Tag Archives: Health

Social Separation – Day 10?

I’m not sure when we decided it was best to lock-down the ol’ homestead, but I think it was prior to the entire State of California doing so. I know it was before my County’s (Ventura) Health Dept. ordered our current lock-down and shelter-in-place restrictions. My City of Simi Valley was slow on the uptake, (at least in part) because most of the City’s “leaders” are very conservative Republicans and, no doubt, they believed Trump when he declared this a hoax. While it’s too early to draw any serious conclusions from what little data is available, according to VC Emergency, Simi Valley (population 125,851) has over twice the cases of both of the two largest cities in the County: Oxnard (population 209,877); and Thousand Oaks (population 127,690.)

Clear Evidence We’re Winning The Race To The Bottom, And Why You Need To Stay Indoors.

In the last 10 days I’ve been out of the house to shop for groceries three times. All three were after stores had announced special early hours for folks over 65 years old (I’m nearly 73), those with comorbidities (I have several) or whose immune systems are compromised, and pregnant women.

My first trip was to The Grocery Outlet, a store that specializes in purchasing closeouts. I wasn’t looking for anything other than fresh fruit and milk. There was very little, though I did manage to get two half pints of lowfat milk. I purchased a few canned items as long as I was there. They’ve got pineapple chunks for $0.99/can, which I consider a great deal and which is half the ingredients in one of my favorite comfort foods.

My second trip was to Vons, again early in the morning. They are opened from 7:00 am to 9:00 exclusively for the above-mentioned classes of people. It was pretty crowded, but I was able to shop for everything I needed (except eggs) and stay at least six feet apart from other folk. Even in the checkout lines, everyone was maintaining their distance, so it appeared a little busier than it would normally. That was last Thursday, I believe.

My third and final trip was to Trader Joe’s, this past Monday. They don’t open until 9:00 and, until 10:00, they have two lines form from the entrance. One line is for the same classes of people as the other stores, and the second one is for everyone else. They only allow 20 people in the store at a time and, when it’s time to usher them in, they merge both lines like traffic is supposed to merge onto the freeway or from two lanes to one. They also hand each person a disinfectant wipe, which I was quite glad for as I was a bit concerned about having touched the handle of the cart I was using, I don’t wear gloves, but I’m scrupulous about not touching my face with my hands until I return home and wash them thoroughly.

The store was better stocked than I had ever seen it in my over twenty years here. Since there weren’t too many people inside, it was easy to avoid getting close to others. I was able to purchase everything on my list, including eggs! Checkout was fast since it was hardly crowded. I remarked to the guy who checked me out how fully stocked the store was and he said they had just received the first order they actually requested. Up until that order, they were merely accepting whatever the warehouse sent to them.

So . . . that’s about the extent of my forays out into the world in the past ten or so days. I also participated in an interesting Zoom chat with a friend in France, which included several others from different parts of the world. We were discussing the new world of virtual working, something I had introduced to Rocketdyne well over a decade ago and which, unfortunately, had never caught on to the extent it is now necessary. It was an interesting and calming experience.

I’m not planning on going out again for at least another four or five days. I’d like to make it a week before returning, but we may run out of eggs before next Monday.

One last thing; I wonder how many others have experienced the same thing. As a family, our grocery shopping habits have always been pretty ad hoc; that is, we make lists, but we go shopping sporadically. Sometimes we might not go for a few days and others we might go every day for several days in a row. We shop at Costco, Vons, Trader Joe’s, The Grocery Outlet, Sprouts, and others, keeping separate lists for the things we need from each of them (though a couple are at least partially interchangeable.)

We can’t do that any longer. We’re changing our habits so we can shop for a week at one place and at one visit. This has not been our MO, and I find myself struggling a little bit. I am thankful to live where we do, as there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of anything other than paper goods (TP and PT) which people (er . . . I mean idiots) have been hoarding. Fortunately for us, we buy those things at Costco and normally have at least a month’s supply out in the garage.

Also, many people have offered to shop for us and I’m considering taking one of them up on their generosity. What’s holding me back is my feeling that there’s no reason for them to expose themselves. Although I’m older and somewhat compromised, there’s no guarantee they won’t get sick and, from what I’ve read, even those who recover and never require intubation, there may be significant, residual, life-long diminution of lung function. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.


Hunkering Down

After hearing a television pundit suggest that millions of people are terrified of what’s happening with the Corona Virus, I got to thinking about it and posted the following on Facebook:

“I’m not terrified, but I am dealing with the reality I may not survive this pandemic. I’m nearly 73 and have numerous underlying conditions, including mild COPD. My family and I are isolating in our home, but we need groceries now and then. I’ve been out a couple of times in the past week, but I’ve been careful to maintain distance and refrain from touching my face until I get home and can wash my hands.

