Category Archives: Women’s Health

Random Hacks

The Internet was full of interesting tips this week!

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7 ways to prevent (and fix!) smelly shoes

1. Start with clean feet: Soak them in salt water, then dry off and dust with talcum powder (baby powder or Gold Bond).

2. Put antiperspirant on the soles of your feet.

3. Sprinkle the inside of your shoes with baking soda and leave overnight. Vacuum or shake out in the morning.

4. Place dry tea bags inside your shoes and leave them overnight.

5. Put crumpled newspaper inside your shoes and leave overnight. It absorbs odor-retaining moisture.

6. Place your shoes in individual plastic zip bags and leave them in your freezer overnight to kill bacteria. During the winter, leaving them overnight in a cold car will work too. Let your shoes slowly return to room temperature before wearing.

7. Spritz sneakers or fabric-lined shoes with mixture of water and white vinegar. Let dry thoroughly.

 

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5 steps to relaxation

1. Place the tip of your tongue just behind your front teeth and exhale sharply.

2. Close your mouth and inhale slowly through your nose for a count of four.

3. Hold your breath for a count of seven.

4. Exhale strongly to a count of eight.

5. Repeat 3 times. Ahhhhh.

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17 ways to save money

  1. Clear your browsing history. When shopping online – especially for airline tickets – make sure to empty your cache. Online companies follow your history and raise prices based on this information.
  2. Shop as a guest. When buying online, use the Guest option instead of creating an account. New customers usually get lower prices.
  3. Leave items in your online cart. Get everything filled in, with your name, e-mail address etc., but don’t purchase immediately. You’ll often get a follow-up e-mail a day or two later offering a discount code to incentivize you to complete the sale.
  4. Lower the brightness on your TV and computer screen. Reducing the brightness of your TV and/or computer monitors from their default settings can reduce power consumption by up to 40%. 
  5. Carry large bills. Research shows that you’re likely to pay less if you use cash instead of a credit card. That’s because purchases feel more “real” when you see the amount you’re spending. If you carry only $50 bills you’ll be less inclined to break them, which helps avoid impulse buys.
  6. Make lists. You’re also less likely to succumb to impulse buys at the mall or grocery store if you’ve decided ahead of time what you need and plan to buy.
  7. Build your credit. Your credit score determines your rate on loans; nowadays utility and insurance companies use these scores to calculate monthly premiums.
  8. Make large purchases at the end of the month. Buying a couch, car or electronics? All sales reps have to meet monthly quotas. If they’ve had a slow month they may be willing to give you a deep discount in order to make a sale—and reach their quota. 
  9. Paint your roof white. If you live in a warm climate, this quirky idea could save you a bundle on air conditioning bills. Traditional roofs are dark, and dark colors absorb more heat.  Go even further and install solar panels – the upfront cost will be worth it if you plan to live in your house for a long time.
  10. Brew your own coffee. Home brewing cuts your cost to about $0.25 per cup vs. $3 at a pricey coffee shop, saving you hundreds per year (and over $1000 if you have a 2/day habit!) 
  11. Eat less meat. Eating vegetable-centric meals 2-3 times per week will save you some major cash.
  12. Buy generic. Store brands often have the same ingredients as name brands and may even be made by the same companies. Same with prescriptions – ask your doctor if the generic version is an effective option. 
  13. Buy a water filter. Bottled water isn’t just expensive; it’s not necessarily healthier than tap water. The filtration process may result in water that’s actually better for you than spring water!
  14. Exercise daily. Research confirms that working out regularly limits the number of trips you’ll take to the doctor’s office.
  15. Eat out at culinary schools. If you love dining out, investigate culinary schools in your area. You can enjoy delicious meals from up-and-coming chefs at significant savings vs. restaurants.  
  16. Stay hydrated. Many people overeat because they mistake thirst for hunger. Drinking water before a meal will help you to only consume what you need. Result: lower grocery bills!
  17. Ask for discounts. Most companies offer money-saving promotions but may not advertise them. When contacting your cable, gas, phone, or credit card companies, ask if there’s a way to reduce your bills. Sometimes, mentioning that you’re ready to cancel a service or switch providers is all it takes for them to “magically” come up with a better deal.

Avoiding Brain Drain

In hopes of staving off cognitive decline, I’ve been refreshing my French with the help of the free online language courses on DuoLingo. Next up: brushing up on my minimal Italian (one college semester) in preparation for our trip to Sicily, Milan and Florence in October.flag-2292679_640Younger readers may think this is an issue that only affects their parents or grandparents. Not so fast: apparently the seeds of dementia can be sewn in our 30’s, 40’s and 50’s — up to three decades before the disease appears full-blown. Yowza.

