Saturday, March 31, 2018

Life With Chronic Conditions: What Affects Mood and What to do about it

It’s the last day of March and we’re in the depths of mud season here in Vermont. Rural living can be socially isolating in the best of times, but muddy roads that eat your car are a deterrent to visiting friends. In addition, it’s been incredibly gray, worse than anything we had this winter. It could be that we’re all so desperate for spring that the gray muddy weather is getting to us more than usual.

Various factors affect our moods-what we eat, drink, the amount of sleep (too little or too  much are equally problematic), and even hormones. This post focuses on five ways to improve mood that you may not have thought of.

Let the sunshine in: Research has shown that we need sunlight. If you can get outside, particularly between noon and 2:30, that can definitely decrease depression and mood swings. However, if you need to be indoors, open the blinds and let the sunshine in. Sit by a window whenever possible. Interestingly morning light may be more beneficial to people than afternoon light.

Social Connections: Lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure. They improve longevity and quality of life. In fact, social connectedness is the single biggest predictor of longevity. One of the big questions is whether connecting on-line counts. A lot of this depends on whether this is the only form of social connection. It definitely can  helpful in staying connected with those you love who are far away but we all need that important face- to-face and hugging contact. A hug a day might just keep the doctor away. Learn more at Social Connections: They improve longevity and quality of life  and The Health Benefits of Hugging.

Get Moving: Exercise definitely makes us feel better. Even if it’s just walking around the house for a few minutes at a time, the minutes add up and even just 30 minutes a day will make a difference. Take a Stand to Better Health 

Color: Interestingly the colors that surround us impact our mood. Consider the color choices you wear, what's in your office and home.  Red, orange and yellow are warm and boost enthusiasm, fuel passion, and stimulate joy, while nurturing cool colors such as green, blue, and violet offer a sense of peace, hope and contentment.

Clutter Bust: Clutter can damage your health by increasing stress, triggering respiratory issues, and even threatens safety by creating fire hazards and the risk of tripping over something. It can be socially isolating, as well as upsetting to your kids and family. Since this is the time for spring-cleaning, consider using The KonMari Method for Tidying When Affected by a Chronic Condition

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Take a Break: Make Different Edible Easter Eggs

With Easter just a few days away, here are two different ideas for making eggs.

“Rock” eggs:  I came across a picture I took several years ago when I spent Easter by the ocean and discovered rocks that looked like eggs. Thought it would be fun to create these eggs so they’re edible. Start by using the recipe for Edible Fudge Rocks and mold into egg shapes.

Rice Krispie Treat eggs. Make Rice Krispie treats and mold using a plastic egg that has been coated with cooking spray. This video includes direction for making Rice Krispie treats.

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

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Life With Chronic Conditions: Staying Healthy When You Fly

A new study has recently been released in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences about the risks of getting sick from flying. With that in mind, here are tips to keep you safer and healthier if you are flying at any time of the year:

• Window seat passengers get up less often so consequently are less exposed, then those who sit on the aisles, to people walking by coughing and hacking. That said, if you need to use the bathroom more frequently, the aisle is a better option.

• Sitting still in cramped seats can increase risk for thrombosis-blood clots form in the legs. To reduce risk of a clot breaking off and moving to the lung get up every three-four hours and walk around or flex your legs (pressing down on your heels and up with your toes).

• Carry and use sanitizing gel with 60% alcohol. Before you eat or drink sanitize. Sanitize after you wash your hands in the bathroom sink as airplane water is not that clean.

• Staying hydrated while flying is important. If you have a suppressed immune system, don’t drink the water. While improvements have been made in water quality, bottled water is your safest bet. You can take an empty water bottle through security and fill it up at the water fountain, and there are also good filtration systems you can purchase for water bottles as an extra safety measure. Avoid soft drinks, alcohol and coffee as these are natural diuretics causing more frequent urination. For long trips, it’s recommended that you start hydrating the day before

• Use the restroom before boarding the plane in order to avoid having to use one during the flight. If you do use the on board bathroom, close the lid before flushing, using a paper towel between your hand and the lid and the handle. Wash hands thoroughly, using a paper towel to turn off the faucet and use hand sanitizer when you return to your seat.

Touching your eyes is one of the primary means of transmitting cold and flu viruses. If you have germs on your hands, they can travel through the tear ducts to the nasopharynx at the back of the throat, where cold viruses do their damage. Because it’s so dry on a plane, eyes become dry and you are more apt to rub them. To avoid this, keep hands as clean as possible. If you wear contacts, remove them for the flight, opting for glasses instead.

