Sleep is Medicine Friday, Jul 23 2021 

Perhaps Americans should start putting sleep on their calendars and to-do lists. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one in three Americans are sleep-deprived. More than 35% of Americans get less than seven hours of sleep per night. Shockingly, one in 20 has fallen asleep while driving in the past month!

Sleep needs vary from one person to another. Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. However, some are fine at 6 hours while others require up to 10.

One of the interesting factors regarding sleep is that deprivation can result in illness and illness can contribute to sleep deprivation. For example, due to at least two illnesses, I’m one of those people who experiences a cycle of pain and fatigue. The more tired I am, the more pain I feel and visa versa. I’m at a point where I can do anything as long as I allow rest times after physical activity.

Dozens of factors contribute to sleep deprivation including a too-busy schedule, too much caffeine or alcohol consumption, anemia, hypothyroidism, jet lag, unhealthy diet, anxiety, cancer, chronic infection, inflammation, and pain, kidney disease, concussion, COPD, depression, diabetes, fibromyalgia, physical or emotional trauma, hormone imbalance, grief, thyroid disease, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, obesity, and sleep apnea.

On the other hand, lack of sleep may result in other health problems. Researchers find that lack of sleep makes it more difficult to lose weight and poses an increased risk of diabetes, heart problems, depression, substance abuse and a decreased ability to focus, remember new information, and perform at optimum levels.

There’s also a connection between sleep loss and memory loss. Chronic sleep deprivation causes injury to parts of the brain that are essential in maintaining attention and forming and storing memories. In addition, it’s believed that our brains clean out substances while sleeping that otherwise interfere with its ability to transmit messages.

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), also called myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME and ME/CFS), is a particular problem with fatigue that is predominately diagnosed by ruling out other illnesses. Symptoms include fatigue that worsens with physical or mental activity, doesn’t improve with rest, and may also include difficulty with memory, focus, concentration, sore throat, enlarged lymph nodes, unexplained muscle or joint pain, and headaches.

The cause of chronic fatigue syndrome is unknown, although there are many theories ranging from viral infections to psychological stress. Some experts believe chronic fatigue syndrome might be triggered by a combination of factors.

If you feel that fatigue is a daily concern for you, it may be best to consult your physician.

*Have you seen my post, “Eat Well. Live Well?

*For information on caregiving to loved ones with dementia, you may find these books helpful: Navigating Alzheimer’s, The Alzheimer’s Spouse, and Inspired Caregiving.

*Photo: Lily Pad, Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe, IL, 6/12/21

Summer-Fresh Herbs Thursday, Jun 3 2021 

One of the prime factors in cooking the tastiest dishes is to use fresh, quality ingredients–fresh herbs being particularly important in most recipes.

Purchasing herbs in your local grocery store offers a convenient but expensive option. However, these herbs are only as fresh as the harvesting and transporting allows and are handled by multiple people. Also, we typically only use a portion of the packet and toss the rest.

The best alternative is for us to grow our own herbs. We then know the quality of the soil and seed, especially when choosing organic products, and likely are the only ones to touch these herbs. Most significantly, we can pick the exact quantity we need for a dish.

In the Midwest, cilantro grows best in spring conditions. However, most others grow well throughout the summer. Rosemary is said to be the easiest herb of all to grow.

A sunny window can offer space for a mini-indoor garden, if your herbs can get at least four to six hours of direct sunlight. Use pots with drainage holes to avoid over-watering.

I have limited garden space, so my herbs are planted in pots on outdoor shelves. I prefer purchasing small plants rather than starting my herbs from seed. This allows me to beginning harvesting within a couple of weeks. This year my herb garden consists of the end of the cilantro and lavender, mint, parsley, basil, rosemary, and sage. These are ones I know that I will use and work within my allotted space, but there are so many more from which to choose.

In addition to cooking with herbs, I also toss a few leaves in my iced and hot tea, lemon and limeade, and water. The hint of flavor and fragrance of the herbs transforms a normal beverage into a special treat. They also offer numerous health benefits. For example, sage and rosemary can improve brain function and memory. Peppermint relieves IBS pain and reduces nausea.

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Inspired Caregiving was written for the caregivers in your life. It’s a gift book with lovely photos and manageable bits of information and inspiration.

You can see all my books on my website.

Have you seen my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books? Posts relate to my published books.

Celebrate the Small Stuff Thursday, May 13 2021 

Life is built on baby steps. We may pause to note the milestones—major birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, retirements, or an award, but we can’t get to the big stuff without the little accomplishments along the way. An improved test score, eating a healthy meal, extending a kind word to a stranger, completing a troubling work project, or a clean kitchen at the end of a hectic day is what it’s all about. These little achievements are cause to celebrate.

