Archive for the ‘Heath & Fitness’ Category

Posture

June 24, 2017

Step 1: Determine What Good Posture Looks (and Feels) Like for You

Find a floor-length mirror, and turn sideways. Stand as you normally do, and take a peek. This will likely be less-than-stellar posture. Now, engage your upper back to bring your shoulders back and down, says Nicholas M. Licameli, D.P.T., a physical therapist at Professional Physical Therapy. Your chest should now be a bit higher, but be careful not to puff it out to the point that your upper back rounds. Pull your chin back so that your neck and upper back are as vertical as possible.

Next, turn your attention to your ribs. Do they point straight down, or do they flare out at the bottom? Try shifting your rear (you may need to tuck it in or stick it out a bit) until your ribs point straight down over your hipbones. Once you find this alignment, squeeze your core muscles to tighten your midsection, and hold that position. That’s your perfect posture. While this exercise helps you find it while standing still, it’s the same spinal posture you should maintain when walking, lifting weights, or sitting at the dinner table.

It may feel like a bit of work at first, but it shouldn’t feel uncomfortable. And as you follow these next steps, it’ll become second nature.

If you use a wheelchair or have a spine condition like scoliosis, talk to your doctor about what good posture looks like for you. What is right for someone else may not look exactly right for you, but many of the principles of good posture still apply. Proper positioning in a wheelchair can help you breathe better and avoid strain in your upper body, and strengthening the body can help your posture if you have scoliosis.

Step 2: Notice When You Break Your Posture

Once you know good posture, it becomes easier to pinpoint when it starts to break down. “I tell my patients to let pain be their reminder,” says Brad Allison, D.P.T., an orthopedic specialist at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush in Munster, Indiana. “If you have neck or mid-back pain, that’s a sign to correct your posture.”

Your posture is most likely to break down when sitting or using gadgets like phones or tablets. No matter the activity, it’s important to keep your ribs over your hips, shoulders pulled back, and—this can be a tough one with electronics—your face pointed forward.

“Try to keep things at eye level,” says Dr. Pierce-Talsma, noting that looking down at whatever’s in your hand or on your lap puts a huge amount of tension on your neck. While the average human head weighs about 10 to 12 pounds, if you tilt yours forward to look down at your phone, you put up to 60 pounds of pressure on your neck, according to research in Surgical Technology International.

Step 3: Don’t Sit for Longer than 30 Minutes at a Time (If You Can Help It)

The more active you can be, the better. Activity keeps the muscles that stabilize your spine as strong as possible and prevents muscles in your hips from getting tight, which can throw off your alignment. While exercise definitely plays a part in staying active (we’ll get to that next), it’s also important to reduce the amount of time you sit each day. Research from Northwestern University shows that women who exercise regularly sit just as much as their less-active counterparts. That’s bad news.

When you do find yourself sitting, make it a priority to take frequent mobility breaks. “For each 30 minutes spent sitting, try to stand up at least once,” Licameli says. “If you’re watching television, stand during commercials.” The important part isn’t just standing. It’s standing with correct posture and, ideally, engaging in some light activity such as walking or even foam rolling your back, glutes, and hamstrings. Do whatever helps you reset, ease any tight muscles, and maintain a strong posture.

Step 4: Strengthen Your Core

Fixing your posture ultimately requires more than awareness and practice. Your spine doesn’t act on its own. Dozens of muscles that surround and connect your spine, pelvis, ribs, and shoulders are in control. To do their jobs correctly, they need to be strong, Allison says.

That’s where a balanced strength-training program, with an emphasis on your core, comes in. It’s important to realize that your core is more than your abs. It’s actually your entire torso, including your chest, abdomen, back, and even glutes—all of those muscles that are in charge of your posture, Allison says. To strengthen them all, make sure to include a range of:

Learn more in this beginner’s guide to strength training for older adults. And remember, what’s right for someone else may not be exactly right for you. Try a smart tweak to make an exercise easier so you can maintain good form, or talk to your doctor if you have a spine condition or injury, or use a wheelchair.

Long-term use of antihistamines to treat insomnia is not advised

April 23, 2017

From Ask the Doctors in the Conway Log Cabin 4/23/17
by Robert Ashley, M.D.

Dear Doctor: I’m leery of sleep drugs, so I’ve been taking Benadryl to help me sleep. Now I read that it should be taken only for a limited time. What’s the story on this drug?

Dear Reader: Diphenhydramine HCL, or Benadryl, is a sedating antihistamine. The medication has been used since 1946 for allergies, but because it is sedating, or sleep-inducing, people have also used it to help them sleep. Unlike the allergy medications Claritin, Zyrtec or Allegra, this medication blocks histamine receptors in the brain. Histamine is necessary to promote wakefulness, motivation and goal-directed behaviors; when the receptors for histamine are blocked, drowsiness occurs. Many companies have marketed diphenhydramine and doxylamine (another sedating antihistamine) for insomnia under different brand names.

Researchers have conducted many studies of diphenhydramine for insomnia, but most have been small. One of the larger studies looked at individuals with an average age of 44 years who had mild insomnia. In this study, people either took diphenhydramine or a placebo. The diphenhydramine group switched to a placebo after two weeks. The participants kept diaries of how long it took them to fall asleep, their total sleep time and the number of times they awoke.

Researchers found no difference between the drug group and the placebo group in the time needed to fall asleep. However, sleep quality improved significantly among those taking the drug. Total sleep time also improved with diphenhydramine, but only by 29 minutes. The authors did not find significant adverse effects and did not find rebound insomnia when the participants stopped diphenhydramine. The authors concluded that, for the short term, the drug does have benefit in treating insomnia.

As for the merits or risks of taking the drug for more than two weeks, there are no good long-term trials of diphenhydramine, and prolonged use raises the potential for problems. Further, two weeks of using sedating antihistamines can create some degree of tolerance to their sleep-inducing effects, so their effectiveness may wane.

In its guidelines for sleep medications, the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine does not recommend the use of antihistamines for chronic insomnia. Sedating antihistamines can lead to dry mouth, constipation, retention of urine in the bladder, blurred vision and a drop of blood pressure upon standing.

Further, diphenhydramine’s half-life, the time it takes for the drug to lose half of its activity, is nine hours in adults, but 13.5 hours in elderly individuals. That means the drug is still having effects long after one awakes. Sedating antihistamines also can cause grogginess, confusion and memory loss. This is especially concerning in the elderly.

I would re-evaluate whether diphenhydramine is really helping you sleep. You should also consider whether the medication is causing any side effects. Other medications can be used as sleep aids, but the best move, especially for the long term, is to improve your sleep hygiene, such as using the bed for sleep and not for watching television.

If you have trouble doing this on your own, a professional who specializes in sleep therapy might be able to help. Though sleep therapy is a relatively new field, it has shown significant benefits.

Robert Ashley, M.D., is an internist and assistant professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles.

50 Ways to Live a Longer, Healthier Life

March 27, 2017

(From the March 2017 Issue of AARP Bulletin)

The editors at AARP have filtered through numerous medical journals and studies to identify the best actions you can take to achieve a longer, fuller life. We know there are no guarantees. But genetics account for just 25 percent of a person’s longevity. The rest is up to you. With this collection of some of the most important longevity findings, you’ll have the road map you need to get to 80, 90, 100 or beyond.

1. Frozen is fine

You can eat a balanced diet even when fresh fruits and vegetables are out of season because frozen can be as good as or even better for life-extending nutrients. British scientists found that fresh fruit can lose nutrients after three days of refrigeration, while frozen fruits don’t suffer the same fate. Another study similarly found that frozen blueberries contained more vitamin C than fresh ones.

2. Cut back on pain pills

Regular use of painkillers such as ibuprofen and naproxen — including over-the-counter brands such as Advil, Motrin and Aleve — may raise your risk of heart attack and stroke by 10 percent, according to a 2014 U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel review. (Prescription-strength versions may increase your risk by 20 to 50 percent, even after just a few weeks of use.) Reserve these drugs for severe pain, and use the lowest possible dose for the shortest amount of time.

3. Please go to bed

Consistently sleeping less than six hours a night nearly doubles your risk of heart attack and stroke, according to a review of 15 studies published in the European Heart Journal. Another study found that consistently sleep-deprived people were 12 percent more likely to die over the 25-year study period than those who got six to eight hours of sleep a night. These tips from the National Sleep Foundation can help ensure that you get good quality shut-eye, even if you’re among the half of people over 60 who have insomnia:

  • Make the room pitch-black dark, and set the thermostat between 60 and 67 degrees.
  • Exercise every day. It doesn’t matter what time of day you work out, just so it doesn’t interfere with your rest.
  • Stick to a regular sleep schedule, going to bed and getting up at the same time each day.
  • Shut down your electronics an hour before retiring, as the light from some devices can stimulate the brain.
  • Replace your mattress if it’s more than 10 years old.

