Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Take a Break: Re Purposing T Shirts

This past week a friend sent me an article to read about how bad most fabrics are for the environment, particularly the microfiber cleaning cloths.  A few days after reading that, I was at a friend’s house and used a tee shirt cloth I made for her two years ago. She said uses it nightly to wash her dishes and its been washed many times. Wow!

So here are some new ways to re purpose old t-shirts

Wash Cloth: There are other directions on line, but my approach is to take a T shirt, mark off how large I want it to be and sew around it and zig zag back in forth to keep the two layers together. I just have a regular sewing machine, but if you had a serger machine you could just go around the edges. Here are several tutorials to check out

• Make a rug: Cut the T shirt into strips (about 1 inch) and start crocheting into a rug. Be sure to use Tees of similar fabric-all cotton, 50/50 blend.

                                         Three ways to re cycle T shirts

This is by far the most interesting way to turn T-shirt into art. Basically it's taking strips of T shirts and sewing them down. The pictures at the left show the process. It appears they are using the type of cloth you'd use for needlepoint. Think a hefty fabric, such as felt would work just as well.Plan on trying this for making Christmas ornaments this year.

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

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Living With Chronic Disease: Making the Healthy Choice the Easy Choice

The on-going battles in congress and the continual news of how everything is falling or about to fall apart is taking its toll. Some new healthy approaches are needed.

In spite of what congress does or doesn’t do about saving the American Care Act or cutting funding to states for programs like Meals on Wheels, there is a lot that can be done to reduce risks, improve how we feel and save money by making “healthy choices the easy choices.”

We spend 90 percent of our time in the same places, and that environment dictates how easy it is to make healthy choices, or how difficult. By using the Power 9®, the nine secrets of longevity, to improve where we live, work, learn, and play, we make it easier to get up and move, eat healthy, make new friends, find a reason for being—and live longer, better. Blue Zones Project

I’ve written about the Blue Zones-the places on the planet where people live the longest- in various posts over the years and have been closely following what happens when these principles are introduced into American communities. If there ever was a time for those affected by chronic conditions to adopt the “power 9”  now is the time to do it. Not only will you feel better, you can actually save money. It's important to note that studies, which have nothing to do with the Blue Zones projects, support one or all aspects of the Power 9.

Consider the following:

End Smoking: Yes, this is an addiction but most states have considerable funds to help people stop smoking and some will even pay you to switch to “vaping.” Contact your local health department about free programs and supplies. Keep in mind that if you have a pack a day habit, by quitting, you’ll be saving yourself over $3,000 a year in addition to all the health benefits. If you don’t smoke but live with someone who does, urge and support them to join a "smoke enders" program as second hand smoke posses a very real health threat to you and everyone else in the home.

Move: Walking for as little as 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week, can make major improvements in health. Using a fitness tracking devise can help remind you to move and reduce sedentary behavior. Smart phones contain an activity tracker-look for the app with the heart on it-so you don’t have to go out and buy one. You don’t need a Fitbit or smart phone as pedometers are still on the market and considerably cheaper. There are lots of ways to include movement into your day from walking or bicycling to work or to run errands, to housecleaning at night between TV commercials.  If you can’t walk swimming and cycling are excellent options. Keep in mind you don’t have to do everything at once. Doing something for 10 minutes or less at a time is fine. The key is to keep moving throughout your day.

Eating: Move towards a “plant slant” diet and away from pre packaged and fast foods that contain empty calories. Check out recipes from the Blue Zones project. Select restaurants that offer healthy options.

Connect: Having people in your life to do things with is critical. Humans are social creatures and we need to connect with others. This is a key component to building “social capital” so that you have people to help out when you need it most and in turn, your helping others will give you a strong sense of purpose. For more on this topic check out:

 Is a Chronic Condition Making you Less Social?

Have Meaning & Purpose: Just as having connections with family, friends and peers is important to our well being, so is having a sense of meaning and purpose to our lives. If you are looking for a project, consider how you can bring healthier choices into your community, support group, family or work place. Who can you recruit to help you with some of these ideas.

