Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Take a Break: Make it About History this 4th of July

What really did happen to the signers of the Declaration of Independence? There are lots of versions out there, so it’s interesting to read Snopes take to separate fact from fiction. Fascinating article and worth the time to read. 

What part, if any did your town, family or state play in the Revolutionary War? Just as Snopes takes time to find out what the truth is, are the stories accurate?

Make this 4th of July one of exploring local history. Check out the oldest cemeteries in your town. Is a Revolutionary soldier buried there? If so, consider cleaning the headstone,  putting a flag on the grave or take a picture and make sure it’s included on Find a Grave.   

For lots of other 4th of July activities, check out the previous years Take a Breaks, which includes numerous ideas for decorations, foods and activities.

Not interested in today’s activities, try the Take a Break Pinterest Board.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

When Chasing the Cure is Wrecking Your Life

Several people I know are seeking a cure for a chronic disease to the point that they’ve stopped living. All they can talk about is the latest research, diets they’re trying, doctors who aren’t helpful (that being most of them), homeopathy treatments, vitamin regiments etc. They are spending enormous amounts of money, often going into debt, to try things that may be helpful but more often than not have no proven value. They exude a level of desperation that is difficult to be around, with the upshot being their quality of life, and also that of their families, is being adversely impacted.

Some will point to the film “Lorenzo’s Oil” as proof that this dogged determinism can pay off. Based on the true story of how parents of a boy with adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD) found a treatment for this disabling and fatal disease, what many were unaware of is that before the film was even released they already knew it wasn't a cure. It turns out that the oil (oleic acid and erucic acid) doesn’t reverse the disease in boys that already show symptoms but does appear to prevent it in some of the boys with the genetic marker for ALD. In fact, from the time he was 8 until he died at 22, Lorenzo was paralyzed, blind, unable to speak, was dependent on a feeding tube and kept alive by round the clock care. His father conceded that he had sometimes wondered if that was enough of a life to justify the extraordinary lengths to which he and his wife had gone.

If you find that you are spending every waking  minute of your day obsessed with a cure or effective treatment consider the following:
• Give your brain and body a break by doing Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). When the body and brain are chronically stressed (e.g. obsessing about health) the hormone cortisol increases and interferes with learning and memory, lowers immune function and a host of other things. Research shows that MBSR lowers cortisol levels and has been effective for a number of chronic conditions, including irritable bowel and other gastrointestinal diseases, chronic pain, PTSD, hypertension, heart disease, anxiety etc. If there isn’t a course being offered near you, try it on-line for free at Online Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. 

•  “Take a break” (meditate, light yoga,  tai chi, qigong, laugh, dance, art, make love, pray, socialize) every day to help reduce cortisol. Do something that has nothing to do with your chronic condition. If you need ideas, check out over 200 ways of doing this at the Take a Break Pinterest Board.

• Share your feelings. Family and friends may not be appropriate for all situations, so find a counselor who can help you

• Participate in a condition specific support group, either in person or online, so while you are working on better ways to deal with your condition, you also are having social interactions.

• Become an e patient, by enrolling in one of the on-line communities that are sharing data for your particular condition. Check out Being an E-Patient 

• Find a medical provider that is willing to help you explore options but can help you control spiraling into obsession.

• Before you try another “new idea” read, “I’ve Got Nothing to Lose by Trying.” 

Bottom line-Do what you can, when you can, for as long as you can but never until it hurts you or loved ones.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Take a Break: Fairy Houses for Midsummer Night’s Eve

Midsummer’s Night Eve takes place around the time of the summer solstice (June 21), which is the longest day and the shortest night of the year. Perfect time to make a fairy house to put in the garden, or sit on a table and light with an LED T light. Below are some DIY links to make a house. 

• Pick up an old teapot and decorate it.