4. But don’t always go right to sleep

A Duke University study that followed 252 people for 25 years concluded that frequent sex “was a significant predictor of longevity” for men.

5. Get (or stay) hitched

Marriage truly is good for your health — and your longevity. The prestigious Framingham Offspring Study found that married men had a 46 percent lower risk of death than never-married men, in part due to marriage’s well-known impact on heart health. Indeed, a 2014 study by New York University’s Langone Medical Center found that married men and women had a 5 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

6. Ripeness matters

No, you won’t die from eating under-ripe produce, but new research shows that fully ripened fruit has more life-lengthening health benefits. For example, green bananas are low in fiber and high in astringent tannins that can cause constipation. Fully ripened pears and blackberries have more disease-fighting antioxidants. And in watermelon, a deep red color signifies more lycopene, an antioxidant that may reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.

7. Don’t sweeten with sugar

A high-sugar diet boosts blood sugar, which in turn plays havoc with your heart by increasing levels of LDL cholesterol while lowering heart-friendly HDL cholesterol, and tripling your risk for fatal cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 6 teaspoons (25 grams) of added sugar a day, and men no more than 9 teaspoons (36 grams).

8. Consider extra vitamin D

Vitamin D, a bright byproduct of sunlight, has many health benefits, including a link to longevity. But too much vitamin D increases your risk of dying as much as too little, according to a 2015 Danish study. So you want to get the right amount. Don’t just rely on outdoor time to get extra vitamin D; the rate of skin cancer rises as we age, so it’s important to limit exposure. The smart plan: Ask your doctor if you would benefit from extra D in pill form. University of Copenhagen researchers found that the ideal vitamin D level is more than 50 nanomoles per liter of blood, but less than 100 nmol/L.

9. Go green

If coffee’s not your thing, green tea also has proven longevity cred, likely because it contains powerful antioxidants known as catechins that may help combat diabetes and heart disease. In a large study of more than 40,000 Japanese men and women, drinking five or more cups of green tea a day was associated with a 12 percent decrease in mortality among men and a 23 percent decrease among women.

10. Vacation … or Else

Not taking time off work might, indeed, be deadly. One study of men at high risk for coronary artery disease found that those who failed to take annual vacations were 32 percent more likely to die of a heart attack. And in the long-running Framingham Heart Study, women who vacationed just once every six years were eight times more likely to develop coronary artery disease or have a heart attack than women who vacationed twice a year.

11. Eat whole grains

The average American eats one serving of whole grains daily — and that may be just a single morning slice of toast. But eating three or more servings each day can cut overall death rate by about 20 percent, according to a 2016 study from Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Have some oatmeal or brown rice, or get adventurous and go for quinoa, barley, even farro.

12. Spice it up

Eating hot chili peppers may add years to your life. In a 2016 analysis of the dietary habits of more than 16,000 men and women over 23 years, those who reported eating hot peppers reduced their risk of dying by 13 percent. Not a fan of those peppers? Even a little spice can have health benefits. That’s because the body produces endorphins to reduce the heat from the capsaicin in the peppers; those endorphins also reduce pain and inflammation.

13. Drink whole milk

You’ve been told forever to drink low-fat or skim milk, or go for fat-free yogurt. But research published in the journal Circulation in 2016 concluded that those who consumed the most dairy fat had a 50 percent lower risk of developing diabetes, a disease that can shorten your life by eight to 10 years on average.

14. Just add water

Staying adequately hydrated — measured by urine that’s light yellow or straw colored — can also help prolong a healthy life by reducing the risk of bladder and colon cancer and keeping kidneys in tip-top shape. Bonus: It might even help you lose weight. Researchers at the University of Illinois found that those who sipped more H2O ended up eating 68 to 205 fewer calories per day.

15. Say yes to that extra cup

Coffee does more than help you wake up; it also reduces your risk of stroke, diabetes and some cancers. And in a 2015 study published in the journal Circulation, Harvard researchers discovered that “people who drank three to five cups of coffee per day had about a 15 percent lower [risk of premature] mortality compared to people who didn’t drink coffee,” says coauthor Walter Willett, M.D. Mind you, a cup is 8 ounces, so your 16-ounce Starbucks grande is really two cups by that measure.

16. Live like the Amish

A University of Maryland study found that Amish men live longer than typical Caucasian men in the United States, and both Amish men and women have lower rates of hospitalization. What are the Amish ways? Lots of physical activity, less smoking and drinking, and a supportive social structure involving family and community.

17. End the day’s eating by 9 p.m. 

Not only is eating late bad for your waistline — sleeping doesn’t exactly burn lots of calories — it also increases the risk of heart disease by 55 percent for men ages 45 to 82, according to a Harvard study.

18. Eat your veggies

In a study of 73,000 adults, most in their mid to upper 50s, vegetarians were 12 percent less likely than carnivores to have died from any cause during the six-year study period. The 2016 study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, found that mortality rates were lowest overall for pesco-vegetarians (those who eat fish occasionally), followed by vegans (those who eat no animal products), and lacto-ovo vegetarians (those who eat dairy and eggs).

19. Eat like the Greeks

The Mediterranean diet, with its reliance on fruits, vegetables, olive oil, fish and nuts, is one of the healthiest diets for both overall health and longevity. Harvard researchers, reporting in the BMJ in 2014, found that those who followed the diet most closely had longer telomeres, which cap the end of each strand of DNA and protect chromosomes from damage. Even those who only sporadically followed the diet reaped longevity benefits, researchers found.

20. Eat less

If you want to reach 100, put down the fork, says Dan Buettner, who studies longevity hot spots around the world, such as Okinawa, Japan. Buettner found that the oldest Okinawans stop eating when they feel 80 percent full. A National Institutes of Health-funded study similarly found that cutting back calories reduced blood pressure, cholesterol and insulin resistance.

21. Drink less (here’s a trick) 

More-than-moderate alcohol consumption (generally, more than one drink a day for women or more than two a day for men) leads to a shorter life span. Here’s one way to cut your intake: Pour red wine into a white-wine glass, which is narrower. Studies by Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab found that people poured 12 percent more into red-wine glasses. You’ll also pour less wine into your glass if it’s sitting on the table, instead of in your hand, says Brian Wansink, the lab’s director.

22. Save your pennies

Money might not make you happier, but it will help you live longer. A 2016 study by Stanford researchers published in JAMA found that people whose income bracket was in the top 1 percent lived nearly 15 years longer than those in the bottom 1 percent. The disparity could be attributed to healthier behaviors in higher-income groups, including less smoking and lower obesity rates, researchers say.

23. Or move to one of these states

If you’re not wealthy, consider moving to California, New York or Vermont, where studies show that low-income people tend to live the longest. Loma Linda, Calif., has the highest longevity thanks to vegetarian Seventh-day Adventists, who live eight to 10 years longer than the rest of us. Nevada, Indiana and Oklahoma have the lowest life expectancy (less than 78 years).

24. Ponder a Ponderosa

Experiencing a sense of awe — such as when viewing the Grand Canyon or listening to Beethoven’s Ninth — may boost the body’s defense system, says research from the University of California, Berkeley. “That awe, wonder and beauty promote healthier levels of cytokines suggests that the things we do to experience these emotions — a walk in nature, losing oneself in music, beholding art — has a direct influence upon health and life expectancy,” says Dacher Keltner, a psychologist and coauthor of the study.

25. Get a friend with four legs

A few studies on the link between pet ownership and health have found that owning a pet can reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure, even improve the odds of surviving a heart attack. Now the American Heart Association has weighed in with a report published in the journal Circulation that recommends owning a dog, in particular, for those seeking to reduce their risk of deadly heart disease. Dog owners are more likely to be physically active and are also less vulnerable to the effects of stress, the report says.

26. Find your purpose

Do you wake up looking forward to something? In a 2014 study published in the Lancet, researchers found that those with the highest sense of purpose were 30 percent less likely to die during the 8.5-year study period. In fact, doing something that matters — whether it’s helping your children or interacting in a community of like-minded folks — is correlated with seven extra years of life, according to researchers who study people in “blue zones,” areas of the world where folks live the longest.

27. Embrace your faith

Attending religious services once a week has been shown to add between four and 14 years to life expectancy, according to researchers who study blue zones. Don’t belong to a church? Ask to join a friend at her services, or just drop in at a nearby house of worship; most have an open-door policy.

