Sorry! I intended to keep writing, but as it sometimes can, life just got away from me. I took a quick trip to Seattle to see my Mom on Mother’s Day, stayed with my best friend from college, ummm . . . when I count the number of years we have been friends, I am shocked!
Flying out of Pensacola, we flew over Bayou Texar:
I had a great seat, but the lady next to me sounded like she had terminal pneumonia, so I kept my face toward the window. Everything went smoothly, arrived a little early. Two hassles: I had decided for just a short trip I would use a shoulder bag/suitcase, and even though it was light, it gets heavy lugging it from gate to gate. On the good news side, it sure is a lot easier to travel with just cabin baggage, easy on – easy off.
Second, I just hate it that Seattle has relocated all the rental cars to an off-site location. The buses only stop at one end of the terminal or the other so again, there is a lot of lugging, whether it is wheeled or shoulder. You have no control over when the bus will come or when it will leave. It used to be so easy, just dropping the car off and walking directly into the terminal; now I have to calculate extra time for unknowns in the rental return process, oh aarrgh.
Traffic to north Seattle was horrible, even on a Saturday, it was like a normal work day when all the workers are streaming out of the city. On work days, there are windows when traffic is less, but a Saturday! Aarrgh!
It was not raining, or not much. That was a really good thing. Temperatures were lower than Pensacola. That was a good thing. We had a great Mother’s Day brunch, with my sisters and their hubbies, and Mom and I did some shopping. The next day, more errands and catching up on banking and bureaucracies. Those were all good things.
My good friend and I had time to catch up and – as we are wont to do – analyze and strategize. We spent a good amount of time laughing at ourselves and our dilemmas. We laughed at the problems of aging. We laughed at who we thought we would be (who ever thinks they will get old??) and who we have become. Here is what sunrise over Lake Washington looks like from my friend’s house:
Flight home uneventful; arrived in Atlanta a few minutes early and I was out the door in a flash, running running running down one concourse and up the other to see if I could get on the earlier flight to Pensacola which was leaving in MINUTES! “No, no, not possible” the gate clerk said without even looking up; she was already working on two other women, I am guessing flight attendants trying to get back home. I waited a minute, bushed from the long run and lugging the shoulder luggage, then said “I think I will just go find a barbecue” and the gate attendant said “Wait!” and I thought she was going to tell me where to find the best barbecue, because I had like three hours, but no . . . she was printing me out a ticket! I got the last seat, back, back, way back in between two great big United States Marines, but it was a fun 45 minutes and I was home three hours earlier. All that is really good!
Even though it is not Seattle to Kuwait, I still like to shower after a long flight, I just feel germy! AdventureMan made me a beautiful salad with sauteed Portobello mushrooms on top, oh yummmmm and we delighted to be together again. Woooo HOOOOO, home again Sorry to be out of the loop, but when you are one day out, one day back with two days in between, time just swooshes by.
From the UK Daily Mail Online:
The Western diet really IS a killer: People who eat white bread, butter and red meat are most likely to die young
- Those who ate fried and unhealthy food had doubled risk of early death
- Key culprits include red meat, white bread, butter, cream and sweet foods
- Findings ‘help explain’ why heart disease is still the UK’s biggest killer
PUBLISHED: 13:20 EST, 16 April 2013 | UPDATED: 02:08 EST, 17 April 2013
The typical Western diet, high in fat and sugar, really does lead to an early grave, new research suggests.
A study of more than 5,000 civil servants found those who ate the most fried and sweet food, processed and red meat, white bread and butter and cream doubled their risk of premature death or ill health in old age.
It adds to evidence that ‘Western style food’ is the reason why heart disease claims about 94,000 lives a year in the UK – more than any other illness.
The findings published in The American Journal of Medicine are based on a survey of British adults and suggest adherence to the diet increases the risk of premature death and disability later in life.
Lead researcher, Dr Tasnime Akbaraly, of the National Institute of Health and Medical Research in France, said: ‘The impact of diet on specific age-related diseases has been studied extensively, but few investigations have adopted a more holistic approach to determine the association of diet with overall health at older ages.’
