COMMENTS ON HEALTH

COLONOSCOPY - Important Update, 7-20-2017, below.

Doctors recommend that everyone over 50 should get a periodic colonoscopy. My friends, do not hesitate to get your doctor to prescribe this, and get it done. Colon cancer is more common than you think. It starts out benign. They can remove the benign growths with the scope. Some types of benign growths may require two or three visits a few months apart. It is no longer a difficult procedure to bear. I was completely put asleep for all of my procedures.

On April 1, 2005 about 90% of a polyp was removed. It was a type that required removal in several stages. The histology report indicated some dysplasia, or a precancerous condition. I was also operated on in May, June and September of 05 and now the intervals will be longer. The doctor said he got all of it and that major surgery will not be needed. Sept. 29, 2006 I am completely clear after a year. The doctor says the next colonoscopy will be in 3 years. Im keeping that fiber and folic acid coming.

Nov. 2009  No new polyps. I believe that avoiding nitrites and eating more fiber is very helpful.

Dec. 2014- Only one benign polyp. My doctor said not to go to longer intervals than 5 years. He had a patient that was clear and then had cancer after 6 years. The patient survived because it had not spread.

Nitrites are usually found in bologna, salami, corned beef, pastrami, tongue, hot dogs, Polish sausage, Italian sausage, bacon, lox, and pepperoni. These are called "cured" meats. They are generally pink to red when fully cooked.  Nitrites form dangerous carcinogens called nitrosamines in your digestive tract. Nitrites have been used for a long time in these meats, but I believe they are allowed only due to pressure from the food industry. Many things are allowed due to having been around a long time but that does not necessarily mean that they are safe. Versions of the above products without nitrites are available at stores like Whole Foods. They have to be used more quickly or frozen.

Sometimes nitrite-free products are found in the major supermarket stores, but you must look at the labels carefully.

MINOR UPDATE 5-2016, next paragraph.

More information on nitrites and nitrosamines is in Wikipedia. Also you can go to cdc.gov and type these terms in their search box. Around the beginning of 2016 one of the U.S. agencies declared that cured meats were carcinogenic, but less so than cigarettes.

IMPORTANT UPDATE 7-20-2017

A Chicago Tribune article on July 4, 2017, in the Business section, has highlighted issues with the way nitrites are reported in the ingredients labels of cured meats. Ingredients labels in many products now state that no nitrites are added except those naturally occurring in celery powder and/or sea salt. Other sources state that cherry powder is similarly used, and that sodium erythorbate can play a role as a curing accelerator. Sometimes sodium nitrate is used, and additional ingredients can cause it to change to sodium nitrite.

The sources state that the net amount of nitrite in these products is similar to what was previously added directly. The federal government (FDA or Agriculture Dep't.) believes that nitrites are generally recognized as safe.

I caution you, the reader, to research all this carefully and limit the consumption of cold cuts, even those labeled as uncured. Wikipedia discusses most of these items in detail.

STEREO VISION

There is a marvelous article on stereo vision in the June 19, 2006 issue of the New Yorker magazine. It describes in great detail the story of a woman who regained stereo vision in her 40s or 50s long after specialists state you can do this. The person in the article alternately used either eye. She had crossed eyes until about age 5 but did not undergo training to properly merge images until much later. The revelation of the 3-D world was very stunning to her. This is a must-read for anyone who has had misaligned eyes but has not lost vision in either eye. This is truly groundbreaking science. Specialists believed until now that one must have correct eye alignment by age two or thereabout.

It is more common for people with eye misalignment to permanently lose vision in one eye. The brain usually "turns off" an image that does not merge. I have noticed that, especially in the past, people with farsightedness developed cross-eye, and nearsighted people, the opposite condition. It's important to get children tested for glasses (refraction test) as early as they can respond to the doctor.

 

LITTLE-KNOWN CONDITION

It affects men more than women. Check out paruresis.org .

 

DIETING

We are programmed to eat much more than is necessary because food shortages were common throughout human history until very recently. This gave a survival advantage. Nowadays storing the excess on your body is a known severe health hazard.

As all of us know, diet plans and books are very numerous out there. They often give conflicting and confusing advice. Most of these writings and lectures seldom mention the words  "hunger" or "hungry." Instead they use the word "cravings" a lot, to make you believe that your desire to eat more is due to a bad attitude or mental illness of some kind. What is happening as you get older, is that you burn fewer calories, as we all know, but what no one says is that your appetite does not decline anywhere nearly as much in my experience.

