Friday, 21 March 2014 18:25

Jazz Up Your Fitness with Dance

Many of us took ballet lessons as kids or watched our children don sparkly stage outfits for their own dance recitals. For some reason, though, as the years pass, very few young women and men continue with dance. And some never even start, despite dreams of twirling across the floor. Perhaps they had a little stage fright, or simply enjoyed dance but didn't want to turn it into a career. The good news is that these days, there's a widely accessible approach to dance that is catching on in cities all across the country: dancing for fitness. You can have all the enjoyment of dancing regularly, but this time around, with a focus on physical, mental and emotional health.

Build Up While Breaking It Down

Physical benefits of dancing include body conditioning, increased metabolic rate, improved muscular endurance, flexibility, improved coordination and improved rhythm. One of the most basic benefits, though, is that it challenges your heart with every routine. "Dancing is actually a very high demand form of exercise," says Erroll Bailey, MD, of Resurgens Orthopaedics. "It stresses cardiovascular, coordination, strength and endurance." The CDC recommends two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. Taking a few dance lessons throughout the week can definitely cover that requirement. Whether you're perfecting your plié or learning to pop and lock in a hip hop class, you'll consistently be moving and reaping the benefits of an increased heart rate. "[Dance] is very equivalent to playing a sport," points out Nicole Kedaroe, Community Programs and Adult Division manager at Atlanta Ballet. "You're always moving."

Dance-1In addition to getting your heart in shape, Decatur School of Ballet instructor Jessica Reese says, "Dancing helps you develop long, lean, strong muscles." But what exactly makes dance such a great muscle sculptor? Let's look at the technical side of it.

Dance includes movements that are both isometric and isotonic. Isotonic exercises are ones you're probably familiar with from gym workouts – squats, lunges and bicep curls, for example – that involve a lifting and lowering phase. Isometric exercises, on the other hand, involve very little joint movement, instead focusing on muscles bearing weight – these are exercises like planks, or a bridge pose in yoga, where your muscles may get shaky from the continued exertion. When you take a dance class like ballet, jazz, or even contemporary or modern, the huge variety of choreography will no doubt include both isotonic and isometric movements, helping build overall strength for every muscle group.

Styles like belly dance even offer unique muscle strengthening benefits, like preparing the muscles a woman needs for childbirth. "Even if my heart rate never goes up, I'm getting all of those other things," Reese says.

Dance Down Memory Lane

Dancers of any age will see increased cardiovascular ability and muscle strength, but older dancers can gain benefits beyond the physical. Dance has been scientifically proven to improve mental health, too. "It's an intellectual stimulation as well as a mental one. It's mathematical and intricate," Reese says.

Kristine Knipp, director and owner of Ballroom Dance Clubs of Atlanta, cites research from a 2003 study published in "The New England Journal of Medicine." The study found, "Ballroom dancing at least twice a week makes people less likely to develop dementia," she says. This was more than the reduction in risk from reading or doing crossword puzzles. Dance is a good choice of an aerobic activity for older people because it helps keep the mind engaged through moving to music and changing patterns, Knipp explains – everything from counting beats in the music, to incorporating rhythm and geometric patterns, to being aware of your physicality in space. And that's just the beginning; in some classes, you even learn about the history of dance.

dance-2Even if the effects of aging have already begun to set in, dance can still be beneficial. "Fitness is a vital component of programs geared toward residents with dementia to help lead to a brain-healthy lifestyle," says Molly Boone, memory care director at Emeritus at Sandy Springs Place. "Aerobic exercise causes the heart rate to increase, thus increasing the level of oxygen to the brain, an important biological process that creates an optimal environment for the nerve cells in the brain to communicate with one another. Various parts of the brain are stimulated as messages from the external environment, such as the sound of music, are filtered to areas of the brain that control rhythm, coordinate movement, sequencing and a number of other operations controlled by the brain."

Sue Schroeder, artistic director of CORE Performance Company, often works with seniors, using dance to help them recover. "We say, 'move it or lose it.' You have to keep things moving to be agile." With Alzheimer's and stroke patients, the goals are different, but the movement of dance helps with both. With stroke, you activate and rewire the brain with cross-body movement. For Alzheimer's patients, the problem is in another part of the brain and the body's ability to remember. This could be spatial, kinetic or touch memory. "We get them moving and incorporate stories from their own long term memories," she says. "They really blossom. When you can draw on something of the time and place for them, it relaxes them and excites them."

Do a Happy Dance

Whether or not you're dancing for mental fitness, a regular dance practice certainly can contribute to emotional health. "Dance is a stress reliever, and I think the music aspect adds to that. When you hear music, there is a change in emotion. You may not even realize it," says Kristy McCarley, founder of Shazzy Fitness, a company that has a series of dance fitness DVDs fusing modern dance with faith-based contemporary music. "There is a mood change from the time you start [a class] to the time that you finish. People who dance know this. There is something that goes on physically and psychologically when you dance, and it can last for the whole day."

Another way dance can elevate mood and increase your happiness is through its social aspect. "Nobody is a stranger if you're a dancer," Knipp says. "Chronic stress, depression and social isolation all wreak havoc with memory and add to cognitive deterioration, but ballroom dancing can keep you current and flexible, both physically and emotionally."

Plus, if you just need something to break the monotony of the treadmill, dance fits the bill. "I love to dance for exercise because I don't love going to the gym," says Emily Harrison, former Atlanta Ballet company dancer who is a registered dietitian and oversees the Centre for Dance Nutrition at Atlanta Ballet. "I think dance is the best activity. It's just so physically demanding, and it's mentally demanding. It's fun and it's social."

Dance-lastTake Your Pick

No matter what your preference or skill level, Atlanta is home to a variety of dance classes like salsa, belly dancing, Capoeira (a Brazilian style of dance) and tap, just to name a few. Any of these can offer you a myriad of benefits, but you should also consider your personal preferences when choosing the best type of dance for you. Ask yourself the following questions, and then go cut a rug!

What am I looking for in a dance class? What are my goals? If you seek technique, maybe ballet is the right class. If you simply want a good workout, hip hop or tap will get you moving right away. If you're looking to make friends, try a weekly social at a ballroom dance studio where you can try new moves with new people.

What is my ideal type of class? Are you interested in a small class or one that is more packed? Try several different classes to find your groove. Many studios have free introductory classes or passes. "We offer intro through advanced [classes]," Kedaroe says. Like many studios, at Atlanta Ballet, adult classes can be taken on a drop-in basis.

What is my limit? How fast-paced do I want the class to be? "If you are young, it's just another sport," Dr. Bailey says. However, for anyone who has had a heart attack or stroke or experiences joint problems or arthritis, high impact dancing is not recommended.

What kind of music do I like? "The music can make all the difference in the world," McCarley says.

Would I prefer a group class or private lessons? Particularly with ballroom dancing, private lessons can be helpful for couples looking to reconnect or for those who might not enjoy learning through a group class.

What do I need in an instructor? Some are more technical; some are more fun. Find out how long he or she has been teaching and how much direction is provided.


Editorial Resources

Erroll Bailey, MD, Resurgens Orthopaedics –
Molly Boone, Emeritus at Sandy Springs Place –
Emily Harrison, Atlanta Ballet –
Nicole Kedaroe, Atlanta Ballet –
Kristine Knipp, Ballroom Dance Clubs of Atlanta –
Kristy McCarley, Shazzy Fitness –
Jessica Reese, Decatur School of Ballet –
Sue Schroeder, CORE Studios –

Friday, 21 March 2014 18:13

Stroke: Warning Signs and Treatment

The number one cause of adult disability in the United States is a surprisingly subtle event that can happen quietly and at any time – a stroke. In addition to incapacitating millions of Americans, stroke is also the fourth leading cause of death in the country. And if you live in the state of Georgia, the odds are even greater. Along with the Carolinas and a handful of other Southern states, Georgia resides in the Stroke Belt, an area of the country statistically proven to have a higher number of strokes than the rest of America.

