Saturday, December 30, 2017

Life with Chronic Conditions: Beat the Post Holiday Blues

 The holidays can be a wonderful distraction from all sorts of things, but then the cold gray dawn of January 2 rolls around and the return to normal life can be a rude awakening in more ways than one. They don’t call it the “post holiday blues” for nothing.

Below are ways to wake up on January 2 feeling like it’s an opportunity and something to look forward to:

Forget New Year’s Resolutions and instead think about some things you’d like to do or work on in the coming year. Write them down.

  De clutter/reorganize as part of putting decorations away: As you take down the Christmas tree etc., use this as an opportunity to de clutter and reorganize. Chances are good that you have boxes of holiday stuff, that you only use a small portion of. Now’s the time to get rid of it or see if you can repurpose it. Check out The KonMari Method for Tidying When Affected by a Chronic Condition

• Create a special little nook to enjoy through the winter: You can string some of your holiday lights around a house plant or bring in some branches or even a small tree. If you live where there are birches, these look gorgeous strung with light. For lots of ideas, check out Take a Break: Create a Cozy Retreat

• Reduce connectivity: The constant checking of devices for e-mails, texts, news etc. is extremely wearing. Make a point of scheduling in device free time and being present. If you go out to dinner, ask everyone to leave their phones, laptops and other devices in the car. Recharge your phone in another room of the house where you can’t hear or see it and never in the bedroom. The constant connectivity reduces our cortisol levels and leads to more stress, anxiety and depression.

• Take a different approach to eating and exercise: Okay so you ate all sorts of things you shouldn’t have over the holidays and have spent countless hours in the easy chair watching football and have avoided anything that resembles exercise. Now is the time to “add” instead of being obsessed about eliminating. Add 5 minute walks or stretches after being sedentary for an hour.  Try new ways to add more fruits and veggies to your diet. Be patient as you tamper down from the holiday feeding frenzy. Check out Living with Chronic Disease: Take a Stand to Better Health

• Put some fun things on the calendar for January

• Identify things you can look forward to, such as the Winter Olympics in Feb.

• Learn something new: How much time you want to put into this is up to you, but think about something you’d really like to do well. In my case, I’ve decided I want to work on improving my skills using an Exacto knife. Check out Learn Something New.

• Notice that the days are getting longer: Following December 21, as the sunrise slowly arrives later over those 17 days, we add, at best, a mere minute of daylight to each day at sunset. By January 7, though, we're adding a full two minutes each day to the daylight hours --one at sunrise and one at sunset.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Take a Break: Try Gezellig

While “hygge”  is all the rage, the Dutch practice something called “gezellig,” (pronounced ‘heh-sell-ick’) which as one writer described it-“hygge but without the fairy magic.” This all-encompassing word is often translated as “cozy,” but it describes an atmosphere which is a whole bunch of warm fuzzy feelings all wrapped up in eight words – cozy, pleasant, friendly, convivial, quaint, fun, sociable, delightful, togetherness, belonging. At the moment, with temps in the minuses every night, and barely climbing into the single digits, I need all the cozy warmth I can get here in Vermont.

 Interestingly, hygge comes from a Norwegian word meaning “well being,” while gezellig originates from the word for companionship. The difference between the two is that gezellig is more sociable while hygge is more insular. So here are some ways to try gezelligheid:

• Sit in twilight

• Have an open kitchen. Put a stool in there so friends can visit while you cook

• Decorate with flowers

• Make a sign that says Gezelligheid kent geen tijd, which means if you are having a good time it doesn’t matter how late it gets.

• Do something with friends

• Have coffee in a cafe while enjoying a pastry with friends.

• Don’t pick up after your kids. A Dutch website says that since your kids won’t put away their toys without a bribe anyway, you might as well leave them scattered across the floor.

Of course, if you prefer hygge, check out Take a Danish Hygge Break

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

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Life with Chronic Disease: Holiday meditation

 In the Sept. 28 edition of the Journal of the American Heart Association, research is presented that indicates that meditation may have a role in reducing heart disease. Dozens of studies show that meditation improves an array of conditions connected to heart disease- stress, anxiety, depression, poor sleep quality, and high blood pressure. It may also help people stop smoking.

With so many holidays occurring in and around winter solstice, below are a variety of meditations to try:

                                   Guided Meditation for Holiday Stress & Winter Blues

                                        Solstice Meditation

                                             Christmas Meditation

                                                              Chanukah Meditation

                            Andrew Johnson A Moment of Relaxation

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Take a Break: Celebrate Winter Solstice

Tomorrow is Dec. 21, the official winter solstice-the shortest day of the year, as well as the longest night. This is the “reason for the season.” Among the Germanic people this was “Yule time,” while the Romans celebrated Saturnalia. Many of our Christmas customs date back to these cultures. Saturnalia decorations included greenery and decorating trees outdoors with ornaments that pertained to the sun and stars.

Below are various ways to mark this occasion:
• Have a bonfire

• Arise before dawn, bundle up, and welcome the sun. Check local astronomical charts for the exact time. Depending on where you live there may be an ancient astrological site where you can go to observe first light.

