Aww, nuts!

nutsYes, nuts! Eating just an ounce of them a day—any kind of nut—could save your life. So said anchorman Brian Williams last night on the NBC news at 5:30 p.m.

I knew there was a reason I love cashews so much.

No, seriously: I googled this morning. And Williams was right: a study from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Brigham and Young Women’s Hospital, and the Harvard School of Public Health came to that conclusion recently. It was reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“The most obvious benefit was a reduction of 29 percent in deaths from heart disease — the major killer of people in America,” said Dr. Charles Fuchs of Dana-Farber, who led the team. “But we also saw a significant reduction — 11 percent — in the risk of dying from cancer.”

Even peanuts—a legume, not a true nut—works, according to the study.

The study found that nuts were helpful in keeping pounds off, too, though it didn’t get into why, exactly. But I have a theory: nuts are packed with protein, so they’re filling. A handful of nuts instead of potato chips or cookies not only gives you a high-protein boost, they satisfy that mid-afternoon urge to munch on something. But they’re high in calories, as well, so it’s best to limit the amount you eat to an ounce or so.

The other thing that caught my attention recently was this: taking aspirin atCoinToss-Aspirin-Cartoon night increases the likelihood that it might help prevent a heart attack or stroke.

Millions of people take baby aspirin or low-dose aspirin (80-100mgs) every day because it thins the blood and helps to prevent platelets clumping, thereby reducing the chance of having a heart attack or stroke. But according to a study  by researchers at the Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands, cardiac events are three times more likely to occur in the morning hours. By taking low-dose aspirin right before bed at night, you might reduce your chance of having a heart attack or stroke after rising in the morning.

Seems like an easy change to make for such a big benefit, doesn’t it?

In other news, it finally rained here in Northern California yesterday. Today, the clouds are gone, but it was very nice while it lasted. We got a decent (if wet and melty) snowfall at the higher elevations in the Sierras, too.

The quick changes in the barometric pressure have been irritating my ol’ buddy the rheuma-dragon—he’s been gnawing on my hands and hips with aggravated intensity since yesterday morning—but the good, soaking rain was worth it.

It’s supposed to be quite windy this afternoon and evening. I’d prefer more rain, but as long as the temperature stays below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, I’ll take it. Makes it easier to believe the holiday season is upon us, even without any actual wintry weather.

UPDATE:

“Studies have found that people who eat nuts have all sorts of biological benefits: less inflammation, which is linked to heart disease and cancer; less fat packed around the internal organs; better blood sugar levels; lower blood pressure — and even fewer gallstones.”

The pull-quotes above and below are from the NBC link in the early part of this post. And let us not forget that less inflammation could have a beneficial effect on those of us with autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, too.

And

“[R]esearchers reported that people already eating a healthy diet who added nuts or olive oil to their diets were less likely to suffer memory loss and in February scientists reported that they cut the risk of heart attacks and strokes by 30 percent.”

UPDATE UPDATE: RheumaBlog has been nominated for Best Health Blog, 2013 by Healthline.com!  Wow! The contest ends January 20, 2014. First place wins $1,000; second place wins $100; and third place wins $50.

Click the Vote For Me widget in the right-hand sidebar to vote for RheumaBlog using your Facebook or Twitter account. You can vote once per every 24-hour period.

And THANKS!

Lightening up

As of yesterday morning (and minus half of the French Dip sandwich I ate last night, when neither Mom or I felt like cooking so we went out for dinner), I’ve officially lost 15 pounds.

Yep, 15. I’m dropping the excess baggage I’ve been carrying around for a while, now.  It’s happening incredibly slowly, but it is happening.

Five pounds a month. Yes, I know. Slow is good when it comes to weight loss. At least, that’s what all the scholarly science-noodles say. Lose weight slowly and it will stay off.

Well, I beg to differ. I’ve slowly lost, then slowly re-gained and slowly lost again a total of about 100 pounds since I hit my mid-30s. It’s a frustrating, aggravating and endless cycle, but it’s mine, dammit.

A week ago Mom and I started walking every morning. A mile a day. It’s good to see her feeling well enough to do this. In the nearly three years since she got sciatica, then had miserable gastric and heart problems, she’s lost a lot of physical strength and stamina. For example, she loves to shop, but these days she usually poops out after an hour or so of wandering around a store.

This is striking, because Mom used to be able to shop all day long. Literally. She shopped her way through entire malls, from one end to the other and back, then back to the other end again (because, as we all know, when we finally finish our shopping at the mall, our car will be parked at the opposite end. It has to be a named natural phenomenon, like Murphy’s Law or Schroedinger’s Something).

Anyway, we’ve walked five six miles this week.

Mom’s doing it because she wants to be able to shop like she used to. I’m doing it so maybe, just maybe it will give my somnolent metabolism a kick-start. You know: “Hey, Body-o-mine! Yes, YOU! I’m only feeding you 1, 100 calories a day! How ‘bout burning more than 50? Come on! Off your duff!”

