Treat Dry, Crepey Skin All Year

This is a “sponsored post.” Crepe Erase compensated FOF with an advertising sponsorship to write it. Regardless, we only recommend products or services that we believe will be helpful for our readers. All insights and expressed opinions are our own. —Geri Brin

The pipes in one of my bathrooms froze this winter during the incessant frigid temperatures plaguing much of the country. The good news, though, is that my skin continued to feel soft and supple for the first time in years, despite the harsh winter cold. Imagine, 11 degrees outside, and the skin on my body stayed sensationally smooth! My legs, my arms, my hands, my neck– all smooth! I’ll tell you about the thrilling reason why in a moment.

Dry skin is common in later life.

We naturally lose oil glands as we age, and the overheated indoor air we rely on to keep our homes comfortable during the winter makes the problem worse! Think about a favorite pair of leather shoes that’s stretched out and cracked after years of wear.  Like leather, your skin has countless pores that absorb or release moisture. When it releases too much of its moisture, it will dry up. If it dries up too much, cracks may form, especially on your elbows and feet. What’s more, your skin loses its wonderful foundation of collagen and elastin, making it loose and saggy.  

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A Drug I Take To Help My Bladder Can Harm My Brain

First the bad news, because there doesn’t seem to be any good news concerning the subject I’m about to cover: I recently learned that anticholinergic drugs (these can help treat a variety of conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, incontinence, depression and high blood pressure) are associated with an increased risk of dementia in older people who have used them for longer than a few months. Vesicare is one of these drugs. I’ve been taking it for years for bladder issues.  

One study says Vesicare increases risk only in those with diabetes (I don’t have that YET), while the rest don’t mention diabetes. No one is claiming that anticholinergic drugs actually cause dementia.  And, the increased risk to individuals is small (I guess that’s a scrap of good news).  It’s a risk to take them nonetheless, and Alzheimer’s petrifies me. It represents the majority of dementia cases, in case you didn’t already know! 

I’m writing to tell you this news, in case you or someone you know is taking one or more of the culprit drugs. I was surprised that Dr. Alan Garely, the New York urogynecologist who prescribed the Vesicare, hadn’t notified me. I don’t see him often, but I’ve known him for years.  I serendipitously Googled “Vesicare” last weekend and read about its link to dementia. A couple of studies are almost two years old, which alarmed me even more. How did I miss reading about them? Stress urinary incontinence is prevalent in US women: 30% to 40% have it in middle age, and 30% to 50% have it in older age. Did the media bury the stories? Why did The New York Times website report about the dementia risk at the end of June as if it was new news?  

Coincidentally, I’d made an appointment weeks ago to see Dr. Garely because I needed him to refill my Vesicare prescription. I’d bring up the studies first thing, I thought.  

“We have to change your Vesicare prescription,” he said, immediately after greeting me. 

“Why didn’t you notify me earlier?” 

“The American Urology Association, The American Urogynecology Society and the FDA haven’t issued any advisory for us to stop prescribing anticholinergics in patients who don’t already have cognitive impairment. All patients in the practice need to see me once a year and call in for a drug refill every six months. Since it’s not the current standard of care to stop anticholinergics with all patients, we decided that when patients call for a refill or show up for the yearly visit, we would switch them all off of anticholinergics. We are being proactive and not waiting for an ‘official’ warning.” 

The FDA doesn’t say to stop taking these drugs unless you already have cognitive impairment. Yet, the studies say they increase the risk of getting dementia in the first place. That makes no sense whatsoever.” 

“I don’t agree with the ‘recommendations’, which is why I’m switching all patients off of these drugs.”

“So, now that I’ve been taking Vesicare for about 10 years, I definitely have an increased risk for dementia.” 

“Cognitive decay secondary to anticholinergics (drug-induced dementia) is usually reversed once the drug is stopped. Patients will revert to baseline.” 

“That’s encouraging. But can I try to stop taking drugs altogether?” I asked, after Dr. Garely told me he was writing a prescription for a different drug that might be more expensive, but didn’t have the dementia connection. 