Nearly two-thirds of Alzheimer’s sufferers are women. But the good news is that there’s a lot we can do to protect ourselves – at every age. Reducing inflammation, insulin resistance, blood sugar, high LDL cholesterol and vascular problems lowers our risk, and current research now focuses as much on causes as on cures.

The Big Three: Eating, Exercise and Engagement.

EATING

The Mediterranean Diet won’t just keep you slim; it’s literally brain food. Eating veggies, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry and olive oil boosts brain health. And don’t forget the wine: the resveratrol in red wine has many benefits.

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  • Protects the lining of our arteries so blood can flow freely
  • Improves the body’s ability to repair damage caused by free radicals, which helps prevent premature aging of cells
  • Blocks the production of inflammatory agents

What to avoid? Sugar. Too much can lead to obesity and diabetes, both of which increase the risk of dementia. So swap that margarita for cabernet! And watch your cholesterol: high levels can cause plaque buildup in blood vessels and keep blood from effectively reaching all parts of your brain.

EXERCISE

It’s as good for your brain as it is for your butt.

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  • Aerobic exercise builds up grey matter in the cerebral cortex (where memories live), releases chemicals thought to affect learning and memory, and delivers oxygen to your brain.
  • Regular exercise sharpens focus and stimulates nerve cells and blood vessel formation in the hippocampus, another part of the brain associated with memory. Don’t you love the word hippocampus, which sounds like a university for, you know, hippos? (I threw that in to see if you’re paying attention.) hippo-783522_640
  • Studies have shown that strength training improves blood flow to areas of the brain associated with executive function and memory. So pump that iron!
  • Stress busters such as yoga help reduce cortisol, the fight-or-flight hormone that can go into overdrive, impairing memory and causing neuron-damaging inflammation.

ENGAGEMENT 

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  • Learn something new and keep doing new things (at least an hour each day).
  • Spend time socializing; it helps build new brain cells.
  • Protect your heart (and not just romantically!) The better it pumps, the more blood can circulate throughout your body, nourishing the neurons and blood vessels in your brain.
  • Feeling bored at work or in a social situation? Wiggle your toes — it snaps you back to the moment.
  • Hit the sheets for at least seven hours. The slow-wave stage before REM sleep is thought to be the time when cognitive function strengthens and consolidates.
  • Take time to relax. It lowers blood pressure to help reduce strain on blood vessels.

Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for my new fitness regimen: lifting several heavy glasses of wine while reading Italian travel guides and researching restaurants. Gotta start someplace, right? Salute e ciao!

The Eyes Have It: Adventures in Monovision

When I first got contact lenses in 7th grade and announced ecstatically that I could finally see properly, my mother burst into tears. I remember this primarily because it’s the only sentimental thing she ever did.

Since then, glasses, contacts and post-age-40 reading glasses have been a fact of life and an ever-expanding part of my wardrobe.  If I wear my contacts I can’t see anything smaller than type THIS BIG so I stash reading glasses all over the house, in the car and in at least one pocket.  This also requires the expensive addition of reader sunglasses — also stashed in multiple locations. And yet, I often can’t find a pair.

Although I see best with my regular (progressive bifocal) glasses, they’re a real pain. They get dirty. They stretch and eventually slip off my nose. And they’re heavy enough to break tiny blood vessels in my cheeks if I wear them all the time. Memo: stock up on cover up.

Eventually I’ll probably need cataract surgery and maybe by then science will have a perfect solution. Meanwhile, at my latest annual eye exam, my doctor suggested I try monovision to eliminate the need for readers, which she thought would work better for me than bifocal contacts.

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How It Works

With monovision, you wear a contact lens on one eye to correct your distance vision (aka nearsightedness) and a lens on the other eye to correct your near vision (farsightedness). The distance vision lens is worn on your dominant eye, i.e., the one that sees far away objects better.

The term “monovision” is a bit misleading. After about a week or two, brain learns to merge the two images to (theoretically) let you see clearly at all distances. But each eye will still see best at its own designated correction.

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Plan on Multiple Visits

My eye doctor warned me that it might take multiple visits before landing on the right combination. Meanwhile, as my friend S (who won’t try this) says, I could be walking into walls. I leave with a 10-day supply of trial lenses. Note: you may be charged a higher fitting fee than usual because most people need “tweaking” before the lenses are perfect.

Rx 1: Right eye (distance) same as my normal prescription. Left eye (close up): under-corrected for distance and too blurry for close-up reading. Result: dizziness and lousy vision. Lose-lose.

Rx 2: A different doctor (young and impossibly chic) gives me a thorough exam trying a lot of subtle modifications to get me closer to the best prescription. Results: No change to right eye. Left eye made weaker so close-ups are better, but not great. Still dizzy and not seeing well enough. Feh.