28. Be food safe

About 3,000 Americans die from food poisoning annually, say the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Even seemingly healthy foods — like sprouts, cantaloupe, berries and raw tuna — can make you sick or even kill you, says the FDA. Your action plan: Keep your kitchen pristine, wash your hands and utensils before and after handling food, separate raw and cooked foods, refrigerate perishable food promptly, and cook food to a safe temperature to kill deadly bacteria.

29. Consider mountain life

People residing at higher altitudes tend to live longer, a study by the University of Colorado and the Harvard School of Global Health revealed. Of the 20 healthiest counties in America, many are in Colorado and Utah. Researchers think lower oxygen levels might cause your body to adapt in ways that strengthen your heart and circulation.

30. Go nuts

In a European study of adults ages 55 to 69, those who ate 10 grams of nuts daily — 8 almonds or 6 cashews — reduced their risk of death from any health-related cause by 23 percent. As for specific ailments, consuming a handful of nuts at least five times per week lowers the mortality risk for heart disease (by 29 percent), respiratory disease (24 percent) and cancer (11 percent), according to a previous U.S. study. Sorry, peanut butter fans: Spreads didn’t show the same benefits.

31. Keep watching LOL cat videos

Laughter really is the best medicine, helping to reduce stress, boost the immune system, reduce pain and improve blood flow to the brain. In fact, laughter has the same effect on blood vessels as exercise, report researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.

32. Get social

Studies show that loneliness increases the risk of early death by 45 percent. It weakens the immune system and raises blood pressure while increasing the risk for heart attacks and stroke. By contrast, people with strong ties to friends and family have as much as a 50 percent lower risk of dying, according to a study in PLOS Medicine. So visit a friend. And don’t discount your online friends. A 2016 study by researchers at the University of California, San Diego found that those who use Facebook also live longer, but only when online interactions don’t completely supplant face-to-face social interaction.

33. Watch your grandkids

While babysitting every day is stressful, regularly watching the grands can lower your risk of dying by a third, according to a 2016 study published in Evolution and Human Behavior. That adds up to an extra five years of life, researchers say. They speculate that caregiving gives grandparents a sense of purpose, and keeps them mentally and physically active.

34. Try to stay out of the hospital

A 2016 Johns Hopkins University study found that some 250,000 patients die each year in hospitals from medical mistakes, such as misdiagnoses, poor practices and conditions, and drug errors. Sometimes the best way to avoid a grave condition is not to enter the system at all.

35. Read more

Sounds like we made it up, but scientific research supports the longevity benefits of reading — newspapers and magazines will do, but books are the best. “As little as a half-hour a day of book reading had a significant survival advantage over those who did not read,” said the study’s senior author, Becca R. Levy, a professor of epidemiology at Yale.

36. Read the ‘AARP Bulletin’

Really. This and other smart publications can keep you up to date on health info. Studies have shown that when people are empowered with information to make important medical decisions, it not only enhances their well-being but also improves a treatment’s effectiveness. So keep reading aarp.org/bulletin and aarp.org/health.

37. Monitor yourself

Don’t wait for annual checkups to consider your health. By then, a small problem could have morphed into a life-threatening illness. In one English study, researchers found that less than 60 percent of people who developed unusual symptoms in the previous three months had seen a doctor. Symptoms that might point to cancer include: unexplained weight loss of 10 pounds or more (this can be an indication of cancers of the esophagus, stomach or lungs); fever; extreme fatigue; changes in bowel or bladder habits; or unusual bleeding. Other unusual symptoms that could signal disease? A patch of rough, dark skin could indicate diabetes, and a strange color on your tongue could signal serious acid-reflux issues.

38. Visit the hardware store

Among the most common causes of “unintentional deaths” are carbon monoxide, radon and lead poisoning, the CDC reports. Make sure there’s a carbon monoxide detector near every bedroom, and be sure to test and replace the batteries every two years. Was your home built before 1978, when lead paint was outlawed? One trip to the store can get you all you need to test for these toxic substances.

39. Practice home fire drills

Just 1 in 3 families have a fire-safety plan, says Robert Cole, president of Community Health Strategies, an injury-prevention education organization based in Pittsford, N.Y. “People underestimate the speed of a fire. Many waste time figuring out what to do, or trying to take belongings with them. Everyone should know what to do and how to get out safely.”

40. Find a woman doctor

When Harvard researchers in 2016 analyzed Medicare records documenting more than 1.5 million hospitalizations over four years, they found that patients who received care from a female physician were more likely to survive and less likely to be readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of discharge. In fact, about 32,000 fewer people would die each year “if male physicians achieved the same outcomes as female physicians,” the researchers said. Previous studies have suggested that female doctors are more likely to follow clinical guidelines and are more effective communicators.

41. Make peace with family

While we often stress about small stuff — the guests are here, and we’re not ready! — it’s the nagging, long-running forms of stress, such as a family dispute, that put your longevity at risk. Chronic stress hastens the cellular deterioration that leads to premature aging and a vast array of serious diseases, according to long-running research from the University of California, San Francisco. This sort of cell death “turns out to be one of the strongest predictors of early diseases of aging and in many studies of early mortality,” says lead researcher Elissa Epel. The remedy: Come to peace with the people in your life. Forgive your family, forgive yourself, put the past behind you — so you can have more life in front of you.

42. Take the stairs — every day

A study by University of Geneva researchers found that taking the stairs instead of the elevators reduced the risk of dying prematurely by 15 percent. What’s more, a daily stair climb shaves six months off your “brain age,” according to researchers at Concordia University who performed MRI scans on 331 people ages 19 to 79. Gray matter shrinks naturally with age, but less so when people stay active.

43. Toss that rug

One of the top risks for falls at home is throw rugs. Those slip-slidey accoutrements send 38,000 older adults to the emergency room each year, according to a 2013 study by the CDC. Banish these rugs from your home, and make sure bath mats have a nonslip bottom.

44. Beware the high-tech dash

Nearly one in five traffic accidents and more than 400,000 crash-related injuries involve a distracted driver, the U.S. Department of Transportation reports. Top distractions, according to a recent Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study, are cellphones. But a less-obvious risk is using the touch screen on your car’s dashboard.

45. And drive less

In 2014, more than 5,700 older adults were killed and more than 236,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes. Per mile traveled, fatal crashes increase noticeably starting at age 70 and are highest among drivers age 85 and older, a highway safety organization says. If you’re feeling unsafe behind the wheel, it might be time to look for alternative transportation.

46. Better yet, walk

What’s the best prescription for a longer life? Exercise. And doctors are literally prescribing it instead of medication. “There is no pill that comes close to what exercise can do,” says Claude Bouchard, director of the human genomics laboratory at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana. It benefits your brain, heart, skin, mood and metabolism. Even as little as 10 minutes of brisk walking can help (that’s all it takes to burn off the calories of one chocolate chip cookie). Once you can do 10 minutes, push it to 15. Then 20. Start slow, but just start.

47. Just not in the street

Nearly 5,000 pedestrians are killed annually in the U.S., according to the latest federal figures, and nearly 20 percent of those deaths were among adults age 65 and older. If you walk for your health — and we hope you do — stay safe and consider doing so at the mall, a community health center or a park.

48. And go a little faster

The benefits of a brisk walk are real: A University of Pittsburgh study of adults 65 and older found that those whose usual walking pace exceeded one meter per second lived longer. While researchers say they can’t recommend brisk walking as a panacea for living longer, they did see increased survival in those who picked up the pace over the course of a year.

49. Get fidgety

Never mind what your grade school teachers said; fidgeting is good. A 2016 British study finds that sitting for seven or more hours a day increases your risk of dying by 30 percent — except among active fidgeters, who see no increased risk.

50. Trade in Ol’ Bessie

High-tech safety features have now become standard in new cars. The government mandates that all have airbags, antilock brakes, electronic stability control — “up there with seat belts and airbags in its life- aving benefits,” says one industry leader — and tire pressure-monitoring systems. Carmakers also offer back-up cameras, self-parking features, blind-spot and lane-departure warnings, and forward-collision warning with auto-braking.

72 Steps To Simplify Life

August 4, 2016

Simple Living Manifesto: 72 Ideas to Simplify Your Life

(from http://zenhabits.net/simple-living-manifesto-72-ideas-to-simplify-your-life/?utm_content=bufferaca0c&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer )

“Simplicity is the peak of civilization.” – Jessie Sampter

By Leo Babauta

A simple life has a different meaning and a different value for every person. For me, it means eliminating all but the essential, eschewing chaos for peace, and spending your time doing what’s important to you.

It means getting rid of many of the things you do so you can spend time with people you love and do the things you love. It means getting rid of the clutter so you are left with only that which gives you value.