She examined whether diet, assessed in midlife, using dietary patterns and adherence to the Alternative Healthy Eating Index (AHEI), is associated with physical ageing 16 years later.
The AHEI is an index of diet quality, originally designed to provide dietary guidelines with the specific intention to combat major chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.
Dr Akbaraly added: ‘We showed that following specific dietary recommendations such as the one provided by the AHEI may be useful in reducing the risk of unhealthy ageing, while avoidance of the “Western-type foods” might actually improve the possibility of achieving older ages free of chronic diseases.’
The researchers analysed data from the British Whitehall II cohort study and found following the AHEI can double the odds of reversing metabolic syndrome, a range of disorders known to cause heart disease and mortality.
They followed 3,775 men and 1,575 women from 1985-2009 with a mean age of 51 years.
Using a combination of hospital data, results of screenings conducted every five years, and registry data, investigators identified death rates and chronic diseases among participants.
At the follow up stage, just four per cent had achieved ‘ideal ageing’ – classed as being free of chronic conditions and having high performance in physical, mental and mental agility tests.
About 12 per cent had suffered a non-fatal cardiovascular event such as a stroke or heart attack, while almost three per cent had died from cardiovascular disease.
About three quarters were categorised as going through ‘normal ageing’.
The researchers said participants who hadn’t really stuck to the AHEI increased their risk of death, either from heart disease or another cause.
Those who followed a ‘Western-type diet’ consisting of fried and sweet food, processed food and red meat, refined grains, and high-fat dairy products, lowered their chances for ideal ageing.
We’ve had three sets of houseguests in a very short time span, and today is our first day of ‘normal.’ We saw our friends off at 0430 (we used to call it oh-dark-hundred) and I couldn’t get back to sleep, so by the grace of God (and I mean that literally) I got up and walked.
I know I need to walk. I’ve always walked. I used to run, but I suffered for it – the knees – and decided I didn’t want to pay that price. But when my sister was here, we decided to take a walk and I said “don’t worry, I walk fast” and she said “I don’t, I am so slow now, my body has to warm up.” Confidently I started – and starting is uphill from my house. Very shortly, I discovered my fast was her slow, and I was HUFFING and puffing, and so embarrassed because I guess it’s been a while since I did this walk . . . but we did it. It felt good. And I was happy for a nice cool morning so I could do it again.
I ran into a neighbor, ignored that she was in her nightgown, we both pretended she was as fully dressed as I, had a brief conversation and she went inside with her newspaper and I carried on. About halfway through my walk, as I puffed along, I heard it.
The baboon coughed.
I could even smell a faint drift of wood burning fire. I could hear the doves. But it was only very briefly, very intangential, and I quickly realized it must have been a dog barking distantly; I could still hear him. For one brief moment I was back in Zambia, and while I love the magic of Zambia, I would not be out for a mile long hike early in the morning while the lions prowl for a last meal before they settle down for their day-long snooze.
We are off this morning to a grand plant sale across the bay in Milton. Symphony tonight. Back to “normal” for Pensacola.
I took a wonderful photo at Easter, wonderful because I have the same exact photo at the same exact age of my son, holding up his Easter Egg exactly (or, oh pardon me, I can’t resist, eggsactly) the same way. There are just some little things that make a Grandmama’s (and Mama’s) heart sing
Because AdventureMan has worked so hard with him, little Q has been moved up to a more advanced class, and we are all excited about that. I know there are some who prefer to be the BEST in their group, but we always learn and achieve more when surrounded by people a little more accomplished and skilled than we are. We are happy he will be pushing himself to be a really GOOD swimmer!
When we pick Q up at school, all his little school friends say “Q – your BaBa is here!” LOL @ all these little kids speaking Arabic!