The Science Behind the Stroke

But what exactly is a stroke, and why is it so dangerous? Michael Frankel, MD, Chief of Neurology and Director of the Marcus Stroke & Neuroscience Center at Grady Hospital, explains that a stroke occurs when part of the brain is deprived of blood flow. This can happen for two reasons: a blockage in an artery, known as ischemic stroke, or when a brain artery ruptures and causes a hemorrhage, known as hemorrhagic stroke.

Matthews Gwynn, MD, the medical director of the Northside Hospital Stroke Center, notes that age is a risk factor for either type of stroke. "As we age, our arteries get more and more damaged from the buildup of scar tissue related to high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high blood sugar and the normal aging process," all of which can increase your stroke risk.

Sometimes, though, strokes can happen for reasons other than age. "In younger individuals, stroke is often caused by a heart defect, arrhythmia, or split in an artery wall caused by sudden mechanical force in the artery, such as rapid turning of the head or a whiplash injury," says Bruce Bosse, MD, a neurologist at North Fulton Hospital.

And if you think you're too young to be at risk, think again. A 2012 study published in the journal "Neurology" revealed that the average age of stroke is falling across the nation, meaning the number of young stroke victims is rising. A different study, published in the journal "Annals of Neurology" in 2011, showed that stroke-related hospitalizations for people ages 15 to 44 rose 37 percent over a 13-year period. These numbers could be due to an increase in risk factors like obesity, diabetes, use of oral contraceptives, smoking, high blood pressure and cholesterol, but doctors aren't entirely sure.

No matter who you are, this dangerous condition could affect your most crucial organ – the brain. "It's important to know that the brain is dependent on a constant supply of well-oxygenated blood. The brain does not store energy," says Daniel Barrow, MD, Chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery and Director of Emory MBNA Stroke Center. "If blood flow is disrupted, the brain begins to dysfunction. If it is deprived of blood for more than a few minutes, it begins to die."

So the severity of the stroke depends on how long the brain cells are deprived of oxygen, and it also depends on the location of the blockage or hemorrhage. "There are parts of the brain the size of your fist that could be removed and you would see little difference," Dr. Barrow says. "But there are parts of the brain that are very small, and if damaged, you could go into a coma or worse."

Stroke Symptoms

"The symptoms of stroke are dependent on the location of the injury in the brain," Dr. Frankel says. "Ischemic strokes commonly cause weakness on one side of the body, difficulty speaking or problems with coordination and balance. Hemorrhagic strokes cause similar symptoms, but often the symptoms are more severe and can cause loss of consciousness. If bleeding occurs from an aneurysm, a symptom may be sudden, severe headache. All these symptoms should prompt immediate attention by calling 911."

FASTSymptoms also depend on which side of the brain was affected by the stroke. "Generally, a stroke on the right side of the brain affects the left side of the body and may cause weakness or numbness, vision problems, trouble with perception and changes in behavior," says Lisa Billars, MD, a board-certified neurologist with Kaiser Permanente of Georgia Glenlake Medical Center. "A stroke on the left side of the brain affects the right side of the body, often resulting in weakness or numbness, trouble with speaking and comprehension, as well as problems reading and writing."

In addition to all these symptoms, others include trouble walking, dizziness, visual deficits and even difficulty swallowing and breathing. None of these symptoms should be overlooked because, as Dr. Billars says, "Time is brain."

Think FAST

As in any emergency situation, time is of the essence. And this could not ring more true for a stroke. Not only do oxygen-deprived brain cells begin to die, but the treatment options and treatment window for stroke narrow with every passing minute. You have to think fast, literally and figuratively. Sunil Bhole, MD, Medical Director of Glancy Rehabilitation Center with Gwinnett Medical Center, explains the acronym FAST to help analyze common stroke symptoms and seek treatment as soon as possible:

Face: "Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?"

Arms: "Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?"

Speech: "Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Does the speech sound slurred or strange?"

Time: "If you observe any of these signs, independently or together, call 911 immediately."

"With a stroke, time equals brain cells," Dr. Bhole says. "Every minute, two million brain cells die, increasing the person's risk of permanent brain damage, disability or death." Regardless of the severity of symptoms, Dr. Billars says you should pay attention. "Even a seemingly insignificant event should be taken seriously, as it may be a warning sign that the person is at risk for a larger stroke."

Treatment and Recovery

The current most common treatment for ischemic stroke is called tPA, or tissue plasminogen activator. This clot-busting medication must be administered within three hours of the onset of stroke. Heidi Woessner, MD, a neurologist at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital, says she uses a point system to identify a stroke victim as eligible for tPA. The score and onset of symptoms determines if a patient is eligible for tPA. "I ask them, when was their last-known normal state? That's when I start the clock for the tPA window," she says. "If they cannot receive tPA based on recent surgery, heart attack, certain medications, or any type of urinary or GI bleeding, we consider a mechanical embolectomy," which utilizes a small wire to snare and pull the blood clot from the artery.

As medicine continues to advance, new options are on the horizon for stroke treatment and management. Dr. Frankel says treatment for acute stroke is rapidly evolving with newly FDA-approved devices to more effectively remove clots lodged in the brain's arteries, and Dr. Bosse notes new blood thinning drug substitutes are currently offered. Dr. Barrow says stem cell transplants into the brain, gene therapy and stem cell therapy will be used to actually regenerate parts of the brain that have been damaged by stroke.

Dr-Ford-Vox-Shepherd-CenterOngoing research is also looking to improve the ability to recover after stroke. Locations like Glancy Rehabilitation Center have innovative rehabilitation practices, such as pet therapy and real-world practice with things like grocery shopping and walking on a variety of surfaces, among others. At Shepherd Center, severe strokes can be treated successfully, and rehabilitation therapy can help even years after a stroke occurs. Ford Vox, MD, one of Shepherd Center's board-certified rehabilitation physicians, explains, "With targeted, intensive therapy, a new skill can be developed even many years after a stroke. Continued rehab is also often necessary to maintain what has been gained and to treat later complications. We continue to treat patients for the psychological and cognitive effects of stroke as well." And if you're younger than 65, the news is even better. Dr. Vox points out, "More so than most other stroke programs around the country, Shepherd serves young patients who were in school, raising families or in the most productive years of their careers when they suffered a stroke. Our intensive services are targeted toward those under age 65 in order to result in the biggest long-term yield to the patient. This reality is backed up by extensive neurorehabilitation research demonstrating that the central nervous system is more able to adapt and change in response to injury in younger patients." So if you or a loved one experiences a stroke, keep in mind that rehabilitation may be within reach.

The Best Defense is a Good Offense

Despite wonderful advancements in medical treatment, the best treatment for a stroke is to do your best to avoid one entirely. The good news is that up to 80 percent of strokes are preventable, and you are also in control of many of the major risk factors. Dr. Bosse says the risk factors under your control are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking and obesity.

rehabilitationNurse practitioner Chika Ugwuoke, clinical stroke coordinator for DeKalb Medical, suggests a few lifestyle changes to put you on the right path:

Know your blood pressure. "High blood pressure is a major stroke risk factor if left untreated. Have blood pressure checked regularly."

Identify atrial fibrillation (Afib). "Afib is an abnormal heartbeat that can increase stroke risk by 500 percent. A doctor must diagnose and treat Afib." A doctor can catch this during your annual physical, or it can be diagnosed through an electrocardiogram (ECG).

Stop smoking. "Smoking doubles the risk of stroke."

Control alcohol use.

Know your cholesterol levels.

Manage diet and exercise. "Excess weight strains the circulatory system. Exercise five times a week. Maintain a diet low in calories, salt, saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol."

If you take care of yourself in these ways, in addition to learning your risk for stroke and recognizing stroke symptoms, you will be well prepared to deal with this common health issue in yourself or a loved one. Just remember to keep calm, call 911 and act FAST.


