not?”

Or perhaps you’re responsible for an aging parent, and you’ve had the even trickier task of figuring out what pills dad is supposed to take, and in what order.

Turns out, these minor medication snafus add up to major problems. According to a 2009 report by the New England Healthcare Institute, a full 50 percent of patients in the U.S. do not take their medications as instructed, at a cost of many lives and $290 billion annually in increased medical costs.

One clever solution: www.MyMedSchedule.com (MMS), a free website where you to create a schedule of your medications that is viewable from your mobile device or computer at any time. When you type in the name of your pill, MMS adds it to a printable chart with the dosage, when you should take it–even what it looks like.

MMS also sends you a text message (or an email) when it’s time to take your pill.

“I carry a wallet-size printout of my schedule as well as my husband’s and my mom’s,” says FOF Donna Brooten, Director of Marketing for the site.

Dr. Kay Johnston, MD, a dermatologist in San Angelo, Texas, encourages all her patients to use the tool. “When I asked my patients what medications they were taking, often they’d refer to a jumble of handwritten notes, or nothing at all,” she explains. “When you’re taking 5-10 different pills, that’s just not a good idea. “Now I give new patients the mymedschedule.com web address on a little card, and tell them to go home and use it. Hopefully, they’ll use it, and take the schedule to their other doctors as well.”

Visit MyMedSchedule.com to create your free medication schedule or download the App for iPhone or Android ($1.99) so you can use it on your SmartPhone.

Yoga Class

FOF members have told us how much they love taking care of their bodies—from pilates and yoga to core training and ballet. In the coming months, we’ll be releasing the first in a series of Faboverfifty Fitness Videos designed just for you. It features Adam Vitolo, Geri’s personal instructor. He’s one of our fitness Fab Faves!

Geri Brin

The Menopause Monologues

A world-renowned women’s health expert sounds off on Suzanne Somers, painful sex, and the mistake 99 percent of her patients make.

  • FOF: What happens to our bodies during menopause?
    • ImageDr. Thacker: Once women go into menopause — as a result of surgery or naturally — estrogen levels drop. This can cause a host of symptoms, primarily, the vagina can get thin, as can the lower part of the bladder and the bones. One in two women get osteoporosis, and probably eighty percent of them have some sort of changes in their vagina and bladder.
  • What is the biggest misconception about menopause?
    • That because menopause is natural, you don’t need medical guidance to deal with it. Pregnancy is natural, but you can still die in childbirth! I see so many women who make the mistake of trying to tough out the symptoms. I saw a woman today with severe vaginal thinning and atrophy from menopause. She had suffered for eight years without treatment.
  • She just ignored the pain?
    • Yes, until she started bleeding, was unable to have sex and finally sought help. Unfortunately, that is not unusual. Women are not being told about simple treatments. For instance, for women like the one I saw today, there are localized low doses of hormones and other medicines that only affect the genitals–there’s virtually no systemic risk at all. To be truly estrogen deficient and suffering should not be the case.
  • Are there other symptoms that might be menopause related and women don’t realize it?
    • Yes. High cholesterol, sexual dysfunction, slowed metabolism, thinning hair. And sleep problems. Sleep disruption is probably the biggest reason why women stay on hormones long term.
  • Should women be concerned about being on estrogen long term?
    • The risks from hormone therapies are really very low. Even for women with breast cancer or blood clots. In the Women’s Health Initiative studies, eleven years of estrogen use did not cause any increase in breast cancer. In fact, it showed a 33 percent reduction in breast cancer for women with hysterectomies taking .625 estrogen, compared to women on nothing. Once you’re over 60 to 65, we do tend to lower the dosage because there’s a slight increased risk of stroke.
  • Should everyone consider hormones?
    • Everyone does not need them. If you have no symptoms and your bones and your genitals are fine, then that’s great. Just make sure someone is doing a good vaginal exam and checking your bone density every few years. And if you do need treatment, there are many non-hormonal options for bone loss, hot flash symptoms and sleep issues.
  • It’s surprising that so many women are in the dark about menopause treatments.
    • ImageI am just flabbergasted, because it’s these baby boomer women who made the medical profession change and become more responsive to women. They demanded their partners be in the delivery room. Part of it might be that women are risk averse. So when all of those exaggerated, irresponsible headlines linking hormone therapy to cancer hit in 2002, women stayed away. And I think people don’t want to “medicalize” menopause, or say it’s a disease. Also, women put themselves last.  They think, “I need to take care of my partner, or my elderly relative, or my kids,” before they think about their own pain and symptoms.
  • It sounds like you think men would react differently to the same symptoms of menopause.
    • Definitely. The bottom line is this: if men couldn’t sleep, had hot flashes, lost bone and muscle strength and saw their genitals shrink by 70 percent, and 99 percent could take a treatment and do well, there wouldn’t even be a question about it.
  • What do you think of people like Suzanne Somers? She recommends hormones.
    • The Suzanne Somers movement is unwise. Her message–that women deserve to feel good and enjoy sex–is right on. But the way she tells women to go about it is not scientific and is potentially harmful. That’s why I wrote my two books. They’re certainly not bestsellers like Suzanne Somers’s, but they’re just the facts.
    • There is a lot of alternative medicine that is beneficial and well-studied, such as acupuncture and certain nutritional supplements. But there are also people out there who are basically snake oil salesmen. When a woman is not getting her questions answered, I can understand why she would turn to someone with a very good bedside manner but no science behind it.
  • What type of doctor should a woman seek to treat menopause?
    • A woman who goes to her OBGYN, internist or a specialist—such as a urologist–for her menopause symptoms may not receive complete treatment. None of those doctors is looking at the woman’s symptoms from a global “women’s health” perspective. OBGYNs are trained to deliver babies and do surgery on the reproductive system. Internal medicine is completely based on a male model. There are very few doctors who are certified in menopause and interdisciplinary women’s health.”
    • Probably the closest thing right now is a menopause specialist. The North American Menopause Society credentials doctors as menopause specialists. A clinician has to pass a test in a number of areas to qualify. That’s an excellent resource for finding a doctor in this area.
    • We actually have the world’s largest concentration of menopause experts here at the Cleveland Clinic.
  • Can anybody go to the Cleveland Clinic to be evaluated?
    • Absolutely. I saw a woman from Las Vegas the other day. She had just finished two years of injectable Forteo for her osteoporosis. That’s a very expensive therapy that builds up bone, and it needs to be followed up with other treatments. She went to two or three different doctors, and they were dropping the ball, so she came to see me. We took care of her hormones, helped her bladder and got her treated with yearly IV Reclast, so that she wouldn’t lose the bone she built on the Forteo.
  • What are some red flag symptoms that women should know they don’t need to deal with?
    • If you’re not sleeping well; if you’re flashing or having temperature regulation problems. Or it could be more subtle: dry skin, mouth or vagina, and bladder urgency or overactive bladder are sometimes linked to low estrogen. Some women have a lot more aches and pains because estrogen can affect the pain threshold. Women who have complex family histories, lots of symptoms, or histories of blood clots, as well as women who had different kinds of cancers could certainly benefit from seeing a menopause specialist.
Dr. Thacker
Cleveland Clinic Center
Dr. Holly Thacker, MD, FACP is the director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Specialized Women’s Health, one of the world’s foremost clinics for women. She has authored two outstanding books on menopause and hormones and is a recipient of the “Lila Wallis Women’s Health Award” in recognition of her lifetime achievement in the field. She’s also a straight talker and a totally FOF woman.