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Posts Tagged ‘health’

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Photo: Tom Jamieson for the New York Times
“London’s bike-rental program has proved popular. Now, patients at two medical centers in Cardiff, Wales, will be offered six-month subscriptions to a bike-rental service, with free rides of up to 30 minutes,” reported the
New York Times last year.

Last week, as I watched two grandchildren painstakingly donning piles of bulky ice hockey gear, I remarked that for me, walking is the best exercise because you don’t have to do any prep. You just open the door and go out. My granddaughter, age 7, opined that walking is boring, and I have to admit that ice hockey may be more heart-pumping.

But I am not bored. And after walking every day for many years, I no longer feel surprised that I like to exercise. At first, I was resistant to doing anything. But a friend who was an internist leaned on me about exercising. And I knew if I were going to do anything regularly over a long period of time, it would have to be something I liked. So, walking was it.

Given that I go quite slow, I was surprised that when I told various doctors I just ambled, they didn’t seem bothered. Then I heard one refer to walking as a “weight-bearing activity,” and the penny dropped!

In the United Kingdom, doctors are making it easy for patients to exercise by means of bicycles. And like me, many former non-exercisers are surprised to find that they like it.

The BBC reports, “A cycling-on-prescription scheme trialled in Yorkshire has been so successful it could be rolled out across the UK, the organisers said. The scheme allows health professionals to offer those with long-term conditions 12 weeks of cycle training.

“More than 1,000 people have been referred to the scheme since it launched four years ago, according to the West Yorkshire Combined Authority. Cycle UK said the scheme showed cycling was good for overall wellbeing. …

“The initiative is funded by West Yorkshire Combined Authority, which covers Barnsley, Bradford, Calderdale, Craven, Harrogate, Kirklees, Leeds, Selby, Wakefield and York.

“Figures from 2018/2019 showed people using the scheme reporting a marked increase in feeling more confident and relaxed. …

“At the start of the programme, only 18% of participants were meeting the NHS [National Health Service] activity guidelines of 150 minutes per week — a figure that rose to 73% afterwards.

“Andrea, 47, from Wakefield, was referred as she has suffered from anxiety. ‘I’m more confident. I’m able to be out with other people more than I would normally,’ she said. ‘My fitness has improved, my lung function is a lot better than it has been and now I actually want to go out and do other things, and keep cycling, keep active and really start living my life.’ …

“Cycling UK said the scheme started in Yorkshire, and has since been trialled in areas including Wales, Manchester and London, but is not yet available nationwide.”  More at the BBC, here.

The New York Times, here, talks about the biking-rx trial in Wales, noting, “Nextbike, the company that offers the bicycle service for patients in Cardiff, provides rentals in many other European cities. Mareike Rauchhaus, a spokeswoman for the company, said that it participated in a program called By Bike to Work, which allowed people to claim prizes from their health insurance providers if they cycled to work. …

“Dr. Karen Pardy, a family doctor who is participating in the program in Cardiff, said in the statement [that] she hoped prescriptions would encourage people to ‘have a go at cycling around Cardiff’ and realize how the activity can support their well-being.”

P.S. If you search Suzanne’s Mom’s Blog for the word “prescription,” you’ll find a lot of posts on doctors’ unusual prescriptions to encourage more healthful living, including  biking in Boston, woodland walks, gardening, museum visits, poetry, music, dance, art …

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You have undoubtedly discovered on your own the healing qualities of a walk in the woods, but it seems that increasing numbers of doctors are actually prescribing it.

Sarah Barker writes for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, “Your blood pressure is a little high. You could stand to lose some weight, and, yeah, you’re stressed. You leave the doctor’s office with directions to a park near your house and a prescription for 30 minutes a day out there breathing fresh air among the trees and the birds.

“Until recently, doctors encouraged patients to get more outdoor exercise but stopped short of writing a prescription. Soon, in collaboration with parks and trails organizations, community and athletic associations, some Minnesota doctors will be handing patients prescriptions for that dose of nature.