“Rather than stopping all medication cold, you should first take the new drug every other day and see how you do. If your bladder isn’t giving you issues on that schedule, see how it does if you stop taking the new drug entirely. There is no ‘one size fits all’ in medication dosing. I want to work with each patient to do what is best for her.” 

I’ve reported about many drugs since launching FabOverFifty nine years ago, and each one can be a double-edged sword. They’re often essential to keeping us well, BUT the overwhelming majority of them have the potential to produce side effects. These can range from minor problems like a runny nose to mega problems, like increasing our risk for dementia. The alternative bladder drug Dr. Garely recommended could increase my risk for high blood pressure.  My pressure has always been perfect, without medication. Do I risk raising it to take a drug that will reduce my bladder problems? I certainly don’t want dementia and I’m not too wild about hypertension, either. 

“Hypertension on the new drug is low, but not zero. We’d check your blood pressure six weeks after starting the drug,” Dr. Garely told me. “If overactive bladder is affecting someone’s quality of life, the low risk of short-term hypertension can be outweighed by the therapeutic benefit of the drug. This is only something that each patient can determine for herself. Obviously, if the drug caused hypertension, we’d stop it.”

I’ve made my decision. If I don’t wait to urinate (that would be a good tagline for a bladder campaign), my bladder doesn’t become an issue. So I’m going to forego the new drug.  High blood pressure can have far worse consequences than a little bladder leakage. If I did develop hypertension, it likely would be reversed once I stopped the new drug, Dr. Garely said, since it would be considered “drug-induced hypertension.” NOTE: Likely isn’t a strong enough word for me. 

What would you do in my situation? Please make sure to research every drug you’re taking to see if the side effects outweigh the benefits or vice versa.  

Dr. Alan D. Garely is Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology & Director of Urogynecology and Pelvic Reconstructive Surgery at Mount Sinai South Nassau. He also is a professor at the School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Survey: Where Do You Stand On Women’s Rights?

This Kind Of Stroke Has Nothing To Do With Good Luck

Pointing to the locations of my carotid arteries

I was surprisingly calm while I waited for Dr. Marin’s nurse to call my name. Michael L. Marin is the Chairman, Department of Surgery at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and Surgeon-In-Chief at the Mount Sinai Health System in New York. His specialty is vascular surgery, which means (simplistically) he diagnoses, treats and manages conditions in the arteries and veins, also called blood vessels.  A recent scan had revealed that moderate plaque buildup has narrowed my right carotid artery. Clinically, it’s called extracranial vascular disease. In my terms, it could be the prelude to a stroke. Dr. Marin would assess my situation a lot better than Google. 

I needed to get answers to two questions: 1) What’s the likelihood I will have a stroke? 2) Would I need surgery to remove the plaque (Google told me it’s risky surgery)? 

After introducing himself, Dr. Marin immediately, and warmly, announced: “I’ve carefully reviewed your scans and medical history,” and took out a pad and pen so he could show me what’s happening in my carotid artery. I also wanted to know what the artery does in the first place!  I was a horrible science student but I continually force my brain to understand everything happening in my aging body! That way I can ask the right questions to get the answers I need to help me make informed decisions about my health. 

                                           www.pridgeondesign.com/

“I’m not a good artist, so bear with me,” Dr. Marin said as he started to draw a picture and deliver a little medical tutorial. In minutes he taught me that my right carotid artery is one of four arteries located on the sides of the neck (there’s a second carotid artery and two vertebral arteries).  The gang of four meet in a circle at the base of the brain, then branch off into many smaller vessels that supply oxygenated blood to the brain. Without this blood, brain cells die pretty quickly. Without a functioning brain, we die. 

The good news is that the arrangement of smaller vessels feeding the brain pretty much guarantees that blood will still flow into it, even if three of the four major arteries are completely obstructed. The not-so-good news is that the plaque (formed by fat deposits) in my right carotid artery hasn’t closed it off entirely. Blood can still flow through it, but at greater pressure since the normal opening has narrowed. If the increased pressure caused a piece of plaque to detach from the wall of the artery, it could make its way into my brain, rupture, and trigger a blood clot to form. If the clot blocked one of the small blood-supplying vessels to the brain, part of my brain wouldn’t get blood and oxygen, causing brain cells to die after just a few minutes.  Voila, a stroke! 