Other Related Posts

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Take a Break: Celebrate the Lilac

It’s lilac season in Vermont and the world smells wonderful! Today’s take a break is all about savoring this season. First and foremost, go for a walk and clip some lilac. Put them in a vase so you can enjoy the aroma. 

Some other ideas:

                                                        Make Lilac Scented Oil 

                                         Pick and freeze your lilac for later use.

You can eat Lilac, thought it smells better than it tastes. A little goes a long way. It also makes an edible decoration.

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

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Journal Watch May 2017

 Eat this Diet to Lower Your Odds for Painful Gout: Gout, a joint disease that causes extreme pain and swelling, is caused by excess uric acid in the blood. It's the most common form of inflammatory arthritis, and its incidence has risen among Americans over recent decades. But the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet -- which is high in fruits and vegetables, and low in salt, sugar and red meat -- can lower levels of uric acid in the blood. BMJ 

• Forget Steroid Shots for Long-Term Relief of Arthritic Knees: Knee osteoarthritis patients who got steroid injections every three months for two years had no less pain than those taking a placebo treatment. And they had greater loss of cartilage, the rubbery tissue that acts as a cushion between the bones of joints, researchers found. JAMA

Effectiveness of yoga in treating major depression evaluated: New research indicates that the benefits of hatha yoga in treating depression are less pronounced in early treatment, but may accumulate over time. Psychological Medicine

Tai Chi relieves insomnia in breast cancer survivors: Slow-moving meditation practice works just as well as talk therapy, and better than medication in treating sleep loss in breast cancer survivors, investigators report. Journal of Clinical Oncology

• Study confirms benefits of fennel in reducing post menopause symptoms: Fennel, an anise-flavored herb used for cooking, has long been known for its health benefits for a variety of issues, including digestion and premenstrual symptoms. A new study confirms that it is also effective in the management of post menopause symptoms such as hot flashes, sleeplessness, vaginal dryness, and anxiety, without serious side effects. The North American Menopause Society

• Approves Radicava the 1st new drug for ALS in 20 years.
• Warning for diabetes prescription drug canagliflozin (brand names Invokana, Invokamet, Invokamet XR) appears to increase the risk of leg and foot amputations

• Aerobic, resistance exercise combo can boost brain power of over 50s: Effects independent of current state of brain health, finds evidence review. A combination of aerobic and resistance exercises can significantly boost the brain power of the over 50s, finds the most comprehensive review of the available evidence to date, published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Aerobic exercise significantly enhanced cognitive abilities while resistance training had a pronounced effect on executive function, memory, and working memory. The evidence is strong enough to recommend prescribing both types of exercise to improve brain health in the over 50s, say the researchers. 

Aerobic-plus-resistance regimen boosts bone and muscles best combination for obese seniors: "The best way to improve functional status and reverse frailty in older adults with obesity is by means of diet and regular exercise using a combination of resistance and aerobic exercise training," NEJM  

• Exercise Benefits Aging Hearts, Even Those of the Obese: Physical activity helps ward off heart damage in middle age and beyond, study finds. ACC: Heart Failure

• Want a Longer Life? Try Biking to Work: Pedal pushers saw their risk for heart disease, cancer and early death cut by almost half in 5-year study. Researchers from the University of Glasgow in Scotland looked at the commuting habits of more than 264,000 people in the United Kingdom and tracked their health over five years. Cycling to work was associated with a 46 percent lower risk of heart disease over five years and a 45 percent lower risk of cancer compared to a sedentary commute. Risk of premature death was 41 percent lower. BMJ  

• High levels of exercise linked to nine years of less aging at the cellular level: New research shows a major advantage for those who are highly active. The study, published in the medical journal Preventive Medicine, finds that people who have consistently high levels of physical activity have significantly longer telomeres than those who have sedentary lifestyles, as well as those who are moderately active. Telomeres are the protein endcaps of our chromosomes. They're like our biological clock and they're extremely correlated with age; each time a cell replicates, we lose a tiny bit of the endcaps. Therefore, the older we get, the shorter our telomeres. 

