Friday, September 30, 2016

Resiliency in Action: Watch Oswalt Interview

The comic Patton Oswalt, whose wife Michelle McNamara died suddenly of unknown causes in April, was interviewed this past week on Conan. Oswalt’s comments were both funny and poignant "I'm like every bad '80s sitcom where there's a dad raising a kid by himself, and the mom is somehow... Except my '80s sitcom sucks. There's no punch lines. It's just, there's a lot of insomnia. There's a lot of me eating Cheetos for dinner, and I'm waiting for my daughter to turn to the camera and go, 'No wonder I'm in therapy!'"

What caught my attention the most came at the end of the interview when he described taking his daughter to Chicago, two weeks after McNamara’s death, as a way to cope with Mother’s Day. He felt that they both had done well in dealing with the situation when an older ticket taker at the airport recognized Oswalt and proceeded to tell them how sorry she was about their loss. In a faux Polish accent, Oswalt launches into the woman’s comments about how her mother had died and that she never got over it. “I’m sad every day.”  Now Oswalt is afraid that every holiday the  “Polish Woman of Doom” (PWOD) will suddenly appear spreading her message of despair.

Thanks to social media, Oswalt’s video is getting a lot of play and I’d recommend that people watch it. This is clearly a resilient man who is coping with his lost with some excellent tools, including the love and support of family and friends. According to grief/loss researcher, George Bonanno, one of the most helpful things you can do for a grieving person is make them laugh- “laughter almost always has a positive effect.” 

Oswalt’s comments about the PWOD, which are incredibly funny, drives home the point that telling a grieving person that grief never ends is not helpful. It’s also not true. A loss can be a precipitating factor for longer-term problems, such as PTSD, and the literature shows that by six months if the grief isn’t really resolving, major interventions are needed. Clearly the person in need of help is the PWOD.

In keeping with celebrities and death, one of the more disturbing things I’ve recently seen was the reaction to Gene Wilder’s passing. Facebook and magazines covers contained images of he and Gilda Radner with comments like “finally united.” Really? He and Radner’s relationship was at best eight years. His marriage to Karen Webb lasted 25, ending with his death. After watching TCM’s Role Model: Gene Wilder  it’s pretty clear that Wilder had found his bliss with Webb and the life they were living.

I don’t quite understand why there is such a glorification of unending grief when it’s not only unhelpful it’s down right unhealthy.

 For more on the topic of grief and loss.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Take a Break: Celebrate the Oak Tree

It’s almost the end of September and the oak tree leaves are turning glorious shades of color and providing millions of tiny acorns (future oak trees). So today’s “take a break” is all about celebrating America’s National Tree (designated in 2004).

The oak tree family is made up of hundreds of species and can live over 200 years, providing all sorts of benefits including lumber and food for wild life.
You can find some variety of oak tree for almost all planting zones in the US.

Some ways to celebrate the oak tree:

• Go for a walk and collect leaves and acorns and try some of the following projects:

Collect acorns, dry them and use them to accent candles (flame less are probably better to use with dried acorns).

Make an Acorn Garland.  It’s up to you whether you want to paint them or leave them as is.  String beads between the acorns. Might be a pretty garland for a Christmas tree.

Mini candles: Remove the caps and fill with melted wax. Insert a small wick before the wax hardens. Float in a shallow for a centerpiece. My husband has been known to float tiny candles like this while he’s taking a bath.

Not interested in today’s activity, go to the Take a Break Pinterest Board. and pick out something else.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Living with a Chronic Condition: Don’t Have Time for the Pity

In 2021, I wrote what has become a very popular post Dating and Finding Love When Living with a Chronic Disease. Recently updating the post, I re read the comment There are people that look for partners with health issues so they can be in a relationship where they “can take care of you.” I could do a post just on this type of individual.

So here’s the post on why you don’t want to be involved with people who pity or feel sorry for you because of your diagnosis. Yes, we can all use a helping hand and we like it when people “get us” but pity is degrading. In fact it can keep people stuck in believing that they are their diagnosis.

When people pity, they feel guilty when they interact with that person, so it becomes ‘painful’ – and that ‘pain’ gets transferred to us, so that people who pity see US as painful! Never mind that what’s painful is their reaction to us, and choosing to see us as a pitiful thing instead of a fellow human being. (Brilliantmindbrokenbody

Stella Young at her TED talk nailed it when she noted that disability is being objectified as a form of what she calls “inspirational porn.” ...we're objectifying disabled people for the benefit of nondisabled people. The purpose of these images is to inspire you, to motivate you, so that we can look at them and think, "Well, however bad my life is, it could be worse. I could be that person."