“There are, however, numerous vectors and I have a hard time imagining I can avoid them all. I normally don’t get colds or the flu, but I had an as yet unexplained episode of pulmonary distress that lasted a couple of months and finally dissipated with a regimen of Prednisone, but not until I’d coughed so much I needed double hernia surgery. It also led to the testing that resulted in my COPD dx. Needless to say, I’m taking this seriously. I’m sure many of my friends are similarly situated. Wishing everyone the best. Hopefully, we’ll see each other on the other side.”

The Morona Virus

So far it’s received over eighty reactions and dozens of comments either telling me to hang in there or suggesting I do everything from what I am doing to wearing a mask, gloves, and face shield any time I go to the grocery store.

I’m sticking with the protocols I’m following, though may adjust if things deteriorate, which it seems likely they will.

This morning I did go to Trader Joe’s to pick up some groceries we needed. After I returned, I posted about it (actually, I checked in when I was waiting in line, sharing a picture of the two lines they were using – one for old farts like me and one for the younger folk) and responded to a couple of friends with the following comments:

“This worked out fine. Everybody pretty much stayed at least six feet away from each other. When we went in, they allowed about twenty people at a time so it’s not crowded and you can maintain distances. I have never seen this store as well stocked as it is now. The guy who checked me out said this was their first order that they actually wrote, i.e. they were just taking whatever the warehouse was sending until now. When we went in it was a mix of us old farts and then those under 65. We were each handed a disinfectant wipe as we walked in, so I wiped down the handle I’d been touching and wiped my hands thoroughly. It’s a challenge opening TJ’s produce bags without licking my fingers, but I got ‘er done. I waited about 10 minutes and was in the store no more than 10 minutes. I’m pretty sure we can remain inside now for at least a week before I’ll have to either venture outside or take someone up on their generous offers to shop for us, though I just don’t feel right exposing others regardless of my situation.”

and, in response to a suggestion I have my children, who are 16 and 18, shop for me, I wrote:

“Being a bit compromised myself (Type II Diabetes, essential hypertension, Hep C, stage 2 kidney disease, and COPD-all mild and not currently life threatening) I’m wary, but I don’t like the idea of risking my children. My understanding is the disease can severely compromise lung function for the remainder of one’s life and I’ve already lived enough for two or three. I also have good life insurance and a pension that will continue as long as Linda lives. I do take what I consider prudent steps to avoid contamination, but you can’t just wipe down every damned thing in the world. Is everyone wiping down their mail? I imagine some folks are, but I’m not in that camp.”

So . . . the adventure continues. Currently, in my hometown of Simi Valley, California, there are eleven cases of COVID-19. That’s double what they were two days ago. This is a very conservative city in CA and I have no doubt many residents (and a majority of the City Council, including the Mayor) believed this was a hoax because you-know-who told them it was. Some undoubtedly still believe it to be one. I expect the number of cases to increase dramatically in the next week or so.


Time to be Thinking Hard About Our Future

I wrote and posted the following on my Facebook Timeline and shared it with several groups to which I belong:

The feedback has been positive, with the exception of a few Trump supporters in a local community group known for the number of people on it who are averse to anything negative about their “dear leader.” I posted it there on purpose, just to stir the pot a bit.

As the corona virus pandemic continues to spread across the U.S., and people come to grips with how it’s going to affect them, I’m seeing more and more posts from folks outlining just how hard the most vulnerable among us (economically) are going to be hit, even if they don’t get sick at all.

If ever there was an argument for universal healthcare and a strong, resilient social safety net, if not UBI or a socialist economy, I think this might be it. Our fear of socialism is actually a fear of authoritarianism, but the two are not inextricably intertwined. Also, we’re already living under an authoritarian regime and it’s only going to get worse as long as Republicans have anything to say about it.

Donald John Trump, and every one of his brain dead sycophants, represent a clear and present danger to the health and well-being of the people of the United States. Everything he does, every choice he makes, is predicated on assuaging his fragile ego and is aligned with his re-election campaign and his economic interests. Even when he appears to be looking out for the nation’s economy, it is only inasmuch as it affects, and reinforces, his own financial interests. He needs to be gone immediately but, thanks to the greed and avarice of the Republican party, we will have to wait until near the end of next January to remove his worthless ass.