One of the big impacts of being long term expats is that as you move from country to country, you also move from doctor to doctor. We managed by getting most of our health care while back in the US, but for those things that can’t be scheduled, we had to see local doctors. No one followed our cases. We knew we were paying a price, and determined that it would be a priority when we retired to find good health care. We were determined to find a doctor who would be a partner in keeping us fit and healthy.
We found a really great doctor, a young guy who really keeps up with things. He gave us complete exams, then started us on rounds of other exams, those annoying tests like colonoscopies, mammograms, lung function, etc.
We’re doing well. To my great surprise, however, he told me at our last visit that I needed to give up my nightly Benedryl capsule.
I’ve always been a light sleeper. I took this news with dismay, but I gave up Benedryl. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to sleep, but I find I sleep just fine without it. It took some time to make the adjustment; Benedryl had helped me bridge those wakeful times between sleep cycles. Now, I sleep differently, but I sleep.
It occurred to me that I never looked it up online, so this morning I did. This is from a US News and World Report article in 2011:
By Steven Reinberg
THURSDAY, June 4 (HealthDay News) –Older people taking common over-the-counter drugs for pain, cold symptoms or help with sleep may increase their risk for cognitive impairment, including delirium, University of Indiana researchers report.
These drugs include Benadryl, Dramamine, Excedrin PM, Nytol, Sominex, Tylenol PM and Unisom.
All of these over-the-counter (OTC) drugs contain benadryl (diphenhydramine), a molecule that blocks the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is essential for normal functioning of the central and peripheral nervous systems, the researchers explained.
“Before taking any medication prescribed by your doctor or an OTC medication, make sure there is no negative impact of this medication on your brain,” said lead researcher Dr. Malaz Boustani.
His group analyzed data from 27 prior studies on the relationship between anticholinergic effects and brain function, as well as looking into anecdotal data. The team found a consistent link between anticholinergic effects and cognitive impairment in older adults.
“Any OTC medication with the term ‘PM’ will indicate the presence of benadryl, which is bad for the brain,” Boustani concluded.
He noted that the effects of benadryl can add up, so the more medications you take that contain benadryl the worse it may be for cognition. “There is a relationship with the number of medications and the burden on your aging brain,” the researcher said.
People aged 65 and older who take these medications also run the risk of developing delirium, Boustani said. Delirium is a decline in attention-focus, perception and cognition, or “acute brain failure,” as Boustani calls it. Delirium typically increases the odds of dying or being institutionalized, he said.
In addition, taking these medications for 90 days or more may triple your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, Boustani said.
Given the risks, older adults should look for drugs that don’t contain benadryl, he said.
“A lot of these medications are not recognized for these side effects,” he contended. “It’s time for the FDA to start taking this negative impact of these medications on the aging brain seriously.”
The report is published in the May online issue of the Journal of Clinical Interventions in Aging.
According to Boustani, researchers in brain pharmacoepidemiology at Indiana University’s Center for Aging Research is conducting a study of 4,000 older adults to see if the long-term use of medications with anticholinergic effects is associated with the development of severe cognitive impairment, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Dr. Clinton Wright, an associate professor of neurology at the Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami, agreed that more study is needed to assess the effects of these drugs on the brain.
“These findings don’t surprise me at all,” Wright said. “People tend not to think of their OTC medications as medication, but any medication that has anticholinergic effects can affect people’s cognition.”
Wright believes the drugs should carry a warning of this potential side effect.
Deborah G. Bolding, a spokeswoman for GlaxoSmithKline, the maker of Sominex, defended the product and said it complies with all current FDA regulations. However, she would not comment specifically on whether diphenhydramine is associated with an increased risk of delirium in older adults.
“Sominex is a mild sleep aid designed to help individuals through periods of nervous tension or stress, which are accompanied by sleeplessness. It has been proven safe and effective in medical tests when taken as directed, and has been safely used by millions of satisfied customers,” Bolding said.
“For all formulations, Sominex’s active ingredient is diphenhydramine hydrochloride. This is marketed under a final FDA monograph as an over-the-counter sleep aid,” she added.