Editorial Resources

Annals of Neurology, published by the American Neurological Association –
Daniel Barrow, MD, Emory MBNA Stroke Center –
Sunil Bhole, MD, Glancy Rehabilitation Center with Gwinnett Medical Center –
Lisa Billars, MD, Kaiser Permanente of Georgia Glenlake Medical Center –
Bruce Bosse, MD, North Fulton Hospital –
Michael Frankel, MD, The Marcus Stroke & Neuroscience Center at Grady Hospital –
Matthews Gwynn, MD, Northside Hospital Stroke Center –
Neurology, published by the American Academy of Neurology –
Chika Ugwuoke, DeKalb Medical –
Ford Vox, MD, Shepherd Center –
Heidi Woessner, MD, Piedmont Atlanta Hospital –

Wednesday, 05 March 2014 14:07

Feeding the Skin at the Cellular Level

Medical spas are one of the fastest growing industries in the United States today. This is because they provide fast and effective medical-grade treatments that require little to no downtime, yet achieve optimal results. One of the benefits of a medical spa is that pharmaceutical grade products are used and recommended by medical doctors and licensed estheticians. A typical skin cycle will renew itself every 28-42 days. Pharmaceutical grade skin care products will expedite this process allowing new skin cells to reach the surface much more quickly than it normally would resulting in smoother and refreshed skin. Pharmaceutical grade skin care products, such as Image skin care products, are only available through a licensed physician. They contain a higher amount of active ingredients that by law are allowed to penetrate the skin down into the dermis. The dermis is the live portion of the skin where skincare products can truly cause long term changes. Over-the-counter products and department store brands by law cannot penetrate the skin, therefore they only penetrate the top layer of the skin which consists of only dead skin cells.

eyedropIn addition to giving your skin the absolute best pharmaceutical grade products on the market, why not also feed your skin at the cellular level through food? Sugar, fried food, junk food, artificial sweeteners, preservatives, chemicals, processed carbohydrates and alcohol all wreck havoc on your skin. These foods can cause dryness, dehydration, redness, and acne on your skin. The best foods for your skin are pure clean water and foods containing omega-3's fatty acids. Foods like wild-caught salmon, cold-pressed olive oil, raw nuts and seeds can lower inflammation in the body. Incorporating a natural and raw diet consisting of fresh fruits and vegetables can nourish the body, giving it the essential vitamins and nutrients, and in turn detoxing it from harmful substances. This type of diet feeds the body at a cellular level revealing hydrated and youthful skin.

At Renew Laser & Cosmetics, we help our clients get beautiful skin using a combination of proper nutrition and skin care products that actually penetrate the skin. We believe in results-driven services such as IPL photofacials, microdermabrasion, chemical peels, cosmetic injectables (such as Botox and Juvederm), and laser hair removal. We provide high quality skin care at an affordable price with our membership program. Your skin is your calling card, take care of it!

Renew Laser & Cosmetics

(770) 212-2242  |  11720 Medlock Bridge Rd., Suite 170  |  Johns Creek, Ga. 30097

227 Sandy Springs Place NE, Suite 378  |  Atlanta, GA 30328  |

Allison Hillyer, CTN, ND, LE, NMT, is co-owner of Renew Laser & Cosmetics. She has been in the skin care industry since 2001. Allison is a Naturopathic Doctor, a Licensed Esthetician, and a Neuromuscular Massage Therapist. She is board-certified as a Traditional Naturopath by the American Naturopathic Certification Board, a Diplomat member of The American Council of Holistic Medicine, and a member of the American Association of Nutrition Counselors.



When you've opened several restaurants, braved the reality TV circuit (and survived), written a book and are raising a family, you're bound to know a thing or two about balancing your time. And if you're Chef Richard Blais, you take everything in stride. "I'm still trying to figure it out, but I put my family first. That's the main thing."

This grounded attitude served Blais well throughout the twists and turns of his career. He graduated from The Culinary Institute of America in New York, but his first job was at McDonald's. Then he rose from that role to become one of the most recognizable winners of Bravo's "Top Chef All-Stars" in 2010. His biggest takeaway from being on "Top Chef" is "Improv, in anything, is a great skill to have."

Blais honed his creative culinary skills next to notable chefs such as Thomas Keller, Grant Achatz, Daniel Boulud and Ferran Adria before making his way to Atlanta in 2000 to run a seafood kitchen. Then in 2004, he opened BLAIS Restaurant. Although this venture was short lived, closing its doors after six months, Blais was undeterred and continued to forge ahead. He went on to work in other restaurants such as One Midtown Kitchen and opened his own company, TrailBlais. This culinary consultant company allowed him to partner with FLIP Burger Boutique, for which he helped create the menu. Then in October 2012, Blais opened The Spence in partnership with Concentrics Hospitality.

Blais' culinary creativity is evident if you've ever dined in one of his Atlanta eateries. As each restaurant evolved, Blais learned what worked and what didn't. "I continue to learn how difficult they are, what a hard life it is for restaurant workers, and I continue to ask 'Why do people open restaurants?'" For Blais, the answer evidently seems to be for the love of cooking because he shows no signs of slowing down.

Richard-Blais-cooking_In addition to another restaurant project, Juniper & Ivy, which opened last month in San Diego, Blais took on another TV gig in December 2013. Along with co-host and nutritionist Keri Glassman, Blais now hosts HLN's Upwave network show, "Cook Your Ass Off." This show pits chefs against each other in a race against the clock to create dishes that "balance the nutritious with the delicious" for a cash prize of $50,000. "I was stoked to hear of the premise [of the show]. Being that health and wellness have become so important to me, it was a perfect fit," Blais says. "The message is that you can cook and eat delicious food that is still good for you. I think 'Cook Your Ass Off' can help change lives."

Staying fit and cooking healthy are topics that are now near and dear to Blais, who once weighed in at 225 pounds. When speaking to HLN on this subject, Blais admitted, "I just really lost control of myself because I was tasting food all day long."

Blais confesses his journey to losing the pounds started with "wanting to get a girl." The "girl" was his now-wife Jazmin, who helped motivate him to get moving. They began running together and after several months of training, Blais competed in the Peachtree Road Race for the first time. At the end of the race, he proposed to her, and they've been together ever since.

He also credits his two daughters for helping him stay on track. "Well, [at first] I didn't consider nutrition or exercise, so the biggest changes were to make sure they were a part of my daily life. My kids certainly have helped too, because I want to feed them healthy meals."

Although Blais says the food he eats now is usually healthy, he does sometimes indulge in "chicken wings, cheeseburgers and ice cream like everyone else!" Blais acknowledges that it was a challenge to keep the weight off, but he learned, "It's a marathon not a sprint, so once you feel comfortable with that, it's all gravy. Mind you, it's a gluten-free gravy!"

It's been a long journey since making Filet-O-Fish sandwiches at McDonald's, and Blais has learned a lot along the way. He shares some advice with aspiring chefs, saying, "You will most likely make minimum money for six to 10 years, working holidays, all while spinning around in the same five-foot space for each 12-hour day. You will get burned, cut and smell like burning wood and garlic for a long time. You will most likely lose most of your existing friends and most certainly your boyfriend or girlfriend. You in?"


Get to Know Chef Blais

What advice do you have for someone who is struggling to lose weight?
Have small goals and realize it’s mostly mental. Controlling what you eat or cook or buy is the first decision to make.
What is your favorite way to stay fit?
I run maniacally and recently started swimming. But right now, trail running is my jam.
Best advice for parents who need some inspiration for weekly dinners?
Cook vegetables, always make a salad, and get your family and kids involved in meal planning, preparation and cooking.
Best book you’ve read?
I’m a big Malcolm Gladwell fan.
Best place in Atlanta to relax?
Piedmont Park.
Favorite restaurant?
The Spence or Bacchanalia Star Provisions.
Who are the people that help you be your best self?
My wife is my consultant in all things. Mind you, she is a yoga-practicing, organic-vegetable-shopping, vegetarian consultant.


Meet Co-Host Keri Glassman

As a nutritionist, owner of New York-based practice Nutritious Life, and co-host of the new show “Cook Your Ass Off,” Keri is passionate about teaching people to “reach beyond a healthful diet and take a whole person approach to health and wellness, both inside and out.”