More good news: Based on the “moderate” amount of plaque in my right carotid artery, it’s highly unlikely the scenario he just described will play out in my brain, Dr. Marin told me. I’m also asymptomatic, another positive sign. And, I don’t need surgery, at least not now.  When Dr. Marin recommended that I have scans of my carotid arteries every six months, I asked if more plaque can accumulate. “ It can,” he answered.   

              Dr. Michael L. Marin

“Is it possible the plaque formed in my artery because my cholesterol shot up when I stopped taking estrogen, I was eating all wrong and gaining weight, plus I was hardly exercising?” I asked. 

“Absolutely,” he said.  

“I recently lost 17 pounds and want to lose 17 more. I’ve started exercising again and I’m taking statins so my cholesterol numbers are excellent. I also take a low-dose aspirin,”  I went on, perhaps to show Dr. Marin that I’m a ‘good girl.’  

“That’s all important, but the one factor over which you have no control is genetics,” he explained.

Got it.  So what happens if the amount of plaque reaches a dangerous level and you think I need surgery to clean it out and avoid a stroke? I read that the surgery actually can cause a stroke,” I added.

“Yes, there’s a risk of that happening because a piece of plaque could break off during surgery. That’s why you should choose a surgeon who has done the procedure more than a few times,” Dr. Marin advised. 

“When I do it, the risk is less than 1 percent,” he said, smiling.  

That was more good news. As I wrote on the review of my visit, “I would put my carotid arteries in Dr. Marin’s hands without a moment’s hesitation.” 

The moral of the story: Take charge of your own health, understand the issues confronting you, and do the necessary research to find the experienced doctors who can successfully treat your condition.  You don’t have to love them. You’re not marrying them. (Although Dr. Marin would be a good candidate if he wasn’t already married.)

PS  Also consider having a scan of your carotid arteries if you’re over 50. It’s quick and painless. And, you may not have a single symptom!

 

The Dinner Party That Turned Into A Rescue Party

                                         Geri & Anna

I invited my new pal Anna to dinner last night. She’s come from her home in Athens, Greece, to visit her son and his family, who are my lovely next door neighbors. I met her only last week, but we hit it off instantaneously.  When I answered the door, Anna looked frantic. Out walking, she heard meowing and tracked the sound to a trash bag, where she discovered a kitten that couldn’t be more than a couple of weeks old. She took the kitty to her son’s house, cleaned it up and fed it milk through a syringe. But, Anna wondered why there was only one kitten in the trash bag. Was there something wrong with it that prompted a cruel person to throw it out? Returning to the trash bag down the street, she heard more meowing but came to my house first. Out we ran to rescue the second kitten.

The garbage bag was filled with leaves, branches and dead sunflowers. Anna rooted around with her hand and found the second kitty, but we heard more meowing coming from the bag. Emptying the contents on the sidewalk, we met the third sibling! Back at my house, Anna cleaned up our guests, while I found a box for them and lined it with a towel. Anna dashed to her son’s house to retrieve the syringe so she could feed them.  

Anna is returning to Greece on Monday. And tempted as I was to keep one of the kittens, I knew I couldn’t properly take care of it since it would need to be cared for like an infant. That would mean frequently feeding it special milk (our homogenized milk wouldn’t provide the proper nutrition), burping it after each meal (yes, burping it), helping it go to the bathroom, and regulating its body temperature!  BTW, I’m not a kitten expert. Anna and Google filled me in. In the interest of transparency, I could surely tend to the kitten if I had to. I didn’t want to. 

 

While Anna and I had dinner we decided the best thing to do was to take the kittens to the 24-hour animal hospital that took care of my dog and my son’s cat when they were sick. Anna’s daughter-in-law, who was caring for the third kitten, wanted us to take it to the hospital, too. She and Anna’s son have a 19-year-old cat and a two-year-old, so it wouldn’t have been practical for her to keep the kitchen either. 

At first, the nighttime employee at the animal hospital didn’t want to take our rescued kittens, but she changed her mind when she opened the box and saw them. She filed a police report since it’s illegal to dump a living animal into a trash bin. I’m not quite sure what that was going to accomplish since it would be pretty difficult to find out who did the dirty deed.  

