July 22, 2014

A Fabulous Fjord For Breakfast

Most likely, the highlight of the Norway cruise came as we headed for our first landing -- the village of Geiranger at the end of the Hellesylt-Geiranger fjord. The nine-mile waterway between these two towns is considered one of the world's most magnificent fjords.

How Fjords Are Formed
Fjords are waterway formed after glaciers ripped deep troughs into bedrock. Eventually, these glaciated valleys were filled by the incoming sea toward the end of the Ice Age.

Geiranger enjoys ice-free navigation year round, because the Gulf Stream carries its warm water north along the coast of Norway. Together, the warm water and cold air also create the region's typical cloudy mists, evident in these photos.

My Most Fabulous Breakfast Ever
As I stood in the ship's breakfast buffet line, the captain announced on the loudspeaker that we were entering part of the fjord where we could see the waterfalls named the "Seven Sisters" on the left and the "Bridal Veil" on the right.

I grabbed my cereal and coffee, and headed to the back deck. It was a cool, cloudy day with intermittent sprinkles, so not too many passengers joined me. I spent the next half hour saying to myself, "Life doesn't get any better than this."

July 21, 2014

Cinnamon for Parkinson's? A Promising Study, a Skeptical Review

The Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology recently reported an interesting study finding: eating cinnamon – yes, the common spice in apple pie and gooey Danish pastries – dramatically improved the health of mice with Parkinson’s disease by reversing changes – biochemical, cellular, and anatomical – that had been brought on by the disease.

Funded by the National Institutes of Health, the study was reported in the July 9 edition of the website of Science Daily, among other outlets.
OK, I don’t get too excited about rodent studies, since they certainly won’t translate into human treatments while I’m alive. But maybe they’ll lead to breakthroughs down the road for my younger fellow PWPs.

Cinnamon.... Like Curcumin, the Wonder Compound?
This study – with its simple spice component -- reminded me a little of the amazing findings for curcumin, the active ingredient in the Indian curry spice turmeric. About 500 studies studies have shown curcumin to be effective in treating a shockingly broad array of conditions and diseases, like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, MS, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and depression. It's no wonder curcumin is called “the holy powder” on the Indian subcontinent. 

Will cinnamon, in time, generate similar research-based enthusiasm? 

Kalipada Pahan, PhD -- study lead researcher and professor of neurology at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center -- touts cinnamon's promise: "Cinnamon has been used widely as a spice throughout the world for centuries. This could potentially be one of the safest approaches to halt disease progression in Parkinson’s patients."

July 18, 2014

"Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill"

I've loved Billie Holiday ("Lady Day") since I first heard her recordings decades ago. But my wife hated her singing. So I listened to my Lady Day albums after my wife went to bed.

Hearing Billie Holiday's music late at night -- while I was half drunk -- only enhanced my love affair with her.

Holiday's difficult career exacted a painful price. She is as well known now for the grim travails of her short life -- she died at the age of 44, her voice spent, her body destroyed by addiction to alcohol and heroin -- as she is revered for the legacy of recordings she left behind.

Now Lady Day is being resurrected nightly at the Circle in the Square Theatre in New York City by five-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald. The show -- Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill -- is getting rave reviews.

July 16, 2014

"Difficulty Swallowing Can Be Fatal For People with Parkinson's"

Yesterday, I discovered that -- for people like me with Parkinson's -- swallowing difficulties can be fatal. I immediately searched for more information and found a good source on the National Parkinson's Foundation (NPF) website.

Difficulty swallowing, chewing, speaking and pushing food through the digestive system can all result from Parkinson's, since these functions depend on muscles that may be weakened due to changes in the brain.

Many people with Parkinson’s (PWPs) -- especially those in the later stages of the disease -- experience difficulty swallowing, or "dysphagia." The condition compromises quality of life, and cause life-threatening complications like aspiration pneumonia, malnutrition, and dehydration, according to Leslie Mahler, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Communicative Disorders at the University of Rhode Island. “The complication to be most concerned about is whether food is going down the right way,” she said.

According to the National Institutes of Health, the leading cause of death for PWPs is aspiration pneumonia, which occurs when food or liquids end up in the lungs -- not the stomach. That misdirection can inflame or infect the lungs and the passageways leading to them. PWPs are also at risk for asphyxiation and choking to death.

It is important to know the warning signs of a swallowing disorder, because some people may appear to be eating and drinking normally, but they are not, said Dr. Mahler. Early intervention and proper management of swallowing abnormalities are key to preventing major complications, she said.

Drooling and Coughing
One warning sign of dysphagia is drooling. The normal swallowing pattern slows, and -- as a consequence -- PWPs tend to drool as saliva accummulates in the mouth. The drooling is embarrassing and can cause a buildup of phlegm in the throat.

Coping in Copenhagen

Two points for starters:
  1. Note that the title reads coping in Copenhagen, not with Copenhagen. I loved Copenhagen. As usual, the problems were of my own making.
  2. I’m in the wheelchair only because I decided it would be quicker for us to tour the Tivoli Gardens. If I'd hobbled about on my cane, we wouldn’t have gotten very far. I brought my friends Terry and Prav over from London to push me around.
A Few Factoids on Copenhagen and Denmark
  • The Danes are the happiest people on the planet. According to the UN’s 2013 World Happiness Report, Denmark -- with a score of 7.6 -- beat every other country on a global happiness scale from zero to ten. Americans aren't especially happy; we landed in 17th place, between Mexico and Ireland. We talked with a Danish gal on the train who laughed scornfully when we asked about the Danes being the world’s happiest people. She was just back from a trip to the States and wished she could have stayed.
  • Copenhageners dine well. This small city boasts 15 Michelin stars. Noma, the “New Nordic” restaurant, has been named the World’s Best Restaurant three times. 
  •  Copenhagen rivals Amsterdam for the popularity of bikes. Half the people here pedal to work.
  •  Copenhageners are law abiding. It’s said that even at 3am on an icy cold night with no traffic in sight, they’ll wait for a green light at pedestrian crossings.
Our Weekend in Copenhagen
We arrived in Copenhagen early Friday morning. After settling in at our hotel – the excellent Babette Guildmeden – we got a nice introduction to the city on a canal tour. We had enough energy left to take a walk in the park across the street from the hotel.