Archive for the ‘#health’ Tag

On Staying Healthy   4 comments

Health & Fitness for Busy People – What little things do you do to stay healthy? Food, exercise, special vitamins, clothing, shoes, etc. What do you do that could help someone else.


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I have a full-time job and an author gig on the side. I have a husband and a son who still lives at home. I also do things in my community, primarily through my church. So, I am busy.

I’m also blessed. For whatever reason, I have a very strong immune system. I always have. But I’m half-way through my 50s in a family that regularly sees their 90s, so I’m trying to stay healthy for the long haul.

I typically wear flats or shoes with only a slight heel. It’s easier on your knees and back. The downside is plantar fasciitis which I developed for a while, but I started doing some exercises and it seems to have stopped.

Image result for image of walking in sunlightBecause the streets of Fairbanks are often covered with ice and snow, I go to the gym to work out. Some weeks I only make it once, other weeks I make it 3-4 times. I don’t do anything really spectacular. I ride an exercise bike or rotary trainer for an hour. Sometimes I lift weights. I don’t try to go fast and I’m not trying for any power-lifting records. I’m just trying to stay flexible and strong and to counteract the affects of living in a climate that doesn’t get enough sun in the winter.

So in addition to doing weight-bearing exercise, I don suncreen and use a suntanning booth once a week from October to April. I don’t strip all the way to bare. My goal is to get enough time in the “sun” to stimulate Vitamin D production. Like everyone else here locally, my Vitamin D production drops as the winter goes along, but tests show it doesn’t drop as much as many of my neighbors. That could be because of my Swedish blood (Swedes have adequate D levels, according to Alaska Fit), or because we eat a lot of salmon, but I suspect it has something to do with not being afraid of tanning booths. Cousin Rick, the immune system doctor, suggested it, with proper precautions.

D production is not just about bones. Deficiencies have been linked to daytime sleepiness, depression, autoimmune disease, insulin resistance, complications during pregnancy, muscle and joint pain, obesity, and problems with the thyroid to name a few. To top it all off, it’s been found that low vitamin D levels increases your risk of death by 26%. Wow. If you catch a cold several times a winter, it might be because you are Vitamin D deficient. It’s also important for blood clotting, thyroid function, and heart health.

So why don’t I just take pills? I do take 1000 mg (in the winter), but you have to take closer to 2000 mg a day on the 64th parallel to get as much Vit D as a 15-minute daily stroll in the sun on the equator would provide and 2000 mg a day — well, it has effects on my bowels and as bowel cancer runs in the family, but skin cancer does not, Dr. Rick suggested I spread my risk around. So, I enter the tanning booth with a tank top and shorts on, coating the exposed parts of my skin with SPF16, and I only do 10 minutes once a week. I’m not trying to get a tan (and I don’t), but to provide my body with some “sun” exposure when it is impossible to get because of the latitude I live at. It works, according to my blood serum tests.

Other things that I do to stay healthy —

Image result for image of a balanced mealI try to eat right. My diet includes a little bit of meat and a lot of vegetables. That’s not easy here in Alaska because our food must be imported, so veggies arrive here essentially flavorless, having been in suspended animation for two weeks. We buy a lot of frozen vegetables. Frozen carrots actually taste like carrots, by the way. I do eat carbs – bowel cancer runs in the family, whole grains are necessary. I don’t care for fluid milk, but I eat cheese and yogurt. We also have to eat frozen and canned fruit a lot, but we grab fresh fruit when it is in the stores and affordable and actually smells like something. If it has no fragrance, it’s going to be tasteless. You probably don’t have this problem.

I try to stand on one foot and on my toes for at least five minutes each every day. Sometimes that’s 1-minute five times a day for each. This helps with balance and core strength. My daughter the ballerina once stayed on her toes with arms in first position for 20 minutes to show the football team that they weren’t that strong.  One football team member made it 19 minutes, but he needed assistance to keep his balance after two minutes. Mere ordinary people get a lot of benefit from five minutes a day.

I also do Kegel exercises at least once a day, about 20-50 of them depending on time. What are they? Google them. If you’re a woman and you want to maintain bladder control into your 90s, they’re a good thing to do. I’m just saying …. And, there are side benefits, but I’ll let the Internet inform you of those.

Drink lots of water. Most Americans are dehydrated and we often eat because we confuse thirst for hunger. And, no, sodas don’t count, but coffee does (though it’s only about 90% effective compared to tap water). Also know that distilled water lacks the minerals your body is craving when it tells you its thirsty. Filtered tap water is okay, but distilled water is really pretty useless. Read the label of your bottled water. Some of it is useless and some of it is worthwhile. In the US, tap water is almost universally safe … (provided some idiot muni doesn’t try to save money by not including a corrosion inhibitor in a town with lead pipes, but I think Flint’s woes have put all the others on notice).  You notice I don’t mention taking calcium supplements. Fairbanks water is loaded with calcium and iron.