Richard-Blais-Keri-GlassmanWhat was your reaction when you heard about the premise of “Cook Your Ass Off”?
I thought “I love this idea! How has it not been done before?” People seek out health information everywhere, and people love cooking competitions. Yet the concept of adding the health element to the competition had never been done. My passion is teaching health, so I fell in love with this format.
What do you hope the audience takes away from the show?
Healthy does not mean deprivation or lack of flavor. The healthiest foods for you are naturally incredibly tasty.
What is your best piece of advice for someone who is struggling to lose weight?
I would say the thing that has the greatest impact without changing anything else is learning to listen to your body — stopping eating when slightly satisfied and eating when slightly hungry. And eating as much real food as possible.
What is your favorite healthy dish to cook?
My go-to healthy meal that my kids can’t get enough of is baked wild salmon with sesame crust, burnt broccoli and quinoa. Super simple, super healthy, and I always know it is well received.

Some women welcome it. Some women are wary of it. Everyone's talking about it because all women go through it: menopause. This biological change is every bit as natural as puberty, yet menopause is often misunderstood and involves more symptoms and treatment options than you can make sense of. But by educating yourself about the available treatments and some common sense lifestyle adjustments, you can make this transition more easily than you might expect. You may find out that, just like your favorite wine, you keep getting better with age.

Menopause Defined

The word "menopause" comes from two Greek roots meaning "month" and "a cessation." So in its most basic form, menopause means the ending of your monthly cycles. Allison Cochran, a physician assistant with New Vitality Medical Institute, gives the technical definition: "A woman is considered to be in menopause once her menstrual periods have ceased for 12 months."

If the process of menopause were truly that simple – no more periods, cramps, chocolate cravings or spontaneous sappy movie marathons – women would surely welcome the change. Unfortunately, menopause can bring with it a whole slew of new symptoms. "Some of the most common are hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings and difficulty sleeping," says Sheila V. Garnica, MD, a NAMS Certified Menopause Practitioner with North Fulton Women's Specialists. "However, some women may also experience fatigue, irritability, anxiety, vaginal dryness and weight gain." Suddenly, "no more periods" doesn't sound so fun.

Cause of the Pause

"A woman's body goes into menopause when her ovaries stop producing estrogen, the hormone that controls the reproductive cycle," Cochran says. The slowed production and eventual lack of estrogen are responsible for the symptoms associated with menopause. In America, the average age of menopause is 51, though women often experience changes several years before, during the years known as perimenopause.

However, if you are younger than 40 and are experiencing menopausal symptoms, your body might be getting a little ahead of itself. Premature ovarian failure can occur for a variety of reasons. "Chemotherapy and radiation are common causes of toxin-induced ovarian failure. Another possible cause is an autoimmune disease where the immune system may produce antibodies against one's own ovarian tissue," Cochran says. She also notes, "Smoking can contribute to early menopause due to the anti-estrogen effects it has."

In addition to cancer treatments and lifestyle factors, Piedmont OB/GYN Melissa Counihan, MD, states that genetic disorders such as Fragile X or Turner's Syndrome can contribute to premature menopause, as can surgical removal of the ovaries.

Treatment Options

In centuries past, women's physical development and changes were grossly misunderstood and were often treated as mental health issues. As medical understanding of hormones grew throughout the 1900s, treatments became more appropriate to the biological changes of menopause. By the 1960s, the go-to treatment was hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which was thought to help prevent coronary artery disease as well as help manage menopause symptoms.

Today, Dr. Counihan explains, "Since the Women's Health Initiative study was published, we have come to have a better understanding of the risks of HRT. We believe there are risks associated with estrogen-containing therapy such as blood clots, stroke and breast cancer." As recently as 2010, the National Institutes of Health and the Women's Health Initiative have analyzed this type of treatment and reported "a trend toward an increased risk of heart disease during the first two years of hormone therapy among women." To try to minimize those risks, Dr. Garnica says, hormone therapy has gone through significant changes. "The most important has been the individualization of hormone therapy and the shift to limiting the dosage of HRT to the lowest effective dose for the shortest period of time."

In addition to these changes, Dr. Counihan says, "We now have medications available in various delivery systems including oral pills or patches, sprays or gels that are applied to the skin." She also adds that another way to minimize your intake of estrogen-containing compounds is to treat symptoms with some of the same medications that typically treat depression.

Sharon Bent-Harley, MD, of the Harley Anti-Aging Institute notes that bio-identical pellet therapy is a breakthrough for the modern woman dealing with menopause symptoms.

This hormone treatment, she explains, "is made from wild yams, and the treatment lasts anywhere from three months to one year without having to remember to take a tablet or apply a cream every day." Though the research is not new, today's busy women are increasingly taking advantage of this option. Make sure to discuss all of these options with your doctor to be sure you're receiving the most appropriate treatment.

Help Yourself at Home

If the medical approach is not for you, Dr. Garnica points out, "There are many non-pharmacologic alternatives and non-hormonal therapies as well." One recommendation is to keep a close watch on your diet. "There are a few common food triggers for hot flashes that all women should avoid if hot flashes are problematic: spicy foods, alcohol and caffeine," Dr. Garnica says. "It is helpful to keep a food diary and note if a particular food triggers a hot flash."

Fonda Mitchell, MD, Chief of Women's Services at Kaiser Permanente agrees that diet has a large impact on your experience of menopause, as does your activity level. "By focusing on a diet high in fiber and calcium, menopausal women can ensure healthy bones and a healthy digestive system. By incorporating exercise into your daily routine, natural endorphins can promote weight loss, boost your energy and improve sleep patterns."

Start the Conversation

Dr. Garnica encourages open dialogue, especially with your doctor. "Don't be shy about discussing the symptoms that are most bothersome, whether it is painful intercourse, dry skin, loss of interest in sex, heart palpitations, increased anxiety or fatigue," she says. Dr. Mitchell recommends another topic to cover with your doctor: contraception. "Until menopause is confirmed (more than 12 months without a period or by a blood test), women should understand they can still get pregnant," she says. If you don't currently have a doctor who you feel comfortable speaking with about these topics, look for a provider from the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine. Cochran says medical providers who are board-certified from this academy have undergone extensive training in age-management medicine and will be able to address your needs.

You can also find support through the Red Hot Mamas online forums, where women take to the keyboards to discuss every angle of this transition. Online resources are also available from the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the North American Menopause Society. Some of the best resources might already be stored in your cell phone. "Your mother, aunts or older siblings can provide insight into what the women in your family may experience," Dr. Mitchell notes. "Talk to them about the onset of menopause, duration of their symptoms and treatment options they found most effective."

LtoR_Becca-McCoy,-Valerie-Mackey,-Sandra-Benton,-Rebecca-FisherLaughter is the Best Medicine

There's no doubt that women are all in this together. In 2001, Jeanie Linders created "Menopause The Musical" to convey just that. In this musical, an all-female cast humorously reworks familiar tunes to reflect women's shared experiences about menopause."Stayin' Alive" becomes "Stayin' Awake," along with "Puff, My God I'm Dragging," and "Change, Change, Change." Women have laughed their way through this show in 450 U.S. cities and 15 countries, proving that no one is alone on this journey. Linders says that, after watching the show, audience members "know what they are experiencing is normal. They aren't alone or crazy. It becomes a sisterhood."

Whether or not you can look at menopause humorously yet, it's helpful to have a positive attitude about the transition. While your body makes these changes, you can make changes of your own: make self-care a top priority by eating healthy foods, getting regular exercise and meeting with a supportive doctor who can address your needs. With all of these resources, you can start to view menopause as a new beginning and a new opportunity to make these years the healthiest yet.


Menopause Around the World
Menopause symptoms vary by person, of course, but also by culture. UK-based medical doctor and public health specialist Elinor Thompson rounded up a variety of studies proving that menopause and its symptoms are different around the world.

  • In Japan, women frequently attribute shoulder stiffness to the change.
  • In China, women complain more of numbness in their hands than of hot flashes.
  • In India, most women report no symptoms other than menstrual changes.


