Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Mitral, aorta and bears, oh my.

On November 1, I wrote about some theories I have about my health.  I was having chest pains and I just thought they were related to stress.  I experienced chest pains on and off for over a decade so this time I went to a cardiac specialist.

I initially had an EKG.  That was just a little off, but close to normal.  So then came the echocardiogram, then…  Well in the end I learned I have a dilated aorta (4.3 cm).  According to the physician 4.0 is typical and anything over 4.5 is a strong concern.  I also have a slight leak in the mitral valve.  Well this explains some of the frustration I experienced recently.  This all followed by a long discussion on options.

The range of options is unbelievable.  Two key points and stress and never relaxing along with the extra 80 pounds of fat create issues on their own.   Of all the options suggested, I am taking one that was not the first option, but second.  That is to retest in 6 months after taking steps to enhance the health. These include:

·      Learn to relax – People know this is not possible for me.  I have picked up some things life the foursquare technique, but do not seem to help.
·      Regular exercise – 5-6 days for at least 30 minutes each.  I have been bad getting about twice per week.  I have been worked 70 plus hour weeks and that is no excuse, but little time left over for me to workout.
·      Correction of minor lipoprotein abnormalities, e.g., small LDL and lipoprotein(a).
·      Reduce carbohydrate intake by eliminating all products made from wheat, cornstarch, and sugars, an enormously effective way to correct small LDL, low HDL, and high triglycerides, as well.  
·      Normalize the vitamin D to counteract the inflammatory responses in the aortic wall.  I should aim for a blood 25-hydroxy vitamin D level of 60-70 ng/ml.
·      Vitamin C supplementation--Collagen cross linking for aortic wall strength requires adequate vitamin C.
·      Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil-Fish oil correct multiple causes of plaque, especially lipoproteins that derive from excessive triglycerides.

So I have three straight days now of 40 minutes on the bike.  This may not seem like much but since I have only found time for once a week since July, this is huge.  I monitor the heart rate as an extra caution. 

I still am not sure how to reduce the natural Type A habits.  I am sure I will learn, as they make is sound like life or death.  Oops…

Sunday, November 30, 2014

R.I.P. my hairy friend

My girlfriend called me yesterday while I was in Duluth on a short vacation away. She informed me she had to make the decision to put Jackson, the best Golden Retriever I have ever known, down.  She needed to do it, sooner than later.  Just like Annie before him, he was recently riddled with health issues in his old age (over 77 dog years).  For almost two months his health was diminishing.  He had lost about 20 pounds and over 70% of his hair.  We had been medicating him for a few months already as they took him to the Vet yesterday (the day after Thanksgiving).  He was having trouble breathing and at times, standing.

She was told she could medicate him and maybe receive a few months, but the quality of life was highly questionable.  We’ve been in denial for a few weeks. This is not an easy decision, especially for her as this is the best dog she ever had as a companion. 

She had picked up Jackson a very short time after her divorce, 11 years ago.  He was just over six months old when we met.  Those who know me know I have a tendency to not allow myself to be close to dogs, as I know they should die well before me.  I know from my youth, people and dogs die, so I protect my heart.  I had a dog I loved as a child die and I had six high school friends die between ages 14-19 years old.  Death is inevitable and painful, unless your the one who is dead.

Jackson was no ordinary dog.  He always looked at me with the highest of admiration and always sought my appreciation.  He really wanted to be my friend.  For years, I was reluctant to show my appreciation for him.  Then after 5 years, he was becoming my buddy.  The love and appreciation grew.  Over the past year, I think he was just as much my best pal as he was my girlfriend's pal.  So putting him down hurt, but nowhere as near as much as it is for her.

 When it came to attention, love and affection, and a steady flow of dropped food, Jackson knew that sticking by me was a win-win situation.  He greeted me every morning when I awoke.  His old eyes just looked at me with affection.  Each night when I came home from work, he met me at the door.  We would go outside for a while then inside to get a treat and a good scratch.   

When I was at my computer, he would lie down next to me and at times, me his wet nose under my arm to seek affection, which I always gave with the highest of appreciation for being a great pal!

He had the unique behavior that when we went on a walk, he would put his leash in his mouth so he did not bark.  He always loved to eat grass!  At times, I thought he was more like a cow than a dog.  He was also a protector.  Well kind of as he barked hard at anyone he did not know but then immediately became mush if challenged.