Lifting your spirits doesn't require many reps: Get up and move! Study finds any exercise is good exercise when it comes to boosting your mood: Engaging in light or moderate physical activity such as taking a walk or going for a bike ride is the best way for normally inactive people to beat the blues and improve their sense of well-being, according to a new study. Researchers say that in this study there was no additional emotional benefit gained from working out aggressively. Journal of Health Psychology

• No Routine Screening for Thyroid Cancer:  Doctors shouldn't routinely screen adults for thyroid cancer if they have no symptoms or warning signs of the disease, according to the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF). 

• New blood test is more accurate in predicting prostate cancer risk than PSA: IsoPSA assay can help in determining the need for prostate biopsy for patients A new blood test known as IsoPSA detects prostate cancer more precisely than current tests in two crucial measures -- distinguishing cancer from benign conditions, and identifying patients with high-risk disease. By identifying molecular changes in the PSA protein, the findings of this study suggest that once validated, use of IsoPSA may reduce the need for biopsy, and may lower the likelihood of over detection and over treatment of nonlethal prostate cancer. European Urology

HPV Vaccine May Also Prevent Cancers Affecting Men: Study finds the cervical cancer vaccine cuts infection for viruses tied to oral, head and neck cancers. The same vaccine that cuts the risk of cervical cancer in women might also lower the chances of head and neck cancers in men, new research suggests. In addition to being linked to cervical cancer, the human papillomavirus (HPV) can cause cancers in the back of the throat, in an area known as the oropharynx. HPV is linked with about 70 percent of these types of cancers in the United States, and the rates of these cancers are rising dramatically, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting

• Osteoarthritis could be prevented with good diet and exercise: Osteoarthritis can potentially be prevented with a good diet and regular exercise, a new expert review reports. During the expert review, researchers from the University of Surrey identified a crucial link between metabolism and osteoarthritis. Metabolic changes, caused by a poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle, trigger's the genetic reprogramming of cells in the body and joints. Nature Reviews Rheumatology

• Hormone Therapy Not Advised for Preventing Disease After Menopause: Using hormone therapy to prevent chronic health issues, such as heart disease and bone loss, in postmenopausal women may do more harm than good, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) says. After reviewing current evidence, the task force has issued an updated draft recommendation, reaffirming its final statement issued in 2012. The expert panel advises against the use of hormones -- including estrogen and progestin -- to prevent chronic conditions among postmenopausal women, including those who've had their uterus removed.

• Low-sodium diet might not lower blood pressure: Findings from large, 16-year study contradict sodium limits in Dietary Guidelines for Americans A new study that followed more than 2,600 men and women for 16 years found that consuming less sodium wasn't associated with lower blood pressure. The study adds to growing evidence that current recommendations for limiting sodium intake may be misguided. Experimental Biology 

• Do Diet Sodas Pose Health Risks?: In the battle to lose weight, many people switch to diet sodas. But while they cut calories they might also raise the risk of stroke or dementia, a new study suggests. Stroke

• Vitamin D Fails the Asthma Test: Vitamin D supplements aren't likely to reduce the risk of asthma, allergies or the skin condition eczema in children or adults, a new study finds. PLoS Medicine

• Just 5 Percent of Daily Salt Gets Added at the Table: Tossing out the salt shaker may not be enough for your heart health. Most of the salt that Americans consume comes from processed foods and restaurant meals, a new study finds. Circulation

• Zinc acetate lozenges may increase the recovery rate from the common cold by three-fold According to a meta-analysis of three randomized controlled trials, zinc acetate lozenges may increase the rate of recovery from the common cold three fold. On the fifth day, 70 percent of the zinc lozenge patients had recovered compared with 27 percent of the placebo patients. “Given the strong evidence of efficacy and the low risk of adverse effects, common cold patients may already be encouraged to try zinc acetate lozenges not exceeding 100 mg of elemental zinc per day for treating their colds." Open Forum Infectious Diseases 

• Osteoarthritis could be prevented with good diet and exercise: Osteoarthritis can potentially be prevented with a good diet and regular exercise, a new expert review reports. Nature Reviews Rheumatology reports.