We left the three babies with one of the vets. We knew they were in good hands.

It’s My Body And I’ll Show It Off If I Want To

              From Ireland Baldwin’s Instagram

I don’t know if this is just a New York thing, but I’m seeing more and more young women–say 16 to 26–“letting it all hang out,” literally and figuratively. The Cambridge English Dictionary defines the phrase as “behaving freely without being shy or feeling worried about what other people will think of you,” and that’s precisely what these women seem to be doing. Obese girls are wearing clothes so tight or short their bodies look like dough that’s risen out of a bowl. Slender girls are parading around with their breasts spilling out of their low-cut shirts, their buttocks popping out of their skimpy shorts. Hair looks unkempt, not like Meg Ryan’s back in the day, but like it hasn’t seen shampoo or a comb in months. 

And don’t get me started on the pregnancy look one website called “Bump Proud” back in 2012. It just won’t go away. Growing bellies bulging out of slinky dresses and pants. Women in bikinis in their third trimesters. We dressed our pregnant stomachs 30 years ago with “maternity clothes” that weren’t winning fashion awards, but I think the big belly brigade looks gruesome, especially the women who had big bellies before they became pregnant. Pregnancy may be a beautiful thing on one level, but silhouettes meant for size 8 ladies with flat stomachs should stay on size 8  ladies with flat stomachs.

“If you’re proud of your body even if you’re pregnant, show it off,” commented one woman. I say: Get a mirror first and take a few courses in style.  Subtlety and modesty are actually the classiest ways to “show it off.” 

Now to the women who have nothing to hide but often do. Women with mastectomy scars who won’t put on bathing suits or dresses with low necklines. Women with significant birthmarks on exposed parts of their bodies who go to all lengths to hide them, even if it means wearing long sleeves every day of the year.  Older women with jiggly underarms who won’t wear sleeveless tops (that’s me!) Women with crooked teeth who avoid smiling.

Gillette introduces us to a few of these women in a 30-second TV commercial for its Venus women’s razor.  “There’s no me without my skin,” says Marika, whose congenital birthmarks are scattered all over her body and face. “In a world obsessed with skin perfection, Venus wants every woman to feel comfortable in her skin just as it is—scars, marks, flaws and all,” the company said. I applaud Gillette,  just as I cheered Dove when it first used real women in its 2004 Real Beauty promotion. Fifteen years later, Dove still uses only real women in its campaign to emphasize its commitment to redefining beauty and educating young women throughout the world on body confidence and self-esteem.


Gillette and Dove may be two big beauty brands, but it’s going to take many more brands to affect real change.  L’Oreal’s website and ad campaigns look like they have for decades. Real women don’t exist in L’Oreal’s world. The company even airbrushed Julia Roberts’ photos in 20011 ads, but was forced to pull them because they didn’t represent the results women could achieve with their products. If Julia Roberts isn’t beautiful enough for L’Oreal, I don’t imagine it’s going to cast “real women” any time soon.

What’s the safest place to sit on a plane?

I don’t like to sit in back of a plane because it seems like a much bumpier ride.  You actually do get a smoother ride when you sit in the middle of the plane, over the wing, because it’s close to the plane’s center of lift and gravity.

But next time I’m on a plane I may brave the bumps and sit in the back, where it’s somewhat safer, according to a 2015 Time magazine study of aircraft accidents during the 35 years before that.

Reviewing the Federal Aviation Administration’s Cabin Safety Research Technical Group Aircraft Accident Database (that’s a mouthful), Time found seating charts for 17 accidents with both fatalities and survivors. The accidents occurred between 1985 and 2000.

The analysis showed seats in the back third of the aircraft had a 32 percent fatality rate, compared with 39 percent in the middle third and 38 percent in the front third of the plane. Middle seats in the rear of the aircraft had the best outcomes with a 28 percent fatality rate.  The worst seats for safety were on the aisle in the middle third of the cabin, which had a 44 percent fatality rate.

Moral:  Don’t complain next time you get the middle seat in the last row of a full plane, between a crying kid and a crochety old guy, and three feet from the restroom. There’s a good chance you’ll live to see another day.

