Health News You Can Use - Part Seven
Clutter, Ginger, Bird Seed, and More

© 2010 Leonore H. Dvorkin

Note: This article was originally published in the July 2010 issue of the Denver publication Community News.

Fresh ideas for clutter clearing: Perhaps you, like me, haven't been able to make much progress yet with spring cleaning and clutter clearing. If so, here are some novel ideas for you. They come from the May 2010 AARP Bulletin, p. 43. They appeared courtesy of Gail Blanke, the author of Throw Out 50 Things: Clear the Clutter, Find Your Life. (You can buy the book on Amazon in paperback, hardcover, and Kindle editions.) I'm not going to list all 50 of her items, as some of them are things that almost anyone would see as potential toss-outs, such as old parking tickets, a sock without a mate, magazines more than three months old, and clothes that don't fit. But I found many of Ms. Blanke's suggestions original and thought-provoking.

What made the biggest impression on me was that she included various mental attitudes that should be ditched. So here are most of her 50 suggestions. (My own comments are in parentheses. I've broken the items into groups merely so the blocks of text would not be too long.)

First are some physical objects that you should ditch.

1. Keys with no locks. 2. Twisty ties. (Admit it. You'll never really use more than a few of those.) 3. Loose change. (Take this to a coin counting machine and get it back in more manageable bills.) 4. Partially used grooming products untouched in months or years. 5. Makeup in shades you no longer wear. 6. Mismatched silverware or dishes. (Donate these items to a charity or a less than prosperous young person setting up his or her first apartment.) 7. Stale spices and ingredients. (You'll be amazed at how much better spices from new bottles taste. I can heartily recommend the "Ground Saigon Cinnamon" from Costco.)

8. Dried-up tubes of glue - or dried-up anything. 9. Sheets, towels, or pillows that are torn, chewed by animals, or just plain depressing to you. 10. Clothes from a deceased loved one. Someone else needs them now. 11. Souvenirs from bad vacations. (Also in this category are gifts from people who are no longer friends or partners, and decorations or pictures that no longer appeal to you.) 12. Bills more than one year old. 13. Eating the same food all the time. 14. Anything you don't want to pass on to your children (or don't want them to find when you are gone). 15. Lastly: Negative people who remember and dwell on the bad times, not the good ones.

Now here are some of the attitudes and damaging thought patterns that she says people should discard. I have slightly re-phrased some of these, and found all of them very wise.

1. Trying to please everyone. 2. Putting yourself down. 3. The need to have everyone like you. 4. Jumping to negative conclusions before you know the whole story. 5. Thinking you're always right. 6. Dwelling on all the times you messed up. 7. Thinking you have to have all the answers. 8. Thinking that if you get rid of the memorabilia, you will lose the memories. (And if you can't remember the event that caused you to keep the souvenir in the first place, there is certainly no point in keeping the souvenir!) 9. The fear that you're not rich enough, smart enough, or good enough. 10. Energy-sucking comparisons of yourself with other people.

11. Playing the same music over and over. (Yes! See how refreshing and revitalizing it can feel to play some new music or some CDs or vinyl records that you have not played in a long time.) 12. The belief that your best days are behind you. 13. Waiting for the right moment. (If you have a kind impulse, never put off acting upon it. I've done that far too many times in my life, only to have the intended recipient either move away or die.) 14. Fear of looking foolish. (This attitude seems to diminish naturally with age. As time goes by, we learn to dress and act to suit ourselves, not others. It's a huge relief.)

Now here are some general health news items.

A diet to help ward off Alzheimer's: A study conducted at Columbia University found that people who eat a Mediterranean-style diet, one rich in nuts (and nut butters), extra virgin olive oil, fish, poultry, tomatoes, fruits, and leafy green vegetables, were 40% less likely to develop Alzheimer's. The omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin E seem to protect the brain. They also keep the heart healthy and reduce the risk of strokes. (The Week, 4/30/10)

Distressing statistics:

1. Nearly half of U.S. workers do not receive paid sick days. This makes it more likely that they will drag themselves to work even when ill with something dangerously contagious, such as the flu. (The Week, 10/23/09)

2. A whopping 75% of today's young Americans between the ages of 17 and 24 do not qualify for the military. Among the reasons are failure to graduate from high school, criminal records, and physical problems. About 27% do not qualify for medical reasons, and by far the leading medical reason is that they are overweight or obese. A group of retired armed forces leaders have called this crisis a potential threat to national security. (, 4/20/10)