“ ‘The data is there. We’re wired to be connected to nature,’ said Dr. Brent Bauer of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. ‘Cool things happen when you’re exposed to nature for two hours a week — inflammation is reduced, stress, anxiety, heart rate.’ …

“Bauer founded Mayo’s complementary and integrative medicine program 20 years ago grounded in the theory of biophilia — that humans have an innate need to connect with nature. That people spend 90% of their time indoors, most of it sitting, has resulted in negative consequences: obesity, diabetes, anxiety, depression, to name a few. The last 10 years have seen a ‘scientification,’ as Bauer called it, of our need for nature. It’s been studied, measured.

“At the same time, there’s been a shift toward preventive medicine — lifestyle choices like food, exercise, spirituality — and efforts to make health care more efficient. There has been collaboration between communities that haven’t overlapped — parks and the Department of Natural Resources with public health; health insurance with health clubs; sports events with hospitals. Since 2010, doctors have worked with a nonprofit called Wholesome Wave to prescribe patients fruits and vegetables.

“Bauer signed on with one of those collaborations, Park Rx America, a national nonprofit established by Washington, D.C., pediatrician Dr. Robert Zarr in 2017. … According to Zarr, there are 22 registered Park Rx health care providers in Minnesota and 96 parks listed. …

“Receiving a nature prescription from your doctor here in Minnesota is still maybe a year away. Unless you’re a child. In which case, this is old news.

“Some Twin Cities children have been leaving the pediatrician’s office with a Sweat Rx since 2014. Sweat Rx was the first formal outdoor prescription program in the country, its creators say. … Betsy Grams and Tony Schiller co-founded CycleHealth as a way to improve kids’ health through training programs, activity challenges and fun adventure races. The events were outdoors, a little bit nontraditional (the triathlon is swim-bike-run with obstacles thrown in), and noncompetitive. …

“Focusing on health rather than competition was a natural tie-in to the medical community. Through a connection with one of the doctors, Grams and Schiller met with at Central + Priority Pediatrics in Woodbury in 2014 to talk about their upcoming kids’ triathlon. …

“ ‘We were really surprised when they said they would actually prescribe the triathlon to their patients that summer. We didn’t know how hungry doctors were for a concrete tool for encouraging kids to get outdoors, to live the lifestyle they’d been talking about,’ Grams said.

“The two quickly printed a prescription-ish pad of paper with a space for the patient’s name and a link to training materials and race registration. That was the start of Sweat Rx. CycleHealth now works with 52 pediatric clinics in the Twin Cities area. …

“Cheap, readily accessible, and side-effect free, Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes and vaunted parks and trails are shaping up to be, quite literally, what the doctor ordered.”

More here.

My husband and I are lucky with where we live because if you go in one direction out of the house, you come quickly to a busy village with a library and attractive shops. If you go the other way, you are in conservation land in no time. Best of both worlds.

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Today is July 11th. A week ago, my sister was feeling fine. Today she is having brain surgery. I arrived in New York yesterday to be with her and her husband.

It may be that I don’t post for a while. I’m feeling a little discombobulated. But I do like posting, so you could at least get pictures of New York City over the next couple days.

My sister is a lot younger than me. This feels all wrong. But life is strange that way.

If you are into sending people healing thoughts, please think of us at 2 p.m.

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Photo: Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio
Tony Price, formerly homeless, grows tomatoes in his small patio garden and shares the produce with friends and neighbors. Now that he has permanent housing, he’s able to take better care of his health.

In the last decade, there’s been a lot written about how a small percentage of people use hospital emergency rooms on a regular basis and what could be done to stabilize them and save money. In today’s story, we find that providing housing for homeless patients can yield positive, long-term results.

From Pauline Bartolone and Kaiser Health News at Capital Public Radio: “Hospitals in Sacramento and around the country want to get [homeless patients] off the streets, to improve their health and minimize unnecessary visits to the ER. … That’s why many hospitals are stepping outside their role as medical providers to invest heavily in housing for homeless people.

