Category Archives: life challenges

Should I Be Tested for Hepatitis?

May is Hepatitis awareness month. Millions of Americans are living with chronic viral hepatitis and many do not know that they are infected. Every year, approximately 15,000 Americans die from liver cancer or chronic liver disease associated with viral hepatitis. Despite this, viral hepatitis is not well known. In fact, as many as 75 percent of the millions of Americans with chronic viral hepatitis don’t know they’re infected.

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The word “hepatitis” means inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis is most often caused by one of several viruses, which is why it is often called viral hepatitis.
The Centers for Disease Control offers a free Hepatitis Risk Assessment to find out if you should be tested for viral hepatitis. This risk assessment tool allows individuals to answer questions privately, either in their home or in a health care setting, and print their recommendations to discuss with their doctor. May 19 is National Hepatitis Testing Day.

You can take the free test by clicking on the link above.

Tony

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What are the Mental Benefits of Exercise? – Oleda Baker – Guest Post

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Click anywhere to see these full size

As you can see from her photos, Senior Supermodel Oleda Baker is aging magnificently. I interviewed Oleda last December. She is a treasure trove of information on everything this blog stands for, namely weight control, healthy living and healthy aging, so I asked her if she would share some of her ideas with us. She has written 10 books on beauty and health. Her latest, written at the age of 75, Breaking the Age Barrier – Great Looks and Health at Every Age – was released in November 2010 and is available from Amazon or from her website www.oleda.com where she also sells her own line of health and beauty aids.

You might think the most important deterrent to brain cell deterioration is engaging in mind-bending games or doing the daily crossword puzzle. Taxing the brain and learning new skills are excellent activities, but they usually don’t get your heart rate up and pump blood to your brain cells.

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Perhaps the most striking brain research discovery of the last decade is that physical exercise can forestall mental decline. It may even restore memory. Animal studies have shown that aerobic exercise increases capillary development in the brain, increasing blood supply, which carries more oxygen to the brain.

It doesn’t have to be formal exercise at the gym. You can play tennis a couple times a week, ride a bike, or walk a mile each day. A combined program of aerobics and weight training will produce the best results.

Fit people have sharper brains; and people who are out of shape, but then get into shape, sharpen their brains along with their bodies.

It was once thought that brain cells do not regenerate as do other cells of the body, but more modern science learned that neurons do continue to form in the brain, even into old age.

Memory does begin a decline when we reach our 40’s, but the progression is not as steep as originally feared. Indeed, forgetfulness may be due less to brain cell loss than other influences, such as taking care of the kids, the job, paying the bills, doing chores, everyday living all competing for cognitive time.

To keep your brain young you need to give it lots of varied stimulation and challenges. Like a muscle, it needs to be exercised, to “strain the brain,” so to speak. Repeating the same mental functions over and over, such as Sudoku or crossword puzzles or watching television, doesn’t help slow cognitive deterioration. Mental stimulation is as important for your brain as physical exercise is for your body.

Oleda

As so often happens with Oleda’s ideas, they coincide exactly with my own. The only difference is that Oleda has lived longer and more successfully than I have. To read further about the value of exercise to the brain, check out my page Important Facts About Your Brain and Exercise.

Tony

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Filed under aging, dementia, happiness, life challenges, men and healthy eating, men's health, Oleda Baker, Weight

A Super Relaxation Technique From Oleda Baker – Guest Post

Click anywhere to see these full size

Click anywhere to see these full size

As you can see from her photos, Senior Supermodel Oleda Baker is aging magnificently. I interviewed Oleda in December. She is a treasure trove of information on everything this blog stands for, namely weight control, healthy living and healthy aging, so I asked her if she would share some of her ideas with us. She has written 10 books on beauty and health. Her latest, written at the age of 75, Breaking the Age Barrier – Great Looks and Health at Every Age – was released in November 2010 and is available from Amazon or from her website www.oleda.com where she also sells her own line of health and beauty aids.

Your Body, Mind and Spirit Need a Break … here’s how: Years ago a doctor in New York City told me how he relieved his stress at the end of the day…. I never forgot it and have followed his advice most days.

When he went home, he drew a tub of very warm water and soaked in it for about twenty minutes. “When you get out of bed in the morning, your body’s organs are more or less rested,” he explained. “As the day goes on, those organs, as well as your mind and spirit get out of sorts due to the day’s stressful wear and tear, as it were. Hydrotherapy, a fifteen or twenty minute very warm bath, relaxes me better than anything else I’ve tried. I can feel myself returning to a calm state, and I believe it’s good for my long term health and well-being, too.”