Editorial Resources

Sharon Bent-Harley, MD – Harley Anti-Aging Institute

Allison Cochran, PA-C, MPAS – New Vitality Medical Institute

Melissa Counihan, MD – Piedmont Atlanta Hospital

Sheila V. Garnica, MD – North Fulton Women's Specialists

Fonda Mitchell, MD – Kaiser Permanente of Georgia

National Institutes of Health –

Elinor Thompson, MB, ChB, FFPH –


March 8

Dental Dash at Dawn 5K

This 5K will take place at Historic Fourth Ward Park and benefits the Dentistry for the Developmentally Disabled Foundation, Inc. This is a Peachtree Road Race qualifier event.


March 9

Shamrock 'N Roll Race

Kick up your kilt on the streets of Atlantic Station to help raise funds for the Junior League of Atlanta.

"Participants can expect not only a fun race experience but a great party as well. Throughout the 5K and 10K course, racers will be motivated by the music of bands and DJs and hydrated by the great course support at each mile. At the end of the race, finishers will leave with a Peachtree qualifier time."

– Amy McClain, Shamrock 'N Roll Road Race Chair, 2013-2014

The 30th Annual Hunger Walk/Run

The 5K benefits the Atlanta Community Food Bank and five other local non-profits with hunger relief programs.


color-run-atlMarch 15

Badass Dash

Run, jog or walk through more than 25 obstacles over a 7K course. The event includes different divisions and proceeds support Autism Speaks.


March 22

Andee's Army 5K Run/Walk

Honoring 17-year-old Andee Poulos, this 5K supports families and children who are receiving medical treatment for non-traumatic brain injuries.

Bacon Chase 5K

Enjoy bacon-themed activities, music and more at this fun 5K. Bacon Chase has partnered with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.


jazz-on-the-green-bryan-meltzMarch 23

Publix Georgia Marathon and Expo

Run with more than 16,000 runners through the city's historic neighborhoods.


March 29

Gwinnett Medical Center Obesity Awareness 5K Walk

All proceeds will help the Gwinnett Medical Center Foundation fight obesity.


April 5

Great Urban Race

Teams solve clues, tackle challenges and compete for cash prizes in this race.

The Color Run

The "Happiest 5K on the Planet" concludes with massive color throws.

ROC Race 5K

This untimed race features 12 larger-than-life obstacles and is open to anyone ages 13 and up.


Peachtree-Road-RaceApril 12

Atlanta Georgia Dirty Girl Mud Run

Dirty Girl empowers women to be proactive with their breast and ovarian health and provides free registration to cancer survivors.


April 19

Fight for Air Climb

Benefiting the American Lung Association, this unique challenge invites participants to tackle 51 floors at One Ninety One Peachtree Towers.


April 26

March for Babies

Join people passionate about reducing the number of Georgia's premature births.

Atlanta 2014 Great Amazing Race

This family-friendly obstacle course is modeled after the TV show "The Amazing Race."


May 3

Stache Dash Atlanta

Come participate in a race dedicated to mustaches, the Macarena and Mariachi music. Registration is $25, and all proceeds benefit One Love Generation.


May 10

Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure

This race, which starts at Lenox Square Mall, includes 5K and 1-mile options.


Bacon-Chase-5KMay 31

Kidney Walk

Take part in the nation's largest walk to fight kidney disease, held at Turner Field.


June 7

Strong4Life Superhero Sprint

Held at Piedmont Park, this event will benefit the Children's Healthcare of Atlanta's Strong4Life movement.


July 4

Peachtree Road Race

Don't miss one of the premier Fourth of July traditions in Atlanta. Sponsored by The Atlanta Track Club, this is the world's largest 10K road race.



March 8

Taste and Brews

Come enjoy unlimited tastings of over 100 beer and wine offerings and sample food from local food trucks.


March 15

Atlanta St. Patrick's Day Parade

The parade will feature Irish dancers, musicians, parade balloons, floats and marching bands.


March 20-23

Southern Fried Burlesque Festival

This four-day event features a creative and talented group of variety performers.


Peachtree-Road-Race-runnersMarch 22-29

Atlanta Science Festival

Atlanta residents of all ages will explore the science and technology through activities, facility tours and more.


March 22-23

The 33rd Annual Conyers Cherry Blossom Festival

Enjoy a free weekend of music, dance, games, food and crafts.


March 28 – April 6

The Atlanta Film Festival

Take in a diverse range of independent, animated, documentary and short films selected from more than 3,000 submissions.


March 28-30

Laughing Skull Comedy Festival

This five-day event welcomes comedy industry professionals from all over the U.S. and Canada.


March 29


Founded in 2000, the festival combines cold beer and sizzlin' bacon with live music, carnival games and unforgettable entertainment. This year it has moved to a new location at The Masquerade.

"This year's event is basically the same kind of experience as last year only turned up to an 11. Like beer? Well, we're going have more of it! We're also inviting more community partners, so that we can offer more interactive booth experiences with the help of cool, local businesses. If you are all about the bacon, we will be serving up by far the most bacon in the history of Baconfest, so people will be guaranteed all the savory pork strips they can handle."

– Kevin Gillese, Artistic Director, Dad's Garage Theatre


Atlanta-St-Patricks-Day-ParadeApril 5

The Beer Carnival

At Atlantic Station, enjoy games, carnival rides and more than 100 beers.


April 5-6

Spring Festival on Ponce

Enjoy the landscape of Olmsted Linear Park along with over 125 displays of both fine arts and crafts.


April 11-13

Atlanta Dogwood Festival

The festival features a juried Fine Artist Market and a Backyard Barbecue & Brews VIP experience.


April 12-13

Sandy Springs Artsapalooza

Experience art in the streets of Sandy Springs along with a children's play area, musicians and interactive art stations.


April 18-20

Sweetwater 420 Fest

In addition to fantastic music and beer, this three-day festival is an Earth Day celebration.

"We are celebrating our 10-year anniversary, and we've moved the festival to Centennial Olympic Park. The weekend will be jam-packed with a diverse lineup of great live music, a comedy tent, The SweetWater Experience craft beer event, tasty beers, a KidsZone, local artist market, Planet 420 – a non-profit and environmental village – and even a dedicated 5K road race."

– Jennifer Bensch, Sweetwater 420 Festival Promoter and Principal at Happy Ending Productions


Sweetwater-420-FestApril 25-27

Inman Park Festival

Atlanta's largest street market offers music, kids' activities, a tour of homes, a street parade and an artists' market.


April 26-27

Alpharetta Arts Streetfest

This is a yearly celebration of the arts in the Alpharetta Historic District.


April 26

Heritage Sandy Springs BeerFest

Sip a selection of over 70 specialty beers at this fun fest.


April 26-27

Spring Jonquil Festival

Held on the Village Green in Smyrna, the festival will feature over 175 arts and crafts booths, puppet shows and live music.


April 27

Taste of East Point

Taste an eclectic mix of food from local restaurants and food trucks from the South Metro area.


Baconfest-2013April 27

Taste of Marietta

Held at the Historic Marietta Square, this annual food festival showcases Cobb County restaurants and caterers.


May 4

Fiesta Atlanta

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo at Centennial Olympic Park with Mexican folk dancing, a 5K run/walk and international food.


May 10-11

Buckhead Spring Arts & Crafts Festival

Join 175 artists and artisans for two days of live acoustic music and delicious local food.


May 17-25

Buckhead Restaurant Week

Atlanta Restaurant Weeks is comprised of three nine-day events where you can take advantage of fixed-price menus at popular restaurants.


May 20-June 8

Decatur Arts Festival

This annual event includes a juried arts exhibition, an art walk and an artist market.


May 24

Atlanta Caribbean Carnival

The Parade of Bands begins on Ralph McGill and ends with the Festival Village on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.


May 29-June 1

Atlanta Food & Wine Festival

Take part in the first culinary weekend in the nation dedicated to showcasing the food and beverage traditions of the Southern region.

"This year's event will take guests even deeper into the South and our rich food and beverage traditions. We'll explore colonial cuisine, highlight immigrant farmers and showcase our region's Asian influence. We are particularly excited to explore the notion of culinary diplomacy and to feature a select group of award-winning international chefs who, like our wonderful Southern chefs, share an interest in breaking bread, giving back and improving communities one meal at a time."