While I’d like to reach my goal weight by Christmas, I know I can’t—and I shouldn’t. Thirty-five pounds, lost that fast, would be really unhealthy. I’d probably get rickets or something. Besides, the only way I could do it would be to go on a strict water-and-celery-only diet. I wouldn’t even last a day.

Even if I did manage it, I’d have to eat the Christmas feast with the family: mashed potatoes and gravy, cornbread dressing, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, Christmas cookies…

I’d gain it all back overnight.

I also want to lose that weight because of my ol’ buddy, the rheuma-dragon. The more poundage I carry on my smallish skeleton, the more stress I’m putting on my weight-bearing joints: my hips, my knees, my ankles and every tiny joint in both feet.

And walking—exercise—helps strengthen the muscles that support those joints. Or so they say.

Finally, there’s the Vanity Factor. When I’m fat, my face is like a long, puffy, vertical oval with eyes, nose and mouth all close together in the middle. If I don’t smile, I look like Mitch McConnell . Thankfully, the 15 pounds I’ve lost gave me my cheekbones back and erased the double chin(s). Whew!

And it is nice to find myself fitting into smaller clothing sizes. I don’t have to grunt and sort of launch myself out of the living room recliner. When I look down in the shower, I can see my feet. I don’t cut my own breath off when I tie my shoes, and I can walk between the parked cars in the garage without sidling along sideways with my belly sucked in.

Yes, 15 pounds is a very good start. And if I can lose the other 35 by oh, say, April, I’ll be happy.

And now, it’s time to take a walk.

The burning question

So as I was sipping my first cup of coffee this morning, trying to wake up and waiting for my joints to un-stiffen, I ran across this important news: “Kate Middleton Won’t Name Her Favorite Piece of Clothing.”

Blink.

Well, jeez, Kate! (I mean, Your Majesty!) Why not? The whole world, stunned and saddened by too many news articles about the terrible, heartbreaking, tragic and catastrophic devastation in the Philippines, waits with bated breath. We must know! Surely you have a favorite piece of clothing!

I know I do. Here, let me demonstrate how easy it is to answer this burning question.

My favorite piece of clothing is—wait for it—pajamas.

Yes, pajamas. Really. Because, think about it, what article(s) of clothing is more totally comfortable than pajamas? Oh, the thin, soft knits. The cozy flannels.

Really, who could resist these?
Really, who could resist these?

The cool, slippery silks and rayons. I would never have known I look good in red if not for the gift of Christmas pajamas! And some pajamas are just so pretty! Oh, the nightgowns! The sleek loungers!

The only pajamas—and the word “pajamas” doesn’t quite fit them, anyway—I don’t like are those short, silly ones called “teddies.” They make grown women look infantile and ridiculous. And they usually have scratchy lace on them, which is a real no-no in my book.

So, stop being so prim and diplomatic, Kate! Tell the world what your fave piece of clothing is! We’ll try to muster up a little smile as we donate to the relief efforts in the ravaged Philippines. Because, really, what’s more important?

Gifts from the world

California-black-oak
California Black Oak

It’s been a long time since I mentioned “gifts.” Specifically, the everyday gifts the world offers each of us, if only we’ll take the time—even a few moments—to look for them.

Recently, I’ve not taken the time, except to briefly note the spectacular autumn display the many types of trees in this mature suburban community are giving us. Only a few of the local trees are native to the Northern California foothills: huge, elderly black oaks with vast, spreading branches; and the mostly smaller live oaks, whose twisted, rough trunks are gray as the fur of a Norway rat and whose leaves are small, quarter-sized and teardrop shaped, with tiny, startlingly sharp points along the edges. The black oaks’ leaves turn dull and pale brown in autumn before dropping and leaving the tree branches nude but delightfully haunting. The live oaks, though, drop their leaves and re-grow new ones year-round, so they are never bare. Their leaves, too, turn pale brown and rather uninteresting.

But oh, the non-native trees! This community is getting on toward 50 years

Chinese Pistache tree
Chinese Pistache tree

old—and so are many of the trees. There are several varieties of maple, including the tall, skinny liquidambers. There are aspens and willows, sweet-gums and Chinese pistache trees, whose leaves are simply spectacular in the fall. Taken all together, they form a striking canopy of fall colors—red, scarlet, orange, yellows pale and bright, and brown, of course. The trees are big, most of them, and old now. They line the neighborhood roads, decorating the front yards of house after house and the landscaping of nearly every local business and storefront. And set among them are my favorite trees of all: the evergreens.

Like the Italian cedars that spike up here and there, four or five stories tall and skinny; sugar pines with big, splayed pine cones and long, thin, spiky needles; other pines of several varieties; firs that make me think of Christmas trees and the most magestic of them all, the redwoods. One of them, which has a double trunk and is almost 30 years old,

Mom's Redwood (Sequoia) tree
Mom’s Redwood (Sequoia) tree

lives right outside Mom’s front window. In a certain mood, I can gaze at it and picture a whole forest of sequoias whispering in the light breeze.

I guess I’ve been noting the gifts after all. I just need to remember to slow down every now and then and bring myself back into the present, the now, this very moment as I live my life and breath in this air. The result of such simple mindfulness is the greatest gift of all: peace.