NoraNagatani.com Ends Regular Run

My Precious Grandchildren

It is a bittersweet moment as I write this post — my 150th — and as I make this my final regular post.  I started this three years ago as a fun project and as an activity to keep my brain stimulated. It has definitely been fun and I’ve never been at a loss as to what to write. I’ve always been on the lookout for interesting topics, at least to me and hopefully to you, too, and they have always come my way. However, a couple of months ago, I launched a “Gracefully Age” newsletter with my Gracefully Age Program, so I’ve decided to put my efforts into the newsletter. Please sign up for my newsletter on the Home page of my new Web site, GracefullyAge.com.

Additionally, everyone knows most seniors have health issues. Have you gotten together with your senior friends and noticed that inevitably, the topic of conversations revolves around health or most likely, lack thereof. Do these sound familiar?

  • My back hurts or my neck hurts or my knee hurts.
  • I’m a pre-diabetic or I’ve become a diabetic.
  • I can’t keep up with my grandkids.
  • I don’t sleep well at night.
  • Etc.

As an energy healer, I have studied and practiced a number of modalities, but most recently, I came across one called, The Emotion Code (TEC). Previous to finding TEC, I had studied another modality which I liked, but it was very hard to explain to my clients. TEC turned out to be similar, but uses words that my clients and I understand. So I became certified in TEC.

I am really excited about being able to help people and seeing their pain and problems disappear using TEC. Depending on the number of trapped emotions that the person has, it could be a very quick session or it might take several sessions. It could be done in-person, over the phone, or simply by my being your proxy. Understand that everything is energy and that you simply need the desire to rid yourself of your trapped emotions that could be causing any number of health issues or diseases. For more information, please go to GracefullyAge.com/emotion-code.

As I say goodbye for now, I want to thank everyone for their support. As I shift my energies in other ways to help the senior population, I hope you will join me in my new endeavors. If you’re not getting up excited every morning to pursue your passion, then perhaps I can help. Check out the Gracefully Age Program and sign up for your complimentary session.

Good luck and all the best for the rest of your awesome life!

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Treatment Options for Knee Arthritis

Last month I attended a lecture titled, “State-of-the-art Treatment Options for Knee Arthritis” given by orthopedic surgeon, M. Mike Malek, MD at the Inova Fairfax Hospital. If you suffer from chronic knee pain or osteoarthritis of the knee, then this lecture provided pertinent information.

Dr. Malek first explained that this did not include rheumatoid arthritis which is a systemic disease. Osteoarthritis is a joint problem and a wear and tear problem. It is a degenerative problem that becomes arthritis. Part of osteoarthritis could be genetic and part of it is acquired. The knee is the least protected joint in the body and the most commonly injured.

As a wear and tear problem, the surfaces of the knee become pitted, eroded, uneven, and painful. This has to go on for 18 to 24 months before showing any changes on an x-ray.

Osteoarthritis symptoms include:

  • Pain
  • Loss of range of movement
    • Going up and down stairs
    • Unable to get off the toilet seat or couch
    • Night pain and stiffness
    • All day and night pain and stiffness

Causes include the following:

  • Excessive wear — weight is a major problem
  • Sport injury
  • Age
  • Obesity
  • Deformity — bow leggedness makes it worse
  • Work-related injury
  • Major trauma
  • Weak quadriceps
  • Lack of vitamin D

There is no laboratory test for osteoarthritis. There are 208 joints in the body and any joint can be affected, but the knee is the most common.

What are your treatment options?

  • Activity modification (One person said he’s a runner and he has knee problems. Dr. Malek said to find something else).
  • Physical therapy
  • Anti-inflammatories (NSAID) (Everything has side effects).
  • Cortisone injections
  • Visco supplementation (Joint fluid therapy — hyaluronic acid — something your knee produces).
    • There are five companies in the US that use rooster combs
    • Euflexxa is the only one that’s synthetic
  • PRP (protein-rich plasma)
    • Your own blood is taken and the Growth Factor is injected back
    • Athletes get on a regular basis
    • Makes healing faster
  • Bracing — customized about $1,200
  • Arthroscopy with or without HTO (High Tibial Osteotomy)
  • Arthroplasty — open surgery

With a knee replacement you will never have the full range of motion. Unicondylar knee replacement is a possibility for bowed legs. Only a part of the knee joint is replaced through a smaller incision than would normally be used for a total knee replacement.

The bottom line is your age, activity, use, and abuse of your knee will determine the length of how long your knee will last. However, you have a variety of treatment options for knee arthritis. Remember that nothing will last forever, not even knee replacement surgery. For more information, check out Dr. Malek’s Web site: http://kneesurgeryfairfax.com or http://kneeman.com.