– Elizabeth Feichter, co-founder of the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival


May 31-June 1

Peachtree Hills Festival of the Arts

This free, two-day arts and crafts event is held along a tree-lined area near Peachtree Hills Park.


June 6-8

Through the Veil: Metaphysical & Spiritual Festival

Explore your beliefs in spirituality, metaphysics and the supernatural with the most notable presenters in the field at the Marriott Marquis.


June 7

Rock the Cure Brews and Blues

This annual brews and blues event at Sweetwater Brewery features live music, local beer, food and raffle prizes.


June 7-8

Virginia Highland Summerfest

Join in the excitement of this non-profit event which includes the artists' market, live music, a food market and the 5K road race and Tot Trot.


June 11-14


Take in four days of music and ministry from today's top Christian artists at Stone Mountain Park.


June 15

Real Men Cook

Celebrate Father's Day at the Georgia World Congress Center by sampling 150 dishes and mixing with celebrities.


Atlanta-Food-Wine-FestivalJune 28-29

Old Fourth Ward Park Arts Festival

This two-day celebration is presented by the Atlanta Foundation for Public Spaces and honors the rich history of the community.


July 3-5

Fantastic Fourth Celebration

Enjoy fun-filled summer entertainment and the must-see fireworks show.


July 19-20

Black Culinary Expo Tour

This expo features everything from Creole and Cajun to American and African cuisines.


August 23-24

Grant Park Summer Shade Festival

Enjoy live music, activities for kids and a 5K Run for the Park which raises money for the Grant Park Conservancy.


August 29-31

Labor Day Weekend at Stone Mountain Park

Take in the Lasershow Spectacular and a special fireworks display on all three nights.


August 29-31

Sky High Hot Air Balloon Festival

Float above Callaway Gardens at their annual hot air balloon festival, which kicks off with a Friday Night Balloon Glow.


August 30-September 1

Art in the Park in Marietta Square

This annual event has been a Labor Day Weekend tradition in Marietta since 1986 and celebrates local and national artists.



March 1-2

Meditation Retreat

Hosted by the Georgia Meditation Center, this two-day retreat introduces the basics of meditation skills and their application to improve your life.


March 4-9


Winner of eight 2012 Tony Awards including Best Musical, Once makes its Atlanta debut at the Fox Theatre.


March 14-16

Atlanta Craft Council Show

Celebrate all things handmade and explore the ACC's annual juried marketplace.


March 21-23

The 36th Annual Spring Atlanta Home Show

This is Georgia's largest home show and will feature 350 exhibitors, speakers, live radio broadcasts, giveaways and demonstrations.

"While the show is certainly educational, it's also a lot of fun. The SeeThru House is larger than ever and staffed with experts who can walk you through what's behind the walls, under the floor and over the ceiling in a typical home. The Beer Garden is a lively gathering place for attendees to get ideas on how to create a landscaped leisure area in their own landscape, and enjoy a beer tasting and silent auction with proceeds benefiting Hope Atlanta."

– Michael Schoppenhorst, director of the Atlanta Home Show and president of SEMCO Productions


March 21

The Moody Blues

Don't miss the Timeless Flight Tour at the Fox Theatre.


Stache-DashMarch 22

Crosby, Stills & Nash

Visit the Fox Theatre to see folk rock super group Crosby, Stills and Nash.


March 26-30

Atlanta International Auto Show

Come see this annual showcase of over 400 new 2014 imported and domestic cars, light trucks, vans and sports utility vehicles.


March 29-30

Legacy Wine & Culinary Experience

Tour Wolf Mountain Vineyard and Winery and taste unique wine and food pairings during this weekend retreat at the Lake Lanier Islands Resort.


April 10

Jazz on the Green at Emory

The Emory Jazz Combos present an evening of free, outdoor jazz on Patterson Green.


April 10-27

The Lion King

Experience the Tony Award-winning adaptation of the Disney classic.


April 19

Atlanta Steeplechase

The most exciting horse racing in Georgia takes place at Kingston Downs and benefits the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine.


April 22

Earth Day at The Garden

Attend ladybug releases and learn about the Garden's conservation programs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.


April 25

Symphony on the Sand

Join the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra on Callaway Gardens' Robin Lake Beach for their Symphony on the Sand.


April 26-27

Alive! Expo

Get your green on at this wholesome expo featuring natural, organic food, fashion and products for your family, pets and home.


April 27

Be the Model Fashion Show

Manna Fund's fashion show event promotes positive relationships with food and a healthy body image for youth.


May 1-11

Hidden Heroes: The Genius of Everyday Things

Learn about the design of 36 ordinary objects that have revolutionized the way we live.


May 3

Dancing Stars of Atlanta

Reinventing the TV show "Dancing with the Stars," this event raises funds for the Georgia chapter of the Alzheimer's Association.

"This year, you can expect to see some of Atlanta's favorite news anchors on the judges' panel. Former 'Dancing With the Stars' choreographer Jonathan Doone will serve as our professional dance judge."

– Lisa Fuller, 2014 Dancing Stars of Atlanta Chair


May 17

Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion"

See a live broadcast performance of the famed radio variety show.


May 17-18

Gluten & Allergen Free Expo

Explore new products and attend educational sessions at this expo.


May 31

Bubble Palooza Breast Cancer Survivor Event

This celebration of survivorship takes place at the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds.


June 3-8


Don't miss Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's Tony Award-winning musical.


June 7-8

Atlanta Southeastern Women's Expo

Plan to attend this expo that includes shopping, delicious food, fashion shows, free health screenings, cooking demonstrations and even relaxing facials.


June 14

Lost Oasis 2014 - South Pacific Soirée

Join the Artemis Guild for their annual Lost Oasis benefit at the Fernbank Museum. Come wearing your island attire.


August 25

22nd Annual Jeffrey Fashion Cares Atlanta

The annual event benefits the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Greater Atlanta Affiliate and the Atlanta AIDS Fund.



April 8

Braves vs. Mets, Season Opener

The Braves take on the Mets at their first home game of the season, beginning at 7:10 p.m.


April 19

Lee Haney's Sports & Fitness Challenge

This challenge has age divisions for everyone. A portion of proceeds from this event benefits Haney's Harvest House Mentoring Program.


April 19

Atlanta Silverbacks Season Opener

Watch Atlanta's own soccer team take on the San Antonio Scorpions for one of only four home games in their spring season.


July 19-27

BB&T Atlanta Open

This Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) World Tour 250 Event takes place at Atlantic Station, with Atlanta being the first men's event in the nine-tournament series leading up the U.S. Open.


Friday, 07 February 2014 21:54

Time to review your Portfolio Investments

What goes into a portfolio review?

Determining your risk tolerance involves balancing your desire for maximizing your chances of a higher risk against the risk of suffering potential losses. You can choose to be conservative (low risk), moderate risk, or aggressive risk depending on your personal comfort with the risk/reward tradeoff that meets your needs. Knowing your risk tolerance will determine how much you hold in fixed income (bonds, cds, money market, and other holdings that have a minimal risk of losing your principal) and how much you hold in equities (stocks, ETFs, mutual funds).

Once you determine your risk tolerance and how much should be held in fixed income compared to equities then you need to determine how much to hold in international, small cap/mid cap, large cap, and specialty areas (health care, technology, etc.). Small, mid, and large cap are measurements of how large a company is (cap is capitalization). You also have to determine whether to buy value and/or growth equities. Value equities pay a yield to you throughout the year while growth equities usually invest most if not all monies back into the company to grow.

You then need to determine which investments in these sectors you should purchase. If you have investments that you are self-managing, it is still wise to contact a financial planner to review the portfolio at least once a year for a set fee. If you have a financial advisor, take the time to have conversations with him or her so that the advisor knows and understands your goals and risk tolerance. If you have investments that grew last year, you may consider selling some of the growth to "lock in" some of those gains and reinvesting the monies into another investment.

You should also make sure that your portfolio is not over-weighted in any one investment (if one holding is more than 8% of your portfolio you may be over-weighted). You also need to make sure you are not over-diversified (holding 1-2% in each investment may mean you are over-diversified). Before the year gets too busy, review your portfolio.