The “I’ll take care of you” person expects something in return. You can become the default or built in excuse for their not doing certain things-e.g. the co-worker that shows up late for work every day and asks for additional vacation because of caring for a sick spouse. The trade off may be your putting up with some pretty unacceptable behavior. Bottom line, if someone tells you, “but I just want to take care of you,” run for the hills.

As noted in the original 2012 post, The important point is that you don’t need anyone feeling sorry for you because of your diagnosis. Relationships work best if they are on equal footing. Each of us comes with our strengths and our issues.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Take a Break: Make Skeleton Leaves

Before the leaves start dropping off the trees, try removing leaf tissue to see a “skeleton of veins.” While most of the directions below call for bleach, you can get a great effect if you prefer to skip that last step. Be sure to wear gloves when working on this project.

Not interested in today’s activity, go to the Take a Break Pinterest Board. and pick out something else.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Journal Watch September 2016

• Medical Marijuana’s Pain Relief May Work Better for Men: Smoking a joint provides greater pain relief to men than to women, a new study indicates. Research found that men were significantly less sensitive to pain and better able to tolerate while women were somewhat more able to tolerate the pain but it brought no significant pain relief. Drug and Alcohol Dependence 

Connection Between Chronic Pain, Anxiety Disorders: Increased expression of a peptide neurotransmitter the body releases in response to stress -- pituitary adenylate cyclase activating polypeptide (PACAP) -- is also increased in response to neuropathic pain and contributes to these symptoms. Biological Psychiatry 

• Review Suggests Safe, Effective Ways to Relieve Pain Without Meds: Popular drug-free methods of managing pain from such common conditions as headaches and arthritis appear to be effective, according to a new review. Researchers reviewed 105 U.S.-based clinical trials from the past 50 years. Several alternative approaches showed promise for providing safe and effective pain relief. They included acupuncture and yoga for back pain; acupuncture and tai chi for osteoarthritis of the knee; and relaxation techniques for severe headaches and migraine. Results of massage therapy for short-term relief of neck pain were also promising. Evidence was weaker in some cases. The study found massage therapy, spinal manipulation and osteopathic manipulation might help relieve back pain while relaxation therapy and tai chi might help people with fibromyalgia. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 

Link between Weather, Chronic Pain: Preliminary findings from a mass participation study have indicated a link between weather conditions -- specifically rain and lack of sunshine -- and chronic pain. British Science Festival

• Corydalis yanhusuo extract for use as an adjunct medicine for low to moderate chronic pain: Root extracts from the flowering herbal plant Corydalis yanhusuo, or YHS, has widely used for centuries as a pain treatment. Yet few studies have investigated how it works on different forms of pain, and little is known about its molecular mechanisms. In a new study, Olivier Civelli, professor and chair of pharmacology at the University of California, Irvine, and colleagues show how YHS effectively treats different forms of pain. Most notably it can reduce chronic neuropathic pain which is poorly treated with common medicines. They also show that YHS seems to not lose its potency over time, as happens with many analgesics. Plos One  

 Alternative Medicine May Increase Workplace Absenteeism: A new study says the use of certain types of complementary and alternative medicine by employees with chronic medical conditions can lead to more days missed from work due to illness or injury. The study is based on the researchers’ analysis of the use of CAM services and employment information reported to the National Center for Health Statistics in 2012 by about 10,000 people suffering from one or more of 13 chronic medical conditions. The analysis found that workers with chronic conditions who used CAM services had higher absenteeism rates than those who didn’t use them—13 percent higher for those who took dietary supplements and 55 percent higher for those who engaged in mind-body practices. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 

Acupuncture Eases Severe Constipation: After eight weeks of treatment with electroacupuncture -- acupuncture involving electrical stimulation -- study participants experienced significant symptom and quality-of-life improvements, according to a study of 1,075 patient, which included a control group. Annals of internal Medicine 

Laughter based exercise program has health benefits:  Incorporating laughter into a physical activity program that is focused on strength, balance and flexibility could improve older adults’ mental health, aerobic endurance and confidence in their ability to exercise, according to a study. The Gerontologist 

• Warns about serious risks, death when combining opioids with Benzodiazepines
• Issued report that antibacterial soaps have not been proven to be beneficial and raised the question of potential negative effects on health. 
• Facilitates Research on Early Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease
• Warns Ovarian Cancer Tests Not Reliable and should not be used

Can Exercise Offset Alcohol’s Damaging Effects: Normally, drinking raises the risk of death from cancer and all causes, the researchers said. But just 2.5 hours of physical activity a week could reduce those odds, the large study of British residents found. Current U.S. guidelines recommend 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. This includes brisk walking, bicycling, ballroom dancing and gardening. Exercising up to 300 minutes weekly results in even greater health benefits, the guidelines say. British Journal of Sports Medicine