See also a post I wrote last month about arthroscopic knee surgery.

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Dangers and Complications of Diabetes

Logo of the Centers for Disease Control and Pr...

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Over the years, I’ve written about the dangers and complications of diabetes, but I recently came across some staggering figures from the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention affecting the senior population. I know many seniors who are in the pre-diabetes stage, but many of them take it in stride and don’t seem to understand the consequences.

Here are the statistics that may be of concern to you:

  • Among U.S. residents aged 65 years and older, 10.9 million, or 26.9%,  had diabetes in 2010.
  • Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, non-traumatic lower-limb amputations, and new cases of blindness among adults in the United States.
  • Diabetes is a major cause of heart disease and stroke.
  • Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. Overall, the risk for death among people with diabetes is about twice that of people of similar age but without diabetes.

The estimated number of new cases in 2010 was also remarkable. For those between 45 to 54 it was 1,052,000 and for those 65 and over it was 390,000 making it a total of almost 1.5 million people. Medical expenses for people with diabetes are more than two times higher than for people without diabetes. People with diabetes are more susceptible to many other illnesses. Once they acquire these illnesses, they often have worse prognoses. For example, they are more likely to die with pneumonia or influenza than people who do not have diabetes.

People with diabetes aged 60 years or older are 2–3 times more likely to report an inability to walk one-quarter of a mile, climb stairs, or do housework compared with people without diabetes in the same age group. Diabetes is a lifestyle disease and can be reversed, but it takes a lot of work. If you need a partner to get started and hold you accountable, check out the Gracefully Age Program and grow out of being a diabetic statistic.

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Arthroscopic Knee Surgery

A couple of weeks ago, I had arthroscopic knee surgery because of a fall more than a dozen years ago. It was partially exploratory to determine the next step as well as to “clean it up.” The next two weeks will determine my options, but total knee replacement is not necessary.

In order to go through this surgery, I had to get a second opinion and while the second doctor determined that surgery is necessary, it was his opinion that a total knee replacement should be considered “just in case” I might need one down the road. On the other hand, my world-renowned knee specialist said you never replace anything that’s in good condition and basically, other than my knee cap, my knee is in very good condition. But the most important lesson in this is to prevent falls in the first place and to prevent arthritis from creeping in.

Fitness expert Sonia Gow, in a previous post, shared her expertise about why people fall. She mentioned that falls are not a normal part of aging.

Did you know that falls are a leading cause of hospital admissions for people over 65? For those over 65, one in three will experience a fall each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20 to 30 percent of the falls result in injuries such as lacerations, hip fractures, and head traumas with hospital bills averaging nearly $18,000 per patient.

According to Mary Tinetti, M.D., professor of internal medicine at the Yale School of Medicine, the more chronic health conditions you have, the more likely you are to suffer a fall.

  • Diabetes can worsen vision and desensitize nerves in the feet.
  • Depression can increase risk of falling.
  • Many medications cause dizziness and affect balance, especially sleep aids.

Other diseases causing a higher rate of falls include:

  • Circulatory disease
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Arthritis

Yoga and tai chi which has slow, rhythmic movements can help you with your balance. Don’t forget to strengthen your arms too since you can use them to steady yourself. Find a personal trainer or borrow/buy a DVD to help you.

The Relaxation Response

As we all know, high blood pressure is a problem for many seniors. Along with our age, high blood pressure creeps up as well. A younger senior might be diagnosed as “pre-hypertensive” and because it’s easier for doctors to simply prescribe an anti-hypertensive medication rather than to encourage lifestyle changes, they find themselves on a pill or two. It is possible, however, that the drug could do more harm than good and could cause unnecessary anxiety. Herbert Benson, MD, author of bestseller, The Relaxation Response, offers an alternative.

Benson believes that by practicing the Relaxation Response, you will be better able to cope with difficult situations by allowing your body to achieve a more balanced state through the physiologic effects of the Relaxation Response. However, stopping the practice will stop the benefits within several days. There are no side effects when practiced once or twice daily for 10 to 20 minutes.

On page 35 of his book, he gives a case study of a woman with moderate hypertension with a family history of high blood pressure. After 14 months of practice she says:

The Relaxation Response has contributed to many changes in my life. Not only has it made me more relaxed physically and mentally, but also it has contributed to changes in my personality and way of life. I seem to have become calmer, more open and receptive especially to ideas which either have been unknown to me or very different from my past way of life. I like the way I am becoming; more patient, overcoming some fears especially around my physical health and stamina. I feel stronger physically and mentally. I take better care of myself. I am more committed to my daily exercise and see it as an integral part of my life. I really enjoy it, too! I drink less alcohol, take less medicine. The positive feedback which I experience as a result of the Relaxation Response and the lowered blood pressure readings make me feel I am attempting to transcend a family history replete with hypertensive heart disease.

