Sunday, January 27, 2013

Live Longer, Probably Healthier, Too

Interesting read in today's Parade Magazine, which comes in many of our nation's Sunday papers.  I've been reading Parade Magazine for as long as I can remember. 

Anyway, the article is written in a quiz form, and here is a link to it.  But I'll summarize here.  All of the answers have good solid research to back them up.  And it all makes me that much more determined to take better care of myself in the future.  Most of the living longer tips indicate one should get more physical activity, which is why it caught my eye.

So, if you want to improve your memory after age 50, should you do some sudoku, take some Gingko Biloba, or take a walk?

Take a walk.  Seniors who get more physical activity have less brain shrinkage than sedentary seniors.  So get out and walk.  Or ride a bike.

How do you fix arthritic, creaky knees?  Should you sit and rest, take some supplements (glucosamine or shark cartilage), or take a Tai Chi class?

Tai Chi, if you're playing along.  The stretches and poses can help control pain and improve your physical movement and function.  I also, from my own anecdotal evidence, recommend bike riding.  It's been the best thing for my knees yet! I'll have to look for a Tai Chi class too, as I have no idea how to do that.

Will it shorten your life more to watch TV, or to smoke?

I immediately thought smoking, of course.  But truth is, it is tv watching.  Any sedentary activity shortens your life.  Studies have shown that for ever hour an adult watches tv, it shortens their life by 22 minutes.  Smokers only shorten their life by 11 minutes for every cigarette.  Not that you should take up smoking.  But that tv habit?  That needs to go.  I am not a tv watcher, except for new and the occasional baseball or football game.  I'd rather be doing something else.  That being said, many of my "doing something else" things involve sitting on my butt, so I'm going to stretch this to mean ANY sitting time in front of a screen of any kind.

Been spending my whole life smoking, avoiding exercise, and being unhealthy.  I'm over 40/over 50/over 60.  Is it too late for me?

Not at all.  Get up and get out of the house and get some exercise and put down the cancer stick and be more careful of what you eat.  Any amount of doing these things, even in middle age, will give you a longer life expectancy. I am not a smoker, but I'm fat, and don't get enough exerciseThat is going to change.

What does having a window open have to do with making you feel younger?

Looking outside, particularly at a natural, outdoorsy view, can reduce blood pressure.  No lie!  Living near open areas or green space has been shown to have an positive effect on your "telomeres," a part of the DNA strand that can deteriorate with age.  In other words, looking onto green space, open space, and nature can keep your DNA young.

Does volunteering decrease depression and better your sex life?

Oddly enough, yes.  Being active and involved in your community, or with children, or wherever you choose to spend your time can decrease depressive symptoms.  It has also been show to increase/enhance women's sexual desire and overall contentment with their sexual lives.

I'm physically active and many years can I add to my lifespan?

More than five years, according to a 2012 study.  Elders who swam, walked, or otherwise enjoyed physical activity and had social interactions with others lived more than five years longer than those who were sedentary.  Remaining socially engaged is the key; even a drumming class or writing group could give you the interaction you need to keep healthy.

What about that whole osteoporosis/bone health thing?

This one interested me, of course, as I sit here with a broken leg moving toward recovery.  What should I do to make this not a concern?  Scientists in Denmark sent a group of sedentary women over 40 to either start running, or play soccer, for a time period of 14 weeks.  Surprise...the soccer moms/women had better bone strength after the 14 weeks than the runners did.  Now, I'm not sure my knees can take any kind of soccer, but maybe there's something else I can do to build my bone strength up through activity.

Okay, so how do I get motivated?

According to research, get a dog.  People who had a dog to walk walked more regularly and more often than others.  A dog has to be walked.  If that's your motivation, go with it!  Me, I'll just have to continue to self-motivate; we're not getting a dog, and my cat would not let me take her for a walk (unless it was in a backpack or something).

Are you inspired by any of these things?  Let me hear about it!  Leave me a comment!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Liar Liar Pants on Fire

So this week Lance Armstrong finally admitted that he'd been doping.  Until not too long ago, I actually believed him when he said he had never taken performance-enhancing drugs.  They had never proven anything, and I didn't know all that much about the sport, so I just...believed him.

Of course, I'm much more cynical about baseball players, as I'm a pretty big fan.  I also thought that the use of steroids left physical signs.  Anyone who thought Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds weren't doping was deluding themselves.  There were physical signs that were easy to see...oversized shoulder and arm muscles and heads that looked too big for their bodies.  There were also some strange mental/emotional things, not the least of which was an abhorrence of the media and reporters.  They were grumpy, surly individuals who seemed like they were too good for everyone around them.  It was, to me, obvious.

But Lance Armstrong didn't look like a bobble-head doll.  He had muscles, but he was tall and lean and bony.  He could be surly, but mostly only when people were asking about the doping.  Over the years he appeared at many charity events and even created the LiveStrong organization, which has gone on to do amazing things for a lot of people.  In my mind, he didn't fit the mold of an athletic doper.

And mostly, I think I was naive, and uninformed.  I just didn't know a lot about biking, or the famous bikers that won races all over the world.  I still don't know biking the way I am sure I will in the future.  And even if he had not admitted his doping publicly, I think the mystique was broken months ago when he was stripped of his medals.  And many many people have been disappointed.  Despite the doping, Lance Armstrong did more for the sport of professional biking than any other single person.  The only other thing I knew about biking was the 1979 movie Breaking Away, which portrayed biking as a brutal, arrogant sport. 