One final thing I do is rinse my nasal passages occasionally. The winter air here is very dry, so many Alaskans have sinus problems. I discovered that using a low-flow, high-volume saline rinse opens up my nasal passages, allowing my sinuses to drain, preventing headaches and reducing colds and allergy symptoms. It will also substantially shorten a cold’s symptoms. I use a squeeze bulb so I can remain upright. The netti pot is too much like self-waterboarding to me, but your experience may vary. If you live in a dry climate or fly a lot, I highly recommend it.

Statistically speaking, people who are part of a regular faith community tend to be healthier than those who are not and those who laugh a lot also tend to have fewer health problems. I’ve got those covered too.

Posted August 21, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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Birch Tapping Update   2 comments

Image result for image of birch sapI had a few requests to update our progress on tapping birch trees. The sap finally started running last week and Brad put in all the taps and 20 collection buckets on Monday. He had three trees that didn’t produce anything – two of those are now giving trickles. That’s evidence that they are in colder or drier soils than the others. They just may be late producers. He also has three trees that are producing 3-4 gallons of sap a day. Apparently, this isn’t miraculous, but it is rare.  We’re taken between 16-19 gallons every day.

Birch sap looks like water and tastes like fruit-infused water.  There is a very light floral taste sort of like green birch leaves smell. Members of the cooperative say they make coffee and drink the sap. They really tout the health benefits, so Brad has been doing it too. On Tuesday, he gave me an 8-ounce glass of it.  He seemed curiously animated that night, full of overblown ideas and optimism. I had a couple of creative ideas for my latest novel, so I wanted to write, but he kept popping in to tell me this latest “great idea”. I sort of wanted to put duct tape over his mouth. I also needed to pee twice as often and in twice the volume of normal. I had gas too.

Image result for image of birch sapThe next morning, my toothpaste tasted like birch. So did my toast, my coffee, my lunch, and my dinner … and my lips. I drank two water bottles in the afternoon and the tap water tasted like birch. Still had the eliminatory effects and even my sweat tasted like birch. Brad, who is drinking a great deal more than I am (alcoholics, even in recovery, don’t have a normal on-off switch like other people) reported the same thing. That lasted about 40 hours and was becoming distressing. On Thursday, my toothpaste, coffee and drinking water tasted like birch, but food (well, the curry leftover from the night before that had tasted like birch) was starting to taste normal again. I didn’t drink any birch water on Wednesday and I drank a coffee cup each (about 4 ounces) on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Everything now tastes normal again. This is similar to what I’ve heard from people who have used coconut water for cleansing, so I think it was probably fine. I might try an 8 ounce glass today.

I’m hungrier than normal and I seem to have more energy (but that could just be the effects of spring). Last night, I sweated a ton even though I’d showered, so I had to shower this morning, which is unusual for me. So, I do think it’s probably doing somethng. It’s really high in Vitamin C, the research says.

And we’ve now given 45 gallons of birch sap to the cooperative and Brad has made some great contacts for the future.

I’ll let you know how it’s going next week as birch sap harvest goes for 2-3 weeks.

Posted April 30, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Alaska

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Weird Words   7 comments

List posts can be all sorts of things. As a writer, I decided to pursue a language-related list. I wonder what my fellow blog hoppers are listing.

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Language changes over time. The meanings of words change. Thanks to the twists and turns of language and the convoluted history of English some words end up quite different from their original meanings. as the following bizarre etymological stories illustrate.

A blockbuster was originally a bomb

Related imageThe original meaning of a word might be hiding in plain sight, and this is one of them. Originally, a “blockbuster” literally meant a bomb large enough to destroy an entire block of buildings. The first blockbusters were produced by the Royal Air Force during World War 2. The earliest one, weighing an impressive 4,000 lb (2 tons) was dropped on the German city of Emden during an air raid in March 1941. The wartime press was quick to pounce on the nickname “blockbuster”, and soon it was being used figuratively to describe anything and everything that had an impressive or devastating effect. The military connotations gradually disappeared after the war, leaving us with the word we use today.

Girl was originally a girl or boy

When Geoffrey Chaucer wrote of the “young girls of the diocese” in the prologue to the Canterbury Tales (late 1300s) he wasn’t just talking about young women. In the Middle English period, “girl” meant “child”, regardless of the gender of the child under discussion. That beban to change in the early 15th century, when the word “boy” – thought to be a “borrow” word  from French into English around a century earlier to mean mean “slave” or a man of lowly birth – began to be used more generally for any young man. As “boy” began to change its definition, “girl” also migrated its meaning.

Under the same class of gender-bending words, “bimbo” also experienced a sex change over time. Italian immigrants to America had a word “bambino” that meant “baby boy.” As American English often does, the word “bimbo” emerged around the dawn of the 20th century to mean a menacing, brutish bully or a dolt. In 1920 a Broadway song entitled “My Little Bimbo Down On The Bamboo Isle” referred not to a brutish man, but to a beautiful, voluptuous woman. Nobody really knows what instigated the change, although one theory suggests that both muscle-bound heavies and voluptuous women both risk being admired more for their appearance than anything else. Uh, yeah … that sounds unlikely. No matter what inspired it, the term “bimbo” came to be all but exclusively attached to women, to the extent that an exclusively male equivalent, himbo, had to be invented in the late 80s to redress the balance. Yeah, we don’t use that word much.