There are two essential ingredients to the Relaxation Response:

  1. Repetition of a word, sound, phrase, prayer, or muscular activity.
  2. Passively disregarding everyday thoughts that inevitably come to mind and returning to your repetition.

Here are the simple steps to elicit the Relaxation Response:

  1. Pick a focus word, short phrase, or prayer that is firmly rooted in your belief system.
  2. Sit quietly in a comfortable position.
  3. Close your eyes.
  4. Relax your muscles, progressing from your feet to your calves, thighs, abdomen, shoulders, head, and neck.
  5. Breathe slowly and naturally, and as you do, say your focus word, sound, phrase, or prayer silently to yourself as you exhale.
  6. Assume a passive attitude. Don’t worry about how well you’re doing. When other thoughts come to mind, simply say to yourself, “Oh well,” and gently return to your repetition.
  7. Continue for 10 to 20 minutes.
  8. Do not stand immediately. Continue sitting quietly for a minute or so, allowing other thoughts to return. Then open your eyes and sit for another minute before rising.
  9. Practice the technique once or twice daily. Good times to do so are before breakfast and before dinner.

According to Benson, you can even elicit the Relaxation Response while exercising. If you are jogging or walking, pay attention to the cadence of your feet on the ground — left, right, left, right, left right — and if other thoughts come into your mind say — oh well — and return to — left, right, left, right. He reminds you to keep your eyes open! Swimmers can pay attention to the tempo of their strokes, cyclists to the whir of the wheels, and dancers to the beat of the music. So find a creative way to incorporate the Relaxation Response into your life.

Remembering Names

One of the biggest problems seniors often lament is remembering names. We recognize faces because that information has been registered in our subconscious minds, but remembering names is a different story. What’s your trick for recalling names that don’t come to you immediately? Going down the alphabet perhaps? David Perlmutter, MD, in The Better Brain Book, has an exercise that will help you to remember names immediately after being introduced and for an extended period after that. He says it should not take more than 10 minutes a day.

You will need a deck of cards and a phone book. Maybe your kids don’t have a phone book in their house, but surely you do.

  1. Each morning randomly select a name from the phone book; choose a card from the deck.
  2. Write down the first name selected from the phone book and the suit on the card.
  3. Say the name and the suit out loud after you write it down.
  4. Create a mental image of both the name and the suit being placed into your mental names file.
  5. After lunch try to recall both the name and the suit by creating a picture in your head of your names file and imagine yourself opening that file. Repeat after dinner. (If you were successful after dinner, but not after lunch, it counts as success).
  6. Do the above exercise daily for a week. Once you are successful for six out of the seven days, move on the to next step.
  7. Instead of writing down just the first name from the phone book, write the first and last name and pick one card from the deck.

Once you have mastered this exercise, remembering names should come to you easily. According to Perlmutter, the key to success is two-fold:

  • Say the person’s name out loud.
  • Visualize the name and the person and put it into your names file.

So the next time you meet this person, you’ll be greeting him or her by their name while the other person will be asking you for yours or have that puzzled look on their face trying to recall your name. Remembering names now comes easily to you. Let me know how this works for you.

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How to Energize Yourself in Two Simple Steps

In my last post, I wrote about the grueling hike in the Cascades Recreation Area of the Jefferson National Forest. I definitely needed a lot of energy and tenacity. Senior hikers were in the extremely small minority. Being close to a college town, most of the hikers looked to be college students. In the video below, I want to share what I did to energize myself in two simple steps.

How to Energize Yourself in Two Simple Steps


 

Virginia Tech and Cascades Recreation Area

It was time for an out-of-town adventure and time to check off Virginia Tech from my bucket list. But a 4+ hour overnight trip would not be filled with just a visit to a university campus. In researching things to do in Blacksburg, Va, the Cascades Recreation Area in the Jefferson National Forest seemed like a worthwhile and fun place to visit. What seemed enticing was not only the hike, but the reward of seeing a magnificent 69 foot waterfall. (Seniors, you can get in free with your National Park Pass).

To get to the falls required a round trip four-mile hike which I thought would be a piece of cake considering I had done an 8.15 mile walk in the Great Aloha Run. Studying the map at the beginning of the hike, it appeared that the lower trail would be more scenic and “easier” because the upper trail was described as being more challenging because of the hill. Hence, we chose the lower trail and began our hike along the lovely Little Stoney Creek.