I tried it not knowing if it would work for me…It did work! Ever since, I have soaked in a relaxing tub of warm water every day I possibly can. Until you try it it’s hard to believe how well it works. Here’s why:

Hydrotherapy – an Ancient Healing Practice

Hydrothermal therapy (hot water treatment) has been used as a traditional treatment for disease and injury by many cultures, including China and Japan. Asklepios, the ancient Greek god of healing, advocated the use of water as medicine. Similarly, Roman physicians, Galen and Celsus, used therapeutic baths for many remedies. So, water therapy has been used for centuries to heal the sick.

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How to Harness Positive Psychology for You – Harvard

I have probably written five posts on Positive Psychology in the past year or so. If interested you can type the words Positive Psychology into the Search box on the right and they will pop up for you.

I was thrilled to see that Harvard has done one of their publications on Positive Psychology. The latest Healthbeat says, “Positive emotions have been linked with better health, longer life, and greater well-being in numerous scientific studies. On the other hand, chronic anger, worry, and hostility increase the risk of developing heart disease, as people react to these feelings with raised blood pressure and stiffening of blood vessels. But it isn’t easy to maintain a healthy, positive emotional state. Positive Psychology is a guide to the concepts that can help you find well-being and happiness, based on the latest research.”

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They go on to enumerate three ways to benefit from Positive Psychology.

“Express gratitude. Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what you have — from a roof over your head to good health to people who care about you. When you acknowledge the goodness in your life, you begin to recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside yourself. In this way, gratitude helps you connect to something larger than your individual experience — whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.

Set aside a few minutes every day and think about five large or small things you’re grateful for. Write them down if you like. Be specific and remember what each thing means to you.

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Baby Boomers Aging Badly

I always thought that boomers were busy running triathlons and skiing down the slopes these days. They are reported to have the longest life expectancy of any previous generation and exploit the latest medical technology, so why wouldn’t they be? I am talking about that 78 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964.

JAMA researchers found otherwise.

Alice Park writing in Time.com reports that boomers have “higher rates of hypertension, diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol than members of the previous generation.

Junk foods like these are part of the reason boomers are failing the most important test of all.

Junk foods like these are part of the reason boomers are failing the most important test of all.

“The revelation comes from data in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a national snapshot of health measures and behaviors conducted by the U.S. government. Dr. Dana King, a professor in family medicine at West Virginia University School of Medicine and his colleagues compared baby boomers aged 46 years to 64 years between 2007 and 2010 to similar aged Americans in 1988 to 1994. Overall, only 13% of baby boomers rated their health as ‘excellent’ while nearly three times as many, 32%, of those in the previous generation considered themselves in excellent health.” Continue reading

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How Our High Tech Gadgets May be Hurting Us – WebMD

We all love our smart phones and other labor-saving devices. I know I marvel at the stuff my iPhone does for me every day. Yet, WebMD says our high tech gadgets hurt us in various ways.

Web MD cited computer vision syndrome as a biggie, citing eyestrain, tired eyes, irritation, redness, blurred vision, double vision as examples. They suggest making sure our glasses or lenses are up to date on their prescriptions. Sometimes occupational glasses are needed.

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Other problems included insomnia as the illuminated monitor throws off our internal clock.

Repetitive stress injuries result from mousing or typing on a keyboard. “But repetitive stress injury, or RSI, can affect your whole body, not just the part you’ve overused, says Mary Barbe, PhD, a professor in the department of anatomy and cell biology at Temple University. Injured cells release substances called cytokines that travel through the bloodstream.

“If you have enough of these circulating in your bloodstream, they can be toxic to nerve cells and other cells,” Barbe tells WebMD.

Obesity is a favorite of mine. The amount of hours we spend in front of the tube or playing on the computer has been rising for years. Eat less; move more.

One shocker for me was office-related asthma. “Your sleek, high-tech office may be a source of indoor air pollution. Some models of laser printers shoot out invisible particles into the air as they chug away. These ultra-fine particles can lodge deep in your lungs. Not every printer is a health hazard. In one study of 62 printers, 40% tested emitted particles. But only 17 printers were high-particle emitters.”
Go figure!

Barry Katz, professor in the industrial design and graduate program in design at Stanford University, told WebMD, “It may have taken 10,000 years to evolve the form of a sewing needle, or 2,500 to evolve the form of the safety pin,” he says. “That gives a lot of time to work out the kinks in the system.”

