Thursday, July 4, 2024

Celebrate Independence

Vintage Lady Liberty Postcard
Image from Zazzle

Celebrate Independence

As we gather this 4th of July to celebrate our nation’s independence, it is an opportune moment to reflect on our own independence. There is no greater gift than one’s autonomy. Unfortunately, for adults aged 65 and older, falls are the leading cause of injury. Nearly one in four adults in this age group fall each year, and roughly 20% of these falls result in a serious injury.

A 2019 Duke study tested 775 men and women on their ability to balance on one foot without assistance. Participants in their 30s could balance for an impressive 57 seconds, while those in their 60s began to lose balance after 40 seconds. Those in their 70s showed a dramatic decline, losing stability after just 27 seconds. However, a Canadian study demonstrated a 74% reduction in falls among a group of 344 individuals who completed an at-home strength and balance routine for a year, compared to those who did not receive the training.

Mobility and balance rely on a symphony of functions working together to create fluid movement. The vestibular system in your inner ear, with its intricate fluid-filled canals lined with microscopic hair cells, plays a crucial role. Proprioceptors in muscles provide your body with spatial awareness. Additionally, muscle strength, the adjustment of blood vessels and heart rate when moving from lying down to standing up, and information from your eyes and nerves in your feet all contribute to keeping you steady.

Given how many systems are involved in maintaining balance, it is no wonder that even small health alterations can lead to poor balance and increased fall risk. Understanding this complexity highlights the importance of taking proactive measures to maintain and improve balance. Regular check-ups with your healthcare provider can help identify any issues that might affect balance, such as vision problems or medications that cause dizziness.

Regular exercise tailored to strength and balance is crucial. Strength training, especially for the legs and core, is essential for maintaining steadiness. Like a tree that bends with the wind, flexibility—especially in the ankles and feet—is also important. Research has shown that activities combining multiple tasks are better for balance. Engaging in sports, gardening, and even walking with a friend versus walking alone can all improve stability.

This 4th of July, as we celebrate our nation's independence, let's also commit to preserving our own. Lack of mobility as we age is not inevitable; we can all take steps at any age to improve our chances of leading long, flexible lives, without the fear of falling.

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Mold -Tackle the Bully

Image from Well Theory

Spring cleaning is an excellent time to take note of the health of your home. April showers are prime time to notice areas of water intrusion and mold. Environmental illnesses are well documented; most know of asbestos and the severe health consequences it brings. However, only recently are mold-related illnesses becoming part of the public consciousness.

One of the barriers to fully comprehending mold is that tolerance varies greatly between individuals. I’ve talked to many mold inspectors; all share their inadvertent role of becoming marriage and family counselors. It is not unusual for only one family member to show health issues from mold exposure. Unfortunately, other family members are confounded and may insist it’s all in their head; and it may be due to neuroinflammation. 

Mold is sneaky, it can survive even without a constant water source. I’ll give you a personal example; I would have bet the house (pun intended) there was no way my home had mold. I was living in Arizona and started to suffer unexpected asthma attacks. My doctor suggested I get my home tested for mold. You could have knocked me over!  A tiny shadow in my walk-in closet was the clue to the inspector. The air test and visual inspection confirmed that significant mold was on the other side of my ceiling. I was shocked and confused - we are in the desert? What I learned is it is not uncommon. All mold needs is damp air. At one point there must have been a roof leak that was sealed over. Enough moisture had remained, and this space between the ceiling and roof became a perfect habitat for mold to thrive and then go dormant. Flourishing anytime the humidity rose; there was no smell, no visual red flags, and no active leak. After it was remediated I could finally breathe easy.

The moral of the story is if you are suffering unexplained health issues that have no clear explanation; be mindful of your environment. It is paramount a mold inspecting company does not also do the remediation. Dr. Jill Crista, author of Break the Mold (, and Dr. Shoemaker; are one-stop shops for mold education. Both doctors have created professional certifications for practitioners, yet their sites are also patient-friendly and educational.

“Mold is a bully and turns you into a wimp.” Dr. Crista. Don’t let the bully win.