One of the reasons AdventureMan and I have been married almost 40 years is that we agree on some very irrational basics – like nothing says romance on Valentine’s Day like Italian food. He had recently been to Petrella’s and suggested I might like it – so off we went, on the worst day of the year to try to get in someplace without a reservation. I remembered all our Valentine’s Day dinners in Kuwait, trying to get in someplace, anyplace, Italian was out of the question, fully booked. We usually ended up bribing someone to let us have an early dinner, promising to be out before our later-eating Kuwaiti Valentines diners arrived; they would never even know they had shared their reservation with us.
We were in luck. Although every table in Petrella’s was taken, within five minutes one group left and we got their booth. AdventureMan had truly nailed this one; this is a neighborhood eatery, full of people who have been eating at Petrella’s for a long time. There were lots of couples, like us, but also many groups of four, many working people having their daily lunch, and a very large table of women affiliated in some way. We speculated, maybe church? Maybe a retirement home? Maybe a club?
Petrella’s took me back to my childhood, where Italian food was “foreign” food and very exotic. People didn’t eat out so much. The very most special restaurants were steak restaurants, or clubs. Even pizza was new, not uncommon; there were frozen pizzas and home-made pizza dough, but it wasn’t the normal American kind of food – meat, potatoes, veg. It was kind of “spicy.” Yes, I can hear you laughing, but things were different, eating out was not a daily or even a weekly event, eating out was something you did maybe once a month. Even then, it was sometimes, hamburgers! Dairy Queen was about the fastest-food there was and there were no McDonalds or Burger King chains, no Kentucky Fried Chicken. There was A&W Hamburgers; there were ice-cream and soda bars, and of course, in Seattle, there was Chinese and Japanese foods.
Petrella’s is comfortable. The salads and the dishes they served are the dishes Italian restaurants have been serving for a hundred years. The lunch specials are all under $8.00, and they all come with salad and garlic bread. They take it for granted you are going to need a box to take home the excess; portions are large. We also had our lunches for dinner
This was AdventureMan’s main course, the Baked Spaghetti:
and here was mine, Petrella’s Famous Marsala (with shrimp):
It was comfort food. Nothing fancy or unexpected, but good, honest ingredients, crafted well. It’s a kind of food that calls you back again and again when you want a good reliable meal. I know we will be going back, and we will probably take family and friends, it’s that kind of place.
They have an excellent website, with their complete menu.
I’m always watching myself for any sign of cognitive slippage. I had two dear aunts who became barmy, one in her sixties, and one not until her eighties. Thank you, Hayfa, for this great article:
UCLA on Alzheimer’s Disease – young or old should read
Food for Thought
“The idea that Alzheimer’s is entirely genetic and unpreventable is perhaps the greatest misconception about the disease,” says Gary Small, M.D., director of the UCLA Centeron Aging. Researchers now know that Alzheimer’s, like heart disease and cancer, develops over decades and can be influenced by lifestyle factors including cholesterol, blood pressure, obesity, depression, education, nutrition, sleep and mental, physical and social activity.The big news: Mountains of research reveals that simple things you do every day might cut your odds of losing your mind to Alzheimer’s.In search of scientific ways to delay and outlive Alzheimer’s and other dementias, I tracked down thousands of studies and interviewed dozens of experts. The results in a new book: 100 Simple Things You Can Do to Prevent Alzheimer’s and Age-Related Memory Loss
Here are 10 strategies I found most surprising.
1. Have coffee. In an amazing flip-flop, coffee is the new brain tonic. A large European study showed that drinking three to five cups of coffee a day in midlife cut Alzheimer’s risk 65% in late life. University of South Florida researcher Gary Arendash credits caffeine: He says it reduces dementia-causing amyloid in animal brains. Others credit coffee’s antioxidants. So drink up, Arendash advises, unless your doctor says you shouldn’t.
2. Floss. Oddly, the health of your teeth and gums can help predict dementia. University of Southern California research found that having periodontal disease before age 35 quadrupled the odds of dementia years later. Older people with tooth and gum disease score lower on memory and cognition tests, other studies show. Experts speculate that inflammation in diseased mouths migrates to the brain.
