Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Take a Break: Celebrate Breakin’ Up Christmas

Tonight is “Breakin Up Christmas” at our house. This is an Appalachian tradition that celebrates the time between Christmas and January 6 (Old Christmas) or the Twelve Days of Christmas.

The song associated with this time of year has the following lyrics:

“Hooray Jake, hooray John,
Breakin’ up Christmas all night long,

Way back yonder a long time ago
The old folks danced the do-si-do

Way down yonder alongside the creek
I seen Santy Claus washin’ his feet.

Santa Claus come, done and gone,
Breaking up Christmas right along.

The tune most likely was composed by Preston ‘Pet’ McKinney, a fiddler and Civil War veteran from Lambsburg, VA.

There are lots of folklore connected with these 12 days:
• Called “ruling days,” the weather that occurs on each of the 12 days predicts the weather for each month of the coming year.
• Old Christmas, Twelfth Night, Feast of the Three Kings (January 6th) is the time when animals are given the power of speech. if a person would stay awake until almost midnight on old Christmas Eve, then sneak quietly out to a barn or a field where any cattle or sheep were kept, they could hear the animals pray. At the exact stroke of midnight on Old Christmas Eve, the animals would start moo-ing and baa-ing and bellowing… not in their normal way, but almost as if they were crying.
• On the Day of Epiphany a person should never lend anything to anybody because the lender would never get it back.
• The Holy Spirit would manifest itself on the eve of Epiphany in subtle ways.

People would go from house to house, having a dance, potluck, story telling and in general enjoying each other’s company. Furniture would be moved to make room for the guests, dancing and music. The night before Old Christmas (January 5) bonfires and firecrackers would be set, while January 6 would be celebrated with church, family meals, community Christmas trees, and stockings containing fruits, nuts and candy.

While the tradition of “Breakin’ Up Christmas” died back after WWII, it experience a new resurgence in the 1970s and today many of these celebrations are held in dance halls and civic clubs.

Ways to celebrate Breakin’ Up Christmas

• Read the poem Old Christmas From Old Christmas and Other Kentucky Tales by William Aspenwall 1917. 

• Watch legendary fiddler Tommy Jarrell play the tune Breakin’ Up Christmas 

• Host a potluck supper and/or bonfire

Saturday, December 26, 2015

What’s the Most Important Thing for a Good and Healthy Life?

As 2015 draws to a close, and there are many things calling for my attention, I wasn’t sure I was going to have time for a post the day after Christmas. However, watching a TED talk on the outcomes of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, which reached its 75 year mile stone in 2013, I realized how we all approach it from different vantage points, but we reach the same conclusion.

The secret to a long and contented life is love. Having born witness to many people as they close out their lives, it’s not how much money they have, their status, fame or fortune, but rather the family and friends that love them and who they love in return. As one of the researchers on the Harvard study noted, “The seventy-five years and twenty million dollars expended on the Grant Study points to a straightforward five-word conclusion: Happiness is love.  Full stop.”

According to Robert Waldinger, the current director of the Harvard study, there are three very important take away points of the study:

• Social connections are really good for us, loneliness kills

• It's not just the number of friends you have, and it's not whether or not you're in a committed relationship, but it's the quality of your close relationships that matters

• Good relationships don't just protect our bodies, they protect our brains.

On that note, wishing you much love and joy in 2016.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Take A Break: Celebrating Christmas 1930s: Repurposed Decorations

This past Monday, I did a daylong workshop for our local school on 1930s Christmas using just what they had on hand to decorate and celebrate the holiday. In addition to other posts this month-see list below- we also did the following:

Scrap Garland: Tie 6” strips of fabric or ribbon to twine. As the second grade teacher noted, “This would be a great way to remember a favorite item of clothing.” It’s easier if the ends are tacked down using something like painter’s tape. The closer the knots are, the better it looks. Good project to do with young kids as all it requires is a simple knot. 

Tin Ornaments: There are lots of cookie tins at the local thrift store. Left over roof flashing scraps work well. Use a cookie cutter and trace shapes (hearts are very popular). Cut out with tin snips or a good pair of scissors. The Pink Hare has a good tutorial on hand to disassemble tin boxes.  In the 1930s they would use old tins, including pie plates, to make tin ornaments. Use a nail to punch a hole for a ribbon. Of course, if you have the time and interest, punch tin

Make garlands, swags and wreaths from what grows in your neighborhood. While it’s easy for us in New England to lay our hands on pine for swags and wreaths, head out doors and see what’s in your area. Even bare branches and twigs can look quite festive with a coating of white paint and a gorgeous bow.  