Rx 3 (3 weeks after my initial checkup): Dr. Chic has me try a toric (weighted) lens for the mild astigmatism in my right eye. Upside: distance vision is a little sharper. Downsides: toric lenses are more expensive, thicker, and have to be perfectly positioned. She explains that there is a vertical line on the lens that should be at the bottom when you place it in your eye. After struggling to figure out why the line keeps moving, I realize the next day that there are actually TWO vertical lines – one will be at the top of the lens when the other is at the bottom. This seems unnecessarily complicated.

For the left eye, she gives me an even weaker lens. Now my close-up vision is excellent. Off I go with more test lenses, opting to wait a few days to see if this whole experiment is worth it or if I should just renew my old contacts prescription and stick with reading glasses. After all, I have made a substantial investment in readers at this point!

laptop-1047086_640The Research

What I’ve learned so far: Not everyone is a monovision candidate. Some people find that it compromises the clarity of their distance vision, making far away objects appear slightly blurry. I suspect this is going to be my problem, especially when I’m driving.

For others, monovision doesn’t provide good enough near vision to eliminate the need for readers. That would be pointless, no?

Finally, although the two eyes work together as a team, there can be a slight loss in depth perception. And I’d always need to carry glasses with me in case of an emergency (e.g., getting something in my distance eye and truly not being able to see anything.) If I have to carry glasses, wouldn’t it be a whole lot easier to just wear them?? Plus, they’re never going to fit in a small purse.

All in all, I’m giving this another week. Fingers (and eyes) crossed!

Resolutions for 2017

Happy New Year, dear readers! I’m back after a non-vacation “vacation” spent doing errands and waiting for the weather to improve so more could get done. Hopefully your holidays were restful and relaxing, and I hope 2017 brings you peace, happiness, good health and prosperity. (And good riddance, 2016 – you were crap.)

Right now, the TV is full of ads for self-improvement (diet, fitness, financial etc.) to make us all feel guilty about the holiday season’s excesses. In the spirit of making New Year’s Resolutions — an activity I generally resist — here are some of mine:

SPEND MORE time with my favorite people

EAT MORE whole grains and fish

WORRY MORE about things I can actually do something about, and ignore the rest

PAY LESS ATTENTION to crazies on the news

EXERCISE LESS anxiety over issues that are out of my control

COMPLAIN only to people who can fix the problem

SIT ON MY BUTT and watch more sunsets

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Seriously, though, I do want to share that I’ve lucked into a weight loss program (through my husband’s employer) that actually works: Naturally Slim. If you’d like to lose a few pounds or kilos, or have ever dieted with only short-term success , I wholeheartedly recommend their approach.

Naturally Slim is not a diet, there are no special foods or potions to buy, and there are no group weigh-ins or mass flagellations. You simply log on weekly and watch a series of videos that help educate you about different topics to ultimately change your behavior and attitudes toward food. It is remarkably simple, smart and easy.

I’ve lost 17 pounds since mid-September and can tell you enthusiastically that I have never once “dieted”, felt deprived, or found it difficult to stay with the program. I can eat “fattening” foods like pizza or grilled cheese and still lose weight because of when and how I’m eating them. Miraculous! Happy to share more details if anyone’s interested.

Cheers, Alisa

(As always, this is not a sponsored post– I wish it were!)

 

The Bunion Diaries – First Month

Now that I’m at one month post-surgery, I can tell anyone who’s contemplating a bunionectomy what to expect. Warning: gnarly photos ahead; not for the squeamish (this means you, dear husband)!!

Day of surgery 

We arrive at the facility at 7 a.m., where the TV in the waiting room is endlessly replaying recaps of last night’s endless presidential debate at top volume. This is one time I would give anything for Keeping Up with the Kardashians or any of the Real Housewives.

I’m prepped, changed into a gigantic dressing gown and stuck with IVs and other stuff to measure my vital signs. My blood pressure is very low (100/70) so I am either actually relaxed or a zombie, not sure. Luckily, hearing Trump did not spike my BP to lasting effect.

We talk to the anesthesiologist, who is extremely thorough and asks detailed questions nobody else has. I see my doc and it’s off to dreamland from about 9 to 12, when I emerge in the usual post-surgical fog. (Note: they use a general anesthetic since they literally don’t want you to move a muscle.)

Here’s my “before” photo. Pretty ugly, I know. That’s why I’m here.

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Once home, I settle into bed with the following:

  • Wedge pillow plus another old pillow under leg to keep elevated (also brought to surgical center for the ride home)
  • Computer and cell phone
  • Glass of 7:1 water/orange juice to stay hydrated
  • Meds and saltines to avert opiate-related nausea
  • Stack of magazines and book (the latest from the excellent Alan Furst)
  • Rented knee roll-about scooter (mine’s a nice shiny red) and crutches for tomorrow.  img_1567

Today’s about resting, following multiple instruction sheets, eating mild food and sleeping. Lots of sleeping.