• Prepare favorite foods and add a sun image
• Create an outside solstice tree, which includes food for the animals, such as:
-       suet
-       a pine cone, apple half, or carrot dipped in peanut butter and smeared with bird seed
-       carve out an orange half and fill with bird seed
-       popcorn and cranberry garlands
-       top with a sun or star ornament

• Make ice lanterns: Fill a small plastic cup with stones or weights and put inside a larger plastic container. Fill large plastic container with water. Add evergreen sprigs and/or berries to water to add some color and texture. Carefully put inside a freezer (or outside if temperatures are below freezing.) Allow it to freeze for several hours or overnight. Run warm water over outside of large plastic container to un mold lantern. Remove stones from smaller cup and pour in warm water, making it easier to remove the cup. Insert candle.

• Spend the evening by candle light

• Have a solstice party

• Burn a Yule log-Traditionally a log would be burned the night of the winter solstice in order to bring light to the darkest night of the year. A piece of the Yule log is saved for the following year. Don’t have a place to burn a Yule log? No worries, there is an on-line video you can use

• String lights around your house

Watch the 2016 Winter Solstice celebration at Stonehenge

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

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Journal Watch December 2017

Popular Shoulder Surgery to Ease Chronic Pain Questionable: A placebo-controlled study found that arthroscopic procedure, subacromial decompression, proved no difference in relieving shoulder pain than the sham surgery. The Lancet

Hip steroid injections associated with risky bone changes: Osteoarthritis patients who received a steroid injection in the hip had a significantly greater incidence of bone death and collapse compared with control groups, according to new research. Radiological Society of North America

Noninvasive, nonpharmacological Treatmentof Chronic Pain: A Systematic Review: A number of nonpharmacological interventions can provide beneficial effects on function and/or pain that are durable 1 month to 1 year after the completion of therapy. Exercise, multidisciplinary rehabilitation, acupuncture, and mind-body and mindfulness practices may slightly to moderately improve function and pain across multiple chronic pain conditions. Our findings provide some support for clinical strategies that focus on use of nonpharmacological therapies as preferred interventions for chronic pain. Additional comparative research on sustainability of effects beyond the immediate post-treatment period is needed, particularly for conditions other than low back pain. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

Acupuncture May Ease Pain Tied to Breast Cancer Care: Some common breast cancer medications can trigger joint pain, but new research suggests acupuncture may ease that side effect. San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium

Does Alternative Treatment for Cancer Increase Risk of Death?: The survival rates of the 281 selected patients who chose the alternative medicine route were compared with 560 conventional treatment patients, matched for demographic and clinical factors. After statistic analyses were completed, the results showed that, overall, patients who pursued alternative treatment for cancer had markedly worse five-year survival rates than those who underwent conventional therapy. Even after controlling for clinical and demographic factors, choosing alternative medicine over traditional treatment was an independent predictor of an increased risk of death. NCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute

• Approved Juluca, the first complete treatment regimen containing only two drugs to treat certain adults with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1)
• Approved Ozempic for Type 2 Diabetes
Approved insulin lispro injection (Admelog), a short-acting insulin indicated to improve glycaemic control
• Approved “biosimilar’ Ogivri for breast, stomach cancers
• Approved once monthly injection buprenorphine to treat opiod use disorder
• Approved first use of mepolizumab (Nucala) to treat adult patients with eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis (EGPA)

Dog Owners Have Lower Risk of Cardiovascular Disease: Dogs shower their owners with affection and demand walks on a regular basis. And according to medical researchers, a corresponding link between dog ownership and heart health — previously called "probable" by experts — is supported by Swedish data. An examination of Sweden's national records — spanning more than 3.4 million people and 12 years — found that registered dog owners had a lower rate of cardiovascular disease and a lower risk of death. Nature’s Scientific Reports

'Brain Training' Program Helps Prevent Dementia In what is being billed as a first, researchers report that healthy seniors who tried a new brain-training program were less likely to develop dementia down the road. In essence, the program, called BrainHQ, tries to speed thinking by giving seniors the task of distinguishing between a series of ever-changing objects on a computer screen -- both in the center and periphery of their vision. Over time, the objects appear more quickly, and look more similar to one another. This makes the task increasingly difficult, with the aim being to boost the individual's ability to rapidly and accurately identify the objects at hand. Over a 10-year period, the speed-of-thought-processing program lowered dementia risk by nearly 30 percent, the study team said, when compared with seniors who didn't have such training. Alzheimer's & Dementia: Translational Research & Clinical Interventions

Any physical activity in elderly better than none at all for reducing cardiovascular risk: Any physical activity in the elderly is better than none at all for reducing cardiovascular risk, according to an 18-year study in more than 24,000 adults published today in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

Some video games are good for older adults' brains: Playing 3D-platform video games on a regular basis may improve cognitive functions in seniors and increase grey matter in a brain structure called the hippocampus, a new study suggests. If you're between 55 and 75 years old, you may want to try playing 3D platform games like Super Mario 64 to stave off mild cognitive impairment and perhaps even prevent Alzheimer's disease. Plos One