Reduce Chronic Pain Without Drugs

I’m in pain on the left side of my face from the jaw right up to my temple. The temporary cap covering what’s left of a back tooth fell off, and I didn’t have the time this week to return to the dentist for another one. He told me the discomfort is normal without the temporary cap, but no harm will be done  if I hold out until I get the permanent cap in a few more days. Advil has helped tremendously, but I don’t like taking more than two capsules a day so I’m putting up with the pain.

As I look forward to being pain free, I think how horrible it must be to live with chronic pain, with little or no hope that it will ever go away. I recall the hours of excruciating back pain I endured during labor with my first child in 1979. I wanted to be thrown out the window. It was THAT bad. It felt like someone was crushing my lower spine every time I had a contraction. Rather than focusing on the fact that the labor would end, my mind was convinced it never would. I wanted a solution for it. Ending my life came to mind. 

The Lamaze controlled breathing techniques I learned during my pregnancy were supposed to help me cope with the labor. That seemed like a cruel promise. Or maybe it wasn’t. Medical advances now show that techniques like meditation and breathing can help us become more aware of our thoughts, feelings and body sensations so that we can manage them, instead of letting them overwhelm us like mine overwhelmed me! 

This approach is the foundation of a treatment for chronic pain and illness called “mindfulness meditation,” that has been shown in clinical trials to reduce chronic pain by 57 percent, or as much as over 90 percent if you become an expert in the practice, reported Dr. Danny Penman in a 2015 article on www.pychologytoday.com about the effect of mindful meditation on reducing pain and suffering. 

“Imaging studies show that mindfulness soothes the brain patterns underlying pain and, over time, these changes take root and alter the structure of the brain itself, so that patients no longer feel pain with the same intensity. Many say that they barely notice it at all,” Dr. Penman wrote. Many hospital pain clinics now prescribe mindfulness meditation to help patients cope with the suffering arising from a wide range of diseases such as cancer (and the side effects of chemotherapy), heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, back problems, and migraines.

Meditation involves focusing on different parts of your body and  observing with the mind’s eye what you find . You’re “watching” your mind and body in action, observing your pain instead of struggling with it. “When you do this, something remarkable happens: your suffering begins to melt away of its own accord,” Dr. Penman explained. 

The Body Scan Mindfulness Exercise 

In HEALTHbeat, a newsletter from Harvard Medical School, stress reduction expert Jon Kabat-Zinn recommended practicing this “body scan mindfulness exercise” for 45 minutes every day as the best form of mindfulness meditation for pain conditions. “Whether you find the body scan to be very relaxing and interesting or difficult and uncomfortable or exasperating is irrelevant to whether it will serve you well. The goal of the body scan is not to relieve the pain completely, but to get to know it and learn from it so you can manage it,” he said.  

  • Lie on your back or in a comfortable, outstretched position.
  • Close your eyes, focus on your breathing, and feel your belly expanding gently as you inhale and receding as you exhale.
  • Focus on your left foot and feel any and all sensations, including pain. Try to recede a little more into the floor every time you exhale.
  • When your mind wanders, observe where it has gone and gently return your focus to the foot without judging yourself.
  • If you notice pain, acknowledge it and any thoughts or emotions that accompany it, and gently breathe through it. See if by carefully observing the discomfort, you can help your body to relax. Don’t expect the pain to abate; just watch it with a mindful but non-judging mind.
  • Let go of the focus on your left foot gradually and completely—even if pain there hasn’t gone away or has intensified—and repeat the process on your  left ankle.. Slowly and patiently, proceed this way throughout the body.

I tried the exercise for my tooth pain.  I actually fell asleep on the floor as I was going through it. I have no idea if the time I spent on the exercise worked, but I did wake up without pain!

Bring Back Your Glow With A Powerful Skincare System

When my diamond stud earrings and wood living room floor look dull I know precisely how to give them back their happy shine. But when my complexion seemed to go from blooming to blah overnight, I was at a loss what to do! Dark circles under my eyes, age spots, a smattering of facial veins and uneven texture gave me an overall lackluster look that, frankly, I found distressing. Even blush couldn’t help me recapture the glow I saw in my old photos.