You see, all dogs are different.  I know Jackson was special.  Even the same breed would no doubt have a different personality, quirks, and abilities.  Annie, my girlfriends older Golden Retriever, was not the same.  I never grew attached to Annie, as she did not care if I liked her or not.  But Jackson wanted to be my best friend.  He never gave up, and now I feel the pain for a loss of a dog.  One I never wanted to experience again after my first experience at a young age.  I will get through this, I know.

I worry about my girlfriend.  She is really struck with grief.  I used to minimize the grief from pat loss, although I have read quite a bit as my own father once had more grief from pat loss than I understood.  I once thought if I died, may father would have fewer issues than if the dog dies.

My son tried to get my girlfriend to smile and succeeded.  This was a blessing to her.  More than he will know.  He made a snow dog for the front yard as a memorial.

Making the dog

Scratching the ear

In the mid-1980's I never understood dog loss.  My father caused this as he basically kicked me out of the house when I let the dog out and he ran away.  He cared more for that dog than his children, or hi wife.

In 1989 I read a report where grief expert Kenneth Doka wrote pet loss (like perinatal death and induced abortion) is “disenfranchised grief”.  This means a griever’s relationship with the deceased, and therefore, the griever’s grief, is not sufficiently recognized by other people. Pets, unlike people, are not publicly mourned, which means that grievers don’t get the social support they need to recover.

I also read pets are good for people, and good for couples.  A 1995 study of couples’ day-to-day interactions found “…couples with dogs had greater well-being, and those with the highest attachment to their dogs — and who confide in them — fared the best. Interestingly, talking to dogs — in addition to one’s spouse — was related to greater life satisfaction, marital satisfaction, and physical and emotional health. Confiding in pets to ‘discuss’ difficult life situations greatly relieved stress.”

A 2002 study measured cardiovascular changes of 120 married couples while they performed two stressful tasks — one was “5 minutes of rapid serial subtraction by steps of three from a four-digit number,” and the other was a 2-minute hand bath in ice water. Participants had lower heart rates and blood pressure when performing these tasks in front of their pet than when doing them in front of their spouse, the study found.

Pets, the authors suggest, offer unconditional support under duress, with no judgments. “While the idea of a pet as social support may appear to some as a peculiar notion, our participants’ responses to stress combined with their descriptions of the meaning of pets in their lives suggest to us that social support can indeed cross species.”

Digging into this research has helped me understand the value of having a dog, and more fully appreciate the bond I had — and apparently still have — with the one I lost.

One question remains.  How long do you wait after one dog dies before doing it all over again?  Or is it better to not do it again.  We can now leave for days and who cares.  We can leave on a whim and not worry about dog care.  There are benefits, both ways I guess.

I often wonder for other, if you get the same kind of dog, is it comforting to have a similar set of dog traits in your life once again, or instead just incredibly sad?  I do not know, but I do know one thing.  I never wanted to become so attached to a dog as the loss, I know all to well, hurts.  Jackson was special.  Very Very special.  He pulled me in and had affection for me.  He was happy to see me each day.  I will miss him, very very much.

RIP my friend, RIP!  You and Annie have a good ole time!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Christmas List

If you read this blog, you may have come across my typical late November post of what I want for Christmas.  I would list several things and typically each year, I would get one or two.  Then one week before Christmas, I would edit the post and remove the items.  Some think that is mean, others never knew it was there while some think I should just tell them what I want.  But what s it about gifts at Christmas.

It is hard to imagine celebrating Christmas in the modern world without thinking about giving gifts. But, have you ever thought to yourself, “Why do we give gifts at Christmas?” In some ways, the tradition of giving gifts at Christmas is a very ancient tradition. In other ways, giving gifts at Christmas is a relatively new development.

In the Christian religion, the practice of giving gifts at Christmas is traced back to the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh that were given to the Christ child by the three Magi. The magi were kings from the East, wise men who traveled a great distance following a star, to find the Christ child and to bring him gifts. The visit of the Magi to the Christ child was originally celebrated on the Feast of Epiphany on January 6th.

Over time, the tradition of giving gifts came to be more associated with Christmas than with Epiphany. It is the time from Christmas to Epiphany in the Church calendar – from December 25th through January 6th – that is recognized as the “twelve days of Christmas” from the old Christmas carol.