An unusual way to help smokers quit: In Massachusetts, people enrolled in the state's MassHealth insurance program get free counseling and medications to help them quit smoking. As a result, smoking among lower-income Massachusetts smokers has plunged 26%. Anti-smoking advocates believe that expanding the program nationwide could save many thousands of lives. (The Week, 11/27/09)

Diabetes and the increased risk of colon cancer: Perhaps some of you read my long article on diabetic neuropathy (nerve pain due to diabetes) in the June 2010 issue of Community News. Doing the research for that article made me more aware of diabetes news in general, so I found the following article quite interesting. - A Mayo Clinic study found that older women with diabetes face more than double the usual risk for some types of colorectal cancer. The mechanisms are not yet completely understood. (Science Daily, 5/3/10)

A urine test for detecting colon cancer? Many people avoid or put off getting a colonoscopy because the procedure is unpleasant, costly, and time-consuming. But scientists are moving toward the development of a urine test for detecting colon cancer. Such a test could complement or even reduce the need for colonoscopies. At the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Wei Jia and colleagues identified 16 substances that appear in unusual amounts in colon cancer. The study demonstrates the potential for using urine as a tool for diagnosing colon cancer. (EurekAlert, 4/21/10)

More protein to reduce hip fractures: According to a study by the Hebrew SeniorLife Institite for Aging (an affiliate of Harvard Medical School), seniors who consume a higher level of dietary protein are less likely to suffer hip fractures. Other studies have shown that higher dietary protein intake is linked with higher bone mineral density. Dietary protein can also help protect the elderly from hip fractures by building stronger leg muscles. Falls may be caused by insufficient leg muscle mass and decreased strength in the lower extremities. Hip fractures in the elderly can lead to disability, decreased quality of life, and premature death.

The researchers recommend at least 46 grams of protein per day for older women, and at least 56 grams of protein per day for older men. The protein can come from meat, fish, poultry, eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, grains, nuts, seeds, or legumes. (I can also recommend protein powder from whey or rice. You can buy these economical sources of high-quality protein in a health food store. I mix the powders with skim or low-fat milk, then add a little cinnamon and vanilla, also 2-3 drops of Stevia brand liquid stevia, which is a natural, no-calorie sweetener. Cinnamon and stevia both help to lower blood sugar.) (EurekAlert, 5/5/10)

Obviously, exercises for the legs and hips can also increase bone and muscle strength. Very simple strategies include 1) walking briskly for 30-60 minutes several times a week, and 2) practicing getting up from and then going back down into a seated position multiple times every day -- without using the hands, if possible. Use a chair with a firm seat for this exercise, and make sure it can't slip on the floor. Another simple leg exercise is done standing with the feet a moderate distance apart, toes slightly turned out, and doing shallow knee-bends (partial squats) several times in a row.

A personal note related to all this: My husband, David, now 66, has lifted heavy weights since he was in his 20s. He also consumes lots of dietary protein. When David had his bone density tested about a year ago, the results showed that he has the bone density of a healthy man in his 30s.

To learn over a dozen leg exercises which can be done with or without weights, come try out my small, home-based weight training classes in SW Denver. The classes are suitable for teens to seniors. I'm now 64, and there are currently three ladies in their 70s among my students. I have room in my Tuesday 6:00 p.m. and Saturday 11:00 a.m. classes. See here for details.

Ginger eases muscle pain by 25%: Ginger has long been used to combat colds and upset stomachs, but it can also reduce muscle pain caused by exercise. Heating the ginger, as is done in cooking, may increase the pain-easing effects. In a University of Georgia study, the participants were given 2 grams of raw or heat-treated ginger or a placebo. Exercise-induced muscle pain was reduced 25% by the ginger. (The article does not mention whether ginger capsules or ginger tea might work as well. Both of those are available from health food stores or from online sources such as (EurekAlert, 5/19/10)

Why birds prefer non-organic bird seed: The results of this three-year study by Newcastle University in England were not what the researchers expected. It found that wild garden birds strongly prefer conventional bird seed to seed that has been organically grown. It turns out that the non-organic seed has an average of 10% more protein, and the higher protein content helps the birds survive the winter. This could raise questions about the nutritional benefits of organic food for humans. Conventionally grown crops tend to have higher levels of protein due to the inorganic nitrogen fertilizers used in conventional farming. The study did not take into effect the long-term health effects of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. (EurekAlert, 5/18/10)