August 2011

The Brain Game

Have you noticed that using public restrooms has gotten complicated? There are a dozen varieties of towel dispensers and faucets. Some towel machines require you to wave your hands in front of them, others use a knob and then others you just pull out the bottom the old-fashioned way. As for the faucets, some are triggered by waving your hands under them. Others require you to punch the top and then there is the traditional turn the knob faucets.

Going to the bathroom has become an intellectual exercise. Sometimes I find myself waving my hands in front of towel dispensers and under faucets only to find out that it is the old-fashioned towel and faucet combo. I have spoken to my friends and I am not alone. Instead of feeling like a complete fool, I have decided to treat it as a brain game.

The brain is our most precious organ. It is important to keep it as healthy as possible. We know that it shrinks as we age making multitasking difficult. There are many things that we can do to improve neural connections and function.

Exercising, keeping blood pressure down, lowering elevated cholesterol, and maintaining a healthy weight are all important. Exercising the brain is crucial. If you don’t use it you can lose it. To keep the brain active it is important to learn new things. You can challenge yourself such as trying things left handed if you are right handed and performing intellectual exercises.

Now I have added one more, the bathroom challenge. Try and figure out what type of towel dispenser and faucet are in front of you. The next time you catch yourself waving at the towel dispenser or placing your hands under the faucet and you guessed wrong, just smile and say to those around you that you are just playing the brain game!

Noise Is More Than A Nuisance

I have noticed that as the world has become more wired, we have too. Many of us are a bit on edge most of the time. That is because there is noise wherever we go. At home, the TV is often on. At work, there are phones going off constantly as well as beeps and squeaks and all kinds of noise. We can be calm and relaxed and our phone goes off and we jump. We are conditioned to react whether it is a noise or a vibration.

Noise is more than an irritant. Researchers at Cornell University have studied the effects of noise pollution. They have found that noise increases the release of stress hormones. When this is continuous it can result in heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, sleep and musculoskeletal problems. Chronic stress can impair immunity. When it comes to work and school, children exposed to noise pollution may have problems with learning and delayed language skills. Workers may be less productive and have impaired thinking ability.

Since it looks like noise pollution is not going away, it is important to know how to deal with it. Turning off the television and putting on mellow music or playing the sound of waves or wind can eliminate home noise pollution. Talking to your employer and working together may help decrease office noise pollution.

Personally, you can help deal with noise stress by learning to relax with the help of deep breathing exercises, meditation and yoga. Try taking cell phone and computer breaks. Get out and walk in the park where it is quiet and filled with the sound of nature, which can be soothing. Stop the noise pollution in your life, take action and relax.

The More Things Change The More Things Stay The Same Part II

As a physician with conventional medical training, I often used to look at home remedies with skepticism. I have had several patients who have sworn that apple cider vinegar was good for whatever ailed them. Apple cider vinegar has been around for ages.Hippocrates used it to treat wounds; soldiers in the civil war used it for digestive problems and to prevent pneumonia and scurvy. Apparently Cleopatra used it to dissolve her pearls to make a love potion for Mark Antony.

Studies Showing Benefit

There have been recent studies done at the University of Arizona that have caused me to take a second look at apple cider vinegar. One study looked at 29 patients with either insulin resistance (prediabetes) or type 2 diabetes. They were given either a drink of vinegar, water and saccharine or placebo followed by a meal with 87 grams of carbohydrate. Compared to placebo, blood sugar decreased by 64% in the prediabetes group and 19% in the diabetes group.

Another study looked at weight loss in healthy women.The women were given a morning drink of vinegar or placebo followed by a bagel breakfast. Not only did the vinegar group have a 54% lower blood sugar one hour later, but they also consumed 11-16% fewer calories throughout the day.

Yet, another study found that taking a drink containing two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar along with eating one ounce of cheese before bedtime significantly lowered fasting blood sugars in the morning.

Some Cautions

There are potential safety and side effect issues. Obviously those allergic to apples need to avoid apple cider vinegar. Raw apple cider vinegar can contain bacteria, so it would be better to use the pasteurized form. Apple cider vinegar capsules can cause burning in the esophagus if they get lodged there. Apple cider vinegar can also irritate the stomach. There are potential drug interactions if a patient is taking digoxin, insulin or diuretics. Vinegar can lower potassium levels.

And…..

Of course, as with everything, moderation is the key. Taking a mixture of apple cider vinegar in juice or water in the morning may help with both blood sugar and weight control. It is important to discuss this with your doctor before you do it.

Ode To Dee

I need to work out to maintain and build muscle and to stay fit. Even though I know that, it is still hard to keep it up. When I used to go to the gym on my own I made up every excuse in the book to cut the workout short or I would forget about it altogether. That is why I decided to hire a trainer. Her name is Dee.

Dee is a slave driver. She pushes me beyond where I ever thought I would go. I complain, I whine, I scream, I tell her she is killing me, I call her the torture princess and she doesn’t care. She just smiles, points her finger at the machine and tells me to keep on going. If she actually listened to me and let me stop or slow down I would not be in very good shape. Thanks to her persistence and patience, I have continued to become more and more fit.

Everyone needs a Dee, especially when they reach and go beyond menopause. Our muscle mass goes down precipitously as we age and without weight training we risk bone loss, weight gain and general decline. If you cannot find a trainer, a friend will do. You just need someone who can keep you working out and provide encouragement.

I work out with Dee two hours a week and that seems to be about right for me. It is probably about all she can take since I am quite a vocal complainer (as you might have surmised from the above!). I am sure that I have scared away a few potential clients who were faint-hearted. Fortunately she knows that when all is said and done and I look at my body changes, I really appreciate her and of course my very strong “arms by Dee”.

 

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