To be certain, the ancient Church did not “celebrate” Christmas as much as it “observed” Christmas as a holy day. It wasn’t really until the modern era that giving gifts to love ones at Christmas became more and more popular as the Middle Ages ended and the modern era began. Various countries and peoples began to make gift-giving a regular part of the holy day (or “holiday”) over a period of time. By the time the Americas were settled, giving gifts at Christmas was practiced by many of the settlers. The early Dutch settlers to America introduced St. Nicholas, or Santa Claus, to the new world. The early French and English settlers, in contrast, were more likely to give gifts at New Year’s or at Epiphany.

Ultimately, a common Christmas culture developed in which gifts were given on Christmas. In the nineteenth century, the idea of gift giving took on new dimensions, as the works of O. Henry, Charles Dickens, and Thomas Nast all helped to shape our concepts of Santa Claus and other aspects of the holiday.

Today, we all give gifts at Christmas for our own reasons. For some, it is a way to celebrate the Christian holy day. For others, it is a special time to let family and friends know that you care by giving gifts. At times, giving gifts at Christmas becomes almost mechanical, and a chore; when this happens, it is worth stepping aside for a few moments to consider why exactly you give gifts at Christmas.

So what good is it to tell someone what you want for Christmas?  I believe Christmas is not about gifts, but sharing human love and friendship.  I recently went to visit my father and when I left to return home, I told my sister if he dies tomorrow, at least I know he will die happy.  Giving another human happiness is much more than any gift you can purchase, and it is not easy.

Each year I am more trouble about this tradition.  This year, I have nothing on my Christmas list you can purchase.  Here is what I want:

  • My father to find peace with all the things he regrets
  • Addie Grey to find happiness and stability
  • Get back on track emotionally and physically
  • My niece to find a good future after having two children and then have the father is a worthless father.
  • My Girlfriend’s daughter to be safe as she prepared for her first child
  • For people to smile and help a neighbor shovel the driveway 

Basically, you get the drift.  Be kind all you meet and yourself.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

When enough is enough

Once upon a time, I was healthy.  There was a time when I did not lack enough energy to get me through the day.  A time when sleep came easy and I was always well rested.  A time sadness was never in my soul.  That was replaced with a time when everyone was being told with all the commercials touting energy drinks for America’s tired masses, I was happy I was not the one suffering.  Now I am!

That was a time when I never dreaded the coming cold and flu season.  This was a time when it appeared everyone but me developed some degree of germophobia.  But then came the two six letter words into my life.  Once they enter you soul, it is hard to stop.  One is that wonderful white substance that once you have it, it is hard not to crave more!  The other is moving up in a career and complexities in life create emotions that impact the body greatly.  If you have not guessed, it is SUGARS and STRESS.

Looking back at my life and diet when I ran a little over three hour marathons, I was never tired and never was ill.  I was trying to compare that era to now. 

My job was simple, come in, do a task, go home.  It was a job that you could never be behind and carry the work home.  I never had to monitor people or have a job that was at risk.  I had little overall responsibility for anything but myself.   I ate very little, if any processed sugar.  In fact, I never had a craving.

I came to this conclusion I have been denying when I, for the hundredth time, hear some disturbing new information about the effects of sugar. Several experts have scientific evidence that sugar is the thing that is making so many Americans fat and sick. The more I thought about it the more this makes sense to me — a lot of sense. One in seven Americans has metabolic syndrome.  I recently learned that a metabolic syndrome drastically impacts sleep as well.  Those who know me know I have major sleep issues.  On top of this, one in three Americans is obese. The rate of diabetes is skyrocketing and cardiovascular disease is America’s number one killer.

According to many theories, all of these maladies and more can be traced back to one large toxic presence in our diet… sugar.

So today is my quest to no longer eat foods that contain added sugar.  Yep, it will be hard but I want to cut out anything with an added sweetener, be it table sugar, honey, molasses, maple syrup, agave or fruit juice.  I will exclude anything made with fake sugar or sugar alcohols. Unless the sweetness was attached to its original source (e.g., a piece of fruit), I will avoid it, and this will be difficult.

I mean we find sugar in the most amazing places: tortillas, sausages, chicken broth, salad dressing, cold cuts, crackers, mayonnaise, bacon, bread, and even baby food. I ask, “Why add all of this sugar”?  I read it is to make these items more palatable, add shelf life, and make packaged food production ever cheaper.  Again, whatever the wealthy greed needs to increase the investment income.