• Yogurt consumption in older Irish adults linked with better bone health: The largest observational study to date of dairy intakes and bone and frailty measurements in older adults has found that increased yogurt consumption was associated with a higher hip bone density and a significantly reduced risk of osteoporosis in older women and men on the island of Ireland, after taking into account traditional risk factors. Osteoporosis International,

• Widespread vitamin D deficiency likely due to sunscreen use, increase of chronic diseases,review finds: Results from a clinical review find nearly 1 billion people worldwide may have deficient or insufficient levels of vitamin D due to chronic disease and inadequate sun exposure related to sunscreen use. The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association

Fruits, Veggies May Benefit Your Legs, Too: Healthy diet may provide protection from peripheral artery disease, study says. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables may help keep your leg arteries free of blockages, a new study suggests. Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology 

 Iron Pills No Help for Certain Type of Heart Failure: High-dose iron pills (150 milligrams) don't improve the exercise capacity of iron-deficient patients with a certain type of heart failure- left ventricular ejection fraction (HFrEF)- a double blind placebo controlled study found. JAMA

• New Guidelines Say No to Most 'Keyhole' Knee Surgeries: "Keyhole" arthroscopic surgery should rarely be used to repair arthritic knee joints, a panel of international experts says in new clinical guidelines. Clinical trials have shown that keyhole surgery doesn't help people suffering from arthritis of the knees any more than mild painkillers, physical therapy or weight loss. BMJ 

• New Hepatitis C Treatments More Effective, Tolerable: Hepatitis C can be cured in about three months, allowing people with the viral disease to live longer, healthier lives, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says. Drugs used to clear the virus from the body are not only more effective than they once were but also more tolerable for patients,. FDA

Common Painkillers Tied to Slight Rise in Heart Attack Risk: Commonly used painkillers such as Motrin, Advil and Aleve might increase your risk for heart attack, even in the first week of use, a new study suggests.  Overall, these drugs and others known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) increase the risk of a heart attack by 20 to 50 percent, compared with not using them, researchers found. For most people, however, this represents only a small increased risk -- about 1 percent a year, the researchers said. The increased risk of heart attack associated with NSAIDs was seen at any dose taken for one week, one month or more than one month. And the risk rose with higher doses, the study found. BMJ

• Nearly a Third of Drugs Hit By Safety Issues After FDA Approval: Researchers examined data on drugs approved by the FDA between 2001 and 2010, with follow-up through 2017. The investigators found that 32 percent of the drugs had safety issues after approval. Of 222 drugs approved by the agency during the study period, three were withdrawn, 61 received boxed warnings and 59 prompted safety communications, the findings showed. Drugs most likely to have post-approval safety concerns included biologics, psychiatric drugs and medicines approved through the FDA's accelerated approval process. JAMA 

• Expired EpiPens May Still Help Save a Life: EpiPens -- devices used to rescue people during a severe allergic reaction -- can remain effective years after their expiration date, a new study reports. Annals of Internal Medicine 

• Long-term aspirin use doesn't lower risk of stroke for some a-fib patients: New study found that using long-term aspirin therapy to prevent strokes among patients who are considered to be at low risk for stroke may not be effective as previously thought. Science Daily

Warm weather increases the incidence of serious surgical site infections: Major survey research shows that risk rises with temperatures: Surgical site infections, a common healthcare-associated infection, are seasonal -- increasing in the summer and decreasing in the winter-according to new research. Temperatures above 90°F were associated with 28.9 percent increased odds for hospitalization with a surgical site infection (SSI) compared to temperatures less than 40°F. Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology 

• Patients who undergo Roux-en-Y gastric bypass appear more likely to develop drinking problem: After a popular type of weight-loss surgery, nearly 21 percent of patients develop a drinking problem, sometimes years later, researchers report. The researchers followed more than 2,000 patients who had weight-loss surgery at 10 hospitals across the United States. Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases

