Category Archives: Health

Mend a Broken Heart

You think that I am probably thinking about getting over a break-up don’t you?  No, I am talking about your actual heart.  February is American Heart Month.  Most of us think of heart disease as something that affects adults as they grow older, and that there is plenty out there on how to prevent heart disease, like eating healthy  foods and exercise. But children have heart problems, with the most common being a congenital heart defect – something they are born with.

February 7  thru February 14 is Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week.   Each year almost 40,000 babies are born with a heart defect.  CHD affects approximately 1.8 millions families in the U.S. and this subject is very special to my heart since each week I take care of a child with a heart defect.

The CDC webpage has some great information, as does Congenital Heart Information Network and this video.   It uses a lot of fancy words but in simple English these children’s hearts did not develop correctly:

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Exercising to the Oldies


I recently discovered how fun it is to listen to audio books while walking, but to be honest, if I want to ramp it up faster than a walk I have to have music.  Over the years I have spent hundreds of hours searching for the right songs.  It can’t just be any song.  I have to like it and it has to have the right tempo. I can’t tell you how many songs I loaded into my playlist only to find that certain parts dragged me down. There is all sorts of scientific evidence to support using music and you can read more about it in this article.  But it boils down to finding music that has the right beats per minute (BPM) for my pace. Continue reading

Tis the season to be sick…

sick…which is what I’ve been, for the past few days. I’ve been trying to make it through autumn in a public school, which is a positive germ’s playground, but no success. Combination flu, fever, cold, and all-round yuckiness.

Being sick has its downsides (duh), but the good side is that I’ve been getting tons of well-needed rest, and I’ve been reading heaps. I’ve been puttering around the house between the sofa, my bed, and the kitchen. The sofa and bed are just to give variety to my routine, when my aching muscles can stand to get up.

The kitchen, of course, is for well-needed sustenance. My go-to food, for general illnesses, is good old chicken noodle soup. Amazing how water, MSG, and pasta can be so comforting. And my go-to drink is good old lemon-honey water. It sure does the hurting throat good.

What do you do when you’re sick? Any special home remedies?

– Jean AAR

Apples, oranges or bananas?

f9adc3fb18e7e6eb38380ebcaf7e_grandeOh, those food studies. First, it’s eat eggs. Then it’s don’t. Next it’s red wine, chocolate, and cheese. Now, it’s apples. A British study is saying apples, and in particular apple juice, are so chock-a-bock with acids that they’re more likely to cause dental erosion than, say, Coke.

Well, not that it’s bunk (actually, far from it I think), but I don’t really pay much attention to studies these days. Most have me rolling my eyes. (Have you guys heard of the IgNobel Prizes, honouring improbable research? Hilarious.) And anyway, everything in moderation, right? But this particular study doesn’t really affect me because I don’t eat apples.

Yeah, I know, what a shocker. Here’s why:

  1. I used to eat lots of oranges, and I got out of the habit of eating apples.
  2. I find apples way over sour or over sweet.
  3. I now eat lots of bananas because they’re way more versatile, especially as breakfast foods.

So I’d pick bananas. Then oranges. And lastly, apples. On their own, that is. But if you’re talking about apple crumble…well, that’s a different story.

What’s your fruit pick?

– Jean AAR

Think Pink, But Don’t Forget the Other Colors

pink-ribbonToday marks the start of breast cancer awareness month. Over the next month we’ll see a flood of media information reminding women to have mammograms. We will also be asked to participate in a variety of events, donate money for breast cancer research, and spread the word about the disease. As a now 12-year survivor of breast cancer, I can only say that this is a very good thing.

I was “lucky” enough to be diagnosed with breast cancer at a time when early diagnosis was possible, when there were many treatment options available, and when women and men were willing to talk openly about the disease and offer help and support to breast cancer survivors. This is a good thing. It wasn’t always the case. Continue reading

The Biology of Beauty

A friend of mine surprised me the other day by announcing that she hadn’t washed her hair since October. Given that she did not look like a total grease ball — quite the opposite, actually — I was curious to learn more.