As John Pavlovitz posted on Twitter recently:

This President didn’t create this virus, but he ignored it, denied it, joked about it, weaponized it, politicized it, and exacerbated it. He is culpable for the chaos and the unnecessary illness, and yes, the preventable deaths because of it—and his supporters are too. This is the human cost of the MAGA cult delusion, and we’re all paying for it now equally.

https://twitter.com/johnpavlovitz/status/1238127737031864321?s=20

I have one disagreement with John, however. We’re NOT paying for it equally. The most marginalized of us will suffer far more than those of us higher up on the economic food chain. Since I’m semi-retired and, when I do work, I can work from home, if school is cancelled my youngest, who’s still in high school, will have someone at home to care for her and my oldest, who works with 4th graders through our local Boys and Girls Club, will also have a comfortable home and whatever she needs until school resumes. They will not go hungry, unless we’re forced to stay inside for longer than a couple of weeks.

There are millions of children who depend upon school breakfasts and lunches to get a good, reasonably nutritious meal (sometimes the best meal of the day) and there are lots of parents who cannot afford to miss work should they be required to stay home for a week or two. I have no doubt many on the right see this as a matter of survival of the fittest, but I can’t go along with such a callous view of how we are to function as a society.

We are social animals and we thrive when we take care of each other, recognizing that we are all dependent on our collective strengths to overcome our individual weaknesses. It’s time we recognize this basic reality of our humanity . . . and pay homage to it by lifting all boats, not just those of the wealthy and powerful.

The word ‘equality’ shows up too much in our founding documents for anyone to pretend it’s not the American way.

Martha Plimpton

How Seniors can Cope with Financial Stress

A little while back I received an email from a woman who had come across this blog and, specifically, had perused posts tagged with the word “retirement.” She wrote me that “a combination of my father being downsized in his 60s and my mother falling ill have combined to seriously affect their financial planning for retirement and has exacerbated their health problems. They have inspired me to write a guide for seniors and their families about the most common causes of financial stress, how it affects the person, and provide some coping strategies.” She provided a link to the guide she wrote and asked if I would consider posting it, along with an intro she wrote for it.

I said I would be glad to consider it and she wrote back with the following introduction, which I’m just pasting in, below. I’ve gone over the Guide she wrote and am providing her info here as a service to anyone considering or preparing for retirement, or for anyone who just might be interested in what to expect and, perhaps, how best to plan for one’s eventual exit from the workforce. What follows come from Ms. Jenny Holt.

PS – I will offer one observation. The site her link points to is called “Reverse Mortgage Alert”, which I have to admit raised a red flag for me. I’m not a fan of the concept, at least not as I’ve learned it is frequently practiced. However, after reading some of the info provided there, I do believe what they have to offer is useful information. They are not “pushing” reverse mortgages. Rather, they seem to be intent on providing useful information that anyone seeking to make a major investment move, especially with the home they’re living in, should take into account. If you have info that proves this wrong, I’d really appreciate hearing from you. Thanks.


With more limited access to financial services and often post-retirement, a money problem for seniors can be magnified more than for other age groups. While many have saved or invested in property and pensions, there are common causes of financial issues for the over 55s. These include:

  1. Job Loss/Reduction – 51%

  2. Healthcare – 29.5%

  3. Other – 21.6%

  4. Unpaid Taxes – 12.7%

  5. Divorce/separation – 8.2%

  6. Bankruptcy – 6.7%

  7. Foreclosure notices – 5.7%

The onset of stress can cause a range of emotional and physical problems which may exacerbate any health-related financial issues. These include insomnia, headaches, chest pains, anxiety, and depression.

However, it is more than possible to mitigate these issues. Of course, finding a solution to the financial problem in the first place is preferable. That being said, clearer and more focused decisions can be made with the right approach. Many seniors find stressful situations easier to cope with by combining a better diet with more exercise and meditation.

There is more to learn about this issue and more information can be found in the full Senior Financial Stress Coping Guide.


How I Became A Vampire

Nine years ago I had a nice chunk of flesh removed from my left lower back to remove a Melanoma. They also took a couple of lymph nodes from under my left arm and the left side of my groin. Tests all proved negative and, save for becoming a vampire, I’d put it mostly behind me.

This morning I went for my yearly dermatological exam and had to have another small chunk taken out of the middle of my back and sent for biopsy. So . . . I’ll know in a week or two if I have to undergo another surgery.

Compared to many people, including a number I know, my experience was a walk in the park. No chemo, no radiation, just scoop that shit right out of my body. I’d rather not have to do anything other than eat healthy and exercise, but if I have to go through this again, I’ll take heart from my past experience. Given what others have gone through, I refuse to call myself a cancer survivor. I was never sick and the entire episode took less than three months from discovery to excision.