 Midlife Physical Activity is Associated with Better Cognition in Old Age: A new study of 3050 twins finds moderately vigorous physical activity -- i.e., more strenuous than walking -- to be associated with better cognition in a 25-year follow-up. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease 

Flu Shot More Effective than Nasal Spray: The nasal spray flu vaccine is ineffective and should not be used in the upcoming flu season, says a leading group of U.S. pediatricians. All children aged 6 months and older should receive a seasonal flu shot during the 2016-17-flu season, according to an updated policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

 Apps and Smart Phones for Better Health: The results of a meta analysis show that both Internet-based and mobile-based intervention were effective in improving lifestyle behaviors including diet and physical activity over short term. People using Internet-based interventions ate better, became more active, lost weight, and cut down on their use of tobacco and alcohol. Smartphone interventions (including apps, texts and voicemail messages) helped people increase their exercise and lose weight. Journal of the American Heart Association

Why Some Women Find it Hard to Get Good Sleep: Women's internal, or circadian, body clocks run at a faster pace than men's, according to the research. "They go to bed at a later biological time because their clock is shifted earlier eastward.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 

• Facebook Can Increase Sense of Well Being: Researchers found that when people who care about you send personal messages to you through the social media site, the benefits can be significant. Actions such as simply hitting "like" and passively reading wide-ranging posts are unlikely to have an impact, however. Friends need to spend some time and write something personal. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication

• What’s Best for the Middle Aged Heart?: New research says dieting, exercising or a combination of the two can all get the job done about equally well as long as you lose some weight. But the study authors added that exercising in tandem with dieting is probably the best way to go. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 

 Early Onset Menopause Linked to Higher Heart Disease: Dutch researchers reviewed 32 studies involving more than 300,000 women. The investigators compared women who were younger than 45 at the start of menopause with those who were aged 45 and older when it began. Overall, heart disease risk appeared to be 50 percent greater for the women who were under 45 when menopause began. Early menopause also appeared to boost the risk of cardiovascular death and death from all causes. But, it showed no association with stroke risk, the study authors said. JAMA Cardiology 

• Facebook Bullying Can Cause Depression: Negative experiences on Facebook can increase the odds of depression in young people, a new study found. Journal of Adolescent Health 

• Five Second Rule is a Myth: Most people have invoked the "five-second rule" after dropping something tasty on the ground at least once or twice in their lives. Is that food really safe to eat? Probably not, a new study says. After putting the five-second rule to the test, researchers at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., found contamination with bacteria can occur in less than one second. Applied and Environmental Microbiology

• Changing Cooking Techniques to Reduce Diabetes: Changing the way you cook could help reduce your risk of getting type 2 diabetes, a new study suggests. Boiling, steaming and poaching look like the safest way to go, researchers say. When you fry, grill or bake foods -- also called dry-heat cooking -- foods produce substances called advanced glycation end products (AGEs). Diabetologia 

• Vitamin D to Reduce Asthma Attacks: New research has found evidence from randomized trials, that taking an oral vitamin D supplement in addition to standard asthma medication is likely to reduce severe asthma attacks. Cochrane Library 

 Alcohol May Damage the Heart: Long-term drinking even moderate amounts of alcohol may increase some people's risk of stroke by causing the heart's left atrium to get bigger, the researchers said. The left atrium is the upper left chamber of the heart. This enlargement of the left atrium can contribute to a heart condition called atrial fibrillation, in which the heart beats irregularly. Journal of the American Heart Association 

• High Calcium, Low Lactose Diet May Reduce Risk of Ovarian Cancer in African AmericanWomen: A diet high in calcium and low in lactose may reduce the risk of ovarian cancer in African-American women, research indicates. The work also found sun exposure in the summer months may reduce the risk of developing the disease in this population. British Journal of Cancer 

For Uncontrolled Tremors Ultra Sound Instead of Brain Surgery: Patients with uncontrolled shaking caused by a condition called essential tremor may get relief with a new noninvasive ultrasound procedure, a study finds. Focused ultrasound, a noninvasive technique, is "a new treatment option that is available for patients with essential tremor.” Based on this trial, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in July approved the technique to treat essential tremor. Israel-based InSightec, the device maker, funded the research. NEJM 

• Combining Formoterol With Budesonide for Asthma is Safe: A post-marketing safety study mandated by the FDA has shown that a combination drug therapy for the treatment of asthma is safe and effective. The therapy tested consisted of a long-acting beta agonist, formoterol, added to an inhaled glucocorticoid, budesonide. NEJM 

 Effect of Combined HRT on BreastCancer Risk Likely to Have Been Underestimated: The effect of combined hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in increasing a woman’s risk of breast cancer is likely to have been underestimated by a number of previous studies, according to a prospective study published in the British Journal of Cancer. For 40 years, 100,000 women were followed in the Breast Cancer Now Generations Study. Women using combined HRT (for a median duration of 5.4 years) were 2.7 times more likely to develop breast cancer during the period of HRT use than women who had never used HRT. This risk increased with duration of use, with women who had used combined HRT for over 15 years being 3.3 times more likely to develop breast cancer than non-users. However, in women using estrogen-only HRT there was no overall increase seen in breast cancer risk compared with women who had never used HRT. 