Call me crazy, but I see the benefits avoiding added sugar for a year have done for my girlfriend.  She went from not being able to run to doing biathlons.  Before she went sugarless, that struck me as a grand adventure for her.

So I am going to try.  No, I am going to rid my body of processed sugar and unnecessary salts.  I know how hard it will be, what interesting things could happen, how my cooking and shopping could change. After continuing my research, I was convinced removing sugar would make me healthier. For my girlfriend, not eating sugar makes her feel better in a real and tangible way.  I want what she has and no diet or pill will get it for me.  I believe the devil is in the sugar.  I am willing to try.  Although, I am told that it will take up to six month to feel the real benefits.

I anticipate the longer I go without sugar, the better and more energetic I should feel.  I will eventually surrender to the sugar craves, but I have a goal of understanding and not falling way off the wagon.  So I have a rule, more than an allowance to rid of guilt when I have sugar.  I could have one actual sugar-containing dessert per month. I expect with a few months, I will notice my palate to change, and slowly, I will enjoy the monthly “treat” less and less.

I recall when I was primarily sugar free and I was given my favorite pie, COCONUT CREAM PIE.  I recalled when I ate the decadent multi-layered coconut cream, I recall not only did I not enjoy my slice of pie as much as when I regularly indulged in sugar; I would not even finish it.  Right now in my life, I not only finish it, but I crave the whole damb pie and may even eat a second if it was in the house.  My girlfriend tells me how eating heavy sugar actually makes her teeth hurt her head would begin to pound.  Her heart would begin to race and she felt awful.  She tells me “I know now it was sugar that always made me feel bad, but because it was everywhere, I just never noticed it before?”

I think I will try to rid me of one of the six letter words I gained.  I expect my body will be thanking me for it. If my guess is right, I won’t worry about running out of energy. And when flu season comes around I will no longer feel the urge to go and hide under the bed.  I think I will feel less depressed.  I will get sick less and get well faster. If my guess is right, this will be nothing to sneeze at when everyone. 

I have been reading the book Salt Sugar and Fat.  I have come to realize I am the person to blame for my health, but food processing companied sure does not make it easy.  It is all part of the stock owners greed to take whatever steps you can to make them more money.  For that, they need to make me want is more.  It is a mind-altering drug and it is legal. 

Wish me well my friends. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Peroneal Tendinitis

I have experienced ankle pain since July.  It evolved into a pain that made it difficult to walk at times.  I felt a little sore after the Colorado to Minnesota bicycle ride and followed those three weeks later with Grandmas Marathon.  After Grandma’s Marathon I felt just fine for a few weeks, then it progressively started to be painful.  I guess I should have expected a few issues but waited for three months to visit the physician.

The Orthopedic surgeon viewed several ex-rays and determined I had severe Peroneal Tendinitis.  He recommended physical therapy.  The physical therapist said I was very tight.  The range is typically Plantar extension is 40 degrees and I am at 18 and the average Doral extension is 20 degrees and I have 4 degrees.  I have solid inversion with 32 degrees where 30 is good but the radial is 6 degrees where 20 degrees is ideal.  So therapy it is with hard exercise to get full mobility and hopefully reduce the pain.

After three sessions I feel better but it still hurts.  I began to understand the importance of maintaining muscle elasticity, for the whole body.  I have placed my stretching routine on the back burner.  I forgot there are multiple reasons to increase your muscular elasticity, or flexibility. Improvements in range of motion and athletic capability, stress reduction and better sleep are all benefits of a regular stretching routine.  This really makes sense as I evaluate my past and sleep has been impacted much for years.  I am going to start a full body stretch routine for every other day and see the impact on sleep.

I understand to improve the muscle elasticity; I will focus on improving my flexibility and range of motion through regular flexibility-training exercises. The elasticity of a muscle refers to its ability to stretch into a particular shape. I fully understand as the human body ages, it loses some of its natural muscular elasticity, making flexibility training a good addition to your exercise routine at any age. How stupid to forget!

So onward I go looking funny in these moves that are made for the ultra slim individual.  I feel like a weeble, for those old enough to know what I mean. 

Any suggestions for a routine?