Our daily challenges demand our attention. The disasters and struggles shout for us to respond. Yet, in the most trying times, we continue to have moments of joy, moments to commemorate. Focusing on these gains, no matter how minor, keep us positive and hopeful. We recognize that good things are happening all of the time instead of being stuck in sorrow.

We also remain in the present. We’re not mourning the past or fearing the future. We are powerful in the moment. And all those strong, happy moments lead to bigger successes.

*

“Honoring Mary, Our Blessed Mother”

Have you seen my website, Mary K. Doyle?

Traditional, Complimentary, and Alternative Remedies Thursday, Feb 4 2021 

The older we get the more we discover the magnificent workings of the human body. We learn, not because our interest is naturally peaked, but rather, as parts weaken and wear, we come to know the normal function of a particular muscle, joint, organ, or system.

We take much for granted with our health. We expect to step out of bed in the morning and continue running until the end of the day. When a shoulder or knee aches, hands don’t grip like they used to, or chronic back pain slows us down, we realize how much was going on inside of us with little previous appreciation.

My first therapeutic choice is to seek one that is natural and less invasive. Vitamins and herbs; essential oils; and breathing exercises such as through yoga, meditation, and qi gong can be effective in addition to or replacing a pharmaceutical drug or conventional therapy. This is not to say that conventional medicine can be replaced entirely. Often, it is the appropriate solution. I simply prefer to try something else first.

After months of debilitating fatigue with minor physical exertion, constant leg cramps, dizziness, shortness of breath, and overall nerve tingling, my cardiologist believed the culprit was microvascular resistance which affects the small blood vessels. I had tests to look at the heart and larger vessels but couldn’t test smaller ones because I also have fibromuscular dysplasia. Probing the vessels risked tearing them.         

My doctor suggested I try taking either nitroglycerine or L-arginine to improve blood flow. He said if it worked, we could be reasonably certain it was indeed microvascular resistance. I chose the arginine (an amino acid available over the counter), and soon found tremendous relief. I no longer needed a nap after walking down my street or was up all night with leg cramps. The arginine also lowered my blood pressure which was running high even with medication.

Technically, there is a difference between the terms complimentary and alternative therapies. Complementary remedies are disciplines used with conventional medicine while alternative ones are used in place of it. For example, as when dealing with irritable bowel, diet may be used to work with traditional medicine, to compliment it, or as an alternative to any pharmaceutical prescription.

Many of these therapies such as Ayurveda, acupuncture, and reflexology have been around for thousands of years. They’ve been a trusted solution for an array of medical issues. However, practices do raise concern when there is a lack of federal regulation. Many therapists, such as those administering massage and chiropractic medicine, are regulated, while many others are not.  

Similarly, the quality and potency of over-the-counter remedies can vary greatly between brands. 500mg of calcium can be very different from one company to another or even one bottle to another of the same brand depending on the credibility of the supplier. And yet, we all know ineffective physicians and generic drugs that differ from others, as well.

When choosing any practice or remedy we should remember that they all pose a level of risk. Consumers must do their research and weigh the benefits, side effects, and potential risks before moving forward.

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Want to know the honest truth about an author’s potential for profit? See my post, “The Reality of an Author.”

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Masked Since Antiquity Tuesday, Jun 30 2020 

Mandated or recommended, masks are the talk of the day. Do we have the right to choose wearing them or not? Which ones are best? Why do we dislike them? And do we really need them?

Personally, I see mask wearing like cigarette smoking. I understand the desire and choice to smoke but I hate the smell, and I don’t believe anyone has the right to inflect their second-hand smoke on me and my health. In the same way, I understand the discomfort and inconvenience of mask wearing, but I don’t believe anyone has the right to spread their potentially deadly germs in my face. If they won’t wear a mask, they can remain in their home.

Since the Stone Age, masks have been worn by nearly all cultures. The oldest known mask is from 7000 BC. Traditional ones were used for protection, disguise, hunting, entertainment, punishment, membership in secret societies, celebration, healings, and rituals. They were made from any number of materials including leather, wood, and feathers. I have one from Hawaii made from volcanic ash and covered in carved symbols.


One of the few collections I have is a wall grouping of masks, carvings, and a painting I’ve acquired from my travels. In addition to the one made from ash, the collection includes a ritual mask from Papua, New Guinea purchased in Hawaii and one made by the Incas and purchased in Aruba, festival masks from Venice, Italy, face carvings from Alaska and Jamaica, a totem from Hawaii, a leather work from Portugal, and a painting of a turtle on tapas, a type of fabric carefully and arduously made from softened wood bark. My attraction to these items stemmed from their craftmanship, symbolism, and personal contact with the artist or vendor.