However, getting to simplicity isn’t always a simple process. It’s a journey, not a destination, and it can often be a journey of two steps forward, and one backward.

If you’re interested in simplifying your life, this is a great starter’s guide (if you’re not interested, move on).

The Short List
For the cynics who say that the list below is too long, there are really only two steps to simplifying:

  1. Identify what’s most important to you.
  2. Eliminate everything else.

Of course, that’s not terribly useful unless you can see how to apply that to different areas of your life, so I present to you the Long List.

The Long List
There can be no step-by-step guide to simplifying your life, but I’ve compiled an incomplete list of ideas that should help anyone trying to find the simple life. Not every tip will work for you — choose the ones that appeal and apply to your life.

One important note: this list will be criticized for being too complicated, especially as it provides a bunch of links. Don’t stress out about all of that. Just choose one at a time, and focus on that. When you’re done with that, focus on the next thing.

  1. Make a list of your top 4-5 important things. What’s most important to you? What do you value most? What 4-5 things do you most want to do in your life? Simplifying starts with these priorities, as you are trying to make room in your life so you have more time for these things.
  2. Evaluate your commitments. Look at everything you’ve got going on in your life. Everything, from work to home to civic to kids’ activities to hobbies to side businesses to other projects. Think about which of these really gives you value, which ones you love doing. Which of these are in line with the 4-5 most important things you listed above? Drop those that aren’t in line with those things. Article here.
  3. Evaluate your time. How do you spend your day? What things do you do, from the time you wake up to the time you go to sleep? Make a list, and evaluate whether they’re in line with your priorities. If not, eliminate the things that aren’t, and focus on what’s important. Redesign your day.
  4. Simplify work tasks. Our work day is made up of an endless list of work tasks. If you simply try to knock off all the tasks on your to-do list, you’ll never get everything done, and worse yet, you’ll never get the important stuff done. Focus on the essential tasks and eliminate the rest. Read more.
  5. Simplify home tasks. In that vein, think about all the stuff you do at home. Sometimes our home task list is just as long as our work list. And we’ll never get that done either. So focus on the most important, and try to find ways to eliminate the other tasks (automate, eliminate, delegate, or hire help).
  6. Learn to say no. This is actually one of the key habits for those trying to simplify their lives. If you can’t say no, you will take on too much. Article here.
  7. Limit your communications. Our lives these days are filled with a vast flow of communications: email, IM, cell phones, paper mail, Skype, Twitter, forums, and more. It can take up your whole day if you let it. Instead, put a limit on your communications: only do email at certain times of the day, for a certain number of minutes (I recommend twice a day, but do what works for you). Only do IM once a day, for a limited amount of time. Limit phone calls to certain times too. Same with any other communications. Set a schedule and stick to it.
  8. Limit your media consumption. This tip won’t be for everyone, so if media consumption is important to you, please skip it (as with any of the other tips). However, I believe that the media in our lives — TV, radio, Internet, magazines, etc. — can come to dominate our lives. Don’t let it. Simplify your life and your information consumption by limiting it. Try a media fast.
  9. Purge your stuff. If you can devote a weekend to purging the stuff you don’t want, it feels seriously terrific. Get boxes and trash bags for the stuff you want to donate or toss. Here’s my guide on decluttering. Here’s a post on starting small. More on purging below.
  10. Get rid of the big items. There’s tons of little clutter in our lives, but if you start with the big items, you’ll simplify your life quickly and in a big way. Read more.
  11. Edit your rooms. One room at a time, go around the room and eliminate the unnecessary. Act as a newspaper editor, trying to leave only the minimum, and deleting everything else. Article here.
  12. Edit closets and drawers. Once you’ve gone through the main parts of your rooms, tackle the closets and drawers, one drawer or shelf at a time. More here.
  13. Simplify your wardrobe. Is your closet bursting full? Are your drawers so stuffed they can’t close (I’m talking about dresser drawers here, not underwear). Simplify your wardrobe by getting rid of anything you don’t actually wear. Try creating a minimal wardrobe by focusing on simple styles and a few solid colors that all match each other. Read more.
  14. Simplify your computing life. If you have trouble with too many files and too much disorganization, consider online computing. It can simplify things greatly. Read more.
  15. Declutter your digital packrattery. If you are a digital packrat, and cannot seem to control your digital clutter, there is still hope for you. Read this guide to curing yourself of this clutter.
  16. Create a simplicity statement. What do you want your simple life to look like? Write it out. More here.
  17. Limit your buying habits. If you are a slave to materialism and consumerism, there are ways to escape it. I was there, and although I haven’t escaped these things entirely, I feel much freer of it all. If you can escape materialism, you can get into the habit of buying less. And that will mean less stuff, less spending, less freneticism. Read more.
  18. Free up time. Find ways to free up time for the important stuff. That means eliminating the stuff you don’t like, cutting back on time wasters, and making room for what you want to do.
  19. Do what you love. Once you’ve freed up some time, be sure to spend that extra time doing things you love. Go back to your list of 4-5 important things. Do those, and nothing else. Read more.
  20. Spend time with people you love. Again, the list of 4-5 important things probably contains some of the people you love (if not, you may want to re-evaluate). Whether those people are a spouse, a partner, children, parents, other family, best friends, or whoever, find time to do things with them, talk to them, be intimate with them (not necessarily in sexual ways).
  21. Spend time alone. See this list of ways to free up time for yourself — to spend in solitude. Alone time is good for you, although some people aren’t comfortable with it. It could take practice getting used to the quiet, and making room for your inner voice. It sounds new-agey, I know, but it’s extremely calming. And this quiet is necessary for finding out what’s important to you.
  22. Eat slowly. If you cram your food down your throat, you are not only missing out on the great taste of the food, you are not eating healthy. Slow down to lose weight, improve digestion, and enjoy life more. Read more.
  23. Drive slowly. Most people rush through traffic, honking and getting angry and frustrated and stressed out. And endangering themselves and others in the meantime. Driving slower is not only safer, but it is better on your fuel bill, and can be incredibly peaceful. Give it a try. Read more.
  24. Be present. These two words can make a huge difference in simplifying your life. Living here and now, in the moment, keeps you aware of life, of what is going on around you and within you. It does wonders for your sanity. Read tips on how to do it.
  25. Streamline your life. Many times we live with unplanned, complex systems in our lives because we haven’t given them much thought. Instead, focus on one system at a time (your laundry system, your errands system, your paperwork system, your email system, etc.) and try to make it simplified, efficient, and written. Then stick to it. Here’s more. Another good article here.
  26. Create a simple mail & paperwork system. If you don’t have a system, this stuff will pile up. But a simple system will keep everything in order. Here’s how.
  27. Create a simple system for house work. Another example of a simple system is clean-as-you-go with a burst. Read more.
  28. Clear your desk. If you have a cluttered desk, it can be distracting and disorganized and stressful. A clear desk, however, is only a couple of simple habits away. Read more.
  29. Establish routines. The key to keeping your life simple is to create simple routines. A great article on that here.
  30. Keep your email inbox empty. Is your email inbox overflowing with new and read messages? Do the messages just keep piling up? If so, you’re normal — but you could be more efficient and your email life could be simplified with a few simple steps. Read more.
  31. Learn to live frugally. Living frugally means buying less, wanting less, and leaving less of a footprint on the earth. It’s directly related to simplicity. Here are 50 tips on how to live frugally.
  32. Make your house minimalist. A minimalist house has what is necessary, and not much else. It’s also extremely peaceful (not to mention easy to clean). More here.
  33. Find other ways to be minimalist. There are tons. You can find ways to be minimalist in every area of your life. Here are a few I do, to spur your own ideas.
  34. Consider a smaller home. If you rid your home of stuff, you might find you don’t need so much space. I’m not saying you should live on a boat (although I know some people who happily do so), but if you can be comfortable in a smaller home, it will not only be less expensive, but easier to maintain, and greatly simplify your life. Read about downsizing your home here.
  35. Consider a smaller car. This is a big move, but if you have a large car or SUV, you may not really need something that big. It’s more expensive, uses more gas, harder to maintain, harder to park. Simplify your life with less car. You don’t need to go tiny, especially if you have a family, but try to find as small a car as can fit you or your family comfortably. Maybe not something you’re going to do today, but something to think about over the long term.
  36. Learn what “enough” is. Our materialistic society today is about getting more and more, with no end in sight. Sure, you can get the latest gadget, and more clothes and shoes. More stuff. But when will you have enough? Most people don’t know, and thus they keep buying more. It’s a neverending cycle. Get off the cycle by figuring out how much is enough. And then stop when you get there.
  37. Create a simple weekly dinner menu. If figuring out what’s for dinner is a nightly stressor for you or your family, consider creating a weekly menu. Decide on a week’s worth of simple dinners, set a specific dinner for each night of the week, go grocery shopping for the ingredients. Now you know what’s for dinner each night, and you have all the ingredients necessary. No need for difficult recipes — find ones that can be done in 10-15 minutes (or less).
  38. Eat healthy. It might not be obvious how eating healthy relates to simplicity, but think about the opposite: if you eat fatty, greasy, salty, sugary, fried foods all the time, you are sure to have higher medical needs over the long term. We could be talking years from now, but imagine frequent doctor visits, hospitalization, going to the pharmacist, getting therapy, having surgery, taking insulin shots … you get the idea. Being unhealthy is complicated. Eating healthy simplifies all of that greatly, over the long term. Read about how to simplify your eating habits.
  39. Exercise. This goes along the same lines as eating healthy, as it simplifies your life in the long run, but it goes even further: exercise helps burn off stress and makes you feel better. It’s great. Here’s how to create the exercise habit.
  40. Declutter before organizing. Many people make the mistake of taking a cluttered desk or filing cabinet or closet or drawer, and trying to organize it. Unfortunately, that’s not only hard to do, it keeps things complicated. Simplify the process by getting rid of as much of the junk as possible, and then organizing. If you declutter enough, you won’t need to organize at all.
  41. Have a place for everything. Age-old advice, but it’s the best advice on keeping things organized. After you declutter. Read more here.
  42. Find inner simplicity. I’m not much of a spiritual person, but I have found that spending a little time with my inner self creates a peaceful simplicity rather than a chaotic confusion. This could be time praying or communing with God, or time spent meditating or journaling or getting to know yourself, or time spent in nature. However you do it, working on your inner self is worth the time.
  43. Learn to decompress from stress. Every life is filled with stress — no matter how much you simplify your life, you’ll still have stress (except in the case of the ultimate simplifier, death). So after you go through stress, find ways to decompress. Here are some ideas.
  44. Try living without a car. OK, this isn’t something I’ve done, but many others have. It’s something I would do if I didn’t have kids. Walk, bike, or take public transportation. It reduces expenses and gives you time to think. A car is also very complicating, needing not only car payments, but insurance, registration, safety inspections, maintenance, repairs, gas and more.
  45. Find a creative outlet for self-expression. Whether that’s writing, poetry, painting, drawing, creating movies, designing websites, dance, skateboarding, whatever. We have a need for self-expression, and finding a way to do that makes your life much more fulfilling. Allow this to replace much of the busy-work you’re eliminating from your life.
  46. Simplify your goals. Instead of having half a dozen goals or more, simplify it to one goal. Not only will this make you less stressed, it will make you more successful. You’ll be able to focus on that One Goal, and give it all of your energy. That gives you much better chances for success.
  47. Single-task. Multi-tasking is more complicated, more stressful, and generally less productive. Instead, do one task at a time.
  48. Simplify your filing system. Stacking a bunch of papers just doesn’t work. But a filing system doesn’t have to be complicated to be useful. Create a simple system.
  49. Develop equanimity. If every little thing that happens to you sends you into anger or stress, your life might never be simple. Learn to detach yourself, and be more at peace. Read more.
  50. Reduce your consumption of advertising. Advertising makes us want things. That’s what it’s designed to do, and it works. Find ways to reduce your exposure of advertising, whether that’s in print, online, broadcast, or elsewhere. You’ll want much less.
  51. Live life more deliberately. Do every task slowly, with ease, paying full attention to what you’re doing. For more, see Peaceful Simplicity: How to Live a Life of Contentment.
  52. Make a Most Important Tasks (MITs) list each day. Set just 3 very important things you want to accomplish each day. Don’t start with a long list of things you probably won’t get done by the end of the day. A simple list of 3 things, ones that would make you feel like you accomplished something. See this article for more.
  53. Create morning and evening routines. A great way to simplify your life is to create routines at the start and end of your day. Read more on morning routines and evening routines.
  54. Create a morning writing ritual. If you enjoy writing, like I do, make it a peaceful, productive ritual. Article here.
  55. Learn to do nothing. Doing nothing can be an art form, and it should be a part of every life. Read the Art of Doing Nothing.
  56. Read Walden, by Thoreau. The quintessential text on simplifying. Available on Wikisources for free.
  57. Go for quality, not quantity. Try not to have a ton of stuff in your life … instead, have just a few possessions, but ones that you really love, and that will last for a long time.
  58. Read Simplify Your Life, by Elaine St. James. One of my favorite all-time authors on simplicity. Read my review here.
  59. Fill your day with simple pleasures. Make a list of your favorite simple pleasures, and sprinkle them throughout your day. List here.
  60. Simplify your RSS feeds. If you’ve got dozens of feeds, or more than a hundred (as I once did), you probably have a lot of stress in trying to keep up with them all. Simplify your feed reading. See How to Drop an RSS Feed Like a Bad Habit.
  61. But subscribe to Unclutterer. Probably the best blog on simplifying your stuff and routines (along with Zen Habits, of course!).
  62. Create an easy-to-maintain yard. If you spend too much time on your yard, here are some good tips.
  63. Carry less stuff. Are your pockets bulging. Consider carrying only the essentials. Some thoughts on that here.
  64. Simplify your online life. If you have too much going on online, here are a few ways to simplify it all. Article here.
  65. Strive to automate your income. This isn’t the easiest task, but it can (and has) been done. I’ve been working towards it myself. Article here.
  66. Simplify your budget. Many people skip budgeting (which is very important) because it’s too hard or too complicated. Read more here.
  67. Simplify your financial life. Article from a financial planning expert here.
  68. Learn to pack light. Who wants to lug a bunch of luggage around on a trip? Here’s an article on using just one carry-on.
  69. Use a minimalist productivity system. The minimal Zen To Done is all you need. Everything else is icing.
  70. Leave space around things in your day. Whether they’re appointments, or things you need to do, don’t stack them back-to-back. Leave a little space between things you need to do, so you will have room for contingencies, and you’ll go through your day much more relaxed.
  71. Live closer to work. This might mean getting a job closer to your home, or moving to a home closer to your work. Either will do much to simplify your life.
  72. Always ask: Will this simplify my life? If the answer is no, reconsider.