Some of these plans have you restrict certain classes of foods, such as carbohydrates or fats.

Problems have been found with all the unusual diets. I believe that the best plan is to count calories. This will work if you are strict. I think that for men over 50 you should start at 2500 calories and women 2000 calories a day. This is more than most diet gurus will tell you, but you will likely be unbearably hungry if you start at less, I think. I suggest starting a diet during a vacation or a weekend, because in my experience I was very weak and hungry the first week or so. Kind of like a weekly weakness for a couple of weekends.

After a month or so, you can go down by 100 or 200 calories, and maintain that level for a few weeks at a time. I would get a doctor's advice if you cannot lose weight at 2000 calories a day for men or 1600 or so for women.

The important thing is to lose weight as slowly as possible, perhaps only 2 pounds a month or so. This is to minimize excessive hunger, as well as to try to avoid slowing your metabolism too much. Unlike the diet gurus, I will tell you that you likely will be very hungry and self-discipline is necessary. And, you are not going to have "more energy." You are going to have less energy (while reducing) because you are putting less into your body. At least this is what I have noticed until very recently. It took 6 months for most of my energy to return and to become partially accustomed to eating less than the 3500 or more calories I used to eat daily.

Your body is likely to have other defenses against low calorie intake that you will need to be prepared for. One is coldness. You will need to dress more heavily. You may be more comfortable dieting during summer. Another is constipation. You may need to eat more fiber, and also products such as a popular probiotic yogurt that is on the market. I prefer a plain version of a popular fiber product. It is good on cereal. Using more than 1/4 ounce or 7 grams at a meal can cause stomach cramps. The orange flavored, artificially sweetened version seems harsh to me. I believe people taste artificial sweeteners differently. All of them taste bitter and medicinal to me.

When you count calories, you will be dismayed at the huge numbers served at most restaurants. It's not at all hard to eat 2,000 to 3,000 calories at a single meal at most restaurants. You will need to eat more at home to avoid temptation, and choose those establishments featuring fewer calories and information on the servings. Most of the chain restaurants have nutrition information on their web sites. In the future, they will all have to have it available in printed form at the restaurant. (Unless the political party wins - that wants you to tough it out on your own.) Salads with low-calorie dressings are a way out of this problem. Splitting the mega-desserts with your friends is another way out.

If necessary, you may need to skip a meal in order to eat dinner at some places. The diet gurus do not recommend this, for good reason, but I have found for me that it can be occasionally done to keep your daily calorie total in line. See the 9-11-2015 update below.

You will need to consume enough calories so that you can exercise moderately. And, you will need to get 7 or 8 hours of sleep daily, because less will increase hunger sensations. That is because the hunger and sleep centers in the brain are near each other. This effect is quite strong in me, and I usually feel excess hunger in the evening, which I have found to be a signal that I need rest instead. I have noticed that my appetite is considerably less in the morning.

I would get a 1 pound scale for the kitchen with both metric and ounce markings, as this can save you a lot of time and dishes compared with measuring food by volume. What you may not know is that you can weigh water-based liquids simply because a fluid (volume) ounce is nearly the same as a weighed ounce. Therefore you can weigh your cereal into a bowl, and then add milk slowly as you watch the additional ounces.

Also you will need to watch the information on food packages because manufacturers are reluctant to tell you how many calories their product has. They are allowed to quote unrealistically small serving sizes and round off the servings per container in misleading whole numbers, ignoring significant fractions.

Simple math is all that is needed to calculate calories. Here's what to do, for example, with a can of Brand X Vegetarian Chili. The total weight is on one side of the can, 425 grams. On the other side is the nutrition information. Serving size is 247 grams. (Always use same units, and do not mix other units like cups in this example.) Calories per serving, 190.  Ignore the "Servings Per Container." It is likely an inaccurate rounded number. In the calculation, the total weight/serving size weight = the real number of servings in the container (1.72), assuming you will be consuming it all.

Total calories of this container are total net weight/serving weight x calories per serving. That is 425/247 x 190 = 327 to the nearest calorie.

When using a calculator or not, follow math priority to avoid errors. Example: You used soymilk 3 times at breakfast, 2.5, 3, and 3.5 ounces. It's 100 calories per 8 ounces. Wrong: 2.5+3+3.5/8x100=74.2 calories. Right: 2.5+3+3.5=9/8x100=112.5.