“Dignity Health’s ‘Housing With Dignity’ initiative got Tony Price into an apartment, paid his rent for four months and set him up with a social worker who helped him become eligible for permanent housing. …

“A 2002 study showed that providing housing and supportive services, to more than 4,600 mentally ill homeless people in New York City dramatically reduced their presence in hospitals, shelters and correctional facilities. …

“Health insurers are starting to invest in housing, too. Dignity and other Sacramento hospitals have long funded ‘respite’ programs that shelter homeless people for a few weeks after their hospital stays, but the goal of ‘Housing With Dignity’ is to keep them from being homeless again. …

“Ashley Brand, Dignity’s director of community health and outreach, said the program is helping address the hospital chain’s longstanding challenge of ensuring that homeless patients get follow-up care after they’re discharged. …

“No matter how many times Tony Price visited Sacramento hospitals while he was living on the streets, he never got well. His diabetes was uncontrolled, he repeatedly lost the drugs he was taking for anxiety and depression and, he says, he regularly drank himself into ‘oblivion,’ sometimes consuming as much as half a gallon of vodka a day. …

“Price qualified for the services offered by ‘Housing with Dignity,’ which put him into a one-bedroom apartment in Sacramento’s sprawling North Highlands neighborhood in May 2015 and assigned him a social worker, Chris Grabe, who drove him to medical appointments. …

“He has been off the streets for nearly two and a half years, and he’s been to the hospital only once since January. … He now gardens, and he recently volunteered at a church and as a leader of an Alcoholics Anonymous group.”

At Capital Public Radio, here, you can read how Grabe stuck with Price through early relapses and what is needed to expand this effort to more people.

Hat tip: House of Hope CDC on twitter.

12/8/17 Update: Meanwhile in Boston, where one in four Boston Medical Center patients is homeless or in dangerous housing, BMC is partnering with local housing organizations and spending $6.5 million to help patients. This is the latest manifestation on BMC’s whole-patient approach to healing. Read about it here.

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Photo: Alamy
Exercise and social activities could help to reduce the risk of developing dementia in later life, according to a new report.

Although there is no cure yet for dementia, lifestyle changes have the potential to reduce new cases by as much as one-third.

Nicola Davis writes at the Guardian about a recent report from the Lancet Commission on dementia prevention, intervention and care. The study suggests that many “dementia cases might be avoided by tackling aspects of lifestyle including education, exercise, blood pressure and hearing. …

“ ‘There are a lot of things that individuals can do, and there are a lot of things that public health and policy can do, to reduce the numbers of people developing dementia,’ said Gill Livingston, professor of psychiatry of older people at University College London and a co-author of the report. …

“ ‘We expect it to be a long-term change that will be needed for exercise; joining a gym for two weeks is probably not going to do it,’ she said.

“Clive Ballard, professor of age-related diseases at the University of Exeter medical school and also a co-author of the report, added that the evidence suggests individuals should also try to follow a Mediterranean diet, maintain a healthy weight and keep an eye on their blood pressure. …

“The results reveal that as many as 35% of dementia cases could, at least in theory, be prevented, with 9% linked to midlife hearing loss, 8% to leaving education before secondary school, 5% to smoking in later life and 4% to later life depression. Social isolation, later life diabetes, midlife high blood pressure, midlife obesity and lack of exercise in later life also contributed to potentially avoidable cases of dementia, the report notes. …

“They admit that the estimate that more than a third of dementia cases could be prevented is a best case scenario, with the figures based on a number of assumptions, including that each factor could be completely tackled. …

“Fiona Matthews, professor of epidemiology at Newcastle University who was not involved in the report, said that interventions for depression and social isolation could still prove valuable. ‘If we could actually resolve some of that issue, even if it is not 100% causal, it is likely we might be able to slow [dementia] progression – even if [an individual] is on a pathway to developing dementia already,’ she said.

“She added that the proposed areas for action could offer myriad health benefits beyond lowering dementia risk. …

“The authors pointed out that an intervention that delayed dementia onset and progression by even a year could decrease the number of people with dementia worldwide in 2050 by nine million.”

More at the Guardian, here.

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Both my kids are entrepreneurs. They got their start in business with a lemonade stand, as my grandson is doing in the photo.

His customers don’t know how lucky they are. Lemon peels in the trash may be protecting them from bubonic plague. Doubt me? Well, have you heard of anyone getting plague in an area of New England where lemonade is sold?

Well, there you go.

Consider a recent article by Tom Nealon in the Boston Globe.