Mindfulness

January 12, 2015

This is from the Parade Magazine published on 1/11/15

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Forget complicated New Year’s resolutions (you probably already have). Simply taking the time to meditate can make all the difference in your health and well-being this year.

The hottest well-being trend right now isn’t a hardcore workout or a fad diet. It’s a gentle, ancient practice that millions say is the antidote to the 21st-century stress that affects everything from job performance and sleep to your weight.

We’re talking about meditation, and it has cheerleaders from all walks of life—entertainers, businesspeople, athletes, even government legislators. Oprah Winfrey, a longtime meditator, has teamed up with Deepak Chopra to offer a series of 21-day online meditation “challenges” that have drawn more than 3 million participants so far. Hip-hop tycoon Russell Simmons’ new book, Success Through Stillness: Meditation Made Simple (Gotham), aims to demystify meditation for the masses. He even inspired comedian/talk show host Ellen DeGeneres to take it up.

In the business world, Huffington Post Editor-in-Chief Arianna Huffington meditates daily, calling it the “third metric” in success, after money and power. And meditation programs are used to help at-risk schoolchildren thrive in the classroom, and prison inmates cope with the stress of incarceration.

Clearly, meditation is having a moment. And if you’re distracted while reading this —texting, checking email, thinking about what to have for dinner—it could help you, too.

“The goal of mindfulness is to make you more focused and aware, so your mind and body can be in the same place at the same time,” says U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), who credits mindfulness for helping him prevent burnout. “I compare it to what athletes experience when they’re totally in the zone.”

Ryan believes in mindfulness so strongly that he holds weekly meditation sessions on Capitol Hill. “Stress is bipartisan,” he says. “Mindfulness cuts through current political divides—it’s based on self-care, and preventing illness, and increasing overall well-being and can save healthcare dollars and promote individual responsibility.” Ryan’s goal is “infusing mindfulness into the different institutions in our country.”

While meditation has roots in Buddhism, many people today practice a non-religious form of mindfulness that requires nothing more than sitting quietly and focusing on your breath. When your mind wanders—and it will—just refocus on your breathing.

“It really is that simple,” says Ryan, who has written A Mindful Nation: How a Simple Practice Can Help Us Reduce Stress, Improve Performance and Recapture the American Spirit (Hay House). “Thanks to mindfulness, I’m calmer, more focused, and nicer to people around me. I believe this is something that can help many Americans who are struggling right now.”