Use Paper Patterns: The women’s magazine of the 1930s always had patterns. Here are some to try that are very easy:

Previous 1930s Posts

Not interested in today’s activity? Check out the Take a Break Pinterest for lots of Take a Break ideas. 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Journal Watch December 2015

• Acupuncture for Children with Chronic Pain: A recent study shows that acupuncture may be a safe and effective adjunctive integrative medicine treatment for chronic pain in pediatric patients. Alternative and Complementary Therapies 

Typical American Diet Can Worsen Chronic Pain: Sufferers of chronic pain are more susceptible to prolonged and pronounced health issues when practicing poor diet habits. Journal of Pain 

• Cognitive Behavioral Stress Management in Breast Cancer: Women who were provided with skills to manage stress early in their breast cancer treatment show greater length of survival and longer time till disease recurrence over eight to 15 years after their original diagnosis, newly published research from a randomized trial shows. Breast Cancer Research and Treatment 

• Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Reduces Chemo Brain: Participation in a mindfulness-based stress reduction program yields robust and sustained improvement in cancer-related cognitive impairment, a prevalent and potentially debilitating condition that affects attention, memory and executive function in survivors, according to a new study. Journal of Cancer Survivorship 

• Approved Ninlaro (ixazomib) in combination with two other therapies to treat those with multiple myeloma who have received at least one prior therapy.
• Approved Empliciti for Multiple Myeloma
• Approved first flu shot (Fluad) for seniors with added ingredient to boost immune response

• Brain Gains for Older Adults Who Start Exercising: Beginning an exercise program may help protect older adults' brains or even reverse early mental decline, a small study suggests. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society. 

 Flexibility Exercises are Important: Effective fitness programs should include cardiovascular training, strength building and flexibility exercises, but the flexibility component is often overlooked, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. "Some joints lose up to 50 percent of motion as we age. There are many ways to improve your joint flexibility, including controlled stretches held for 10-30 seconds, stretches that rely on reflexes to produce deeper flexibility, as well as yoga and pilates."

• Sweat to Help Reduce Risk of Prostate Cancer: Vigorous exercise, a healthy diet and not smoking may dramatically reduce a man's risk for aggressive prostate cancer, new research suggests. Journal of the National Cancer Institute 

 Constant Traffic Noise May Boost Depression: The risk was about 25 percent higher for people living in areas with a lot of traffic, compared to those living in areas with little road noise. However, the risk was largely confined to those who were poor, unemployed, had limited education, smoked or had insomnia, the German study authors found. Environmental Health Perspectives, online 

• Smog Raises Heart Risks in Diabetics: Long periods of exposure to air pollution -- including dust and car exhaust -- heightens heart risks for women with diabetes, a large, new study indicates. Journal of the American Heart Association

• MRI Reveals Weight Loss Protects Knees: Obese people who lose a substantial amount of weight can significantly slow the degeneration of their knee cartilage, according to a new MRI study presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA). 

Negative Beliefs About Aging Predict Alzheimer’s Disease: Newly published research led by the Yale School of Public Health demonstrates that individuals who hold negative beliefs about aging are more likely to have brain changes associated with Alzheimer's disease. The study suggests that combating negative beliefs about aging, such as elderly people are decrepit, could potentially offer a way to reduce the rapidly rising rate of Alzheimer's disease. Psychology and Aging 

• Helping Others Dampens Effects of Everyday Stress: Providing help to friends, acquaintances, and even strangers can mitigate the impact of daily stressors on our emotions and our mental health, according to new research published in Clinical Psychological Science 

• Seniors who head back to school may reduce dementia risk: Going back to school could help older people stave off dementia, a new study suggests. Taking college courses may boost brain functions, such as memory, decision-making and planning, the researchers said. The Australian investigators pointed out that their findings add to a growing body of evidence that healthy lifestyle choices -- such as exercise, brain games and an active social life -- may help slow age-related cognitive decline. American Psychological Association 

Singing Helps those with Early Dementia: Singing can boost the brain function and mood of people with early stage dementia. The study included 89 people with mild to moderate dementia. For 10 weeks, they were either coached in singing, listened to familiar songs, or received standard care from their caregivers. Those in the singing group showed improvements in memory, thinking skills and the ability to find their way around. This was especially true for those younger than 80 with mild dementia. Listening to music provided these benefits only to those with more advanced dementia. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease 

• Inflammation Can Increase Depression: Chronic inflammation in the bloodstream can 'fan the flames' of depression, much like throwing gasoline on a fire. American Journal of Psychiatry 

• Plant Hormone May Play a Vital Role in Blood Sugar Control , Diabetes Management: A treatment for managing blood sugar levels might be as close as the local health food store, suggests a new research report published in the December 2015 issue of The FASEB Journal. Specifically scientists from Italy have found that when the plant and mammal hormone, abscisic acid, is taken in low doses, glycemia in both rats and humans is reduced. This suggests that by reducing the chronic stimulation by hyperglycemia of β-cells to the release of insulin, chronic low-dose abscisic acid administration may prolong the survival and function of these cells. 