DISCLAIMER. The above dieting advice comes from my reading and practical experiences. I am not a dietitian or physician. It may not work for you, and it could cause fainting or other side effects. I have tried to make sense out of nonsense in losing weight and share my experience with you. I do not have any major medical problems other than high cholesterol and high blood pressure when off the medicine. I have lost about 20 pounds in 7 months. YOU SHOULD CONSULT A DOCTOR ABOUT DIETING FIRST.

TRY THIS FOR EXCESSIVE APPETITE

Try dissolving a common 4 to 9 mg. menthol cough drop that has sugar in the mouth after eating a low-calorie meal. It works for me for about 1 to 2 hours. The hungry feeling nearly goes away. I believe this is because menthol is part of another substance that doctors have said hastens satiety.  I am not mentioning the name of this other substance, a common and legal flavoring, because it is too difficult to measure a safe amount of it at home. Use cough drops with less menthol if the above strength is irritating to your mouth or stomach, or creates drowsiness.

I assume the dose of menthol in a cough drop is safe, but I cannot guarantee that. Also, you could be allergic or sensitive to this substance.  THE USE OF MENTHOL IS AT YOUR OWN RISK.

I have also tried mustard and pickles, which contain turmeric, and cinnamon with different foods. For me, these seasonings have less effect than the above but are worth using when available. They were also recommended by various famous diet gurus. Turmeric is said to reduce hunger and cinnamon is said to reduce the speed with which carbohydrates are metabolized, so blood sugar does not spike and then drop as rapidly.

DIETING UPDATE 9-21-2013

In the August/September 2013 AARP magazine there is an article about former president Bill Clinton's vegan diet. It was not written by him. His successful diet has improved his energy and has helped him avoid more coronary bypass surgery and heart attacks. It seems to me that if you eat enough high-fiber, low-calorie, and low carbohydrate foods, you can literally crowd out many calories from your digestive system. After your weight is reduced, it will take less energy to move your body around on your daily chores.

I believe that this advice is very good and helpful. My complaint about this article, like others, is that it is contrived in that the words "hunger" and "hungry" never appear. I wonder how someone who contemplates dieting can relate to this when the first thing that one notices when they start eating less is that they're hungry. In addition to the above-mentioned effects, (7th paragraph below "Dieting" header) you can also get drowsiness during the day or early evening, and insomnia later at night.

Although Clinton states in the article that you should keep a record of what you eat, he does not give any ballpark figure for calories. We don't know, after reading this article, if he can eat as much as he likes on this diet, or if he is hungry after eating and between meals. The article does imply that he is, because the words "craves,"  "hearty appetite," "discipline," "deprivation," "comfort," and "control" appear. For Mr. Clinton, and many of us, having a reason to live, a fear of death, and being educated are sufficient for controlling obesity.

The obesity epidemic seems to me to have a simple explanation. People nowadays are much more tolerant of the appearance of obesity and it has become common. In the past, there was more of a social taboo about being fat. So people exert less discipline about their eating habits. If you look at how people dress nowadays, you can see that appearances are much less important now.

It seems to me that as one gets older, and in the genetically predisposed, the body has more difficulty converting what you eat into energy, and becomes more efficient at storing it as fat instead. This would explain why so many people are fat and hungry at the same time, something I have almost never seen mentioned in print. (Exception - see Wikipedia, Insulin Resistance.) Exercise can be helpful with this. Generally the body slightly under-compensates calorie intake with exercise, causing a weight loss. (This paragraph updated 7-7-2015.)

Although most of these articles are written for the layman, I wonder if the physical nature of hunger is lost on some researchers also. Some of them seem to emphasize the need for behavior changes in their writings. This is all helpful and fine. But the exact nature of how the appetite works is still unknown to medical science. Everyone needs to realize that science has a way to go before we can conquer obesity.

DIETING UPDATE 9-11-2015

Two articles appeared in newspapers in August 2015. These articles discussed current scientific research.

One article stated that skipping breakfast led to lower weight or no weight change, not weight gain. The other article discussed research about a "compound 14" that could cause mice under certain conditions to have lower blood sugar and lose weight.

These are good items to follow with your search engine.