• Bring your own pillow and blanket. Not only will you sleep better, but it will be germ free

• Bring your own food. A lot of airlines no longer offer food

• Air pressure is lower on a plane than it is at seal level. This isn’t a problem for most people. However, older people, those with heart conditions or other pre existing conditions can have problems. Check with your medical provider before planning a trip that involves a long plane travel.

• If you have a cold, but need to travel, use a tissue as well as direct the sneeze into the inside of your elbow. Wear a mask.

• If you need to travel with medication, you will need to meet the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) standards. Know the regulations on your medication before arriving at the airport. According to the TSA, travelers can bring medications in pill or solid forms onto airplanes in unlimited amounts as long as they're screened. If your medication is liquid, you don't have to follow the rules that apply to other liquids in carry-ons. For example, you're permitted to pack medically necessary liquids in carry-on containers larger than 3.4 ounces as long as the medication is in a "reasonable quantity" for your flight. You also don't have to place liquid medications in a zip-close bag. However, if you do have a medically necessary liquid in your carry-on, you have to give your TSA agent a heads-up about it at the beginning of the security screening process.

The TSA recommends packing medication in a carry-on in the event that you should need it on the flight, but travelers are permitted to pack their medicines in either their carry-ons or checked luggage. Medication is usually screened by an X-ray at security, but you can request to have yours inspected rather than X-rayed if you want. Make sure to make this request before sending any of your items through the X-ray tunnel.

Note, each U.S. state has its own individual laws regarding the labeling of prescription medication, so if you're traveling domestically within the United States, educate yourself on the state laws you need to know before traveling with your medications.

Travelers flying internationally with prescription medication should keep in mind that their medicines could be considered illegal substances under local laws in other countries. If this is a concern, contact the embassy or consulate of the country you plan to visit to make sure your medications are OK to take abroad. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also provides traveler health information, including information on drug regulations in specific destinations.

Additionally, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has guidelines for people traveling with internationally-controlled drugs. If your treatment falls under this category, check the UNODC website to see how your medications are regulated on an international basis.

Additional Reading

• Jet lag can wreck a lot more than a trip. Moving through time zones can play havoc with our bodies, leading to extreme fatigue along with indigestion, bowel problems, loss of appetite, memory and concentration issues. The expression “west is best, east is a beast” is actually true simply because you’ll be waking up when your body is trying to sleep. Your body is better equipped to cope with a longer day than a shorter one. Check out How to Get Over Jet Lag: 14 Tips for Beating Time Zone Tiredness

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Take a Break: Send your name to the sun

NASA is sending a mission to touch the sun. It will swoop to within 4 million miles of the sun's surface, facing heat and radiation like no spacecraft before it. Launching in 2018, Parker Solar Probe will provide new data on solar activity and make critical contributions to our ability to forecast major space-weather events that impact life on Earth. The launch window is between July 31-August 19, 2018

NASA is inviting people around the world to submit their names online to be placed on a microchip aboard NASA’s historic Parker Solar Probe mission. The mission will travel through the Sun’s atmosphere and your name will go along for the ride. You have until April 27, 2018 to  Send your name to the Sun.

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

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Journal Watch March 2018

Rocker bottom shoes help reduce chronic low back pain: A new study confirms that rocker bottom shoes helps strengthen back muscles, improving the spine's curvature and thus reducing low back pain. Clinical Rehabilitation 

More than just a cosmetic procedure -- 'tummy tuck' reduces back pain and incontinence In addition to restoring the pre-pregnancy shape of the abdomen, abdominoplasty ('tummy tuck') surgery with muscle repair can improve back pain and urinary incontinence after childbearing, reports a new study. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery 

A new solution for chronic pain Neuropathic pain is a chronic illness affecting 7-10 percent of the population in France and for which there is no effective treatment. Researchers have uncovered the mechanism behind the appearance and continuation of pain. Based on their discovery, an innovative treatment was developed which produces, in animal subjects, an immediate, robust and long-lasting therapeutic effect on pain symptoms. CNRS 

Should doctors recommend acupuncture for pain? Some see acupuncture as a safe alternative to drugs, while others argue there's no convincing evidence of clinical benefit and potential for harm. So should doctors recommend acupuncture for pain? Experts debate the issue. BMJ 

Cost Savings from Reducing Pain Through the Delivery of Integrative Medicine Program to Hospitalized Patients: For patients receiving IM therapies, pain was significantly reduced and costs were lowered by about 4%. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine

• Approves first tests to screen for tick borne parasite in whole blood and plasma to protect the US blood supply
• Approves new HIV treatment for patient who have limited treatment options
• Warns of fraudulent and unapproved flu products

A life time of regular exercise slows down aging, study finds: A group of older people who have exercised all of their lives,(cyclists) were compared to a group of similarly aged adults and younger adults who do not exercise regularly. The results showed that those who have exercised regularly have defied the aging process, having the immunity, muscle mass, and cholesterol levels of a young person. Aging Cell 