But modern devices, from the mouse to the ear bud, were invented from scratch. “You know about the electronics inside, but you don’t know how people are going to use it,” Katz says. He promises that designers are continually fine-tuning our gadgets to make them more helpful and less harmful.

Until they’re perfected, though, take a moment to consider the ramifications of your high tech gadgets in light of the above.

Tony

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Filed under aging, arthritis, calories, childhood obesity, circadian cycles, Exercise, fat, general well-being, health, high tech gadgets, life challenges, obesity, Weight

Can the Holiday Season Bring on Depression – Harvard Healthbeat

“The gloom of winter seems to get inside some people, the dark affecting their moods as well as their days.” So says the latest issue of Harvard Healthbeat.

Known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), this form of depression affects a small percentage of the population. Although it strikes all genders and ages, women are more likely to develop SAD than men, and young people are more likely to develop it than older people.

“SAD seems to be triggered by decreased exposure to daylight. Typically, it arrives during the fall or winter months and subsides in the spring. Symptoms are similar to general depression and include lethargy, loss of interest in once-pleasurable activities, interpersonal problems, irritability, inability to concentrate, and changes in sleeping patterns, appetite, or both,” Healthbeat continued.

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I have mentioned a number of times my aunt who died from Alzheimer’s. She lived just over six years with it and died at the age of 93. But, I had known her my entire life and before getting sick, she had been a major character in my life. For years I called her daily and chatted about everything under the sun. She had often told me how she hated the winter because it always depressed her and she didn’t really ‘feel good’ until spring.
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Healthy Holiday Eating Tips

Christmas season is in full flourish now in the first week of December. Shoppers are shopping and holiday get-togethers are being planned and taking place. This is the red zone for weight control weakness.

With that in mind, here are helpful tips on dealing with the holiday social events from Dr. Griffin Rodgers Institute Director of the National Institutes of Health.

1. Holiday pressures can interrupt a person’s routine and make it even more challenging to follow plans to stay healthy.

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2. Don’t “save up” for big meals, rather have a light snack beforehand; keep an eye on the drinks, alcohol in particular adds calories and enhances appetite; and go easy on dessert. He also recommends being realistic.

3. Regular physical activity during the holiday season may boost your energy, clear your mind, manage any health problems like diabetes or high blood pressure, and help get some items checked off your holiday “to do” list.

4 The holiday season is not the time to abandon healthy eating and exercise habits.

5. Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. Continue to get plenty of sleep and physical activity. If you do overindulge in eating too much, don’t be too hard on yourself up. Get back on track at the next meal.

6. Share your family health history. Ask questions. Talk about common health problems like diabetes and high blood pressure and whether anyone in the family has these conditions.

You can have happy holidays and still remain aware of your body’s real needs. Doctor Rodgers offers some useful advice. I hope you can put it to good use.

Eat less; move more. Words to live by.

Tony

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Filed under calories, diet food, Exercise, fat, happiness, holiday eating, life challenges, men and healthy eating, portion size, stress, sugar

What About Seniors Doing Endurance Sports?

I have written repeatedly about the value of exercise on these pages. Regular readers know that I am a senior citizen and I ride my bicycle nearly daily here on Chicago’s lakefront. As I have said, I am paying for my old age one bike ride at a time. Anything I read about senior endurance athletes hijacks my attention. That’s why One Running Shoe in the Grave in The Wall Street Journal really stuck in my eye.

Getty Image

Getty Image

The Journal‘s sports editor, Kevin Helliker, writes, “A fast-emerging body of scientific evidence points to a conclusion that’s unsettling, to say the least, for a lot of older athletes: Running can take a toll on the heart that essentially eliminates the benefits of exercise.”

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What is Another Way to Handle Dietary Restrictions?

As regular readers know my former blogging partner, John, has severe dietary restrictions following his angioplasty and near heart attack. He has posted a number of items detailing his journey in dealing with this life-changing situation. As his former good friend, I was stunned by the news of his hospitalization and situation. Of course, I immediately imagined myself in his place and considered what I would do if confronted with an 80 percent blockage of a major artery and a stent being placed inside to facilitate my circulation. I find that I would handle it considerably differently than John. I don’t pretend to be a doctor. I don’t know that my way is better. I just know that my actions and ideas going forward differ sharply from John’s. I am more than 10 years older than he is and I have no dietary restrictions. I am presently enjoying the best personal health of my life. The National Institutes on Health considers me one of its success stories.