Weight Loss Surgery Sheds Pounds Long Term: 10 Year follow up study finds many who had gastric bypass kept weight off. JAMA Surgery 

• New Immunotherapy Treatment for Pancreatic Cancer: A new immunotherapy treatment IMM-101 has shown dramatic results in treating advanced pancreatic cancer, a deadly cancer that has seen little progress in treatment over the last 20 years. British Journal of Cancer 

Early Palliative Care Improves Patients’ Quality of Life: Starting palliative care (comfort care) shortly after a person is diagnosed with incurable cancer helps patients cope and improves their quality of life. It also leads to more discussions about patients' end-of-life care preferences. American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting 

• New Super lice Resist Most Over the Counter Remedies: A new report warns that over-the-counter products have lost much of their effectiveness against the so-called super lice. The good news is that prescription products can still get rid of those creepy critters. Pediatric Dermatology

• Experimental Shingles Vaccine Looks Quite Effective: An experimental vaccine against shingles may offer lasting protection for most older adults who receive it, a new clinical trial found. There already is a vaccine against shingles, but its effectiveness is limited. The new study found that the experimental vaccine protected about 90 percent of adults age 70 and up. And the effects were still apparent four years later. NEJM 

• Prostate Cancer Treatments: A large, decade-long study offers new insights into the treatment dilemmas that many men diagnosed with prostate cancer face. The research finds that for certain men, death rates from prostate cancer were roughly the same over several years regardless of whether they chose to be monitored -- called "watchful waiting" -- or underwent radiation or had their prostate removed. But the findings don't prove that "watchful waiting" is always the best choice. Men who were otherwise largely healthy and chose to be monitored were twice as likely as the others to see their cancer spread over the 10-year study period. NEJM 

• Corticosteroid Use Linked to Worse Outcomes for Patients with Lyme Disease-AssociatedFacial Paralysis: Patients who were prescribed corticosteroids as part of treatment for Lyme disease-associated facial paralysis had worse long-term outcomes of regaining facial function than those who were prescribed antibiotic therapy alone, new research shows. Based on these findings, the researchers urge caution in prescribing corticosteroids to patients with acute Lyme disease-associated facial paralysis. 

 Researchers Criticize: Psychotropic Drugsare No solution: The currently available drugs cannot permanently alleviate the symptoms of mental disorders. This is the conclusion drawn by psychologists Prof Dr J├╝rgen Margraf and Prof Dr Silvia Schneider from Ruhr-Universit├Ąt Bochum in a commentary published in the journal EMBO 

 New Report for Families Caring for an aging America: The demand for family caregivers for adults who are 65 or older is increasing significantly, and family caregivers need more recognition, information, and support to fulfill their responsibilities and maintain their own health, financial security, and well-being, says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Although caregivers' individual circumstances vary, family caregiving can negatively affect caregivers' mental and physical health as well cause economic harm, including loss of income and career opportunities. The report calls for health care delivery system reform that elevates family-centered care alongside person-centered care to better account for the roles of family caregivers and support their involvement in the care delivery process. 

Kids Mild Brain Injury Can Have Long-term Effects: Researchers compared 100,000 Swedes who suffered at least one traumatic brain injury (TBI) before age 25 with their unaffected siblings. The investigators found that those who had had head injuries were consistently more likely to die early and have problems functioning as adults. PLOS Medicine 

• Senior Years May Truly Be Golden for Happiness: A study, which included adults aged 21 to 99, found that on average, mental well-being steadily improved as people grew older. And that was despite the fact that older adults had more physical health issues and problems with memory and thinking, versus younger people. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 

• 45 Potential Toxins Found in Household Dust: Household dust contains a wide range of toxic chemicals, potentially exposing people to harmful compounds in their own homes, a new evidence review contends. Researchers identified 45 potentially toxic chemicals in dust samples from homes in 14 states. These chemicals come from a broad array of consumer products, including furniture, carpeting, drapes, electronics and toys. Environmental Science & Technology

 Can Some Types of Fat Protect Us From Brain Disease: Having a little bit of extra fat may help reduce the risk of developing diseases caused by toxic protein aggregation, such as Huntington's, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. Scientists have discovered a new communication process between organelles inside the cell, including mitochondria, and shown how fat metabolism plays a central role in linking mitochondrial health to cytosolic protein homeostasis. Another study uncovers a new signaling pathway that may explain the peripheral wasting seen in Huntington's. Cell