Vigorous Exercise May Help Slow Parkinson’s Disease: People with early stage Parkinson's may be able to delay a worsening of the disease through a regimen of intense exercise, new research found. "If you have Parkinson's disease and you want to delay the progression of your symptoms, you should exercise three times a week with your heart rate between 80 to 85 percent maximum. JAMA Neurology 


Low-salt, heart-healthy dash diet as effective as drugs for some adults with high blood pressure: A study of more than 400 adults with prehypertension, or stage 1 high blood pressure, found that combining a low-salt diet with the heart-healthy DASH diet substantially lowers systolic blood pressure -- the top number in a blood pressure test -- especially in people with higher baseline systolic readings. Journal of the American College of Cardiology

Maintaining sufficient vitamin D levels may help to prevent rheumatoid arthritis: Maintaining sufficient vitamin D levels may help to prevent the onset of inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, research has discovered. Journal of Autoimmunity

Can diet help reduce disability, symptoms of MS?: For people with multiple sclerosis (MS), eating a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables and whole grains may be linked to having less disability and fewer symptoms than people whose diet is less healthy, according to a study. Neurology 

Drinking tea protects vision?: The study of U.S. adults found that people who drank hot tea on a daily basis were 74 percent less likely to have glaucoma, compared to those who were not tea fans. Experts were quick to stress that it may not be tea, itself, that wards off the eye disease. There could be something else about tea lovers that lowers their risk. British Journal of Opthamology


Hormone therapy in the menopause transition does not increase risk of stroke: Postmenopausal hormone therapy is not associated with increased risk of stroke, provided that it is started early, according to a new report. PLOS Medicine

Four simple tests could help GPs spot pneumonia and reduce unnecessary antibiotics: Testing for fever, high pulse rate, crackly breath sounds, and low oxygen levels could be key to helping GPs distinguish pneumonia from less serious infections, according to a large study. European Respiratory Journal

Clot-busting drugs not recommended for most patients with blood clots: Large clinical trial concludes such treatment does not prevent long-term complications About half of people with blood clots in the deep veins of their legs develop a complication that involves chronic limb pain and swelling, making it difficult to walk and perform daily activities. A large-scale clinical trial has shown that a risky, costly procedure to remove such clot fails to reduce the likelihood that patients will develop the debilitating complication. NEJM

Bleach Baths for Eczema Not Needed: Bathing in water is just as effective for the treatment of eczema as bathing in a bleach solution, a new review of previous research indicates. Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology

Birth Control Pill Tied to Slight Rise in Cancer Risk: Newer versions of the birth control pill carry a similar increased risk of breast cancer as earlier ones that were abandoned in the 1990s, a new study reveals.Women taking modern formulations of the pill have a 20 percent increased risk of breast cancer compared with those who've never been on hormonal contraception, the study of almost 2 million Danish women found. NEJM

Self-Taught Breathing Retraining Improves Quality of Life for Patients With Asthma: Self-taught breathing retraining improves quality of life just as much as training by a physiotherapist, according to a randomised controlled trial published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.

No Association Between Statin Use and Reduced Risk of Breast Cancer Recurrence: While other studies have reported that statins may be associated with decreased odds of breast cancer recurrence, a multivariable analyses presented hat the 2017 Annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS) do not support those results. “While OR estimates were not statistically significant, the associations between statin use and breast cancer recurrence were in the direction of increased risk of recurrence.”

Postmenopausal Women Should Still Steer Clear of HRT: Task Force: et again, the nation's leading authority on preventive medicine says postmenopausal women should avoid hormone replacement therapy (HRT). The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is standing by its original recommendation that women who have already gone through menopause should avoid using female hormones to guard against osteoporosis or diabetes. JAMA 

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy may alleviate symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease: A new study reveals that hyperbaric oxygen treatments may alleviate symptoms experienced by patients with Alzheimer's disease. Neurobiology of Aging

Are Women with Parkinson’s Disease at a Disadvantage: Women with Parkinson's disease appear to face a disadvantage: They're much less likely than men to have caregivers, a new study finds. That's probably because women often outlive their most likely potential caregiver. "Care provided by family and friends to people with Parkinson's disease is an important source of support, and our findings show that women living with Parkinson's are less likely to receive this support than men," Neurology

Cancer Survivors Can Develop PTSD:  A study of 469 adults with different types of cancer found that nearly 22 percent had symptoms of PTSD six months after their cancer diagnosis. And about 6 percent still had the condition four years after diagnosis. Cancer

Checking Prices for Medical Procedures Online? Good Luck: A new study has found that people searching online to figure out how much they'll pay for a medical procedure will come away disappointed most of the time. "Fewer than 1 in 5 websites actually yielded a local price estimate that was relevant to the health care procedure in question." JAMA Internal Medicine

Man Flu: Doctors and women alike have long noticed that men tend to bemoan those symptoms more than women. The phenomenon even has a name: the "man flu." So, are men just whiny wimps? No, a new analysis out of Canada suggests, because respiratory illnesses may indeed hit men harder than women. BMJ