March 17, 2014

A Week of Discoveries about My Heath, Including an Elixir

During my first week back after my "Trip from Hell," I focused more than usual on my heath, and made a few discoveries.

A Potion for My Ailments: Water
The malaise I’d felt on the trip continued when I returned. At week's end, I read something that made me wonder if my problem might be dehydration. Did it have something to do with coffee? For years, I've always had a cup (maybe two) at breakfast, and then more in the late afternoon after my nap. A large glass of water always accompanied the coffee.

Several months ago, I discovered a bottled iced tea I liked, which replaced the water at coffee time. I also started drinking the tea through the day. So, the diuretic coffee was now accompanied by the diuretic tea, and my water consumption went way down.

Googling “dehydration symptoms,” I found that the list included weakness and tiredness -- familiar to me on the trip and since -- and changes in blood pressure, both high and low. I've experienced significant bp spikes lately, too.

I’m now on Day Two of a new routine – a half-cup of coffee in the morning and late afternoon, no iced tea, and lots of water. It’s early in the game, but I’m already feeling better and the blood pressure readings are flattening out within the acceptable range. We’ll see.

It’s Official: I’m Overweight
Through the years, whenever I checked my Body Mass Index (BMI), I was always just below the "overweight" category (anything between 25.0 and 29.9). "Obesity" begins at 30.0. I liked seeing a "normal" BMI.

For many decades, my height was five feet, nine and a half inches. I know I've been shrinking. The last time my height was checked -- a couple of years ago -- I was five feet, seven inches, and THAT'S the number I've used for BMI calculations.

Last week, my internist checked my height and weight. I'm now five feet, four and a half inches. That new, reduced height gives me a BMI of 26.6 -- "OVERWEIGHT" -- and another reason to join “If-I-Could-Just-Lose-Five-Pounds Anonymous.”

I Need To Get Back to My Ahhhhhh’s
On Saturday night, my daughter, my son, his gal, and I met for dinner at one of our favorite restaurants. The food is great, and the noise level inside is uncommonly low -- unusual for restaurants these days. Even in that reasonably quiet environment, I had trouble making myself understood to the waiter and even my table mates.

Nearly 90 percent of people with Parkinson's have speech problems that start early in the disease process and progressively worsen. We spend a lot of time at my Parkinson’s support group asking each other to speak up. I’ve been helped in the past by the Lee Silverman Voice Treatment (LSVT®LOUD), an innovative protocol that helps improve voice and speech for people with PD. This video shows how it works.

That same LSVT group also offers a BIG exercise program designed for people with Parkinson’s. I’ve been surprisingly faithful, doing several of the exercises on most days. I stick with it because I know it works. I haven’t been as faithful with LOUD, and I need to get back on the program.

A New Option for Parkinson’s Voice Therapy
A few days ago, I discovered a new option for dealing with Parkinson’s-related voice problems. It's an adaptation of the “SpeechEasy” therapy for people who stutter, and uses a portable fluency-enhancing device that fits in or behind the ear. For years, it's helped stutterers speak more fluently.

A small study at Rush University in Chicago showed that the subjects with Parkinson's who wore a SpeechEasy device exhibited greater intelligibility and decreased repetitive speech (palilalia). The Michael J. Fox Foundation is funding a second study with more participants.

SpeechEasy's website describes how the device works:
SpeechEasy is a tool to help you regain control of your speech. It is proven technology which can be used to increase speech intelligibility in those with Parkinson’s. Worn in one ear and similar in appearance to a hearing aid, SpeechEasy has been shown to help those with Parkinson’s increase their ability to communicate more effectively and confidently. SpeechEasy delivers Delayed Auditory Feedback (a time delay) and Frequency Altered Feedback (a change in pitch) to help address speech intelligibility issues, specifically the repetitions of speech that many people with the disease exhibit. When using DAF and FAF, a person experiences what is called the “choral speech effect.” Choral speech is simply people speaking together in unison and it has been shown that this effect can help lessen repetitions and hurried speech. Simply put, by using the device and hearing oneself speak at a slight delay and change in pitch, the brain perceives that as someone speaking along with you. Therefore, the effects of choral speech are present. . .
Other studies are underway to explore new ways that SpeechEasy might benefit people with Parkinson’s. Their website (there's a separate page for people with PD) didn't answer all my questions. I didn't see anything about the device's ability to help people increase the volume of their speech. That's my big issue.

I clicked on the "request info" tab for their information package. When I receive it, I'll follow up here.

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