Have to admit that I’m still enthralled with the Hobbit houses from the films. Take a video tour at The Shire-A Brief Hobbiton Tour in Matamata New Zealand 

Not interested in today’s activities, try the Take a Break Pinterest Board.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Journal Watch June 2016

• Spironolactone No Benefit for Knee Osteoarthritis(OA) in Older Adults: For older adults with knee osteoarthritis (OA), spironolactone is not associated with improvements in symptoms, physical function, or health-related quality-of-life, according to a study published in the May issue of Arthritis Care & Research 

Use of Glucocorticoid Ups Diabetes Risk in Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA): Using two different data bases comparing non users with current users of the drug, dosage and treatment duration impacted risk of developing diabetes. Arthritis & Rheumatology 

• Prednisone Use Linked to Increased Risk of Mortality in RA: For patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), prednisone use is associated with an increased risk of mortality, according to a study published in the May issue of Arthritis Care & Research

• Opioid Painkillers Raise Heart Risks for Some: Patients who had just been prescribed an opioid painkiller had a 64 percent higher risk of early death when compared to patients who were given an alternative pain medication. But much of that increased risk was related to the onset of breathing difficulties during sleep, followed by heart rhythm irregularities and other cardiovascular complications. JAMA 

• CBT In Individuals with Rheumatoid Arthritis for Managing Chronic Pain: A meta analysis review concludes that the psychosocial approach with the strongest evidence base for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) pain is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). J Pain Res 

Acupuncture Significantly Improves Menopause Related Symptoms: When compared with usual care, acupuncture treatments may significantly reduce hot flashes and other vasomotor symptoms and improve some quality-of-life measures associated with menopause according to findings from a year-long study of 209 women age 45-60 years of age. Menopause 

 Mindfulness Meditation Helps Breast Cancer Survivors: Mindfulness meditation seems to help breast cancer patients better manage symptoms of fatigue, anxiety and fear of recurrence, a new study suggests. Those who took part in the six-week program had less anxiety, fear of recurrence and less fatigue compared to those who did not take the program. Journal of Clinical Oncology 

 Long Term Pot Use Tied to Gum Disease: In an analysis of about 1,000 people who used pot and/or tobacco in New Zealand, those who smoked pot for 20 years didn't have notable health problems, except for gum disease, the researchers said. JAMA Psychiatry 

• Electroacupuncture Helped Ease Carpal Tunnel: Electroacupuncture helped carpal tunnel patients with long-lasting mild and moderate symptoms when it was used with splints overnight. Canadian Medical Association Journal 

• Approves Implant (Probuphine) to treat people addicted to heroin (opiods)
• Calls for Less Salt in Processed Food
• Approves Ocaliva for Primary Biliary Cholangitis
• Approves Aspire Assist, a new weight loss device
• Halted sales of Zecuity Migraine Skin Patches due to patients reporting burns and scars

Positively Thinking About Aging Important for a Healthier Life: The mind/body connection counts for a lot. One study found that middle-aged people who had no cognitive impairment but did have negative views of aging were more likely to later develop the brain changes associated with Alzheimer's disease. And the more negative their views, the worse those brain changes were. Another study showed that  people with positive views of older adults were much more likely to recover from major health setbacks. Having something that gives one's life a sense of purpose can pay amazing health dividends.  People who have a sense of purpose are much less likely to suffer early mortality, less likely to develop disability, Alzheimer’s or stroke. NPR 

Base Quit Smoking Day on Menstrual Cycle: Certain weeks of a woman's menstrual cycle may be better than others for quitting smoking, a small study suggests. Success was less likely when a "quit day" fell during the follicular phase, or first half of the monthly cycle, researchers found. Biology of Sex Differences 

Smog Can Make Blood Pressure Soar: A review of 17 studies conducted around the world found a possible link between blood pressure and dirty air related to common pollutants, such as vehicle exhaust, coal burning and airborne dirt or dust. "Our results demonstrated that air pollutants had both short-term and long-term effects on [high blood pressure] risks." Hypertension 

Diet Exercise Both Reduce Visceral Adiposity (VAT): A meta analysis found that both exercise and diet reduce VAT. “Despite a larger effect of diet on total body weight loss, exercise tends to have superior effects in reducing VAT," the authors write. "Finally, total body weight loss does not necessarily reflect changes in VAT and may represent a poor marker when evaluating benefits of lifestyle-interventions." Obesity Reviews 

Shift Workers at Greater Risk of Heart Ills: Sleep deprivation and an abnormal sleep cycle may increase the risk of heart disease, especially for shift workers, a small study suggests. Hypertension 