“My passion for making women feel beautiful and confident started at an early age.” – Dr. Adrienne Denese

We can get dull or blotchy looking skin at any age. But, as our skin matures and loses collagen and elastin, cell turnover can take as long as 90 days, when it used to take just two weeks! Instead of looking rosy and radiant from fresh cells in the top layer of our skin, our complexion becomes gray and dull from dead skin cells that haven’t left town! What’s more, the natural exfoliation of our skin slows down even more if we spend too much time in the sun, don’t drink enough water, eat poorly and smoke.

I’ve read about rejuvenating hydrafacials, chemical peels and microdermabrasion. But these treatments can be costly and would need to be repeated frequently to keep my skin looking good. I was thinking of splurging on one of them anyway, but held off when I was invited to try the new Essential Radiance Collection from the Dr. Denese SkinScience brand.  A trailblazer in anti-aging medicine, Dr. Adrienne Denese launched her skincare line in 2002; its continuing success is testimony to how well it works. Millions of women don’t buy the same beauty brand year in and year out unless they see results!

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THE ULTIMATE UNION OF SCIENCE + NATURE

If there was a Who’s Who of Anti-Aging Ingredients in skincare products, those in the Essential Radiance Collection would surely make the cut. All scientifically proven to produce effective results, they include powerful and penetrating glycolic acid to treat fine lines and dullness; retinol, the industry’s gold standard ingredient, to speed skin renewal and create smoother, more evenly toned skin, and peptides for visible firmness and radiance.  

“With Dr. Denese, I trust her products. She just knows what she’s doing.” – Carol Alt

But even the best apparently isn’t enough for Dr. Denese, who also holds a PhD in science. Thanks to innovative technology and her keen mind, Dr. Denese consistently infuses her products with exceptional substances discovered in nature. The seeds of Amaranth flowering plants, for example, provide the precious oil that helps give her Essential Radiance products their power to help revitalize our skin.

Valued by the ancient Aztecs as a restorative medicine and nutritious food, Amaranth is a flower that never fades or wilts and has come to symbolize immortality.  Its oil can help renew the look of our skin and return the radiance it had when we were younger. Amaranth is rich in vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and squalene, a super-effective moisturizer and natural antioxidant.  It also helps the skin protect itself from damage, dirt and impurities.

The Essential Radiance trio provides a simple, yet effective daily regimen:

ENZYME-RICH CLEANSING CREAM

I have religiously cleansed my face for decades with dozens of creams, gels and lotions, and this velvety cleanser ranks among the best. A triple threat morning and evening, it gently and easily removes all dirt and makeup without over drying my skin… moisturizes with luxurious Amaranth seed oil….and softly removes the dull, dry surface layers of skin to give me a softer, smoother and more radiant complexion. Glycolic acid helps encourage cell turnover.

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GLYCO-9 RENEWING COMPLEX

Powered by 9 percent glycolic acid plus fruit acids, this advanced treatment encourages surface cellular turnover, nourishes the skin with botanical extracts, and richly moisturizes it with amazing Amaranth seed oil. The first week I applied only a thin layer once a day, then I started using it before bedtime, too. After two weeks, my skin looked brighter and pink was starting to make its way back into my complexion.  

 

LIPID-RICH REPLENISHING CREAM

As I massage this light but ultra-rich hydrating formula over my face, the front and back of my neck, and my decolletage, I can see and feel my skin instantly drinking it up. The cream glides on nicely without leaving an oily or greasy residue. It’s amazing how a small amount can provide so much hydration. I like its mild, fresh scent. Its powerhouse of ingredients includes retinol, peptides, the antioxidant resveratrol, and, of course, the revitalizing oil extracted from the seeds of the never-fading, never-wilting Amaranth plant. Wait till you see what it does for your skin!

100% experienced* visibly improved texture
100% experienced* brighter, more luminous skin
100% experienced* more hydrated skin

*Individual results may vary.

Dr. Denese is so confident that you’ll love Essential Radiance, she invites you to use the products for 60 days, and, if you’re not satisfied, you’ll get a full refund, less s&h! Her offer assures me even more that this is a trio of quality beauty products. Plus, the line is incredibly reasonable in the first place!  