What resulted was a lengthy discussion on the biology of hair.  Until thirty or forty years ago, daily hair washing was rare; shampooing happened weekly or bimonthly.  It wasn’t until marketers got their hands on milder formulas that it became a daily thing and a vicious cycle began.  You see, shampoo strips hair of all its natural oils.  As a result, oil glands in the scalp overcompensate and produce too much, and your hair looks greasy.  But if you wean yourself off shampoo, eventually your scalp glands readjust themselves to only producing as much oil as you need.

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Laughing at Lunatics


This is another serious blog topic today at After Hours, about the Charlie Sheen train wreck.  It’s what everyone’s talking about — tiger blood, “bi-winning,” his bitchin’ life, the drug that is Charlie Sheen.  He’s the butt of every joke — there’s the Live the Sheen Dream site, and the quiz in which you match quotes with Glenn Beck, Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, or Charlie Sheen. He set the Guinness World Record for being the fastest to get a million followers on Twitter (just a bit over 24 hours).

But here’s the thing: mental illness isn’t funny.  If anyone else were to go spouting off about having tiger blood and being a warlock, and saying things like, “There’s a new sheriff in town, and he has an army of assassins,” they would be institutionalized — for their own good.  They would be hospitalized, evaluated, and treated for mental illness.  He would be the person that we would go to the other side of the sidewalk to avoid, walking past quickly with our eyes on the ground.  He would be the person in a store to whom we would give a false but polite smile while we edge away to alert the security.

Instead, we’re giving him a microphone and a camera and putting him in front of a global audience.

We don’t understand mental illness because we don’t talk about it.  It’s taboo and scary and weird, and we’d rather pretend it doesn’t exist.  Well, it does, and all you have to do is turn on Charlie’s latest interview to see what it looks like.  After years of intense drug use, it’s not surprising that he’d lose control of reality.  And yeah, what he’s saying is sort of funny and ridiculous, but it’s gone too far and isn’t funny anymore.  We are the people that Craig Ferguson talks about in the video above, paying our pennies to point and laugh at the lunatics.

I wish more people were concerned, and stopped telling jokes.  The ramblings of a mad man are not entertainment any more than it’s funny to laugh at a person missing a limb, or with scars, or a stutter.  Mental illness is an illness, not a weakness or a punchline.  If this ongoing circus teaches us anything, it’s not that Charlie Sheen is a bitchin’ winner — it’s that we still stigmatize and misunderstand mental illness.

Dress in Blue Day

dress-in-blueWear pink! We’ve all seen the signs, and many of us have worn pink clothing and ribbons each October during Breast Cancer Awareness month. But dress in blue? What’s that all about?

Last April,in a post here entitled, The One We Don’t Like to Talk About, I announced that I was a one year colon cancer survivor. I’m now edging up on my two-year anniversary (and am currently remembering in vivid detail the horrid weeks leading up to my eventual diagnosis and surgery). So for me, this seems like the perfect time to focus attention once again on colon cancer, because this Friday is Dress in Blue Day, and March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month. Continue reading

Good things to come out of a cold

taschentuchI’ve got this nasty cold – started with a headache last Thursday, turned into a cough on Sunday, and has saddled me with an extremely runny nose today. While the cold’s disadvantages are obvious (feel bad, get no housework done, husband has escaped to the guest bedroom, can’t go to the gym), right now I am trying to be upbeat and see its advantages. Continue reading

Tis the Season to be ……..Sneezing?

SneezingEach year, as November rolls around, I enter my danger period for colds, and respiratory infections. I suspect it’s a mix of things that makes me vulnerable. In addition to having lots of extra things to do with the holidays, it’s always a busy time for me at work, meaning I sleep less than usual, and get pretty run-down. Add into the mix the sudden cold temperatures, being exposed to lots of other people who seem to be sick, and before you know it, I’m sniffling.

Over the years, I’ve adopted a number of preventive behaviors in an attempt to ward off illness. Some have passed by the wayside, but others have been added to my daily routine. After years of doctors’ encouragements, I now get a flu shot every year (which absolutely will not prevent colds or sinus infections, but hopefully will fight off the flu). Continue reading