When I purchased the ritual masks, I was assured that they had been cleansed. The spirits of the dead or other beings were no longer attached, so I needn’t be concerned about carrying those spirits home with me. That statement opened up a greater fascination and appreciation of the artifacts. I had no knowledge of the historical or cultural meaning of them or that death masks were created in the likeness of the deceased.

Some ritual masks, such as those in West Africa, are used to communicate with ancestral or animal spirits. They can be quite symbolic. For example, closed eyes may show tranquility while bulging foreheads means wisdom.

Today we are familiar with masks of protection such as those for welders, gas masks, police shields, oxygen masks, and our all so familiar, medical and health masks. I don’t plan on adding any of these to my wall.

***

Have you read “Angels to Guard You Wherever You Go” and “Easy Test with Big Answers” on Mary K Doyle Books?

***

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What to Do in Quarantine Thursday, Mar 12 2020 

Remember all those days you asked for things to slow down? Well, your request has been granted. The world is currently on hold.      

With the Coronavirus/COVID-19 taunting us, we are advised to avoid social gatherings, wash our hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, and be particularly careful if we are more than 60 years old and/or have chronic health conditions such as heart and lung disease and diabetes.

So, what to do if we are laying low? We are busy, social people and are used to being on the go. Switching gears to a slower pace takes some adjustment.

Here’s our opportunity to catch up on our long list of things we’ve been putting off. Following are some suggestions:

  • Deep clean the house.
  • Enjoy our homes that cost so much to live in.
  • Pray.
  • Play board games with the family.
  • Bake.
  • Practice our musical instruments such as piano, guitar.
  • Clear out the DVR. Watch all those recordings we wanted to capture.
  • File income tax.
  • Complete the census survey.
  • Work on crafts such as scrapbooking, sewing, wood cutting, flower arrangements, etc.
  • Organize the garage.
  • Clean out closets.
  • Paint a room.
  • Sort through our collections such as coins, model cars, and memorabilia.
  • Work on a household budget.
  • Video chat with loved ones.
  • Write notes to elderly homebound.
  • Journal feelings.
  • Meditate.
  • Organize photos. 
  • Exercise-walk, practice yoga, get on the bike.
  • Wash the car.
  • Read through that stack of books and magazines.

Most of all, try to be loving and supportive. We’re all feeling the stress, and a little love can go a long way. And, hang in there, my friends. This too shall pass.

***

Have you seen my last post on Mary K Doyle Books, “One Year Later?”

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**Update on my presentation schedule: Due to COVID-19, presentations are postponed until this summer or later.

Bring in the Dogs Wednesday, Jul 24 2019 

IMG_3511

Flight delayed? Bradley International Airport in Hartford, Connecticut has a remedy to keep everyone calm—pets to the rescue.

While waiting in BDL for a flight home that ended up delayed more than six hours, handlers and their therapy dogs remained available for petting. I definitely can attest to the positive affect the Australian Shepherds had on the initially irritated crowd. Grunts and groans quickly transformed into oohs and ahs once the dogs appeared. The animals’ mere presence was helpful, and after a few strokes of their luxurious coats, travelers magically became significantly calmer. Smiles blossomed across the gates between travelers and the staff working diligently to accommodate everyone.

Pet Therapy, also known as Animal Assisted Therapy, involves a handler and an animal trained to assist people with physical and emotional issues. The therapy is found to help lower blood pressure, release endorphins, alleviate pain, reduce stress, improve motor skills and joint movement, and improve verbal and social skills. Dogs and cats are the most common animals used as “therapists,” but fish, guinea pigs, horses, and even dolphins are trained.

The only drawbacks to pet therapy may occur when people are allergic to animal dander or sanitary issues arise. Pets also may be at risk from unintentional harm from people.

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Have you seen my last post on Mary K Doyle Books, “Speak to Me?” 

On the Healthy, Sunny Side of Life Monday, Jul 8 2019 

IMG_2025Sunshine isn’t a guarantee in the Chicago area. Most of the year is overcast. When skies are clear, it’s like Christmas here. Residents are deliriously happy and out and about soaking in that rare commodity which is so good for our emotional and physical well-being.

Recent studies suggest that a substantial percentage of the global population is deficient in vitamin D. We need sun exposure on bare skin for 5-10 minutes 2-3 times per week to obtain enough sunlight to produce the necessary amount of vitamin D, which is difficult to achieve in many areas. The lack of sunshine, in addition to high pollution and the use of sunscreen which interfere or prevent absorption, are the main reasons.