What’s more, Dr. Denese will send you her Essential Radiance Pure-20 Lipid Infusion and Pro-Peptide Restoring Eye Cream as free thank you gifts.


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Down 16 Pounds, 14 More To Go

Three months ago, I was heavier than ever. After Norfolk Terrier Rigby died last August, I’ve walked less. I cancelled my once-a-week exercise with a professional trainer because it was a waste of money to work out so infrequently (how’s that for logic?) I joined the Y in my neighborhood, but hate getting on the treadmill.

So, what did I do? I worked 10 hours most days, ate little during the daylight hours, then would devour ice cream, chocolate covered graham crackers, pretzels, nuts, almond croissants, cheese and goodness knows what else at night while I stressed out over everything that’s happening in the world.

When I went to Dr. Smith to talk about the results of my blood work (everything was surprisingly good), I sheepishly asked him if he’d write me a prescription for phentermine to help me lose weight. He didn’t hesitate. And out I walked, excited to make a beeline to Duane Reade to pick up my miracle pills.

Now I’m 16 pounds lighter and half way way towards my goal weight. I’d surely have lost at least a few pounds more if I had exercised, but I vowed that I would  start walking rigorously once I reached this point. I have no idea why I wanted to wait , by the way. My mind works in funny ways sometimes.

I walked at a steady pace for 90 minutes this morning with a new friend in the neighborhood and came back drenched. It was about 80 degrees out. I was pleased that I didn’t have a heart attack. 

OK, what’s phentermine?

As simply put as possible, phentermine is  a form of amphetamine (stimulant) that does something in the brain to suppress the appetite. And it works. It really works. Phentermine doesn’t kill your appetite, so you still eat, including some no-no foods, but I’ll literally eat maybe a tablespoon of ice cream once or twice a week. I haven’t had a single graham, pretzel or almond croissant in a month. Or a pat of butter, and oh do I love any kind of warm bread and butter!

“Phentermine increases your metabolic rate and takes away your perseverating thoughts (constant thoughts) about food, which makes it much easier to adhere to a diet. You still must pick a dietary strategy that will work well with your personality and your lifestyle and stick to it. And you still have to exercise. Phentermine will help you succeed, but you can’t eat like you did in the first place,” said Dr. Kathleen Hallinan, an internist in Corning, NY, who has a keen interest in weight loss.

The warnings on the sheet that comes with the phentermine are no different than those that come with every drug and are written to try and protect the pharma companies from being buried by mountains of lawsuits. I did feel a bit jittery the first couple of days and my mouth gets dry for a few hours a day, but otherwise I feel the same as I did pre-phentermine.

Despite the benefits, some doctors are wary!

“You may have a hard time finding a physician who is willing or interested in treating with phentermine because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) puts it in the same category as amphetamines, which makes some doctors wary,” Dr Hallinan explained. “But the benefits outweigh the real risks of diabetes, hypertension, heart attack, stroke and peripheral vascular disease to people who are trying to manage their weight,” she added. Dr. Hallinan recommends finding a doctor who is well versed in the medical treatment of obesity and related disorders, such as a bariatric physician.  “Phentermine is very safe, very effective and more subtle than ritalin for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), but patients should have their blood pressure and heart rate consistently monitored after they start taking the drug,” she emphasized.

Dr. Kathleen Hallinan talks about phentermine, one of the weight loss medications she recommends

If the name phentermine sounds familiar, you may be thinking of a drug that combined phentermine with fenfluramine, another drug that was subsequently found to affect heart valves and was taken off the market.

Don’t buy phentermine off the internet, Dr. Hallinan advised. “Get it the proper way from a doctor who will give you the right dose, make sure to monitor you for potential side effects, and for your success.”

I’ve taken phentermine two or three other times in my life to kickstart weight loss, and it worked those times, too. I lost at least 20 pounds each time. I well know that I shouldn’t have let my weight yo-yo like it has over the last 15 years, and I’m going to try not to let that happen again. But I’ve been struggling with weight issues for as long as I can remember and food always seems to win the match!