Monday, January 27, 2014

Eldercare: Different Clothes can Help a Lot

I'm not one of those people for whom comfort is everything in clothes. But there comes a time when economy or sheer weight of clothing forces change for societies and individuals. Think of wigs, lace, blush and stockings giving way to simple suits around 1800. Women enjoyed a similar liberation around that time and around 1920. So did my parents this weekend.

My father has always dressed in jeans and a western shirt. Trouble is, he's elderly and needs help getting dressed, and jeans are hard to pull on another person. So are suspenders. Being no youngster herself, it took my mother an hour to help him get dressed Saturday morning. She said "enough!" In the interest of easy dressing, I bought Dad some basketball pants. Since western shirts don't go with basketball pants, I also got some t-shirts. I thought it was going to be a battle to get Dad to change his style, but he actually likes the new clothes. He's always like convenience, and being able to dress himself has to be a good feeling.

And surprise--his new duds look better than the old ones. (Mom says she was tired of looking at his John Deere suspenders, anyway.) It should also be easier for my mother to wash the new clothes (transfer them to the washer and dryer) since the pants are lightweight fabric, not heavy cotton. As if that weren't enough, it looks like the battle of the thermostat is over. Even though Mom told me to get long-sleeved shirts and sweat pants for Dad, I got short-sleeved t-shirts and basketball pants (which are very thin) since he's always hot and Mom is always cold. Today was the first day Dad didn't turn down the thermostat or open a window.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

My New Exercise: Why it isn't Crossfit

I knew my exercise program was failing when I got depressed from, well, lack of exercise. I'd been lifting weights and doing lindy hop (an athletic American partner dance from the late 1920s). But after ten years, six of which I lifted weights three times a week, I was bored with weightlifting. Even though Slow Burn doesn't demand much time, I wasn't making enough time for it. And there are so few men in Denver's lindy hop scene that I only got a few dances a night. When you subtract the people who only dance with their date or stand around in a huddle with their friends, the ratio of women to men is probably three or four to one.

Why not crossfit--it's all the rage, it's a tough workout and there are several places to do it close to home or work. Mostly, I don't need to throw up from working out. Google "crossfit vomit" (without quotes) and you'll get 95,100 results. I also don't need the snooty attitude I've heard so much about. I'm sure many crossfitters are lovely people, but it only takes a few bad apples pretending they don't see you or offering advice you don't want to ruin it. I had enough of that in the lindy hop scene, though most of the bad actors left Denver some years ago.

I never encountered any snobbery at my old taekwondo school, where the master there was also the Olympic head coach. The martial arts I'm familiar with have a tradition of discipline and showing respect to others, probably because a bunch of cocky, pugilistic students would be a liability to the community and ultimately their school. Recalling a positive time spent at my old school, I joined a traditional karate school near my home. I'll have to relearn all the terms in Japanese, but the place feels like my old school. I've had my first class, and had forgotten how precise the movements are supposed to be. I think it will be as mentally challenging as lindy.

For strength training, yoga is underrated. Some yoga classes are less strenuous (like lifting inky-dinky weights) but are good for stretching and relaxation. I've found a yoga class with a terrific instructor at a pleasant studio that's quite challenging, and I feel like I'm gaining strength and balance. One thing I like is that the class is different every time, and so I don't work the same muscles with every workout.

Most importantly, yoga and karate are two things I should be able to stick to. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

If Rice is so Healthy, Why Fortify It?

Quite by accident, I came across an article proposing fortification of rice to prevent nutrient deficiencies. I'm not against fortifying rice, since it could greatly improve the health of people for whom it's a staple. But the fact that rice needs to be fortified belies that idea that rice, or grains in general, are nutritious enough to be a dietary staple. It hasn't done much good for people who depend on it:

[A] concern [with fortification] may relate to the possibility of over-consumption of rice given the potential benefits of additional vitamins and minerals. As a public health intervention, the use of a vehicle would imply not encouraging the population to consume greater amounts of the ’fortified’ rice. Higher consumption of white rice is associated with a significantly increased risk of type 2 diabetes, especially in Asian (Chinese and Japanese) populations.
Micronutrient deficiencies of public health significance are all widespread in most high rice consuming countries. 
Poor dietary diversity and dependence on cereal-based diets, which are common in developing countries, are major contributing factors to the high prevalence of micronutrient deficiencies. Cereals in addition to being poor sources of vitamins and minerals also contain high quantities of other dietary compounds that decrease the absorption of certain micronutrients, often called 'anti-nutrients’ (Graham 2001). For instance, iron and zinc absorption is significantly inhibited by phytic acid, present in cereals and other grains; polyphenols, contained in red wine and chocolate; or calcium, abundant in dairy products. On this basis, dietary bioavailability of iron has been estimated to be in& the range of 14% to 18% for mixed diets and 5% to 12% for vegetarian diets. (Emphasis added.)

As for those healthy rice-eating Asians, "production is rising in the South but falling in the East" and "consumption has shifted to other foodstuffs in line with income growth."

a-Rosas. The Cochrane Library 2012, Issue 6.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Exercise Deficiency Syndrome

I've found myself frequently depressed over the past several weeks. It helped to think of it as my brain being depressed and that everyone gets sad sometimes and it passes. Thinking this way helped me start looking for causes and solutions.

