Saturday, October 31, 2009

New Approaches to Chronic Disease Website

Beth Israel Medical Center’s Continuum Center for Health and Healing has launched a new website New Approaches to Treating Chronic Disease, focusing on heart disease, diabetes and chronic pain. The site provides in-depth information on healthcare approaches that can improve your health, complement your regular medical care, expand your options, and enhance your quality of life. Information is based on the best research available and the most up-to-date and tested knowledge on managing heart disease.

The website provides integrative approaches to care. Under the heart disease page, there is information on nutrition, mind-body therapy, manual medicine, psychological approaches, East Asian medicine, movement therapy and spirituality.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Learn Something New

Learning something new, whether it’s a new craft or history of the women in Henry VIII’s life, is a wonderful way to exercise the brain. Just as important as physical exercise, much as aerobics leads to a better cardiovascular system, learning keeps the brain healthy. As Leonardo da Vinci wrote “Iron rusts from disuse; stagnant water loses its purity and in cold weather becomes frozen; even so does inaction soften the vigor of the brain.”

The list of what to learn is endless and depends on your interests. Some ideas:
• learn a foreign language
• how to knit or crochet
• where birds in your region go for the winter
• how to draw cartoons
• play an instrument
• become an indie rock expert
• read about the life of a famous person.

A fun approach to learning lots of different, and unusual things, can be found at the following sites:
• Zidbits:  Exploring Life’s Little Mysteries 

Monday, October 26, 2009

How to Be A Friend with a Pen

Supporting a Friend Who has a Chronic/Life Threatening Condition

It can be difficult to know how to be supportive of a friend who has been diagnosed with a very serious chronic or life threatening condition.

How You Can Help
• Drive them to and from medical appointments
• Visit them in the hospital
• Watch their children, pick them up from school, have them visit you for the weekend
• Clean their house, take out the garbage, and offer to do other chores-particularly the seasonal ones that they may have neither the energy nor time to do
• Help take care of pets
• Make a meal, grocery shop
• Do something that is “normal” that doesn’t have anything to do with their illness, such as seeing a movie, going to a museum or concert.
• Tell them you are sorry
• Validate feelings
• Respect how they choose to manage their disease
• Offer advice only when asked
• Learn about their condition
• Listen, listen, listen
• Call and see how they are doing
• Laugh
• Talk about what they want to talk about

Things to avoid saying
• Everything’s going to be all right
• Don’t worry, feel sad or feel guilty
• Think of the good times
• I know how you feel

If you accompany them to a medical appointment, be a friend with a pen
• Before the visit, ask the friend what concerns or questions they might have. Write them down. Suggest that if they forget to ask the questions, you could either remind them, or state the questions yourself. Only ask questions if your friend has given you permission.
• Find out before going in the office if your friend is comfortable with you being there during a physical exam.
• Take notes about what the medical provider is saying, and how they are responding to your patient’s questions. Be objective. Write what the care provider is saying, not what you or your friend want to hear.
• Keep quiet during the visit, only making a comment if you think something is not clear to your friend, or to ask a question that your friend may have forgotten.
• After the visit, your friend may not want to discuss what the doctor said. Don’t push it. Wait a few days and then see if they are able to discuss what happened.
• Your perception of what the provider said, and your friends may be completely different. It doesn’t mean that either of you are right or wrong.
• Give your notes to your friend and go over them when you both have time to discuss the visit. Understand that your friend’s priorities may be different than yours or the doctors. Respect the choices they are making.
• Do not discuss the visit with others, including family members, unless your friend has given you permission to do so.

When a Friend Has a Chronic Illness from the American RSDHope Group:

How to Help a Loved One with Chronic Illness

• 27 Ways to Comfort a Sick Friend

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Take an Art Break: Color a Mandala

Coloring is a good way to meditate. Meaning “circle,” in Tibetan Buddhism, a mandala is an imaginary palace that is contemplated during meditation. Below are resources to help you get started.

PrintMandala:  Free Mandalas to print 
Mandala Therapy: Another virtual site for on-line coloring 

Use Pinterest  and Google for lots of free designs, including ones for various holidays and special events.

Depending on what you have on hand, you can color your mandala with crayons, water colors, pen and ink, colored pencils, or even pieces of fabric. 

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Flu and Hand Washing

Once again the media is full of stories about the lack of flu vaccine, increasing deaths among children from H1N1 (Swine flu) and even notices of flu vaccine clinics being cancelled.

There are very simple things people can do to reduce their risk of getting the flu, or if they have it, transmitting it to someone else.

The most basic preventive measure is hand washing. Sounds simple enough, but does the temperature of the water make a difference? The New York Times recently ran a piece on this topic. The bottom line is that “Hot water for hand washing has not been proved to remove germs better than cold water.” What is important is washing your hands with soap, for at least 20 seconds-long enough to sing two rounds of Happy Birthday.

If there isn’t access to soap and water, the next best thing is alcohol based hand sanitizer. They need to contain a concentration of 60% or higher to be effective. Keep in mind that hand sanitizers are less effective if hands are visibly dirty. When using the sanitizers, wash hands until all of the liquid is absorbed or up to 25 seconds.

Liquid soap is recommended over bar soap, particularly in public areas. However, antibacterial soap is no more effective at killing germs than regular soap. Using antibacterial soap has the potential to create a bacteria that becomes resistant.

In addition to the normal hand washing required after using the toilet, before cooking etc., it is important to wash your hands when you come in contact with items other people might have used. Many grocery stores now provide wipes to clean cart handles. Computer key boards are a particularly great place to pick up something, so keep wipes handy.