3. Google. Doing an online search can stimulate your aging brain even more than reading a book, says UCLA’s Gary Small, who used brain MRIs to prove it. The biggest surprise: Novice Internet surfers, ages 55 to 78, activated key memory and learning centers in the brain after only a week of Web surfing for an hour a day.
4. Grow new brain cells. Impossible, scientists used to say. Now it’s believed that thousands of brain cells are born daily. The trick is to keep the newborns alive. What works: aerobic exercise (such as a brisk 30-minute walk every day), strenuous mental activity, eating salmon and other fatty fish, and avoiding obesity, chronic stress, sleep deprivation, heavy drinking and vitamin B deficiency. Drink apple juice. Apple juice can push production of the “memory chemical” acetylcholine; that’s the way the popular Alzheimer’s drug Aricept works, says Thomas Shea, Ph.D., of the University of Massachusetts. He was surprised that old mice given apple juice did better on learning and memory tests than mice that received water. A dose for humans: 16 ounces, or two to three apples a day.
5. Protect your head. Blows to the head, even mild ones early in life, increase odds of dementia years later. Pro football players have 19 times the typical rate of memory-related diseases. Alzheimer’s is four times more common in elderly who suffer a head injury, Columbia University finds. Accidental falls doubled an older person’s odds of dementia five years later in another study. Wear seat belts and helmets, fall-proof your house, and don’t take risks.
6. Meditate. Brain scans show that people who meditate regularly have less cognitive decline and brain shrinkage – a classic sign of Alzheimer’s – as they age. Andrew Newberg of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine says yoga meditation of 12 minutes a day for two months improved blood flow and cognitive functioning in seniors with memory problems.
7. Take Vitamin D. A “severe deficiency” of vitamin D boosts older Americans’ risk of cognitive impairment 394%, an alarming study by England’s University of Exeter finds. And most Americans lack vitamin D. Experts recommend a daily dose of 800 IU to 2,000 IU of vitamin D3.
8. Fill your brain. It’s called “cognitive reserve.” A rich accumulation of life experiences – education, marriage, socializing, a stimulating job, language skills, having a purpose in life, physical activity and mentally demanding leisure activities – makes your brain better able to tolerate plaques and tangles. You can even have significant Alzheimer’s pathology and no symptoms of dementia if you have high cognitive reserve, says David Bennett, M.D., of Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center.
9. Avoid infection. Astonishing new evidence ties Alzheimer’s to cold sores, gastric ulcers, Lyme disease, pneumonia and the flu. Ruth Itzhaki, Ph.D., of the University of Manchester in England estimates the cold-sore herpes simplex virus is incriminated in 60% of Alzheimer’s cases. The theory: Infections trigger excessive beta amyloid “gunk” that kills brain cells. Proof is still lacking, but why not avoid common infections and take appropriate vaccines, antibiotics and antiviral agents?
What to Drink for Good Memory: A great way to keep your aging memory sharp and avoid Alzheimer’s is to drink the right stuff.
a. Tops: Juice. A glass of any fruit or vegetable juice three times a week slashed Alzheimer’s odds 76% in Vanderbilt University research. Epecially protective:blueberry, grape and apple juice, say other studies.
b. Tea: Only a cup of black or green tea a week cut rates of cognitive decline in older people by 37%, reports the Alzheimer’s Association. Only brewed tea works. Skip bottled tea, which is devoid of antioxidants.
c. Caffeine beverages. Surprisingly, caffeine fights memory loss and Alzheimer’s, suggest dozens of studies. Best sources: coffee (one Alzheimer’s researcher drinks five cups a day), tea and chocolate. Beware caffeine if you are pregnant, have high blood pressure, insomnia or anxiety.
d. Red wine: If you drink alcohol, a little red wine is most apt to benefit your aging brain. It’s high in antioxidants. Limit it to one daily glass for women, two for men. Excessive alcohol, notably binge drinking, brings on Alzheimer’s.
e. Two to avoid: Sugary soft drinks, especially those sweetened with high fructose corn syrup. They make lab animals dumb. Water with high copper content also can up your odds of Alzheimer’s. Use a water filter that removes excess minerals.