He writes, “I’d like to tell a story of what lemonade was doing in Paris 349 summers ago. Lemons have been used for making drinks since before the Ancient Egyptians, are often used to detoxify, and to soothe a sore throat, but that year, the fate of Paris may have hinged on one of its lesser known properties.

“In 1668, the bubonic plague, dormant for a decade, returned to France and was threatening Paris. It had been reported in Normandy and Picardy, in Soissons, Amiens, and then, terrifyingly, just downstream of the capital along the Seine, in Rouen. … Panic-stricken Parisian public health officials imposed quarantines and embargoes in the hope of mitigating inevitable disaster — but the dreaded pestilence never struck.

“The plague that loomed over Paris was the midpoint of a 17th-century European epidemic that would go on to decimate Vienna (80,000 dead in 1679), Prague (80,000 dead in 1681) and Malta (11,000 dead in 1675). The body count in Amiens would end up topping 30,000, and almost no city in France was spared – except for Paris, which, miraculously, survived almost completely unscathed.”

By chance, lemonade was extremely popular that year.

“The limonene contained in lemons (and other citrus fruits) is a natural insecticide and insect repellent. The most effective part of the lemon is the limonene-rich peel. Indeed, after centuries of discovery of chemical insect repellents, the US Environmental Protection Agency still lists 15 insecticides in which limonene is the chief active ingredient, including both general bug sprays and products for pet flea and tick control. The French were piling lemon peels in the best possible place to disrupt the flea-rat-human-rat chain [that caused the spread of plague]: the trash. …

“Paris emerged alive — and refreshed.” More here.

I don’t really think we should count on lemonade to protect us from plague. But lemonade in a backpack isn’t a bad idea for a lemonade-stand spinoff. Time tested. You could take it to the beach.

Image: Staeske Rebers
Limonadiers were French vendors who sold lemonade from tanks on their backs.

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Image: Reuters/Denis Balibouse
The World Economic Forum touts research suggesting that “forest bathing,” the act of being among the trees, has health benefits.

We love trees. John, for example, serves on the Arlington tree committee and helps with the town’s efforts to inventory its trees, acquire more sidewalk plantings, and assist researchers studying the role of urban trees in carbon reduction.

A master landscaper I know is also into trees. He shared this story about the health benefits of something the Japanese call “forest bathing.”

Ephrat Livini wrote at the World Economic Forum, “Now there’s scientific evidence supporting eco-therapy. The Japanese practice of forest bathing is proven to lower heart rate and blood pressure, reduce stress hormone production, boost the immune system, and improve overall feelings of well-being.

“Forest bathing — basically just being in the presence of trees—became part of a national public health program in Japan in 1982 when the forestry ministry coined the phrase shinrin-yoku and promoted topiary as therapy. …

“Forest air doesn’t just feel fresher and better — inhaling phytoncide seems to actually improve immune system function. …

“From 2004 to 2012, Japanese officials spent about $4 million dollars studying the physiological and psychological effects of forest bathing, designating 48 therapy trails based on the results. Qing Li, a professor at Nippon Medical School in Tokyo, measured the activity of human natural killer (NK) cells in the immune system before and after exposure to the woods. These cells provide rapid responses to viral-infected cells and respond to tumor formation, and are associated with immune system health and cancer prevention. In a 2009 study Li’s subjects showed significant increases in NK cell activity in the week after a forest visit, and positive effects lasted a month following each weekend in the woods. …

“Experiments on forest bathing conducted by the Center for Environment, Health and Field Sciences in Japan’s Chiba University measured its physiological effects on 280 subjects in their early 20s. The team measured the subjects’ salivary cortisol (which increases with stress), blood pressure, pulse rate, and heart rate variability during a day in the city and compared those to the same biometrics taken during a day with a 30-minute forest visit. …

“Trees soothe the spirit too. A study on forest bathing’s psychological effects surveyed 498 healthy volunteers, twice in a forest and twice in control environments. The subjects showed significantly reduced hostility and depression scores, coupled with increased liveliness, after exposure to trees. …

“City dwellers can benefit from the effects of trees with just a visit to the park. Brief exposure to greenery in urban environments can relieve stress levels.”

More here. Be sure to watch the video.

Hat tip: Paul Kelly on Facebook.

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