Moderate Drinking May Benefit Early Stage Alzheimer’s Patients: The study included just over 320 people in Denmark with early stage Alzheimer's disease. Those who had two to three alcoholic drinks a day had a 77 percent lower risk of dying during the study period than those who had one or fewer drinks a day, the investigators found. BMJ 

• Vitamin D Won’t Guard Against Colds in People with Asthma: More than 400 participants, all of whom had low vitamin D levels, took either vitamin D supplements or a placebo for 28 weeks. During that time, about half of them got at least one cold. Eighty-two percent of those in the supplement group had sufficient levels of vitamin D after 12 weeks, but that didn't boost their resistance to colds, the research revealed. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine 

• Vitamin D Supplements don’tHelp Treat Anemia in Dialysis Patients: Vitamin D2 supplements taken for 6 months did not reduce dialysis patients’ need for anemia drugs that stimulate red blood cell production, report investigators at conclusion of the largest randomized clinical trial to date on the effects of nutritional vitamin D in dialysis patients. Journal of the American Society of Nephrology 

High Fat/Low Carb Diet Could Combat Schizophrenia: A diet favored by body-builders may be effective in treating schizophrenia, suggest researchers. The ketogenic diet may work by providing alternative energy sources in the form of so-called ketone bodies (products of fat breakdown) and by helping to circumvent abnormally functioning cellular energy pathways in the brains of schizophrenics. Schizophrenia Research 

Magnesium Intake May be Beneficial in Preventing Pancreatic Cancer: Researchers have found that magnesium intake may be beneficial in preventing pancreatic cancer. Using information from the Vitamins and Lifestyle study, the study analyzed data on more than 66,000 men and women, between the ages of 50 and 76, looking at the direct association between magnesium and pancreatic cancer. British Journal of Cancer 

• Almonds May Help Augment Nutrients in Diet: Eating a moderate amount of almonds each day may enrich the diets of adults and their young children. In the study, when parents and children were eating almonds, their Healthy Eating Index increased for total protein foods, seafood and plant proteins and fatty acids, while they ate fewer empty calories. Nutrition Research 

• Gut Bacteria Make Pomegranate Metabolites That May Protect Against Alzheimer’s Disease: In a quest to stay healthy, many people are seeking natural ways to prevent neurodegenerative diseases. Recent studies show that pomegranate extract, which is a rich source of disease-fighting polyphenols, can help protect against the development of Alzheimer's disease. But researchers weren't sure which molecules to thank. A team reports that the responsible compounds may be urolithins, which are made when gut bacteria break down the polyphenols in the extract. ACS Chemical Neuroscience

Low Levels of Vitamin D May Increase Risk Fractures in Active Individuals: Vitamin D plays a crucial role in ensuring appropriate bone density. Active individuals who enjoy participating in higher impact activities may need to maintain higher vitamin D levels to reduce their risk of stress fractures, report investigators. The Journal of Foot and Ankle Surgery 

X-rays May Miss Hip Arthritis: Researchers looked at information from almost 4,500 Americans taking part in two arthritis studies. In one study, only 16 percent of patients with hip pain had X-ray evidence of osteoarthritis in the hip and only 21 percent of those with X-ray evidence of arthritis had hip pain. In the other study, the rates were 9 percent and 24 percent, respectively, according to the findings reported recently in the journal BMJ. 

Common Heart Failure Drugs May Harm More than Help: Nitrates are commonly prescribed for heart failure patients, but a new study finds they don't improve quality of life or everyday activity levels as intended. The drugs are prescribed to relieve chest pain so patients whose hearts still contract normally might feel comfortable enough to increase their daily activities. Now, new research suggests the opposite is true. NEJM 

Dentistry without the Drill?: An Australian team's seven-year study found that the need for fillings fell 30 to 50 percent if patients used preventive care after the first sign of tooth decay. The no-drill approach has four aspects: application of high-concentration fluoride varnish to the site of early tooth decay; attention to home tooth-brushing skills; no between-meals snacks or drinks with added sugar; and regular monitoring. Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology 

Talk Therapy, Antidepressants Offer Similar Results for Major Depression: Talk therapy and antidepressants could both be equally effective as stand-alone treatments for major depressive disorder, new research indicates. A review of 11 previously conducted studies that collectively tracked treatment outcomes for more than 1,500 patients found no difference in how well patients responded to treatment. BMJ 

Surgery May Beat Radiation for Men with Early Stage Prostate Cancer: A meta analysis of 19 studies shows that those who received radiation therapy were twice as likely to die from prostate cancer as those who had surgery. European Urology 

Stem Cell Transplants May Not Help Tough to Treat Crohn’s: Stem cell transplants seem no better than conventional therapy for Crohn's disease that hasn't responded to other treatments, a new study finds. The European study also found that for patients who cannot undergo surgery for the condition, stem cell transplants resulted in serious side effects, including infections. JAMA 

• Could Holiday Blues be Seasonal Affective Disorder? Some people who think they have the holiday blues may actually have seasonal affective disorder (SAD), an expert suggests. "SAD usually occurs in those who already are diagnosed or afflicted with a type of depression. It occurs with the change of the seasons, beginning in the fall and staying with you throughout the cold, dark winter months.” Lack of sunlight is the main cause of SAD, but age, sex, where you live, and your family 

• Retail Prices of Dermatology Drugs Skyrocket: Between 2009 and 2015, retail prices of brand-name dermatologic drugs rose 401 percent, on average, study authors reported Nov. 25 in JAMA Dermatology. Even generics have succumbed to price inflation, up 279 percent between 2011 and 2014, based on the drugs surveyed.