Body-Building for Your Brain

It’s hard to believe something so easy can be so powerful. “Mindfulness looks like you aren’t doing anything, but when we watch the brain in these studies, we see different parts lighting up and activating,” says psychologist Elisha Goldstein, author of Uncovering Happiness: Overcoming Depression with Mindfulness and Self-Compassion (Atria Books). “You can literally change your brain through this practice.”

In the 1970s, molecular biologist Jon Kabat-Zinn decided to study “Buddhist meditation without the Buddhism.” Kabat-Zinn, now a professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, had discovered meditation through a friend, and began to suspect it could improve both mental and physical health.

He developed a program called “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction” (MBSR) and documented how it worked to ease pain, suffering and stress in cancer patients, bone marrow transplant patients and even prison inmates. His findings were so compelling that over 250 hospitals around the world now use MBSR to promote patient well-being.

And the evidence keeps growing. In a new Harvard study, brain scans showed that mindfulness meditation increased gray matter in brain areas associated with learning, memory and compassion, and a decrease in the part of the brain linked to anxiety and stress.

Anxiety-Busting for Kids & Teachers

Meditation can have huge benefits for children, too. “We’re always yelling at our kids to pay attention,” says Ryan. “But we never teach them how to pay attention. That’s where mindfulness comes in.”

The Holistic Life Foundation, a Baltimore-based nonprofit, aims to change that with mindfulness programs for at-risk kids in the city’s poorest elementary schools. A pilot study of their program by researchers at Johns Hopkins and Pennsylvania State University found that fourth- and fifth-graders who participated in the 12-week program were better able to handle chronic stress, experienced fewer emotional outbursts, and had less ongoing anxiety.

Mindfulness can be a tool for educators, too. The U.S. Department of Education is now funding a major study on how mindfulness can help teachers cope with the pressures of overburdened classrooms. “When we’ve piloted these programs in schools, the teachers come back begging us to do more,” says Ryan. “They know it works and that they need this so they can be their best selves with our kids.”

Attention-Boosting for All of Us

Mindfulness is especially handy this time of year, when New Year’s resolutions typically include pledges to lose weight. “Food is one of the most popular applications for mindfulness because we all have to eat, every day,” says Goldstein. “But for most of us, eating has become this mindless activity that we do while we’re working, driving, watching television or looking at our phones. We barely even taste what’s on our plates.”

And that piles on calories. Study participants who ate their lunch in front of a computer screen gobbled twice as many cookies an hour later as subjects who ate without distractions, according to recent research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

But mindfulness can help you reconnect with your body’s cues for hunger and satisfaction. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education & Behavior found that learning mindfulness strategies helped participants eat more slowly—and eat up to 300 fewer calories a day.

That’s pretty powerful stuff. Still, some critics of mindfulness are quick to dismiss it as another New Age fad like hot yoga or juice cleanses. But the proponents of mindfulness say that’s OK. “The beauty of mindfulness is that you can stop doing it, notice you’ve stopped, and then re-engage at any time,” says Goldstein. “We are continually learning from what did or didn’t work and beginning anew. And that’s mindfulness.”

Mindfulness is free, it’s portable, and you don’t have to be sitting on a pillow somewhere for an hour with your eyes shut to achieve it, says psychologist Susan Albers, author of Eating Mindfully. “You can do it at the dinner table, you can do it during a meeting at work, you can do it while driving your car.”

Mindfulness 101

Breathe Mindfully

Sit in silence, breathing deeply. When your mind wanders, bring your attention back to your breath.

Hug Mindfully

When you hug someone, take a few moments to focus on the sensation of the hug. “Don’t let go until you feel both bodies start to relax,” says psychologist Elisha Goldstein, who prescribes this meditation for couples he counsels, and does it himself every night with his spouse. “That act of touching will actually align your nervous systems so you feel more connected.”

Eat Mindfully

This classic mindfulness exercise helps you pay more attention to your food so you enjoy it more while you eat less. It’s typically taught with a raisin but can be applied to whatever you’re eating. Here goes: Consciously slow down. Look at the raisin, touch it and smell it. Think about how it started out as a grape, shriveled in the sun, and became the treat you see before you. Then eat it very slowly. Take the time to taste it on all parts of your tongue, and notice how you respond: Do you like it? Does it taste sweet? Does it make you salivate? Chew slowly, feeling the raisin beneath your teeth, and then swallow and notice how you feel.

Walk Mindfully

You have to walk somewhere everyday, so turn it into a moving meditation: Focus on each step, what you see, how it feels, your surroundings, the weather and, yes, your breath, too. Don’t worry about your destination. “Walking meditation is not a means to an end; it is an end,” says Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. “Each step is life; each step is peace and joy.”

Everybody’s Doing It

Who can forget The Beatles, resplendent in hippie garb, meditating with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi? Today, meditation is more mainstream, as calm-seekers from the boardroom to the playing field and the red carpet look for a way to relax, focus and be present.

LENA DUNHAM The creator and star of the HBO series Girls has been meditating since age 9 to help her cope with obsessive-compulsive disorder. “It has made it possible for me to weather certain challenges and storms and public moments that I didn’t ever imagine would be in my life,” says Dunham, now 28.

GOOGLE  The company’s “Search Inside Yourself” program was launched by engineer Chade-Meng Tan using science-based mindfulness practices to foster emotional intelligence, self-awareness and attention—all useful traits for those working in a fast-paced, competitive industry.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS Mindfulness helped the Seahawks win the Super Bowl last year. Coach Pete  Carroll initiated the practice in 2011 to help fight stress and improve performance. “Meditation is as important as lifting weights and being out here on the field to practice,” says offensive tackle Russell Okung.

 

Tick Article – Thermacell recommendation

April 29, 2013

Demazette article 4/28/13
Ticks the Season
by BRYAN HENDRICKS

We know spring is officially here now that we’ve pulled the first tick from our overalls.

Ticks do what ticks do. I get that, but I still find a tick’s nature to be highly uncivil, not to mention unsanitary. That’s why I get such great satisfaction when I grind a tick into goo against a rock with another rock.

My mother-in-law had a special hatred for ticks. She scraped pennies together so hard they made sparks, but there was always enough in her meager budget for a little natural gas tick extermination. She’d put the bloodsucking little arachnid in a teaspoon, ignite a burner on the old gas stove and hold it over the flame. First the legs shriveled, and then the thing would burst with a satisfying little pop. She always wore such a malicious expression when she did this.

I caught three ticks climbing on my overalls the opening day of turkey season. Of course, it’s the one I didn’t catch that bedeviled me. I found it Sunday, attached to my leg, and now I hope for the best. This is not an idle concern because I contracted Lyme disease about 10 years ago from a tick while turkey hunting at Lamine River Conservation Area in Missouri.

Literature says a tick has to be attached 10-13 hours to transmit Lyme disease. That’s a myth. The tick that gifted me was attached for only three or four hours.

About 10 days later, I had flu symptoms: achy joints, sniffles, fever and night sweats. They lasted a couple of days and then abated for a week or so before reappearing. This pattern continued for about a month. One day I was washing my hands in the washroom at my office. On the outside of my arm, just up from the wrist, was a bright bull’s-eye rash that glowed like neon in the fluorescent light. I called my doctor, who ordered me right over and put me on a massive 10-day dose of a broad-spectrum antibiotic.

That knocked it out, but I am very wary of ticks. I’m tempted to say respectful of ticks, but that’s not right. I respect bears, snakes and snarling dogs. I don’t respect ticks. I hate them. I don’t respect cottonmouths, either. I hate them, too.

So, after opening day, I hung my overalls across the gate and sprayed them thoroughly with Permanone, a potent insect repellent. I have seen ticks crawl onto clothes treated with Permanone and die. A chemical that potent is too toxic to apply to bare skin. Always spray it on your hunting clothes and let it dry before wearing them. Spray your hunting boots, too, as well as your turkey hunting vest. I don’t spray it on my gloves because I don’t want it contacting my skin. I wear T-shirts and shorts or pants beneath my overalls, so there is always a barrier.

As the weather warms, mosquitoes also will become increasingly hazardous, especially now that West Nile virus appears to be our permanent companion in the Natural State. In my opinion, nothing keeps mosquitoes away better than a ThermaCell. It looks like a walkie-talkie, but it contains a small, butane-fired hotplate. A small citronella wafer slips over the hotplate. As the wafer warms, it emits fumes that repel mosquitoes and gnats. It works in minutes, and it works flawlessly. I have used it while hunting in southeast Arkansas, when mosquitoes hovered in clouds. They leave you alone when the Therma-Cell is running.