Day 2

No pain yet so nerve block must still be working. I take pain meds prophylactically every four hours to avoid it though. My main job is to alternate ice on/off every 30 minutes and keep moving my legs and rotating my ankle to prevent blood clots.

I’m not at all hungry until dinnertime, and still in a drug fog most of day. My poor husband has to do all cooking/cleanup/etc. and it’s going to be a long slog until I can contribute.

Day 5

My foot is bandaged like The Mummy, and just about as shapeless.

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I’m now taking ibuprofen only if needed. The pain block (Exparel) lasted 4 days and is a bona fide miracle drug.  Getting around on the scooter is quite a production. It doesn’t have much of a turning radius and I have to keep locking the brake so it won’t slip. Once locked in position, it gives me a secure place to rest my leg.

Crutches require upper body strength so I’m lifting hand weights to help. I can touch down with my operative foot (partial weight is ok) which is better than hopping. But it’s a pretty exhausting way to get around.

I’m officially allowed to shower, which is a multi-step process beginning by removing my safety shoe and encasing my foot in a knee-high plastic bag that looks like a giant condom.

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Funny, I never noticed before how high the “lip” of the shower is; trying to get over it with one leg is quite a challenge. My DH (dear husband) helps lift me in; once in, I’m fine. His back, not so much. We don’t attempt this again– back to sponge baths!

Day 6

My heel and the sole of my foot are quite bruised. I resume taking oral arnica, which I stopped a few days ago, and start applying topical arnica too. Hope this helps.

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First post-op visit

It’s 8 days after surgery. DH drives me and the scooter over to the doctor’s office. His nurse removes the bandages. The top of my foot is swollen and my toes look like fat little sausages. She tells me that swelling can take 6 months to a year to fully resolve. Oh joy. The incision is about 3″ long and is healing well but I can’t transition to a walking boot yet; the bone a little softer than ideal for full weight-bearing so I’ll have to wait and hopefully get the boot next week.

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Week 1: Who are you and what have you done with my ankles?!

I bump up my calcium intake to 600 mg twice a day, having slacked off to once a day during the previous month. (Note to those of you anticipating having this procedure: Make sure to increase weight bearing exercise and check your vitamin D levels well before surgery since vitamin D is needed for calcium absorption.)

Pain is low level but I experience occasional throbbing. Ibuprofen at normal levels (a 200 mg tablet every 4-6 hrs as needed) is helpful. Sleep is more challenging.

By now I have mastered the multi-step shower dance: first, DH places a chair outside the shower so I can use the chair back as support. I ease in and sit on the shower bench and then DH moves the chair so the door can close. You do not want to be in a rush for this one!  If my shower didn’t have a built-in seat this would not work, since I can’t balance on my left heel for the time it takes to shower and do my hair. Best plan is to alternate with sponge bathing for now.

2nd Post Op Visit

Big disappointment at Week Two:  Although everything is healing well, my nice doctor wants me to stay off my foot for another two weeks to be on the safe side. We do not want the pins in there shifting around. Ergo, still stuck with the scooter. On the plus side, my triceps are tightening up from lifting and repositioning the damn thing every few minutes.  And since the incision is almost fully healed, except for a couple of steri strips, I have a new cleaning option (sans giant leg condom): the tub!

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Week 2

This is way easier: position the scooter next to the tub, step in with my good leg, then lower the other one, making sure not to step down. All good.

Weeks 3 & 4

Continue to heal, no pain although bruised areas are still sore, and finally when I see my doctor at Week 4 he lets me transition to a walking boot. It’s very space-age, with a pump to inflate and deflate pressure. Unfortunately, the sole of the boot is 2″ higher than my regular shoe, so I am listing like a drunken sailor. But, I’m ambulatory! BTW, you can order a sort of platform thingy from Amazon called EvenUp. It looks a bit like a snowshoe and adds 1/2″-3/4″ height to your normal shoe or sneaker. My hiking boot is almost the right height so I’m not too uneven for the two days I wait for Amazon delivery.

Week 4

My tasks at home are to exercise the toe by bending it forwards and backwards (ouch) to keep it flexible (3 sets of 10 reps, twice a day) and to cover the scar with ScarAway, a silicone patch you cut to whatever size you need to help prevent and flatten the incision. So far, I’ve taken four baths and it hasn’t budged.

Wrap-up

After 4 weeks I’m still swollen around the ankles as well as the ball and top of my foot (an ace bandage leaves indentations) but I can already see improvement. Best of all, I’m now cleared to drive so I feel much more independent.  Come spring, I might even splurge on some Jimmy Choos!