To begin with my first reaction would be gratitude. I would be thrilled to be still alive and feel that I had cheated death at least this one time. I would also make a firm purpose of amendment about my eating habits to guarantee that I would never put myself in this vulnerable situation again.

A near death experience like this is what I think of as a ‘square one’ situation. That is the same as when you go from grade school to high school and change from being a big shot at school to a little freshie in the new school. Ditto high school to college. Same kind of transition. I think square one situations are tremendous growth opportunities. Very challenging, to be sure, but they offer huge opportunities for real growth and discovery.

So, instead of looking back at the situation and feeling bitter over what I could no longer eat and whining about it, I would look forward to the chance to learn a whole new way of eating and making my dietary decisions. Previously, I chose things for taste with no consideration for the consequences on my body. Going forward, the health benefits would be way up there on my priority list. Of course, taste matters, but I would no longer limit my choices to taste alone as I did when I was a child. I don’t think a grown up should be making decisions on that basis.

Secondly, I have certain foods I like and foods I don’t like, but going forward, I would put everything back on the table (so to speak) and start from scratch. I would absolutely try to open my palate and my mind to new tastes including foods I might not have liked previously.  Nuts are a superb foodstuff. If I didn’t like nuts, I would make a point of trying a number of different kinds, maybe a few at a time and find a couple that I enjoyed and could integrate into my diet. As my former major protein source -meat- is nearly off the menu, it would be very effective to add the rich protein of nuts to my menu. I could start with a few on my salads. Nuts also happen to be a great source of EFAs, Essential Fatty Acids, which are necessary to every diet. That’s why they’re called essential.
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U.S. Obesity is on the Rise Again, New Study Finds

U.S. obesity rates, which some recent surveys have said had been stabilizing, seem to be on the rise gain, if a new Gallup poll is to be believed, reports the Huffington Post.

“Gallup analyzed obesity rates in American adults classified in four-year age ranges to avoid any overlapping between groups. Since nearly all groups saw an increase in obesity percentage, it only makes sense that the national average has grown over the past four years as well: in 2012, 26.1 percent of Americans are considered to be obese, compared to 25.5 percent in 2008,” the Post reports.

Obesity is on the rise again.

The increases seem to be across virtually all age groups.  “Most dramatically, 30.4 percent of Americans in their mid-40s (ages 44 to 47) are obese, a notable 2.5 percent increase from 2008,” it says.

Sad news for America. Ironically for me, I’m moving in the opposite direction since my angioplasty in August, having lost 19 pounds in 12 weeks since the surgery and being put on a no-salt, no-sugar, no-fat diet. I’m doing my part to reverse the obesity trend, join me.

John

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Should I Get a Flu Shot?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that nearly 20 percent of Americans get the flu each year. More than 200,000 people in the U.S. are hospitalized every year and between 3,000 and 50,000 deaths occur due to flu. There is a good chance that these statistics would improve dramatically if more people got a flu shot.

I should get a flu shot. I called my doctor last week to arrange one and some blood work going into flu season. My appointment was Monday morning. As everyone knows when you have blood work done you need to fast from the night before. Unfortunately for me, I am an early riser and I got up around 5:00 AM. Nothing special about that, but my doctor’s appointment wasn’t till 9:00 AM. So I had a minimum four hour wait before I could expect to get any food into me.

I brought questions to ask the doctor about a possibly broken finger, a new drug I was taking as well as something recommended by Dr. Oz on TV. I made up a questions list on my iPhone to bring with me.

I arrived at 8:30 hoping I might get in earlier. No such luck. At 9:15 I was still waiting. This was a potentially stressful situation for me. Last year, I would have been stressing about the delay and fretting over the time I had wasted arriving early, etc. However, I refused to succumb to the stress. I reasoned that I had taken a chance coming early. I gambled and lost. Fair enough. Not the first time that has happened and surely not the last. Nothing to fret over. On the bright side, I had brought a really good book and enjoyed reading it. (If you are a dog lover, I highly recommend The Other Side of the Leash by Patricia B McConnell Ph.D. Superb read!)

My appointed hour arrived at 9:45 and I was ushered in. The nurse took my vital signs: Blood Pressure: 119/59; Pulse 50; Weight 155, I guess I was wearing about 5 pounds of clothes.