• Middle Age Fitness Helps Ward off  Stroke Later on: Among nearly 20,000 adults in their mid to late 40s, researchers found the most fit had a 37 percent lower risk of having a stroke after 65, compared with the least fit. The protective effect of fitness remained even after the researchers accounted for risk factors for stroke, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and an abnormal heart rhythm known as atrial fibrillation. Stroke 

Just 15 Minutes of Exercise a Day Helps Seniors Live Longer: Just 15 minutes of exercise a day may lower older adults' risk of early death by one-fifth, according to a study presented at the European Society of Cardiology's EuroPRevent 

• Healthy Fats in Mediterranean Diet Won’t Boost Weight: An eating plan that includes healthy fats such as olive oil and nuts isn't likely to cause weight gain, a new study finds. The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology

Spare the Meat, Skip Type 2Diabetes? Eating a mainly plant-based diet -- especially one with lots of healthy veggies, fruit and whole grains -- may significantly lower your risk of type 2 diabetes, a new study suggests. "This study highlights that even moderate dietary changes in the direction of a healthful plant-based diet can play a significant role in the prevention of type 2 diabetes." Plos Medicine 

Whole Grains Increase Longevity: Researchers found that people who ate three or more servings of whole grains a day had a 20 percent reduced risk of premature death during the study period, compared to those who ate fewer or no servings of whole grains. "The higher the whole grain intake, the lower the death rate, especially deaths from cardiovascular disease." Whole-grain foods include whole-wheat flour, oatmeal, brown rice and whole cornmeal. Circulation 

• Low Dose Aspirin Tied to Longer Colon Cancer Survival: Norwegian researchers found that among over 23,000 colon cancer patients, those who used aspirin were 15 percent less likely to die of the disease over the next several years. Journal of Clinical Oncology 

Glucocorticoids Raise Risk for Serious Staph Infections: Glucocorticoids -- a form of steroids -- are powerful immunosuppressive drugs used to treat a variety of medical conditions that involve inflammation. People who use glucocorticoids are at higher risk for life-threatening staph blood infections, a new study finds. Mayo Clinic Proceedings 

New Psoriasis Drug Works Longer Term: Ixekizumab (Taltz) was approved in March by the FDA after initial trials showed that over 12 weeks, the drug soundly beat standard medication for moderate-to-severe psoriasis. The new findings show the benefits are still there after 60 weeks. At that point, about 80 percent of patients were seeing at least a 75 percent improvement in their skin symptoms, the researchers said. NEJM 

Diabetes Drug Victoza May Help the Heart: The blood sugar-lowering drug Victoza (liraglutide) cuts the risk of heart attack and stroke in type 2 diabetes patients, a new study finds. NEJM 

• 15.5 Million Americans Now Surviving Cancer: Cancer survivors in the United States reached record numbers this year -- 15.5 million -- and the American Cancer Society predicts they'll total more than 20 million in another decade. But along with these success stories comes a growing demand for medical, emotional and psychological support to aid survivors' long-term recovery, according to a new cancer society report. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians 

Americans Living Longer and Better: Harvard University researchers reviewed federal government data. They found that in 1992, life expectancy for the average 65-year-old was 17.5 additional years, 8.9 of which were disability-free. By 2008, life expectancy for someone age 65 was an additional 18.8 years, 10.7 of which were disability-free. National Bureau of Economic Research 

• Hands Free Cellphones Not Risk Free: Talking on a hands-free phone while driving may be just as distracting and dangerous as using a hand-held phone, according to a new study. In lab-based tests, British researchers found that having conversations that activated the visual imagination resulted in participants detecting fewer road hazards in a video. Transportation Research 

 Mentally Ill Still Gain Illegal Possession of Guns: Almost two-thirds of violent gun crime arrests among the mentally ill were people who were already legally prohibited from having a firearm, a new study from Florida reveals. "That's a failure of the enforcement mechanism," said study lead author Jeffrey Swanson. And close to one-third of the gun suicides carried out by the mentally ill were among people who weren't legally allowed to possess a firearm, the study found. Health Affairs