Other flu prevention measures include:
• Cover your mouth and nose every time you cough or sneeze. Use your arm, not your hand

• Observe regular cleaning habits at home, office, school, church and where you recreate

• If you experience any symptoms of flu (cough, fever, aches, headache, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, chills) and were in contact with someone who has it, or was in a location where the disease has already occurred, call your medical provider

• Every time you use a tissue, throw it in the trash and wash your hands.

• Be mindful of what you are doing. Don’t share anything that goes into the mouth. Avoid touching your nose, mouth and eyes.

• Avoid contact with people who are sick.

• Stay home if you are sick.

• Get a vaccination when it becomes available, recognizing that there are two this year-one for regular flu and a second one for H1N1 (Swine Flu).

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Take a Break: Laugh

Studies show that a good laugh daily is very healthy. A study from the University of Maryland Medical Center, found that people with heart disease were 40% less likely to laugh in a variety of situations compared to people of the same age without heart disease. Another study of people with diabetics found that in those who viewed humor for 30 minutes daily, in addition to conventional treatment, had lower cholesterol and less risk of cardiovascular disease than those who didn’t include humor as part of their treatment.

Laughter is a great stress release and helps to form social bonds. Below are some ways to put more laughs in your daily life.

• If you have a favorite comedian, Google and watch on-line.

• Watch a funny movie or program on TV.

• Socialize with people that make you laugh and/or who laugh a lot. Laughter is contagious, so the more you are around laughter the more you will laugh.

• Join a laughter club. Yes, they do exist. Check with your provider to see if there is such a group at your local hospital or medical center or check on-line.

• Listen on line to laughter clubs, such as
Laughing Lady
Laughter Yoga with Miss Lafalot

Benefits of Laughter Yoga with John Cleese

• American Laughter Yoga 

Saturday, October 10, 2009

More about vitamins

How do you know if there are really 1,000 IU of Vitamin D in the bottle? How much should I be taking? Should I even be taking vitamins?

In answer to the last question, talk to your provider about vitamins and supplements. As much as possible, try to get sufficient vitamins from the food you eat. However, health status, age, gender and even where you live, can all impact what your body needs and the best ways of achieving that.

Keep in mind that some vitamins can interact with medicines, or should be taken at a different time than prescriptions. You can also talk to your pharmacist. Be sure to read the information that comes with your prescriptions.

The Office of Dietary Supplements provides a great deal of information on this topic, including fact sheets and research findings.

Dr. Ellen Hughes talk, “Nutrition in a Bottle: A Scientific Review of Vitamins, Minerals and Supplements,” provides an excellent overview and offers suggestions on everything from dosage to where to purchase supplements. This can be watched on-line at the UCTV website Dr. Hughes is an internist and integrative medicine specialist at the University of California San Francisco’s Osher Center for Integrative medicine. The program is also being aired on Dish Channel 9512. Check UCTV for airing times.

Knowing if your supplements really do have the amounts they say they do, is a bit trickier to address. The easiest way is to check the label for the USP mark. The United States Pharmacopeia (USP) is an official public standards–setting authority for all prescription and over–the–counter medicines and other health care products manufactured or sold in the United States. USP also sets widely recognized standards for food ingredients and dietary supplements. USP sets standards for the quality, purity, strength, and consistency of these products–critical to the public health. USP is a non-governmental, not-for-profit public health organization.

The store brands of Cosco and BJs are generally USP certified, as well as Nature’s Made. Be sure to check the label, as some vitamins within a brand may not be certified. does random sampling and testing of vitamins, supplements and nutrition. You will need to pay for their information. Sometimes articles will appear in the news providing limited findings.

Vitamins and supplements are not subject to the same regulation as prescription drugs, and not all companies want to pay for testing. Below are some ways to select a multivitamin as recommended by the nutritionist at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group in Washington, D.C.
— Choosing well-known mainstream brands by companies that have a lot at stake.
— Buying from large, trusted retailers, not unknown sellers on the Internet.
— Looking on the bottle for a stamp from USP, NSF or While the stamp doesn't guarantee the product is safe and effective, it does indicate that the manufacturer has submitted the product for testing to show that it contains what is stated on the label.
— Not spending a fortune on vitamins. Pricey products toting all sorts of "extras" aren't necessary and may be trouble

Keep in mind that the web, while an excellent source of information, is a “snake oil salesman’s” dreaml market. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Look for sites that end in gov, educ, or org and talk to your provider.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

H1N1 Swine Flu Response Center

If you are concerned that you may have the flu, take the Flu Self Assessment Developed by Emory University, the Assessment, which is only for those 12 and older, will let you know whether you have Swine Flu symptoms and what steps should be taken. It also provides prevention tips and other information.

Swine flu vaccine is available this week in a nasal spray. Injections will begin next week.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Take an Art Break: Paper Beads

Paper bead making was very popular in the 1930’s. It was a way to make something from scraps of paper, including newspaper. Just about any paper will do, with the exception of crepe and tissue paper. For a special present, beads from broken necklaces and bracelets would be added. While there are templates, special papers and a variety of videos on this topic, keeping it simple is the best. You can wrap the paper around straws, wire, skewers or anything else that leaves a hole. To make sure the bead comes off whatever type of rod you use, don’t start applying glue until you have already starting rolling the bead. Glue sticks work just fine. Once you have made some beads, they can be strung on any type of cord or wire. You can even make some fun animals using pipe cleaners. Below are on-line resources:

How to Make Paper Beads

How-To Make Recycled Paper Beads, Threadbanger Video