Securities offered through Triad Advisors, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC.

Laura K. Schilling, JD, CPA, CFP(r), CSA
Financial Innovations, LLC |
5555 Glenridge Connector, Suite 200 | Atlanta, Georgia 30342
(404) 459-2828 | (404) 459-2829 fax | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Laura Schilling isn't your typical Financial Planner. She is also a world traveler who has been to Asia, Africa, Europe, and Israel. Laura is an active member in the community, a mother of two, and a champion for each of the working mothers she employs.

Friday, 07 February 2014 18:52

Atlanta Gastroenterology Associates

With a population nearing six million, Atlanta is a city with many fish in the sea. However, turning an ocean of singles into a barrel of potential relationships might seem like an impossible task. To narrow the options down, first find out what you love to do. Then go out and meet like-minded people who share your favorite hobbies, sports and leisure activities. If you love to hike, join a singles hiking group. Fancy yourself a foodie? Try a cooking class for singles. Any activity you enjoy can also become an opportunity to meet that someone special.

To help get you started, we looked around to find some of the city's single hot spots, and also got a few suggestions for finding "the one" from some local experts. We spoke with certified dating and relationship coach Gabrielle Brooke, counselor and sex therapist Dr. Tiffanie L. Davis Henry, matchmaker Lisa Lyngos, and author of "Get Married This Year," Dr. Janet Page, who revealed some of their favorite places and activities to meet new people.

volleyball-teamOutdoor Fun

If you love the great outdoors, use that to your advantage and hit the park or trail.

1. Chattahoochee Trail – Dr. Page suggests hitting a trail and strolling through the common area before the trails split off.

2. Piedmont Park – Head to this heavy foot-trafficked park to run, walk, bike or walk your dog.

3. Brook Run Dog Park – For more doggie excitement, visit this off-leash dog park in Dunwoody. If your friendly puppy runs up to another unattached dog owner, you have an instant excuse to chat.

4. Atlanta Single Hikers – Make s'mores! This group shares a common love of the outdoors, hiking and camping.

5. Atlanta Outdoor Club – Take your love of the outdoors and use it to make new love connections.

6. Silver Comet Trail – Singles of all ages hit this trail on foot and by bike, so make sure to check it out next time you want to break a sweat.

Cultural Events & Festivals

Our city's cultural venues and seasonal events provide the perfect backdrop for meeting that special someone. Ignite a new flame while you discover new artists, listen to music and experience fine cuisine through the year.

7. Jazz & Cocktails at the High Museum of Art – One Friday each month, the museum offers this event that draws a large crowd of like-minded folks. Snag a cute art buff to show you around the exhibits.

8. Cocktails in the Garden – The Atlanta Botanical Garden hosts special events like this after-hours mixer during the summer, which can draw a fun crowd. The Garden is highly recommended by Lyngos as a great place to meet singles.

9. Drink in Design – Mix with design-oriented types at this Museum of Design Atlanta event. The free drinks and interesting tours are an instant conversation starter.

10. Taste of Atlanta and the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival – Events like this are ideal for finding fellow foodies. If you get to know each other over a meal, you're practically on your first date already.

11. Atlanta Dogwood Festival and the Atlanta Jazz Festival – Thousands of festival lovers visit these events each spring, so you could meet a fellow music or art lover.

12. Atlanta Beer Festival and SweetWater 420 Fest – Sampling libations can help be an icebreaker when meeting new people.

SalsaClasses and Groups

Get your fitness on while also opening yourself up to meeting new people. You may meet someone who needs a workout partner.

13. Salsa Dancing – Try salsa dancing at Havana Club, Loca Luna and Tongue & Groove. Dancing is a great excuse to get close to someone and test your chemistry together. Need lessons before you go? Head over to Ballroom Dance Clubs of Atlanta on Miami Circle to hone your moves before you hit the dance floor.

14. Boxing & Martial Arts – Work on your skills and work up a sweat at these contact classes. Don't be shy to ask for tips on improving your form from a fellow student.

15. Yoga & Pilates – Men seeking women, head to yoga classes where you'll find more women but won't feel out of place, like at Decatur Yoga & Pilates. Meeting a potential partner and working on inner peace – you can't beat that combo.

16. Atlanta Track Club – Atlanta's iconic running club and home of the Peachtree Road Race offers you opportunites to run, walk or volunteer with others who enjoy the same activities.

17. Golf – Lyngos recommends visiting a driving range like Northcrest Golf Range or Atlanta Golf Center. Ask one of the regulars to help you perfect your swing.

18. Atlanta Sport and Social Club – Enjoy all kinds of sports-related activities like sand volleyball and soccer while searching for "the one." Next month, they're throwing a March Madness beer pong tournament in Midtown – it's a perfect excuse to play a few rounds with someone you want to get to know.

19. Networking events – These are non-threatening places to meet new professionals. Check for upcoming options. Since the focus isn't on dating, you can build platonic foundations and let them develop without pressure.

20. Meetups – Subscribe to for singles' clubs or financial clubs and more to find like-minded adults.

21. Wine Tastings – Attend a wine class or wine tasting at Vino Venue. Other locations include The Cellar Club in Murphy's or Wine Shoe, a boutique wine shop. By the end, you're sure to have made a few connections.


Various non-profits around the city are always looking for a helping hand, and you never know who you'll end up meeting.

22. Habitat for Humanity – Habitat for Humanity attracts plenty of members of both sexes, and working toward a common goal (especially for charity) is a great foundation for any relationship.

23. Atlanta Humane Society – If you love animals and want to meet someone who does too, volunteer with Atlanta Humane Society.

24. Truly Living Well Center or the Wylde Center – Get dirty and volunteer with a community garden. If you find someone with a green thumb like yours, invite them to a local nursery and peruse the plants together.

25. Singles Volunteer Atlanta – SVA brings Atlanta singles together for volunteer work, fun and camaraderie.

Religious Groups

These gatherings not only provide fulfillment for the soul, but may also be the way to connect with someone who fills your heart.

26. Church Single Groups – Consider singles groups at churches like North Point Community Church's Singles Ministry. Keep in mind that no group is too small. Dr. Page's friend attended a church group singles event where she was just one of three. Luckily, the other two attendees were men, and she ended up marrying one of them!

27. Meditation – The Atlanta Soto Zen Center has weekly sutra services and social events.

28. Choir Groups – Join the choir at your spiritual home like the Sound of Light Choir at the Spiritual Living Center of Atlanta. If you meet someone here, choir practice will become an easy weekly date.

29. Jewish Single Groups – Younger singles can find options at the Marcus Jewish Community Center and participate in everything from sports leagues to mix and mingle events.

30. Buckhead Church – The Buckhead Church has a Singles Ministry which helps singles connect with each other through the church and other activities.

Surf the Web

Online dating has become the norm for people who are too busy for the bar scene. Let these dating websites do some of the legwork for you, and be sure to regularly update your profile.

Top sites chosen by our experts include:









Atlanta is filled with restaurants, bars and hotels where singles can mingle, and happy hours are usually the best time to go.

38. Happy Hour at Kat's Café in Midtown – Gabrielle Brooke recommends this place because of its fun atmosphere and live music.

39. Whiskey Blue in Buckhead

40. Aurum Lounge in Midtown

41. Dark Horse Tavern restaurant and pub in Virginia Highlands

42. Social Vinings

43. Midtown's Loews Hotel Bar – Dr. Janet Page likes this location, especially during happy hour as a lot of Midtown professionals head here to relax instead of fighting traffic.

44. Watershed restaurant on Peachtree Street

45. Wrecking Bar near Little Five Points

46. Dr. Davis Henry recommends Dantanna's in Buckhead.


Keep Your Eyes Open

Turn your to-do list into an opportunity to meet new people.

47. The produce department at any grocery store from 6 to 7 p.m. is the time when singles graze for dinner. Dr. Davis Henry recommends any Whole Foods location.

48. The gym can be a great place to meet potential dates, but you have to be willing to hang out. Don't just work out and rush out.

