January 14, 2017

The Heimlich Maneuver and Parkinson’s

Dr. Henry J. Heimlich, the thoracic surgeon best known for developing and popularizing his lifesaving anti-choking technique the "Heimlich maneuver," died last month at age 96.

I hadn’t thought about the Heimlich maneuver in years. But it might just save my life one day, since I'm now struggling with swallowing problems stemming from my Parkinson's disease (PD).

It seems like I've known about the Heimlich maneuver forever. But I wasn't sure any longer how it worked, and wanted to check if friends who might be around -- should I have a choking incident – knew how to perform the maneuver. 

Older friends were like me; they knew about it but weren't certain how to perform it. Younger friends had never heard of it.

So I’ll be sending this video to my nearest and dearest:

January 13, 2017

Parkinson's 101

I regret starting the new year of blog posts with one about politics. Last year, I did a pretty good job keeping the blog free of political issues, though I slipped a couple times.

This blog concerns aging and Parkinson's and me. That's how it began… and where the focus will remain.

Today's post is a good example. My daughter sent me the link to the January 9, 2017 edition of the "Michigan Health" newsletter, produced by the University of Michigan. Its author is Kara J. Wynant, M.D., a movement disorder specialist.

The article offers an excellent primer on Parkinson’s and its non-motor symptoms. I’ve been dealing with a variety of these symptoms, and found the summaries very helpful.

The article also is a reminder for me that "concise is nice."  I wonder if I could get that to pop up every time I start a blog post.

Here's the article. Recommended reading.

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Parkinson’s disease is a chronic, progressive illness, meaning over time people with Parkinson’s will develop new symptoms.

That is why recognizing symptoms — and communicating them to a Parkinson’s care team — can help patients find relief as symptoms change. Here’s what patients, in many stages of the disease, should look for.


First, the basics: Parkinson’s disease is primarily caused by low and falling dopamine levels. Only 10 to 15 percent of Parkinson’s cases run in families. We don’t know what causes the vast majority of cases. We think Parkinson’s is caused by a combination of people being predisposed to it by their DNA and coming into contact with some kind of environmental factor, such as an infection or a toxin. A lot of research is going into this area.

January 11, 2017

"Yes We Can!" But How? Here's a Plan to Answer our President's Eloquent Plea for Less Chat, More Action.

I had wanted to use this first blog post of 2017 to share my ideas for refocusing the blog this year. After listening to President Obama's farewell address last night, I junked that plan.

He concluded his eloquent and moving address with a plea for us to believe "not in my ability to bring about change -- but in yours." Watching the Obamas and Bidens work their way through the crowd as they exited, I wondered what I could do to respond to the president’s call to action.

The Facebook Bubble
My first thought? Post something on Facebook. But President Obama had mentioned how easy it was for us "to retreat into our own bubbles, whether in our neighborhoods, or on college campuses, or places of worship, or especially our social media feeds, surrounded by people who look like us and share the same political outlook and never challenge our assumptions."

Fortunately, earlier in the day I’d seen an excellent, specific plan of action from yesterday's post on my favorite senior blog, “Time Goes By.” Written by the remarkable Ronni Bennett, "the mother superior of elderblogging,” the blog has been called "the quintessential seniors' blog" by The Washington Post.

GOP Confirmation Blitz
Ronni’s post was prompted by Republican attempts to confuse and distract us today by scheduling simultaneous confirmation hearings for President-elect Trump's nominees for attorney general, secretary of state, CIA director, and the secretaries of transportation and education. On top of that, Trump also scheduled his first open press conference since last July on the same day!

When I watch the TV news tonight, I'm sure the press conference will be the lead story, while the confirmation hearings will receive short shrift.

Constituents' Phone Calls Pay Off
Ronni reminds her readers that the thousands of phone calls from constituents forced House Republicans to reverse their decision to scrap the Office of  Congressional Ethics. Many news outlets attributed the reversal to the president-elect's tweet. But most members of Congress agree it was the deluge of phone calls that forced them to backtrack.

December 31, 2016

Exercise: The Best Medicine for Parkinson's Disease?

Almost any exercise is good medicine for someone with Parkinson's disease, a new study confirms.

Although physical activity may seem impossible for some people with Parkinson's, the new research reaffirms what many specialists already believe -- that exercise can have a long-term impact, improving gait and reducing risk of falls, in particular.

The review measured the combined outcomes of more than 100 studies conducted over the past 30 years on the effects of exercise on Parkinson's patients. It showed that physical activity has clear benefits, specifically for strength, mobility, flexibility and balance.

The new review's author, Martine Lauze is a kinesiologist (body movement expert) who works with Parkinson's patients privately and is a researcher at the University of Québec at Montréal.

Lauze thinks the key to working with Parkinson's patients is taking a progressive approach. Perhaps people can simply start walking around the house until they're ready to walk outside. She says it's important to find the right activity for each individual, though that activity may not be perfect forever.

December 29, 2016

With Mixed Feelings, I've Stopped Taking the New Fountain-of-Youth Pill called “Basis”

That pill -- Basis -- is the first and only product so far from the new company Elysium.

In New York magazine,” journalist Benjamin Wallace calls Basis "either the most sophisticated fountain-of-youth scam ever to come to market or the first fountain-of-youth pill ever to work."

Elysium has not sought FDA approval for its product; instead, the company is promoting the pill extensively on Facebook and elsewhere as a "nutraceutical​".

I started using B​asis​​ three months ago, an unusual decision for me. I have regularly warned against taking FDA-unapproved magic pills promoted on TV by the likes of Drs. Oz and Mercola. But I was impressed by the advisory board of scientists working with Elysium, five of whom are Nobel laureates. The board also includes big names like the Mayo Clinic's geroscientist Jim Kirkland and biotech pioneer Jim Hood.

Click here for more on Basis, my decision to try it, and my initial reactions.

My Problems with Basis as a Mystery Drug
Typically, I’ll begin with half the recommended dose for any new pill, prescribed or over-the-counter. Scientists and researchers report that the elderly often are overdosed  and my experience confirms that.

 Basis comes with these instructions: "Take two (2) capsules every morning with or without food." I started with the full dosage but began to wonder if  I should take just one pill a day. Usually with questions like this I would go on the web   to see what the experience of others has been.

No point in doing that with Basis. The product has undergone only one limited clinical trial, and has thus far been used by a relatively small number of people.