Don’t Be A Dumbbell. Pick Up A Dumbbell Instead.

Nick Rizzo was determined to motivate his parents to “ditch their sedentary habits and get more active” when they entered their 60s. As director of Training & Fitness at, a popular athletic shoe review site, Nick wanted his folks to appreciate the innumerable health benefits of strength training as they aged. 

“Inactivity is extremely dangerous for the 80 percent of adults who shun the physical exercise they need to keep them in good shape,” Nick said. It increases risk for serious health conditions including high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, heart disease, stroke, obesity,  diabetes, metabolic issues, depression and death from any cause, he explained. Light walking isn’t good enough.

To confirm the importance of doing more strenuous exercise like strength training as we age, Nick spent hours researching and reading over 200 scientifically backed, peer-reviewed studies. Hopefully, his list of 78 benefits will convince  you to stop being a dumbbell, and pick up a dumbbell instead.  

In the meantime, here are five key takeaways from Nick’s research:

Weightlifting is the most effective treatment to prevent, slow down, or partially reverse age-related muscle loss/sarcopenia.

Volunteers from 61 to 80 years old added 2.4 lbs of muscle from strength training and looked an average of five years younger.

Lifting weights helps aging populations reduce risk factors for falls, improve functional independence, functional capacity, and quality of life. 


Weight training has been shown repeatedly in studies to reduce a wide variety of general aches and pains associated with aging, as well as many disorder-specific pains.


Exercising only 20 minutes a day reduces the risk of early death by as much as 30 percent, and strength training twice a week reduces the risk of all-cause mortality by 46 percent. 

“Strength training exercises work your muscles by applying a resistance against which the muscles need to exert a force. 

We want the exercises to be functional movements so that the strength translates into our everyday lives and compound movements that help target the largest and most amount of muscle groups in a single movement,” Nick advised. 

A typical beginner’s strength training program involves 8 to 10 exercises that work the major muscle groups of the body. “:You start with the basics and slowly work your way up to more advanced variations of an exercise. These exercises are usually performed two to three times every week,” Nick added. 

To help get you started on a strength-training program, I asked Nick to recommend the five most powerful exercises and guidance on doing them properly. Today, we’re covering squats, and each week we’ll add one new exercise so no one feels overwhelmed. 


Squats primarily target the lower body, helping you to develop stronger legs, as well as improve core strength and stabilizer muscles throughout your body.

The overall movement of the squat is the same, whether you’re doing it with or without weights. “I suggest starting with chair squats, which are simply squats where you’re sitting back until your butt is actually in a chair. This allows you to have that extra level of safety and reassurance while you learn to get comfortable with the movement. When you’re ready to graduate to the next level, remove the chair and work to develop a full range of motion doing bodyweight squats,” Nick explained.

Once you’ve mastered the movements Nick described, you can start to use weight, whether it’s a kettlebell, dumbbell, barbell, or even a jug of water. Adding weights will allow you to continue to develop greater and greater lower body strength that  isn’t possible with bodyweight squats alone.

“Remember though, this isn’t a sprint. We want to take it slow, steady, and safely,” Nick wisely said.

Watch this video to see how to squat. Or this video.

The Two Faces Of Boomer Women

Older baby boomer women, 65 to 73 years old, seem to be less progressive than their younger 55 to 64 year old counterparts. Considering women didn’t start to make meaningful strides in business, education and elsewhere until the late 1960s, this makes sense. Before then, the first boomers remained heavily influenced by the “Silent Generation” that came before them! 

Take the issue of women’s rights.  When we asked in a survey whether you consider yourself a feminist, 49 percent of the 84 respondents said “yes” and 51 percent said “no.” While the overwhelming majority claim they fight against sexism in society when they see or experience it, half still wouldn’t call themselves proponents of “feminism,” the theory of the policial, economic and social equality of the sexes.

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.  


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. 


“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 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!