I haven't been dancing as much over the past few months: it's too discouraging when there are two or three followers for every lead. So much for Denver being "Menver," a term used by men who evidently look for women under the seat cushions. (Maybe I exaggerate, but Denver County is half women according to the last census and we leave the house a lot more according to my observations.)

I've decided to quit being like the proverbial drunk who looks for his keys under a street light just because he can see there. I'm giving up dancing to resume martial arts because I need the physical exertion. (You didn't think it was to meet men, did you?)

I noticed going to a difficult yoga class (with a bunch of women) improved my mood for days. In my early 20s, I didn't know why I kept going to taekwondo, but now I know that it probably did the same thing for me. And the school just felt right. Twenty years on, I still consider how the founder of my old school (Master Sang Lee) would act in circumstances I find myself in. Since I'm too far away from my old school, I'm going to visit a traditional martial arts school this week and hope that I find a new home away from home there.

Monday, January 13, 2014

PPIs Associated with Acute Kidney Injury; USDA's Carb Addiction

Need another reason to give up proton pump inhibitors?
Four years ago, I gave up PPIs and cured my GERD with a low-carb diet. I saved hundreds of dollars a year (even figuring in the cost of groceries), dropped 20 pounds, got rid of aches and pains, improved my HDL cholesterol level, had more energy, and stopped getting cavities. Statistically, I lowered my risk of bone fracture. In case you need another reason to go low-carb and throw away the pills, PPI use is associated with acute kidney injury. Since this study is an association, it could be that PPI use doesn't case kidney injury, but that something else is causing both. It could be that a high-carb diet raises blood sugars to diabetic levels (while also causing GERD) and that high blood sugar causes kidney injury. We know that diabetics are prone to kidney disease. Wouldn't that be a rich irony--that it's too much carbohydrate and not protein that damages your kidneys? If that's the case, there's a double reason to chuck the pills, feed the fruit and grains to the birds and give the soybeans to a monastery.

Why the USDA will never promote a low-carb diet
How can they when 90 percent of their subsidies go to farmers of wheat, corn, soybeans, rice and cotton? What organization would say, "Sorry, we've been wasting billions of dollars a year subsidizing foods that have made the country fat and sick. We'll go look for another job now." The Cato Institute is calling for an end to subsidies and downsizing the USDA.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Beautiful, Comfortable Shoes II

The previous shoe-buying excursion was a flop. The mary janes that felt fine on in the store rubbed my left foot almost raw and I had to make a long trip out to the suburbs to return the other pair I ordered at the store.

While I waited to have my tire repaired this afternoon, I walked to a different shoe store and bought these and a few other pairs:

Rebecca Black Net from Beautifeel. Image from
Sensing a live one, three salesmen gathered round and brought out every size 38 Beautifeel shoe in stock. It reminded me of The Great Happiness Space. The shoes cost some serious coin, but I've had Beautifeel shoes before and I wear them for years in comfort. These will probably cost me around $1 per wearing; the shoes from Dillards cost me $60 for one wearing, minus whatever I can get from a consignment store for them.

If you like Beautifeel, it might be time to stock up since they're changing the lasts to be more narrow and pointed and less comfortable, just like almost every other shoe out there.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

More on Good Skin; Out with the Old; LCHF for birds

In writing about good skin in my last post, I should have remembered that taking vitamins and avoiding most dairy helps me, too. I started avoiding dairy after reading The Paleo Answer by Loren Cordain and noticed that indulgence in cheese or half-and-half led to acne and a few other problems. Avoiding it from there on has been a no-brainer. Taking GNC's Hair, Skin and Nail vitamins helps me avoid nosebleeds and improves my skin, too. Since I also have to take iron, which is an antagonist of zinc (a key nutrient in the vitamins), I've found it most effective to take the vitamins with breakfast and the iron with dinner.

Being on vacation has made it easier to experiment. At the beginning of my vacation a few weeks ago, I was afraid I was going to fritter my time away playing video games. I did a lot of gaming, but also got my house in order. My dying computer and printer, software from the 90s, floppy disks, clothes and shoes I don't wear anymore, music I don't listen to anymore, books I don't read anymore, papers I don't need, shipping boxes, plastic garden pots, and various computer cables are going or gone. The floppy disks, pots and boxes went like free beer on Craigslist. While I was at it, I spruced up my house with new curtains and a new bronze and amber porch light that goes with my 1910 bungalow better than the old wrought iron one. Photos of my dog Sasha went into a collage. Nothing got stuffed in a drawer or closet or the basement--those got cleaned out as well.

What does this have to do with health, fitness and low-carb living? Anything is easier when you're organized. There are only 24 hours in a day, and time that's spent looking for something you've lost, replacing something you've lost, clearing a space to work, and shuffling stuff from pile to pile and room to room means there's less time for everything else: exercise, research, support, and making any but the most basic meals. Personally, I detest clutter and take pleasure in running a tight ship.

Having gotten that out of the way, I had time this morning to make suet cakes for the wild birds in the neighborhood. I melted some lard over a low flame and added crushed walnuts and shelled sunflower seeds, poured the mixture into silicone cupcake molds, and refrigerated them. My next door neighbor recently died, but since his bird feeders are still up, I'll put the cakes in them. We'll see whether the birds go for LCHF.