That movie may not have been that far off. 

I think I'll stick to riding the green spaces and riding to the coffee shop.  Seems a whole lot safer.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Will I Ever Bike Again?

It has been two weeks to the day since my fall and serious break.  This past Friday I got a new, smaller cast after they removed the surgical cast, bandaging, and staples.  I'm healing well.

That being said, it will still be a long time before I'm walking, or biking.  I miss biking the most, but I'd settle for being able to walk to the bathroom without the walker, or being able to go upstairs and take a shower, or go downstairs to do some laundry or poke around in the freezer or work in my office. 

But the doctor said I'd walk again, and ride a bike again, as long as I do what they tell me to do.  This means no walking on the bad leg (not that I could, that would hurt WAY too much), getting plenty of rest, keeping the foot up until the swelling goes down, and coming back for a replacement cast in about 10 days, at which time they will re-assess my fracture blisters.

It will be a little more than a month before I'm free of the cast for good, if everything goes well.  After that, it will be therapy and therapy and therapy. 

I feel like such a lump.  I'm eating as good as I can, but getting way too many calories for being a sit-around Fat Girl.  I'm trying to increase my calcium intake, and protein intake, and keep the carbs as low as possible.  But I won't be surprised to find at the end of my convalescence that I've gained 10 or 15 pounds.  Considering I was already down about 15 pounds since August, this is a disgusting thought.

Not that I can do anything about it, really.  Starving myself won't help my bones, and won't help my healing.  And I'll lose the weight once I'm active again. 

What's the worst?  I never got to use my wonderful Christmas presents - my compression pants, the ding-ding bell for my bike, and the bike bar adapter that will work with my car's bike rack.  They are all sitting in the garage waiting for me.  It's going to be a pretty long wait.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

You Can Be Fat And Fit

This op-ed piece I read early in the week on CNN was a bit of an eye-opener.  To be honest, I didn't know there were so many studies out there actually looking at morbidity rates of fat people, both fit and unfit.  Go ahead, go on over and read it, and I'll wait for you.  Go ahead.

So, when you read that second-to-last paragraph, did you get down on the floor and try to get up without grabbing onto something? 

Honestly, I don't know too many people over the age of 25 that can do that.  I'm over 50, and there's no way my knees would let me do that, but it did make me think a much more fit do I need to be before I can get up with minimal help? I think this will be my new goal.  After my rehab, of course, because right now I'm doing good just to be able to stand up from the toilet with my bad leg and an arm on the side of the sink. 

It is nice to see that researchers and doctors are looking at fat people as more than walking dead people.  I know I will not die young (too late for that), and I am metabolically healthy.  By the numbers, I'm just like anyone else who eats right and stays reasonably active.  I could do more in the active department, but when it comes to eating, I eat better than most people I know.   My cholesterol and blood sugar numbers are on target, my bp is normal for a person my size and age, and I have no heart problems.  Why would I have any higher risk of anything (except maybe bad knees) than a thin person?  In fact, just being thin isn't enough to be healthy; plenty of thin people have high cholesterol, or pre diabetes or heart issues.  It isn't about being thin.  It's about being healthy.

Now, I hear a nice big salad calling my name.  It's one of my favorite indulgences!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Best Laid Plans...

The universe has really sick ways of keeping me from doing what I want with my legs.

On Sunday I drove up to Rocky Mountain National Park to take pictures of the snow.  I go up there quite a bit, and as I went through the gate, I bought my season pass for the rest of the year.  I stopped at Fall River and hiked up the path to the bridge to listen to the water under the ice.  Then I drove up as far as I could on Trail Ridge Road, which usually is open all the way through the park during the warm months.  There were a lot of tourists, as there usually are this time of year.  I parked and walked across the road to the overlook.

I never made it.  I slipped in some mushy snow, went down on one knee, and broke my ankle in three places.  There was the trip in an ambulance down the mountain to Estes Park (about 4000 feet) to the Estes Park Medical Center, where I was assessed, x-rayed, and it was quickly determined that I needed a better hospital, one with a trauma center.  Away we went down the mountain, another 3000 or so feet, to Good Samaritan in Lafayette, a few miles from my town.  They set my ankle (it was dislocated) and admitted me, and I had surgery on Monday night.  There are plates and screws and a cast that appears to weigh a ton.  I have an unusual complication called fracture blisters, which is a really gross thing and you shouldn't look it up on Google unless you are prepared. The blisters might have put my surgery off for a week, but they weren't bad, so they went ahead and did the surgery,  I have followup in a couple of weeks, when they'll remove my stitches and give me a new cast.

I am non-weight-bearing on that leg for 6-8 weeks, after which there will be therapy.  There will be no driving, and I will have to work from home, which, thankfully, is possible!

I guess now I won't be all worrying about when/how I'm going to bike and walk in the cold and snow.  I'll be sitting right here in my living room, laying on the spare bed hubby dragged up from the basement, and wondering when I'll ever be able to take a shower again.

Thanks Universe.  This was really, uh, helpful?