Deficiency can be avoided by consuming eggs, fish (especially herring, mackerel, salmon, trout, swordfish, and tuna), fish liver oil, and chicken in addition to fortified foods such as cereals, dairy products, and orange juice. There also are an array of capsules and pills on the market from which to choose from, although there is a great variation of product quality to be aware of.

Vitamin D is actually not a vitamin. It’s considered a pro-hormone. Unlike vitamins, which are nutrients that cannot be created by the body, vitamin D can be synthesized when sunlight hits our skin. But vitamin D breaks down quickly making it difficult to attain and retain enough of it especially in winter.

Sunlight is vital to our health for many reasons. Without it, we may experience fatigue, an increase in aches and pains, severe bone or muscle pain, stress fractures, and a waddling gait in addition to asthma in children. The vitamin regulates calcium and phosphorus and helps to maintain proper bone structure.

Research suggests that vitamin D supports lung function and may play a role in the prevention of type 1 and 2 diabetes; hypertension; multiple sclerosis; heart disease; colon, prostate, and breast cancers; rickets; osteoporosis and bone fractures; rheumatoid arthritis; and swine flu in addition to treating plaque-type psoriasis. It also helps to reduce depression, anxiety, and fibromyalgia symptoms, as well as improve cognitive function.

The recommended intake of vitamin D is about 400 IU but does vary by age. Senior adults are sometimes advised to take double that amount. However, don’t go overboard with this or any vitamin. Excessive consumption of D, called D hypervitaminosis, can lead to calcification of bones and hardening of blood vessels, kidney, lungs, and heart. The most common symptoms of over intake are headache, nausea, dry mouth, a metallic taste, vomiting, constipation, and diarrhea.

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Do you follow my other blog: Mary K Doyle Books?

Would you like to attend my next presentation? It’s free of charge. I’ll be presenting on “The Alzheimer’s Spouse” on 7/16/19, at Arden Courts of Avon, CT and 7/17/19 at Arden Courts of Farmington, CT. If you are in the area, I’d love to see you there. Together, we can find solutions to some of your concerns.

Passing Through the Tough Stuff Tuesday, Jun 4 2019 

Today is a painful, fibromyalgia day for me–body aches from head-to-toe and fatigue. The good news is, like most of life’s trials, it will pass.

No one escapes the tough stuff whether it is physical or emotional. However, as my sister, Patti, says, “It’s not what happens to us but what we do about what happens that matters.” We easily can make a difficult situation more trying if we resist or revolt rather than work through it. When we continue to move one step at a time through a troubling situation, we soon find ourselves at the other end of that tunnel.

For me, that means a quiet day at my desk with a positive outlook knowing I soon will see you on the bright side, my friends.

***

(Did you see my last post on Mary K Doyle Books: Marian Devotion through Art?)

 

Super Berry Wednesday, Jan 9 2019 

elderberryStep aside blueberries. You have some competition as a super food. The elderberry is rapidly gaining in on you.

My daughter, Erin, has me hooked on elderberry syrup, pills, and tea after reading some credible studies. As a nurse, Erin, seeks the scientific findings such as this one before jumping on the home-remedy bandwagon. Another study reported in The National Center for Biotechnology in 2016 found elderberry supplementation reduces cold duration and symptoms in air-travelers.

Rich in flavonoids, consuming elderberries is thought to offer numerous health benefits. In addition to reducing colds and flu symptoms, elderberries are believed to offer some prevention and reduction in allergies, urinary tract and bladder infections, headaches, constipation, epilepsy, scarlet fever, and measles. The purplish-black berries may also improve digestive health, rheumatism, and sinus, back, leg (sciatica), and nerve pain (neuralgia) in addition to chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

Some positive effects even have been seen on markers of the heart and blood vessels, as well, with a reduction of the level of fat in the blood and a decrease in cholesterol. Elderberry may even increase insulin secretion and improve blood sugar levels.

The American elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) is a deciduous shrub native to areas of the Midwest and Eastern North America. Fragrant white clusters of blossoms bloom each summer. In warmer areas, blossoms may appear throughout the year.

Raw berries should not be eaten as they can cause nausea and vomiting. And the bark, seeds, stems, leaves, and roots are inedible. They contain a cyanide-inducing glycoside, which in large quantities, is toxic.

Elderberries are safe when cooked. They may be consumed in pies, jams, juices, gummiessyrups, and wine. At this time, there is no standard dosage of elderberry to take when suffering from colds or flu but some suggest one tablespoon of syrup extract four times a day. It’s also unknown as to whether or not consuming elderberry products daily is beneficial.

(Did you see my post, “The Magician’s Escape Plan,” on my blog, Mary K Doyle Books?)

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