The Vagus Nerve and Meditation

Brainstem

An image of a human brain stem illuminated with fluorescent proteins.

I don’t think I use this blog enough to share info like I do on Facebook. As I think about it, though, it seems the things I post here have a much longer shelf life than those I share on FB. Also, my original intent for this blog was to address issues of seeing systems, particularly emphasizing how infrequently — and incompletely — we do so. The piece from Business Insider I’m going to link to here was shared with me by Jon Husband who, in my mind, is inextricably linked to systems concepts via his pioneering work with what he has labeled Wirearchy.

The article concludes with the researchers, Kevin Tracey and Paul-Peter Tak, recognizing how science and, particularly, medicine have approached understanding of the human body as an effort to understand each organ in isolation, and as separate entities. They now realize the systemic nature of the body, and argue for an understanding that is more holistic and that recognizes how everything is connected.

I also found myself thinking about the progress of our understanding and how it shows just how indifferent nature, biology, and evolution are to anything resembling “fairness” or “justice”. Those are human concepts, creations that make sense to us, but have no place in how or why things happen in natural systems. Evolution is interested in what works and a level of adaptability that allows for constant change in survival strategies. Everything else is merely part of the side-show.

What really struck me was the thought of all the people who have existed before us and how much discomfort, pain, and agony have been suffered in the past, prior to our gaining the various understandings we have come to embrace over the last few hundred years of our existence as a species. The “breakthrough” discussed in this article seems somewhat revolutionary and serves to point out how valuable the ability to see systems really is at improving our lives.

Here’s the link. Check it out. Shouldn’t take more than five minutes to read.


Chasing That Elusive Health & Fitness Goal

I have long wanted to get back to my original weight, 7 lbs. 9 oz. but I’m finding it difficult. Regardless, recently I purchased a Fitbit Charge HR digital tracker to monitor the exercise I get and, shortly afterward, a Fitbit Aria electronic scale. I won’t say I’m actually part of the #QuantifiedSelf movement, but I do like data and find they help me achieve goals by showing me how I’m doing and the consequences of not following the steps needed to accomplish them.

 

Fitbit Aria

My New BFF


Last Friday marked two very important milestones in my quest to get in better shape and, more importantly, to reach a point where I can either stop taking the two maintenance drugs I’ve been on for quite some time (for essential hypertension and type II diabetes). I test my blood sugar at least every morning and Friday, for the first time in my memory of the last over 15 years, it was under 90 upon arising. This is very unusual for me as I have always experienced an early morning spike in my readings.

I’m also weighing myself each morning as soon as I get up. The Aria scale measures weight and body fat percentage. After I stand on the scale and it settles, it shows me my weight, body fat %, and my initials (it will recognize up to eight people) twice, then syncs the data via our wifi to my Fitbit account. This morning I dipped below 180 lbs. for the first time in decades.

Over the weekend I indulged a wee bit and this morning my weight was just over 180, but my blood sugar was 89. My average before meal reading is now about 110, an amazing difference from what I’m used to. Last time I had an A1C test, I had dropped below the threshold of 7.0 and I’m quite certain it will be even lower this time. I suppose I could have achieved this a long time ago, but I didn’t. Better late than never, eh?


Shake, Rattle, and Rolling Along

 I’m beginning to see the effects of aging on my proficiency in much of my work; not just the slow and inexorable deterioration of mental acuity, but the slight discomfort I sometimes experience when either writing or typing. Due to my essential tremors, and the loss of flexibility and dexterity that can’t be avoided with aging, I frequently find there are times when I can barely do either. I have experienced instances when the shaking has been so bad I had to stop, stand up, and walk away until the shaking subsides.

For many years I’ve believed as long as I had the ability to type and use a computer, I would be able to communicate and, more importantly, work and earn at least a bit of income to supplement what retirement income I have. Now I’m faced with the possibility a time will come – perhaps not for another decade – when I will not easily be able to do so. I’ve experimented over the years with apps like Dragon Dictate, but I’m so much more comfortable actually having my fingers on a keyboard. If I am forced to do it, I suppose I’ll adapt. The prospect isn’t terribly exciting though.


Old Fart Kicks It Up a Notch

When I first returned to work, I could barely make it up the two flights of stairs to the office area above the factory building where I was to work. I was forced to walk more than I had in quite some time, just to get from my car to my desk or to go to the cafeteria and buy my lunch. It had been over four and half years since I had retired and I had been mostly sedentary.

A little over two and a half months later, I purchased a pair of Rockport walking shoes. A month and a half after that I purchased a Fitbit One and began quantifying my exercise, as well as most of my caloric intake. I set some goals and paid attention. With the Fitbit I was able to get a good idea of how well I was sleeping too.