Ways to Save Your Kids from Alzheimer’s:
· Now, Alzheimer’s isn’t just a disease that starts in old age. What happens to your child’s brain seems to have a dramatic impact on his or her likelihood of Alzheimer’s many decades later.
· Here are five things you can do now to help save your child from Alzheimer’s and memory loss later in life, according to the latest research. Prevent head blows: Insist your child wear a helmet during biking, skating, skiing, baseball, football, hockey, and all contact sports. A major blow as well as tiny repetitive unnoticed concussions can cause damage, leading to memory loss and Alzheimer’s years later.
· Encourage language skills: A teenage girl who is a superior writer is eight times more likely to escape Alzheimer’s in late life than a teen with poor linguistic skills. Teaching young children to be fluent in two or more languages makes them less vulnerable to Alzheimer’s.
· Insist your child go to college: Education is a powerful Alzheimer’s deterrent . The more years of formal schooling, the lower the odds. Most Alzheimer’s prone: teenage drop outs. For each year of education, your risk of dementia drops 11%, says a recent University of Cambridge study.
· Provide stimulation: Keep your child’s brain busy with physical, mental and social activities and novel experiences. All these contribute to a bigger, better functioning brain with more so-called ‘cognitive reserve.’ High cognitive reserve protects against memory decline and Alzheimer’s.
· Spare the junk food: Lab animals raised on berries, spinach and high omega-3 fish have great memories in old age. Those overfed sugar, especially high fructose in soft drinks, saturated fat and trans fats become overweight and diabetic, with smaller brains and impaired memories as they age, a prelude to Alzheimer’s.
I had a troubling dream which woke me early this morning and I couldn’t get back to sleep. I dreamed I was working on a very large quilt, and I had promised to hand quilt it. I remember seeing it was not made as a usual quilt is made, with a top and a bottom, and a layer of batting (wadding) in between, but of 12 – 13 layers of cotton cloth, a very difficult quilting challenge, and it seems to me that the quilt was like 15 feet by 15 feet, a huge quilt, a size I have never even seen done. I remember having accepted to quilt a very complicated pattern, and as I awoke, I was stitching and stitching and stitching, hand stitch after hand stitch, but feeling utterly defeated and overwhelmed at the task I was facing.
I am confounded. In terms of quilting, I will never be caught up, but it doesn’t bother me, I just keep on. I finish most quilts; I do just fine. I don’t have any project deadlines, I don’t have any feeling of urgency on completing any of my quilts. I very rarely do any hand quilting; machine quilting gets the job done and hand quilting is hard on my hands and fingers.
My life, too, in this so-called retirement, is orderly. I take on what I can take on and complete the task. I don’t feel like I am behind in anything. I keep up with things. I feel no urgency.
So where did this dream come from?
I believe God calls to us in many ways (“Let he who has ears listen!”), through his word, through the voices and actions of Godly people, through a book one might be reading, through a friend, or a homeless person, or even through a dream. Being who I am, I prefer a clear message; interpretation is so fraught with personal prejudices, so filtered by what we know, by our particular dogma or belief system. I am praying now for clarity, and for the meaning of this dream to be made understandable so that I might know what I am needed to do . . . If I am meant to keep chipping away at something, please, let me do it with a joyful attitude, not this feeling of being faced with an overwhelming task.
And as I go through the categories,getting ready to post this entry, choosing those words that best apply, I see “Moving” and I have to laugh; moving is that huge quilt, that elephant that one can only eat one bite at a time, that many layered monstrosity, and it has been three years since I have moved. Three years living in one country, one city, in one house. It may be that the dream is one of those anxiety dreams like your college exam dreams, a dream that is no longer relevant but a hangover from another time, another life. My subconscious is getting ready for a move, feeling overdue, LOL.