“Easier” is a relative term — easier if you’re younger and “grueling” in my book with having to step over all shapes and heights of rocks, twisted roots, numerous steps, and narrow pathways. Knowing what was at the end of the trail, I could not give up. Truthfully, I could not have done it without my husband. Well, maybe I could’ve, but it would’ve taken all day and there were dark clouds above and a thunderstorm looming. As we passed people coming down, they kept saying we were almost there and it was worth it.

There comes a point where the lower trail and upper trail meet and it becomes just one path to the falls. I asked a group if they had taken the upper trail (the one we had not chosen) and they said yes and a gentleman explained that it was a road that the park uses for maintenance. Therefore, it was wide and smooth. What a relief that we had an easier way back, but it was raining so the mud road was a little slippery. But, we could still walk much faster and get back to our car.

It took about 1.5 hours to get to the top and it was definitely worthwhile. I was drenched in perspiration on a cool day, but what an awesome view and an exhilarating feeling of accomplishment. I had an apple for nourishment which my body really needed. Unfortunately, it started to rain so we did not have much time to enjoy the view and had to start our descent on some slippery rocks and steps. However, once we got to the maintenance road, it felt as though we were home free.

It was a wonderful trip in every way — one of the best front desk people I’ve ever encountered (Ritz Carlton quality at a Hampton Inn), excellent service and food at Sal’s Italian Restaurant, and on the way home we stopped at the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum in Staunton, Va where we had an excellent tour guide. That was the icing on the cake. Oh, and yes, the visit to Virginia Tech and their hokie stone buildings was also awesome. Now I know why they’re called Hokies.

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Chronic Stress and Aging

As your bones creak, wrinkles deepen, or even worse, diseases set in, do you find that you’re looking for ways to slow down aging? We have no control over many factors, but one study has shown that there is a link between chronic stress and aging. Long term emotional strain such as seniors taking care of their elderly parents, can take its toll on health and aging.

The first study done at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) led by Elissa Epel, Ph.D. was conducted on a group of healthy mothers caring for chronically ill children. It showed that telomeres shorten in those experiencing psychological stress – i.e., they age the cells and hasten the body’s deterioration allowing the increased risk of diseases. Telomeres are caps at the end of chromosomes (molecules that carry genes) like plastic caps at the end of shoe laces to prevent fraying. When a cell divides, telomeres get shorter. In the natural aging process, the telomeres eventually get so short that cells can no longer divide, and they die producing all of the undesirable effects of aging. Telomerase is an enzyme which helps rebuild telomeres; telomerase levels also decline with age. Over time, however, telomeres do get shorter.

A key factor, however, is perception. The greater the perceived stress, the shorter the telomeres. In the above study, those with the highest perceived stress had telomeres equivalent to someone 10 years older.

In another study led by Edward Nelson, MD of the University of California at Irvine, their research suggests that stress management can stop telomeres from shortening and promote repair as well. The Hayflick countdown was being reset. (Hayflick discovered that after 50-70 cell divisions, a chromosome can grow no shorter and the cell it is in can divide no more). This study involved telephone counseling for women who had been treated for cervical cancer. The counseling worked mentally, physically, and improved their immune system.

In still another study, Elizabeth Blackburn, Ph.D. of UCSF (who shared the Nobel prize for the discovery of the telomerase enzyme that repairs telomeres), showed that exercise has a similar effect to counseling on the telomeres of the stressed.

The bottom line is the only difference among the subjects in all of these studies is attitude. So the good news is you can do something about chronic stress and aging.

Related Resources:

Stress may increase risk for Alzheimer’s disease

Stress and Cellular Aging
Dr. Elissa Epel, UCSF

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Rosemary and Alzheimer’s Disease

Rosemary

Today there are five million Americans with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and by the year 2050, the number is projected to be 13.5 million. My blog, aboutalz.com, is devoted to the subject and one article in particular talks about the new medicines in development. As seniors, we laugh about “senior moments,” but is there anything we can do to stave off Alzheimer’s? In a little booklet called, “Folk Remedies That Really Work,” contributing writer and botanist James A. Duke, Ph.D., says that the spice rosemary is sometimes called the herb of remembrance.

Rosemary contains five compounds that seem to prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that’s deficient in patients with Alzheimer’s and important in memory and cognitive functions. Duke believes that rosemary works as well as the drug tacrine (Cognex). He says that tacrine works in only 25% of patients and it can cause liver damage.

Eating rosemary in dishes such as chicken and fish might reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, but there’s evidence that rosemary can be absorbed through the skin. So you can try putting rosemary springs into your bath, using rosemary shampoo, or rosemary lotion. Rosemary has a long history and even as far back as ancient Greece, students wore rosemary garlands while studying for exams because they believed that it improved their memory. Check out the spices in your supermarket and there may be (as there was in mine) a little sign telling you about rosemary and memory.

 

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