VERTEBRAL DISKS BECOME WEAKER WITH AGE

Be careful when lifting. Get help. Back and neck disks can herniate when supporting much less weight than what you lifted when you were in your 20s or 30s. Neck disks support some of the load from the arms and are smaller in diameter than lower back discs. I suggest that people over 70 lift only 1/4 of what they lifted in their 20s or 30s. There is a lot of information about this on the web.

YOUR DIGITAL BATHROOM SCALE

As you have probably noticed, all weighing scales have a slight variation in their readings of the same object's weight. This can be due to internal friction in its movement, non-linear response of its springs, or temperature and humidity effects on electronic components. Also, as you stand on a bathroom scale, there are unavoidable small instantaneous variations in your weight as you maintain your balance.

Digital scales average these variations over a second or two and give you an averaged reading. It's likely that they also remember your last weighing total as mine does. This is done to give the appearance of consistency. I have tested my scale and found that if my weight changes +/- 1 pound or less, it displays the previous weight. If you are intent on watching your weight from day to day, you may want to use a mechanical scale instead.

I simply tested it by holding on to a one pound object and found it always displayed the previous weight. Same if I first weighed myself without the one pound object. If I weighed something two or more pounds different, and then weighed myself with or without the one pound object, it would then display the correct weight, showing the added pound or not.

SLEEP APNEA SHOULD BE TREATED

You can read hundreds of articles about how obstructive and central sleep apnea are destructive to health. I will add that it is a self-aggravating condition. If untreated, it makes one tired, which increases the appetite. Then, when you gain weight, the sleep apnea gets worse, which makes you more tired, and on and on.

Some ideas for adapting to CPAP, BiPAP, or Auto-PAP treatment:

When new to the machines, go to sleep when you are very tired, as you will not feel mask discomfort as much.

Use the pressure ramp button when you go to sleep, as full pressure can be very annoying when trying to fall asleep.

Add extra humidifiers to the output of your machine. Built-in humidifiers are often inadequate at higher pressure settings. Anything that increases air flow will reduce humidity in your machine's output. (Your mask must bypass some air.) Dryness causes apnea-hypopnea episodes and wake-ups. Use distilled water. Tap water will cause mineral deposits which can harbor mold and bacteria.

If humidified, heated air makes it hard to fall asleep, turn on the heaters only when you are going to sleep. Heat-up can take 20 minutes, which is often enough of a delay. If it is not, obtain an on-delay timer to increase the delay another 10 to 20 minutes or so.

If your sleeping room is very warm, you may not need to insulate the hose to your mask.  At cooler temperatures, you may get excessive condensation in the hose, leading to gurgling and blocking of the air, and/or low humidity to the mask. If you do not move too much during sleep, it might be sufficient to place the hose under the top blanket layer. Always place CPAP humidifiers lower than your head. Try to use a minimum length of hose so that the entire path is downhill to the output of the machine or humidifier.

It's best to rinse tanks and hoses, and wash the mask daily. Bacteria and mold can be a pneumonia danger.

Use a wedge pad or other means to raise your head and sleep on your side instead of the back to reduce apnea-hypopnea episodes. For me, sleeping on the right side is much better than the left side. Sitting up can be helpful with severe obstructive sleep apnea. For me, I need to have  my feet raised when sitting up, and a very heavy object at my feet to prevent sliding down during sleep. If I slide down, my neck is bent forward, increasing breathing obstruction. (This paragraph updated 7-7-2015.)

My machine has a setting called A-Flex which can vary the exhalation pressure. Unlike a straight CPAP, this machine has 3 reduced pressures for aiding exhalation. I use the least-reduced pressure for two reasons. One is that I need to keep my throat from closing any amount, because it does not open quickly after the lower exhalation pressures. (I cannot increase the inhalation pressure prescription because air then goes into my esophagus.) The other reason is that at the two more reduced exhalation pressures, the machine's motor is stressed by the sudden acceleration at each inhalation and there is a slight burning odor.

If you get nightmares that you can recall when you wake up, and you have tried various humidity and other settings, that is the strongest sign that you need retesting for the correct machine pressure.

FOOD ADDITIVES

I recently saw an article in the newspaper that said that hundreds of new food additives are self-approved by the food industry each year without even notifying the Food and Drug Administration. That means that new chemicals in your food are often not tested by anyone other than a food company. I would buy and consume as many organic products as you can find and afford. The article stated that, in the U.S., additives are innocent until proven guilty. In most European countries, additives must be proven safe first.

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Updated May, 2016