Even though you can buy ThermaCell holsters that clip or strap to your clothes, the device works better if you lay it flat because it disperses the repellent more evenly and in a broader column. Just don’t forget it when you leave, and secure it in a zippered vest pocket. Somewhere in a Grant County clearcut is a practically brand new ThermaCell that has spurned all my attempts to find it. Make sure you take an extra butane cartridge and enough wafers to see you through your hunting or fishing trip.

If you want an extra layer of protection against mosquitoes, I recommend OFF! Botanicals Insect Repellent. The active ingredient is p-menthane-3,8-diol, and is said to be derived from the natural repellent found in eucalyptus plants.

It comes in spray or lotion. I prefer the lotion. It smells a little like Coppertone sunscreen. The spray works very well, too, but it is very pungent and very bitter.

Your total outlay for the ThermaCell, wafers and repellent is less than $40. It’s money well spent.

F.R.E.S.H. FOOD HERE IN CONWAY!!

December 11, 2012
This article from the Log Cabin Democrat 12/11/12 gives some encouraging news on local food at local restaurants!
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Panel to discuss adding local food to menus
By COURTNEY SPRADLIN LOG CABIN STAFF WRITER

The Faulkner County  Cooperative Extension Service will host a panel discussion in January with the goal of connecting local farmers to restaurants and food vendors. The aim of the connection, termed F.R.E.S.H. Foods, Farmers and Restaurants Eating Sustainable Healthy Foods, is to streamline the process of integrating locally raised, processed or grown food into restaurant menus.

“This is a huge movement right now,” said Kami Marsh, cooperative extension agent. “People are wanting that fresh produce when they go to a restaurant. It’s also a good marketing tool. When you’re eating potatoes at a restaurant and there’s a sign up front that says they came from Mr. Smith today, people make that connection. People want to know where their food comes from, and this creates the relationship between farmer, food and customer.”

Marsh said incorporated foods could include fruit, vegetables, meat, cheeses and value added products.  A value added product, she explained, could be blackberry jam processed locally by Maria Bradbury using blackberries grown at Phyllis Strack’s farm on Lower Ridge Road.

A number of restaurants in Conway have used two options already in place to incorporate local goods into menus. Conway Locally Grown, an online market, and the Conway Farmer’s Market, in season May through November, have been resources for restaurants.

Kim Williams, executive director of the Con-way Downtown Partnership, said Oak Street Bistro, Mike’s Place, Michelangelo’s, JJ’s Grill, Cross Creek Sandwich Shop, and ZaZa’s have been local customers.

Cross Creek Sandwich Shop owner Chris Jennings said she uses the farmer’s market in season for her recipes.  “I get whatever I can. I get any fruit, tomatoes, zucchini. It’s wonderful to use fresh and local when you can, and I advertise it when we do so people know it’s from the farmer’s market,” Jennings said. To people who love tomatoes there’s nothing like a home grown tomato. If there’s a home grown tomato on your sandwich, it’s going to taste really good. It’s just delicious.”   Jennings said her customers are excited to see fresh, local produce on the menu.  “You do pay more for it than you do from the store or from food reps, but you know you’re getting good quality,” she said.

John McNamara, general manager of Mike’s Place, said the restaurant gets local products from Conway Locally Grown and the Conway Farmer’s Market.  Free-range chickens and locally grown lettuce have been integrated into specials, he said.  “The customer base isn’t quite yet understanding of the extra cost. Local lettuce costs twice as much, and less than I hope for picked that option because it’s an extra dollar,” he said.

“We’d love to do more but there’s an availability issue. They can’t always supply us with what we’d use.”  The larger scale effort will take some planning, Marsh said.  “For example, if we pair a farmer with a restaurant, we’d need to know what the restaurant wants and the quantity. The farmer may have to change the way he grows to meet the demand, but it should be doable. It will just take planning, and that’s why we want to get these people together to figure this out,” she said.  Benefits are for the customer, the farmer and the restaurant, Marsh said.  Customers eat fresh, restaurants capitalize on the items, and farmers move more of their products.  “It’s another avenue for our farmers to sell. We don’t want farmers throwing produce away. Restaurants are another outlet, and we also want farmers to take their fresh produce to food banks to have it distributed,” she said.

Members of the panel, slated for Jan. 22 at 1 p.m. at the Faulkner County Extension Service office, 110 S. Amity Rd., Suite 200 in Conway, are those from other communities around Arkansas who have already implemented a program like F.R.E.S.H. Foods.

Marsh said the cost effectiveness of incorporating fresh, local goods will be discussed by the panel.

The meeting is not limited to farmers and restaurant representatives, and all are invited to attend.

(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by email at courtney.spradlin@thecabin.net   or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net  . Send us your news at http://www.thecabin.net/submit  )

Expired Drugs?

March 2, 2012

For the record… and from Cecil Adams
(The Straight Dope) straightdope.com

Dear Cecil:

Is consuming expired prescription medicines really all that dangerous? Some friends of mine insist taking pills beyond the printed expiration date is flirting with death, while another claims expiration dates on labels are BS, there solely to prompt us to order refills and spend more money. I once treated a nasty headache with the only thing I had on hand, some Vicodin that was about a year out of date. My headache went away, and I was no worse for wear. As time passes, are the pills in their little plastic bottles chemically restructuring themselves into poisons, or is there nothing to fear?

— Neil, Indiana

Cecil replies:

We have to tread carefully here, Neil. A few drugs don’t age well — for example, nitroglycerin and insulin. But they’re the exception. Most drugs retain their potency for years after they supposedly expire. What’s more, everybody knows this, or ought to; the Wall Street Journal once ran a front-page exposé on the subject.

But you don’t see anyone pushing for expiration date reform. Why not? No doubt because of the same combination of greed and excessive caution that drives up all healthcare costs: (1) The drug companies potentially could forego billions of dollars in lost sales; (2) the amount individual consumers could save is relatively trifling; and (3) there’s a remote but nonzero chance somebody relying on defunct drugs could die.

This last belief is based partly on a 1963 study claiming expired tetracycline had caused kidney damage. But that contention has been questioned, and in any case the problematic formulation of tetracycline is no longer made.

The FDA started requiring drug companies to place expiration dates on drugs in 1978 on the reasonable grounds that people shouldn’t be using medicine so old it was no longer safe or effective. What the FDA didn’t do was set expiration dates, leaving that up to manufacturers. In 1985 the U.S. Pharmacopeia, a not-for-profit standards-setting body, began urging that medicines not sold in the manufacturer’s original container (that is, most medicines dispensed by pharmacists) have a one-year expiration date. The theory was that pharmacy pill bottles left in the notoriously hostile environment of your medicine cabinet (or, to be fair, a hot glove compartment) were less likely to prevent their contents from going bad.

But the truth is your meds will probably keep just fine. In the mid-80s the FDA started testing drugs as part of the U.S. military’s Shelf Life Extension Program — the Pentagon then had a $1 billion stockpile of drugs it didn’t feel like throwing out. As reported in that Wall Street Journal article in 2000, around 90 percent of the drugs were safe and effective well after they’d nominally expired .

To be sure, some drugs deteriorate faster than others. For example, epinephrine, used to treat cardiac arrest, steadily loses its potency over time. Liquid drugs and suspensions are less stable than solids. Medications custom-prepared by your local pharmacy are likely to have a short shelf life.

But even then it’s not like drugs go bad at the stroke of midnight. An update on the Shelf Life program published in 2009 established that 88 percent of tested medications worked fine more than five years past their expiration date, which admittedly just confirmed previous research. The more pertinent finding from a practical standpoint was this: one year post-expiration, every drug tested was still OK.

Word has been gradually filtering out. In the January 2012 Consumer Reports, the magazine’s chief medical adviser, Marvin Lipman, writes, “Except for tetracycline” — and as we’ve seen, even that’s dubious — “expired drugs generally don’t appear to cause harm. But they do become less potent. In particular, throw out any drug more than a year past its expiration date [my emphasis].”

But let’s face it, not everybody reads Consumer Reports. And some drugs are good for much longer. What’s needed is a systematic revamping of drug expiration labeling so the dates reflect the actual length of time, based on tests, that particular medicines retain their potency.

The savings could be huge. From 1993 to 1998 the military spent $4 million testing expired medicines and saved $263 million. A follow-up study found that for every dollar spent on the Shelf Life program from 2006 to 2010, $10 to $20 was saved. In 2010 Americans spent $307 billion on four billion prescriptions, nearly double what they’d laid out ten years earlier. In one survey, only 2 percent of respondents said they used all their medication before it expired. (And more than a third flushed expired medications down the toilet, wreaking who knows what environmental havoc.) Even a small extension of expiration dates could save billions.