• Hormone Replacement Therapy Tied to Hearing Loss: Hearing loss has been linked to several factors associated with menopause, a new study says. Older age is tied to a higher risk of hearing troubles. A second factor is the use of oral hormone therapy to ease some of the symptoms of menopause. The researchers also found that the longer a woman used hormone therapy, the greater the odds of hearing issues. Menopause

• Wives, Daughters Shoulder Most of Alzheimer's Care Burden: When it comes to the daily care of Americans with dementia, most of the responsibility is still falling on family members, according to a new report. And women handle the lion's share of that responsibility. JAMA Neurology

Coming This Summer: More Ticks and a Deadly New Tick-Borne Disease: Scientists have a double-shot of bad news about ticks: There's a new, and potentially fatal, tick-borne illness called Powassan, and this summer looks like it might be one of the worst on record for an increase in the tick population. Health Day


• Timing of Menopause May Affect Heart Failure Risk: Researchers analyzed data from more than 28,000 postmenopausal women who did not have heart disease at the start of the study. During an average follow-up of about 13 years, just over 5 percent of the women were hospitalized for heart failure. earlier menopause was associated with increased risk of heart failure, and this link was stronger in women who had natural rather than surgical menopause. Women who never gave birth seemed at increased risk for a type of heart failure in which the left side of the heart fails to relax as it should. This association was not due to infertility, researchers said. Journal of the American College of Cardiology

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Take a Break: Try the I Ching

A friend, who worked in advertising, described how one day when she couldn’t figure out what to do with a project, she went strolling through a bookstore and came across the I Ching or the Chinese Book of Changes. She decided that nothing else seemed to be working so she’d give that a try. This piqued my interest and so I decided to learn more about it.

While it’s a very old form of  divination, it’s actually an interesting way to open the mind to new possibilities. The I Ching has served for thousands of years as a philosophical taxonomy of the universe, a guide to an ethical life, a manual for rulers, and an oracle of one’s personal future and the future of the state. It was an organizing principle or authoritative proof for literary and arts criticism, cartography, medicine, and many of the sciences, and it generated endless Confucian, Taoist, Buddhist, and, later, even Christian commentaries, and competing schools of thought within those traditions. - See more at What is the I Ching

Having now tried it three times, I found that the answers gave me some different ways to view problems and situations. Give it a try on-line at I Ching on-line.

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

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Social Connections: They improve longevity and quality of life

With the 2017 TED Conference in April, The Future You, several presenters touched on the critical importance of social connections. In fact lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure. Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta Analytic Review

TED Speaker, psychologist Susan Pinker explained that the best predictor of a person’s longevity is their close relationships and social integration Those with intimacy in their lives, those with support systems and frequent face-to-face interactions were not only physically and emotionally healthier, but they also lived longer. Pinker believes it’s the strong social connections among women that explains why they live an average of six years longer that males. “Women are more likely to prioritize and groom face-to-face relationships over their lifetime,” Interestingly, women with strong connections are more likely to survive breast cancer than loners. Pinker’s TED Talk isn’t on line yet, but there are many videos available including her talk at Google “The Village Effect.”

If you follow this blog, this isn’t new information, as I’ve included Blue Zones research and The Harvard Longitudinal Study to name just a few studies. However, because people affected by chronic conditions often isolate themselves for a host of reasons, watching Pinker’s talks was a good reminder to think about how one socializes, or doesn’t, and what can be done about it.  Interestingly, many people find when they join a condition specific support group, for the first time in their life they have a peer group that understands them.

Consider the following:
• Un-plug (computer, tablet, phone) as in-person social connection is key
• Join an in-person condition specific or caregivers support group
• Participate in job, church, and other community based social groups
• Initiate conversations, get togethers with friends, neighbors, and family.
• Smiling at people brightens your day as well as theirs.
• Listening to people will help gain their confidence
• Be yourself as it’s not only hard to pretend to be something your not, it generally doesn’t work well. Besides people respond better to those who are genuine.
• You wont get along with everyone. It’s unrealistic to expect that everyone will like you or  “get you.”

Check out additional links