My doctor came in after a short wait and we got down to business. I showed her my left little finger which is crooked and painful. I told her that I feared I had broken it, but hadn’t a clue when it happened. I just had pain there for over a month and it was crooked. She examined it and said it wasn’t a break just more of the arthritis which plagued other parts of my two hands. I guess that was good news as I didn’t have to have a splint or rebreak or something done to my finger. We went down my list of queries and she dealt with them in order. I had no earthshaking changes to make in my life. Good news. Now for the blood work. But, wait, she looked at the computer and said that we had done blood work in June. So, no need for fresh work now as everything had been in order then. I actually laughed out loud as I had now been fasting for six hours FOR NOTHING! The nurse came in and gave me my shot and sent me on my way. Fortunately, I had brought along a Honey Stinger waffle for an energy boost which I truly needed at this point. I wrote up Honey Stingers last December.
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Siri For Seniors

I am sure by now that you have seen Martin Scorcese in the Apple ad on TV using Siri in the back seat of a taxi checking his schedule, rejigging it and asking how’s the traffic, then telling the driver to change course. I don’t know if that is literally accurate or there is some poetic license there as it appears to be a light-hearted take.

I have been impressed with Siri since its introduction, but haven’t been able to experience it till this past week when my iPhone 5 was delivered. As soon as I got it set up I said to Siri, “What is the betting line on the Ravens game this Thursday?”

After a momentary wait, she answered, “The odds are in favor of the Ravens by 12 points.” It was love at first byte.

What a magnificent tool to have at your fingertips. All manner of information is just a Siri-query away. Apple says on its website, “Siri makes everyday tasks less tasking. It figures out which apps to use for which requests, and it finds answers to queries through sources like Yelp and WolframAlpha. It plays the songs you want to hear, gives you directions, wakes you up, even tells you the score of last night’s game. All you have to do is ask.”
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Win A Slow-Cooker By Leaving A Comment

Here’s a fun challenge for our readers, leave a comment to this post suggesting a fun, creative fitness or diet challenge and you could win a Hamilton Beach 6-quart slow-cooker, courtesy of Slimkicker.com.

Slimkicker.com is a calorie counting site/app that goes a bit beyond other calorie counters in that it also has a game aspect that involves accumulating points to achieve certain rewards and goals.  You upload pictures of rewards you intend to give yourself for reaching a given diet or exercise goal, and it reminds you by showing you the image once you reach the goal. The site also has groups to discuss various dieting and exercise topics, so it appears a very social way to attack eating and exercise issues.

Win this 6-quart slow cooker by leaving a comment.

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Study Ties Healthier Weight in Kids to Tough Snack Laws

The New York Times reported on a study that showed adolescents in states with strict laws regulating the sale of snacks and sugary drinks in public schools gained less weight over a three year period than those living in states without such laws.

There was a strong association between healthier weight and tough state laws regulating food in vending machines, snack bars and elsewhere that were not part of the regular school meal deals.

For the record, childhood obesity is bad and getting worse. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports:
• Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years.
• The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 20% in 2008. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to 18% over the same period.
• In 2008, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.
• Overweight is defined as having excess body weight for a particular height from fat, muscle, bone, water, or a combination of these factors. Obesity is defined as having excess body fat.
• Overweight and obesity are the result of “caloric imbalance”—too few calories expended for the amount of calories consumed—and are affected by various genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors.

This is something of a sticky subject for me in that I think the less government has to do with my life the better.
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A Not So Sad Tale of Career Adversity

Back in the beginning of the year I wrote a couple of blog items on kindness. Both were directed toward increasing one’s capacity for and experience of happiness. I posted links to them at the bottom of this piece.

I thought this item might be interesting and useful to you pretty much on a similar premise. The kicker is that this act was one of treachery and unkindness and I was the recipient as opposed to the creator of it. I hope you will find the outcome of interest.

At the beginning of my career I worked for men’s magazines. They were the kind considered sexy at the time, but by current internet standards they would be described as quaint or curious at best. At the time I was married and my first wife was pregnant with our son.

The tool of my trade

It was a small publishing house with about 30 people working in editorial, art, production, sales and distribution. We produced several trade magazines on other subjects, too.

Our publisher, Felix, (not his real name), was in his late 50’s and from time to time would take advantage of attractive females who worked for him. This was long before such things as sexual harassment suits so Felix operated with relative impunity. He also possessed a personality on the unpleasant side and consequently had few friends, so he would often have office lunches and hold court over us throughout. He paid for the meal, but we paid more heavily in terms of our personal experiences.

Ginny was an attractive woman who edited one of his trade magazines. Ginny and I became friends and conspired with another of the writers to often leave for lunch early to avoid Felix’s lunches.
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