Love thy Lymph

Love thy Lymph 

This once-dismissed vital system is no longer taken for granted. The roots of its importance can be traced back to Elm Grove, more on that later. Now, you can go to any social media platform and find influencers rebounding, stimulating, and dry brushing all with clever ways to encourage the optimal function of the lymphatic system. That wasn’t always the case. The lymphatic system is a network composed of lymph nodes, organs, glands, tissues, and vessels. Unlike blood vessels, lymphatic vessels don’t have a pump. Think of the vessels as a river and the nodes as ponds that then distribute to the organs. If the ponds are blocked, you get stagnation and fluid buildup. What does the lymph do? What doesn’t it do is a better question! The Cleveland Clinic said it bluntly, “Your lymphatic system is a big team!” Like any team, all the players need to be functioning to aid in fluid balance, absorption of fats, and optimal immune function.  

Too many of us have known someone post-cancer who suffered from lymphedema. This occurs when lymph nodes are removed under the armpit, causing a build-up in fluid leading to painful arm swelling and decreased immunity. What you may not know is one of the earliest pioneers in educating and developing lymphatic protocols started here in Elm Grove. Judy Purtell, a long-time Elm Grove resident, and her colleague Jill Price were published in the prestigious American Journal of Nursing in 1997 for their paper Prevention and Treatment of Lymphedema after Breast Cancer. Judy transformed her battle with lymphedema post-breast cancer by delving into her OT background and understanding the lymphatic system. This led to a decade of traveling the country training hundreds of practitioners to help manage and treat lymphedema, and how to obtain financial payment for this necessary treatment. 

The Book of Lymph

Their work was groundbreaking, opening the gates to treat thousands of patients previously left behind. Their lessons now ripple through TikTok and Instagram. The Book of Lymph by Lisa Levitt Gainsley, CLT (Instagram thelymphaticmessage) is an excellent book available at the Elm Grove Library. Dr. Caitlin Czezowski’s Instagram (doc.talks.detox) is also filled with helpful lymph drainage techniques. From post-cancer to feeling sluggish, stimulating one’s lymphatics is an excellent tool accessible to all. I hope this made you curious about this extraordinary body system. 

 In loving memory of Judy Purtell

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Auld Lang Syne

Image from University of Edinburgh 
Business School Website

 Auld Lang Syne

Grief and gratitude are how I would sum up this famous New Year’s Eve song. The Holidays often represent the pendulum of these emotions; swinging from one end to the other without too much distress is the key to a joyful Holiday Season. We say it every year; I will not stress this Holiday Season; if at first one does not succeed try and try again!

The Holiday season tends to put an exclamation point on life. Everything is a bit illuminated as the Holiday lights shine bright on our blessings and highlight the crevices that we have spackled up. Like Auld Lang Syne, this season permits us to hold space for these conflicting emotions. I find the metaphor of a tree helpful: It is important to be firmly rooted, yet flexible to adapt with the wind.

If you feel unmoored this season, you may consider adding adaptogen herbals into your self-care regimen. Adaptogenic herbs help the body deal with stress molecularly. Siberian ginseng, Rhodiola rosea, Schisandra, and Ashwagandha are all excellent and well-studied herbals. Often, you will find them combined with a B complex, taurine, and glycine which also aid the over-stressed system.

Sleep cannot be underestimated. This time of the year has extra demands; many are quite lovely but can easily throw our sleep-deprived nation even further into debt.

Move or create; a fantastic outlet for stress is both physical and creative exercise. As the winter moves into WI, it may be harder to do some outdoor activities, but bundle up and get outside to clear your head. Finding a creative outlet takes us away from our devices and opens up neuropathways. You don’t have to be “an artist” to be creative. Sadly, early on we often get labeled as a “good artist” or “creative”, and it is a falsehood. Everyone is an artist; it is time to discover an outlet that brings you joy: singing, drawing, doodling, learning a language, knitting, flower arranging, and even organizing are all creative endeavors. What you do isn’t important, it's how it makes you feel.

I want to offer my gratitude to those who read my monthly musings; this has given me a lot of joy and I thank you. I hope it has enriched your reading as it has my writing. Please don’t hesitate to email suggestions or interests; I wish you all the happiest of New Year’s.

And there’s a hand, my trusty friend, and give us a hand o’thine. And we’ll take a right goodwill draft, for Auld lang Syne. Robert Burns

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