As we’ve seen, however, neither the drug industry nor consumers have much incentive to demand change. Some outside crusader, maybe? Not likely. Suppose you announce you’re campaigning for office on a platform of prodding the pharmaceutical industry to push back expiration dates. Next day, guaranteed, there’ll be billboards all over town saying “MY OPPONENT WANTS TO SELL YOU STALE DRUGS.”

— Cecil Adams

Research suggests high fluid intake aids kidneys

November 23, 2011

I knew this, but I have been hearing some say that drinking this much water was not important… guess what? It is!!!

This is from an article with the headline: Research suggests high fluid intake aids kidneys by ANAHAD O’CONNOR in the THE NEW YORK TIMES

The old saw about drinking eight glasses of water a day for overall health is widely considered a myth.

But research over the years has suggested that drinking extra water helps the kidneys clear sodium, urea and toxins from the body. And in the past year, two large studies found a lower risk of long-term kidney problems among people who drink more water and other fluids daily.

In a report published in the journal Nephrology in March, researchers at the University of Sydney in Australia and elsewhere followed more than 2,400 people older than 50. Those who drank the most fluids, about three liters (3.18 quarts) daily, had a “significantly lower risk” of chronic kidney disease than those who drank the least.

And in a study published last month in The Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, Canadian scientists followed 2,148 healthy men and women — average age 46 — for seven years. They looked at markers of kidney function and health and used urine volume to determine how much fluid the subjects drank daily. After controlling for diabetes, smoking, medication and other factors, they found that those who had the highest urine volume — in other words, those who drank the most fluids — were least susceptible to declines in kidney function.

The findings, the authors said, do not support “aggressive fluid loading,” which can cause side effects.

But they do provide evidence that moderately increased fluid intake, above two quarts daily, “may in fact benefit the kidney.”

“Believe it or not, there now does seem to be some merit and evidence to support the ‘myth’ that eight large glasses of fluid a day is good for your kidneys,” said Dr. William Clark, an author of the study and a nephrologist at the London Health Sciences Center in Ontario.

Home Remedies That Work

November 7, 2011

From the AARP bulletin – some good ideas for home remedies!!  (AARP bulletin article)

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We spend billions every year on over-the-counter health remedies for everything from canker sores to aching muscles, but in some cases there’s no need to shell out a lot of money to find relief. All you need to do is check your cupboards for some surprising home remedies.

The 10 we picked are cheap, easy to find, and there’s actual scientific proof that they work.

Because certain home remedies can interact with prescription medications, check with your doctor before trying something new.

1.    Honey.
Just one spoonful can help quiet a nighttime cough better than over-the-counter cough syrups or suppressants.

That’s what a Pennsylvania study of more than 100 children found. Study author Ian Paul, M.D., says honey can also help reduce coughs in older adults suffering from a cold.

Honey coats and soothes an irritated throat to help calm repeated coughing. “It is generally safe and can be used repeatedly as needed,” Paul says. He recommends two teaspoons per dose, but advises older adults to make sure their cough is because of a cold and not a more serious condition that may not respond to honey.

Also, honey does have a high sugar content, “which may be inappropriate for older adults with diabetes.”

2.    Liquid dish soap.
If you come into contact with poison ivy or poison oak, washing the affected area with liquid dish soap within two hours of contact may prevent you from getting an itching red rash. Arkansas dermatologist Adam Stibich wanted to see if liquid dish-washing soap, which is formulated to remove oil, would be a cost-effective way to get rid of the plant oil on poison ivy leaves that causes a rash when it gets on your skin.

Volunteer medical students rubbed poison ivy leaves on their forearms and then washed with dish-washing soap for 25 seconds before rinsing. The soap prevented a reaction in almost half the volunteers and reduced the inflammation in the rest by 56 percent.

In his study, Stibich used Dial dishwashing soap, but any brand will work.

3.    Tart cherry juice.
Drinking tart cherry juice can help prevent gout attacks, relieve muscle soreness after exercise, and possibly help with arthritis pain because of its natural anti-inflammatory proper ties.

Gout expert Naomi Schlesinger, M.D., says the juice seems to reduce the joint inflammation that gout causes. Schlesinger led a study that found patients who took a tablespoon of tart cherry juice concentrate twice a day for four months cut the frequency of their gout attacks in half.

More than a third remained gout attack-free. Other studies have shown that drinking tart cherry juice daily helps runners reduce muscle soreness and reduces inflammation in overweight patients.

Unlike its sweeter cousins, the Bing and black cherry, the tart cherry is bright red and higher in antioxidants.

4.    Baby shampoo.
A half-and-half solution of baby shampoo and warm water is a simple, effective way to clean eyelids that are itchy, red or crusty. The condition could be blepharitis, a common eye problem in older adults. It can cause scaling and crustiness along the base of the eyelashes.

Gently cleaning the eyelid with a baby shampoo wash helps get rid of oil and bacteria but won’t sting your eyes.

Try diluting a little baby shampoo with an equal amount of water twice a day, then gently rubbing the mixture with clean fingertips on the closed eyelid and along the eyelashes for one minute. Rinse well with water.

Philip Hagen, M.D., medical editor of the Mayo Clinic Book of Home Remedies, cautions that baby shampoo should only be used on the lid, and never on the surface of the eye.

5.   Menthol rub.
Applying mentholated ointments such as strong-smelling Vicks VapoRub has been shown to be a safe, cost-effective treatment for toenail fungus, often more effective than over-the-counter products.

A small study this year found that applying Vicks to the affected nails once daily helped 15 of 18 adults either cure or partially clear up their fungus.

Sally Stroud, professor of nursing at the Medical University of South Carolina, says Vicks is easy to apply and worth trying “before turning to more costly alternatives.”

Stroud also suggests first wiping the affected nails with a cotton ball soaked in white vinegar, then applying the VapoRub.

6.   Witch hazel.
Witch hazel is derived from the leaves and twigs of a flowering shrub. For more than a century, the clear, refined extract has been used as an astringent to help tighten the skin and relieve inflammation.

It is the main ingredient in commercial hemorrhoid pads, used to relieve mild itching and irritation, but you can do the same at home with pads you moisten with witch hazel, according to Hagen. For even more relief, use chilled witch hazel.

7.   Ginger.
Ginger can help reduce nausea and relieve motion sickness.

Some studies have shown that taking one gram of ginger an hour before surgery can reduce nausea and vomiting during the first 24 hours after surgery.

In addition, a large National Cancer Institute-funded study found that people undergoing chemotherapy who take as little as one-quarter of a teaspoon of ginger daily for three days before chemo cut their nausea by 40 percent.

The study found that a small amount of fresh or powdered ginger worked better than a larger dose, and that ginger taken with anti-vomiting drugs worked better to control nausea than drugs alone.

For older adults prone to motion sickness, Suzanna Zick of the University of Michigan recommends eating one or two pieces of crystallized ginger, available in most supermarkets, before traveling. She cautions that ginger extract capsules are much stronger and may actually cause stomach upset. “Don’t go above two grams of ginger,” she advises.

8.   Water.
Daily gargling with plain tap water can help cut the number of colds and respiratory infections you get, as well as relieve symptoms if you’re already sick.

A 2005 study of nearly 400 healthy volunteers ages 18 to 65 in Japan found that those who gargled three times a day with tap water had nearly 40 percent fewer respiratory infections during cold and flu season than did the control group. When the subjects did get sick, gargling reduced bronchial irritation, researchers reported.

Other studies also support gargling, whether with salt water or water with lemon and honey, as a safe, effective way to soothe and cleanse a sore throat.

Hagen says the salt in the water also draws out excess fluid from the throat’s inflamed tissues, “and warm water may help cleanse them a bit better.”

9.   Milk of magnesia.
Dabbing this milky liquid on canker sores — small ulcers that typically appear inside the mouth — can temporarily soothe their pain. “Milk of magnesia won’t heal the sores, but it does give relief from the symptoms,” Hagen says. Experts at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggest first dabbing the sore with a mixture of half water and half hydrogen peroxide, then dabbing on the milk of magnesia.

10.   Cranberries.
If you’re prone to bladder infections, drinking cranberry juice daily won’t cure them, but it can help prevent them, say the urologic disease experts at NIH.

Just be careful if you are taking blood-thinning medication like warfarin (Coumadin), Plavix or aspirin, warns Hagen: “Possible interactions between cranberry juice and warfarin may lead to bleeding.”

Taking a 500 mg cranberry extract pill twice a day is also effective at preventing urinary tract infections.

A Dutch study published this year compared women who took a daily low dose of an antibiotic to prevent infections and women who took the cranberry pills. The antibiotic was somewhat more effective, but it also caused more antibiotic resistance in the bloodstream.

Unlike antibiotics, which kill bacteria, cranberries keep bacteria from attaching to the bladder walls.