49. At the mall, ask a male or female shopper for help picking something for your mom, and you never know – it could end up being a gift for your new boyfriend or girlfriend.

50. Ladies, head to Dick's Sporting Goods and ask for help choosing a new tent or fishing pole.


Chris-and-Theresa-SoutherlandFinding What Works

How did you two meet?
We actually met about seven years before we started dating with lots of mutual friends, but we were dating other people. We went out on a few double dates together with the people we were dating at the time! Years later we met up again on St Patrick's Day with a group of friends – he asked me out and we were engaged eight months later.

How long have you been together?
We have been married since 2002 (so just a little over 11 years married) and together for 12 and a half.

What activities do you enjoy doing together?
We are so busy these days with younger children, work and sports, just like most couples our age, and Chris travels a lot. Fortunately my job is flexible, and the days he gets to be home we try to go out and spend a few hours together and just talk and catch up. One of our favorite things to do is take the dogs for a walk around the park, getting some fresh air and exercise and just being together. Having uninterrupted time to talk to each other is so important.

How do you keep the excitement and romance in your relationship?
I really started thinking about it and the excitement and romance was in being together, with a great group of friends who we have known forever, with all of our kids running around the house playing. We both cherish this family we have created together, and enjoy all the stages of our relationship as it continues to grow and change.

What advice would you give other couples who are looking to add more romance to their relationship?
Well, I think that real romance starts with truly caring about the other person's needs more than your own, and that is tough! Anyone can send flowers, and yes, that is nice and important, but actually taking the time to step back and notice what your partner really enjoys doing, what makes them a better person, and helping them to achieve becoming their "best self" is what real romance is.


Get Started!

Prepare yourself
"Make a list of the things you enjoy doing or would be open to trying," Brooke says. You should also make a list of your values and beliefs and the kinds of people you would like to date. Taking these criteria, next do the research to narrow which groups or activities you would like to participate in.

"Be open to meeting people that you wouldn't typically be attracted to," Dr. Davis Henry says. "You've got to be open to finding the right person, not the perfect person. And the right person may look nothing like what you've envisioned."

If you are an introvert, you will need to challenge yourself to be extroverted for a moment or two. Lyngos recommends having a game plan and a list of topics that make sense to cover during a first meeting or first date. Make a good impression by discussing family (as in siblings, not future children), food likes, your dream job, travel experiences and what you like to do in your free time.

Avoid the pitfalls
When you meet someone, avoid talking about yourself too much. "Make sure the conversation is even, goes back and forth. Too much on one person's end makes them sound narcissistic,"

Dr. Davis Henry says. You should also be careful about harping on what was wrong with your ex(es) and setting out to find a husband or wife on the first date.

Analyze your past
Consider your past relationships and figure out why they haven't worked. "Don't bring old baggage into new relationships," Dr. Davis Henry says. You will need to let go of old habits and possibly do some therapeutic work before starting out. Be honest with yourself.

Maintain a positive attitude
Know that it may take time, and you might have some failures and even rejections before you meet a great person, Brooke cautions. "That's normal. If you view each setback as a learning experience and maintain your sense of humor, the whole dating process will continue to get easier," she says.

You need to be willing to put in the time to find "the one." Dr. Page recommends making a concerted effort at least three times per week. "It's a numbers game," she says. In the end, if you meet enough people, you will be able to find the right man or woman. The odds are in your favor!


Editorial Resources

Gabrielle Brooke -
Dr. Tiffanie L. Davis Henry, PhD, MA, LPC, ACST - Intimate Details, LLC,
Lisa Lyngos, Single Atlanta -
Dr. Janet Page -

Bernie Marcus is a man with many titles – pharmacist, visionary, entrepreneur – but these days, it is the role of philanthropist that describes him best. His generous monetary donations have funded a number of projects and organizations including the Georgia Aquarium, Autism Speaks, The Marcus Stroke and Neuroscience Center at Grady and The Marcus Autism Center. Marcus is also on the board of directors and an active volunteer at the Shepherd Center, so it came as no surprise when he was awarded the William E. Simon Prize for Philanthropic Leadership in 2012.

As the son of Jewish-Russian immigrants growing up in Newark, New Jersey, Marcus learned about charitable giving from an early age. "Those who are Jewish understand the word 'tzedakah,' the obligation of generous charitable giving," he says. "My mother believed – and she was right – that with tzedakah, the more you give, the more you get."

Marcus says he always had a passion for medicine, and even considered becoming a doctor before earning a pharmacy degree at Rutgers University. Initially he worked as a pharmacist at a drugstore, but soon became more interested in the retail side of the business. "Early in my business career, I learned about the City of Hope," Marcus says, which is a leading cancer research and treatment center in California. Though he couldn't yet contribute a lot of money to the cause, he devoted his time and energy by holding industry fundraisers. "In those days, I didn't have much money, but I put my body into it, my soul into it."

Aquarium-Bernie-MarcusUltimately, Marcus says it was his role as co-founder of The Home Depot that helped him become a true philanthropist. "First I was an entrepreneur; that enabled me to become a philanthropist," he explains. "I believe in free enterprise. It's what made our success at The Home Depot possible." Through meaningful donations, Marcus wants to ensure the strength of the free enterprise system so it can provide the opportunity for success to millions of others.

With the inception of The Marcus Foundation in 2002, Marcus wanted to narrow his focus and support the causes closest to his heart. "I knew that bits of money here and there – what I call the buckshot approach to giving – wouldn't maximize the impact of our giving," he explains. "We decided to narrow the field to those things that I was really, truly interested in: children, medical research, the free enterprise system, the community, Israel and Jewish causes. I like to say we find a need and we fill it."

And that is exactly what he did. In 2012, The Marcus Foundation donated $20 million to establish Piedmont's Marcus Heart Valve Center. "Piedmont wanted the expertise in Atlanta and wanted to be the first to provide it, and actually recruited me," Marcus says. "Piedmont came to me when it was ready to make provisions to train doctors and nurses, recruit specialists, and secure the equipment to make it the premier heart valve repair hospital in the United States – a one-stop shop both for patients with heart valve problems and for physicians who want to learn the latest advancements in treatment."

But like every investment by The Marcus Foundation, they don't just write a check. "We set targets on funds we donate, and review plans," Marcus says. "And we are very satisfied that Piedmont is proceeding, even ahead of plan, because they have done so many procedures successfully. With Dr. David Adams and Dr. Frederico Milla, we have a valve surgery leadership team that can match any of the great ones in the country, even the world!"

The center, which opened its doors in January of this year, also aims to draw more top surgeons and other specialists to Piedmont Atlanta Hospital. As a regional reference center, it will be the nation's first comprehensive valve center for care, training and research, regardless of the valve in which the damage occurs or whether it is congenital or acquired. "The key is to have the expertise here so that people don't have to leave the state to have this surgery," Marcus says. "It's going to be very good for the people of Georgia. I see it becoming a center of excellence for Georgia and the Southeast."

Through The Marcus Center's annual donations of about $40 million, Bernie Marcus will no doubt continue making a positive impact on the people of Georgia as well as people across the country. And after nearly 30 years of charitable giving, the 'tzedakah' clearly remains his life's greatest motivation.


More from Bernie Marcus...

Who do you most admire and why?
My mother provided the ultimate guideline for my life. Although she was crippled with arthritis from an early age, and bedridden, she instilled in me optimism, determination, tzedakah, patriotism and belief in America.

What is the best piece of advice you've ever received?
[My mother] told me never to look back, that the way you handle and deal with life's setbacks becomes the basis for what you accomplish in the future.

What is the best book you've read?
I particularly like to read biographies of historical figures like Churchill, Reagan and Lincoln. These are people who had ability to change the world in their lifetimes. I also enjoy mysteries.

What is your favorite way to relax?
Playing golf. On the golf course, everything else goes out the window and you concentrate on your missed putts and bad shots.

Who are the people who help you be your best self?
I have been fortunate to have a lot of special people in my life. My mother, my wife Billi, who supports everything I do, my partners in creating The Home Depot – Ken Langone, Arthur Blank – and a slew of people I have learned from and many others I continue to learn from every day.