Smokers at Greater Risk of Hearing Loss: Smoking is associated with increased risk of hearing loss, according to a study of over 50,000 participants over 8 years in Nicotine & Tobacco Research

Getting flu vaccine cuts risk of early death by half in people with heart failure Analysis of six studies supports routine influenza vaccination for heart failure patients For people with heart failure, getting a seasonal influenza (flu) vaccine in a given year was associated with a 50 percent drop in the risk of death during flu season and a 20 percent drop in the risk of death during the rest of the year, according to new research. American College of Cardiology

Physically Fit Women Nearly 90% Less Likely to Develop Dementia: Women with high physical fitness at middle age were nearly 90% less likely to develop dementia decades later, compared with women who were moderately fit, according to a study published in Neurology. The study measured the women’s cardiovascular fitness based on an exercise test. When the highly fit women did develop dementia, they developed the disease an average of 11 years later than women who were moderately fit, or at age 90 instead of age 79. 

E-cigarettes may be more harmful than beneficial, according to evidence-based research A new study finds that e-cigarette use could do more harm than good by substantially increasing the number of adolescents and young adults who eventually become cigarette smokers and marginally decreasing the number of adult cigarette smokers who quit. Plos One

Fiber-fermenting bacteria improve health of type 2 diabetes patients: Dietary fibers promote gut bacteria that benefit blood glucose control. The fight against type 2 diabetes may soon improve thanks to a pioneering high-fiber diet study. Science 

Healthy diet may not offset high salt intake A healthy diet may not offset the effects of a high salt intake on blood pressure, suggests a new study. The research, from scientists at a number of institutions, including Imperial College London and Northwestern University, analysed the diets of over 4,000 people. The results, published in the journal Hypertension, showed that people eating higher amounts of salt had higher blood pressure -- no matter how healthy a person's overall diet. 

Vitamin D reduces early mortality A normal intake of vitamin D can reduce the risk of early death substantially in people with cardiovascular disease, a new study shows. The study concludes that people who have suffered from cardiovascular disease, and have a normal intake of vitamin D, reduce their risk of morality as a consequence of the disease by 30 per cent. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 

Arsenic, Lead Found in Popular Protein Supplements: A new study from the Clean Label Project shows that many of the top-selling powders and drinks may contain concerning levels of heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, mercury, and lead, and toxins like bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical found in some plastic containers and food can liners. These substances have been linked to cancer, brain damage, and reproductive issues. Virtually all of the 134 products tested contained detectable levels of at least one heavy metal and 55 percent tested positive for BPA. Consumer Reports 

Is there plastic in your bottled water? Almost definitely yes, says a new study from the State University of New York at Fredonia and the nonprofit journalism organization Orb Media. The study tested 259 water bottles from 11 brands sold across nine countries, including the United States, and found that 93 percent of those tested contained microplastic contamination. The research found an average of 10.4 plastic particles per liter of water, which is twice the amount of contamination found in tap water. 

Grilled Meat, Chicken Ups Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in U.S. Adults: Open-flame and/or high-temperature cooking methods (such as grilling/barbecuing, broiling, or roasting) to prepare chicken and red meat are associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes (T2D), according to a study published online March 12 in Diabetes Care

Calcium ± Vit D Supplements Up Risk of Colon Adenomas, Polyps: Calcium supplements, taken with or without vitamin D, may increase the risk of sessile serrated adenomas or polyps (SSA/Ps), according to a study published online March 1 in Gut.

Gastrointestinal hormone measurably improved symptoms of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease Through a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled phase II clinical trial, researchers report that small doses of NGM282, a non-tumorigenic variant of an endocrine gastrointestinal hormone, can significantly and rapidly decrease liver fat content in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). The findings represent an important proof-of-concept for the compound as there are currently no Food and Drug Administration-approved treatments for NAFLD and NASH. The Lancet 

A new class of experimental drugs reduces hot flushes in menopausal women by almost three-quarters in just 3 days, according to a study published in the journal Menopause.
The treatment also reduces the severity of hot flushes by over a third within 3 days of taking it. The research is a new in-depth analysis of data collected from a clinical trial initially published last year. The new analysis also revealed sleep and concentration significantly improved in the 3-day window. 