Alcohol was originally eyeshadow

Image result for image of kohl eyesOkay, this requires the Way Back Machine. The ancient Egyptians made their distinctive jet-black eyeshadow out of the mineral stibnite, which was crushed and heated to produce a fine dust that could then be mixed with animal grease to make a cosmetic paste called al-kohl, from an ancient Arabic word “the stain” or “the paint”. Alchemists and scientists of the European Middle Ages then picked up this term from Arabic-origin textbooks, and began applying it to all kinds of other substances that could be produced through similar means – which included the distillation of wine to form its purest essence, ultimately given the name “alcohol”.

A cloud was originally a rock

The Old English word back of our modern word “cloud” was clud. It didn’t mean “cloud” back in the day. It meant “rock” or “mountain”. Think about mud “clods” and it makes sense. Enormous grey rainclouds can appear (albeit with a little imagination) like enormous grey masses of stone. It’s thought that these two meanings became confused, and eventually the meteorological sense of the word won out to give us the word we use today. Uh, yeah, that makes about as much sense as anything else.

A cupboard was originally a table

A cupboard, quite literally, was originally just a board on which to place your cups, or basically a table. In the early 16th century, the older meaning began to disappear from the language and a cupboard was no longer a tabletop on which to display one’s crockery, but a covered recess in which to store it. By the 17th century, people were beginning to store food in cupboards, while the author Wilkie Collins was the first to find a “skeleton in his cupboard” in 1859.

A handicap was originally a fair exchange

There’s a pernicious old myth that claims the word “handicap” refers to beggars, wounded by war and so unable to work, relying on begging with their upturned caps in their hands just to make ends meet, but the true origin of the word is much more bizarre. Originally, it referred to a means of securing a fair deal once popular among medieval traders. Two parties offering goods for exchange would call upon a neutral third party to oversee the deal. The trade umpire would assess the value of the goods involved, and give the owner of the less valuable goods a cash figure that they would have to add to the deal to make it fair.

Both traders would then take a small gratuity or a token amount of cash in their hands, and go to place their hand inside the umpire’s cap. If both agreed to the deal, they would drop the cash into the cap, which the umpire would get to keep as his fee for securing a fair deal and the deal would be done. If only one or neither trader agreed, the umpire would get nothing and no deal would go ahead. It was from this image of the value of individual items being assessed and compared that the first handicapped horse races were introduced. The notion of the better horses in a handicapped race being intentionally weighted down meant the word “handicap” eventually came to mean a hindrance or disability.

A meerkat was originally a monkey

We all remember the cute little meerkat in the Lion King. The name “meerkat” probably has its origins in markata, a Sanskrit word meaning “ape”. This word was then picked up from central Asia by European explorers and traders in the early Middle Ages who altered it to meerkat, a Dutch-inspired word essentially meaning “sea-cat”. In this sense, the word probably became little more than a placeholder for any four-legged animal that originated overseas, and was ultimately first used in print in 1598 by a Dutch merchant sailor to refer to a South American monkey, rather than an endearing African mongoose.

A moment was once precisely 90 seconds

“Moment” has its origins in the Latin word for movement, momentum. In our time, it means a short period of time. Oddly, the word “moment” wasn’t always so general. In the Medieval period, the 24 hours of the day were each divided into four 15-minute segments known as points, which were further divided into 10 shorter segments known as “moments”. A “moment” is precisely one-fortieth of an hour – or exactly 90 seconds.

A treadmill was originally a prison punishment

Image result for image of a stairmasterYeah, there is a connection between between gym equipment and the hard labor punishments doled out in Victorian prisons. The original “treadmill” was an enormous man-powered mill used for crushing rocks and grinding grain.

Invented by a 19th-century engineer named Sir William Cubitt, the original “treadmill” was essentially a never-ending staircase (I’ve seen this horror at Planet Fitness) – a wheel of steps encircling a vast cylinder attached to a millstone, on which convicts could be gainfully employed for many hours a day. Oscar Wilde was made to toil away on the “treadmill” during his imprisonment in Reading jail in 1895. Prison reform after the turn of 20th century made Cubitt’s “treadmill” a thing of the penal past, but the term was resurrected in the 50s during the post-war vogue for health and fitness, and became applied to an item of gym equipment likewise comprised of a (seemingly endless) foot-powered belt.

Image result for image convicts using a treadmillLanguage is always changing and evolving. Remember when “sick” meant you weren’t feeling well. When my son says he just “solved sick problems” today it actually means that he climbed at the rock gym and he  managed to conquer a number of challenging routes.

While we may be surprised to find out how the definitions of these common words and phrases started out as something completely different, it really shouldn’t surprise us because language is a very malleable thing. A person uses a word wrong or deliberately changes the use and in a generation or two, the meaning completely changes.

It’s pretty awesome, actually.


Posted December 5, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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