Three weeks ago I upgraded to the Fitbit Charge HR, which I can now wear on my wrist as both an exercise tracker and a timepiece. It also constantly tracks my heart rate (that’s the HR part). Despite not being in the greatest of shape, my resting heartrate is consistently in the low 60s, which I believe is pretty good.

As of last week, I was fairly effortlessly walking well over two miles and climbing 10 flights of stairs each day (not at once; in total over the course of the workday). I’ve also been stretching each morning as I’m getting dressed. I have such a long way to go and, at 68 years old, I don’t expect miracles – nor do I expect to improve rapidly, like I could when I was much younger. However, I am determined to get in far better shape, which includes losing another 10 -15 lbs.

I don’t know if I’ll ever run. The problems created by being born with club feet and the subsequent corrective activities, including surgery on my left foot, make running quite problematic, as well as painful. I’m thinking of other activities I can indulge in without dealing with the impact running would have on my ankles, hips, and back, all of which are about an inch out of alignment because of my left foot.

I also pushed myself a little bit too hard, by running up those flights of stairs. My right knee has since admonished against such early foolishness and I have little choice but to heed its warning. So, I’ll still climb the stairs; I just will take them a tad more leisurely in deference to my (no doubt) age-related deficiencies.


Did You Know Medicare Doesn’t Cover Dental?

Oral & Heart Health

Be Good to Your Teeth and They’ll Never be False to You.
~ Soupy Sales

Are you aware of just how important your dental health is to your overall health? The two are far more closely related than you may realize. It’s been almost 10 years since my mother’s death, but her oral health played a major role in what brought her life to a close. She had been admitted to the hospital and was awaiting a triple bypass. Coronary bypass surgery has become pretty routine nowadays and the operation she was facing wasn’t all that dangerous, although at her age (81) recovery would have been somewhat lengthy.

However, the real problem was her teeth. The surgeons would not operate before she had eleven teeth pulled. My mother was not one who faced pain all that stoically and she had neglected her oral health. This was, of course, exacerbated by an inability to afford good, useful dental insurance. She was on Medicare, through Kaiser Permanente, and there is no dental coverage offered as part of the overall plan. The reason they wanted to pull her teeth is the very real danger of Endocarditis, an infection of the inner lining of your heart (endocardium). According to the Mayo Clinic, “Endocarditis typically occurs when bacteria or other germs from another part of your body, such as your mouth, spread through your bloodstream and attach to damaged areas in your heart.”

I will never forget the look on her face when she told me about their plans. She made an expression I had come to recognize over the years that said “I don’t like it, but I have no control so I’m giving up.” Give up is what she did. Within two days she lost consciousness and quickly died. I can still see her expression and it breaks my heart.

Yesterday, I created a petition at “We the People“, a part of Whitehouse.gov. As someone who is currently on Medicare and who has a difficult time affording a good dental plan, and as someone who recognizes the importance of good dental health to overall health (not to mention someone who does need a little work) I am appalled that Medicare doesn’t cover — at the very least — routine examinations and bi-annual cleaning. I know of no studies, but I have a feeling offering such coverage might actually bring down the overall cost of Medicare.

I know there are some issues with whether or not this kind of thing works, or if the Obama administration is either taking it seriously or paying much attention at all. However, I’m bound and determined to do what I can to bring attention to this problem. It only takes a moment of your time to sign and I think it’s worth raising awareness.

Below is the text of the petition. Please take a moment and sign it. Here’s the link. If you have a moment, you can also share through the Facebook and Twitter buttons just below it. Surely you have family who may benefit from this expansion of coverage and, whether you like it or not, you’re going to get old yourself. Will you be able to afford a dental plan? In the long run, I’m in favor of universal health care. However, in the meantime, let’s ensure our older population has the means to remain as healthy as possible. Maybe we’ll all die of less expensive diseases. 😉

“Recognizing the role oral health plays in the overall health of our citizens, as pointed out by such organizations as The Mayo Clinic, the Office of Disease Prevention and Health promotion, and the Surgeon General’s Report on Oral Health in America, we believe it is prudent and economically imperative to provide coverage for Dental Services to all recipients of Medicare. Many of those who have reached the age of eligibility are healthy and desirous of continuing to contribute to our country’s well-being. Ensuring their dental health is important to ensuring their overall health as well. Many people who have reached the age of eligibility for Medicare are unable to afford separate coverage for dental health. We ask the administration to work toward achieving this goal.”

Thanks from the bottom of my heart . . . and my mouth.


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