Grass Peptide Immunotherapy Cuts Seasonal Allergy Symptoms: Subcutaneous injections administered over three-week period before grass pollen season reduces seasonal allergy symptoms and is generally well tolerated, according to a study published online March 7 in Allergy

Low-Dose Triple Combo Pill Effective for Rapid BP Control: Use of a low-dose triple combination therapy is effective for rapidly achieving blood pressure control among patients with hypertension. annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology

Is your stress changing my brain? Stress isn't just contagious; it alters the brain on a cellular level Scientists have discovered that stress transmitted from others can change the brain in the same way as a real stress does. Nature Neuroscience 

Link between heart attacks and inflammatory bowel disease Research indicates strong role in development of cardiovascular disease Medical researchers recently concluded a study of more than 22 million patients that suggests a strong connection between Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and the development of heart disease and heart attacks. American College of Cardiology meeting 

Drug Copayments Often Exceed Prescription Drug Costs: Drug copayments frequently exceed prescription drug costs, with overpayments affecting 23 percent of all prescriptions, according to a research letter published in the March 13 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Take a Break: Make Real Irish Soda Bread

With St. Patrick’s Day just a few days away, trying making this simple Irish Soda bread. It’s no frills and is delicious served warm or toasted with butter.

I made it a few days ago in my food processor until crumbly. Smushed it together and put it in a greased cast iron skillet. It was delicious. This is the recipe I used. 

If you are British Baking show fan, here’s a video of Paul Hollywood showing how to make it.

One of the keys to a good soda bread is using buttermilk. If you don’t have any on hand stir one tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice into one cup of milk. Let stand for 5 until the milk begins to curdle.

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

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Take a Break: Watch Memorable Moments of Coco

The results of the 2018 Oscars are in. Disney/Pixar’s film “Coco” won for best animated films. It’s now available to rent and can be streamed on Xfinity. However, you can also watch Memorable Moments. 

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

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Life With Chronic Conditions: Leaving a Legacy

Years ago, I was checking out fabric where I saw my neighbor doing the same thing. An amazing fiber artist, I asked what her new project was going to be. She told me she was making baby quilts, one for each her son’s first children. Given that neither of her sons were close to being married, let alone fathers, I looked rather puzzled. My friend explained that her health situation, she had several chronic conditions, was such she didn’t know if she’d live to see grand kids, or if she did, she’d have the strength to make quilts. In short, she wanted to make sure that her future grandchildren would have a memory of her as a fiber artist.

Because I'm also the director of a historical society, I’ve read a lot of journals and family histories. Sometimes a family member just make us a copy of it, other times the family is gone but they don’t know what to do with it so they drop it off at the Museum. One of my favorite items came from a nurse in WWII who kept a diary of her war experiences. These are incredible windows into our past and you’d be surprised how they impact the future.

After my town was ravaged by tropical storm Irene in 2011, I went back to the journals and articles written by people after the flood of 1927, which had also devastated the town. Their stories helped us cope with our disaster. The year Irene occurred was a historic one for the town as we were to celebrate our 250th birthday just six weeks after the flood. Everything was damaged, yet we knew it was important that we mark that occasion if for no other reason, we wanted to send a message to future generations that they too would have disasters, but they could be resilient and move beyond it.

Legacy helps those who come after us know that we have thought and cared about them as well as what we wish for them.

At any age, thinking about a legacy is appropriate. Consider the following ways you can do this:

• Keep track of your family’s history and organize it in a specific space where people know where it is. This can include genealogy research, scrapbooks, baby books, recipe books, recordings of family members telling stories, videos etc. Keep in mind that anything you do electronically needs to be updated yearly as technology changes so rapidly.

• Set up an educational fund for children. It sends a message of your expectations and hopes for them as well as eases the financial burden. There are many different ways to set up scholarship funds and laws very by state so the best recommendation is to start by calling your local bank and discuss this with them. They will have dealt with this request before and can be of considerable help. There are scholarship crowding funding sites, such as Gradsave,  that may be right for your situation since it allows people to donate similar to how one uses a gift registry.

• Write letters. My mother started doing this in the last decade of her life. For different holidays, she would send us all letters describing how she celebrated them as a child, memorable ones etc. These were wonderful keepsakes. Some people write letters before their child is even born, outlining all the things they want for that child. For more ideas and samples, check out Letter writing.

• Make something special. As my neighbor was doing, if you have a special skill, make items in advance when you have time, energy and funds. I have a friend that’s a weaver and she creates incredible shawls and scarves that she gives to family and friends along with a note that lets them know that as they wrap themselves in her work, she is cradling them in love. What a keepsake. Make sure you note who the items are for, when they should be distributed, and have someone in addition to yourself that knows where they are being kept.

Support causes and organizations that mean a lot to you.

• Be a mentor

• Keep a journal: It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate, just simple notations of what is happening in your life will mean a great deal to future generations.

If you are a caregiver, you can help create someone’s legacy for future generations by keeping track of stories they tell you as well as what they want to happen after they are gone.