I really need to update my wardrobe. Nothing much…just a pair of updated jeans, boots and a couple of shirts and sweaters. I’ve been putting it off for months because I hate to shop.
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy having nice things. It’s just that shopping is such a hassle and takes so much time. I get overwhelmed by the choices and often walk away with nothing because I can’t make a decision. I admire women who can scan a rack of clothes…zero in on exactly what they want…and make their purchase without second-guessing.
That said, I realize some women love to shop so much, it becomes an addiction. (Don’t worry, I have other problems!) And it’s no wonder…especially during the holidays. Temptation is all around us--daily door-buster deals, friends and family discounts and free shipping if you spend over $150!
Sadly, for an estimated 6% of Americans with compulsive buying tendencies, this is a tough time of year.
“The whole culture conspires against us during the holiday season,” says April Lane Benson, a New York psychologist who has treated compulsive shoppers for 15 years. Besides tempting sales, pressure to top last year’s gifts and the urge to shop for oneself, she says, “the holidays bring up a lot of unfulfilled longing for some people…and that’s one reason why they shop…as a salve for disappointment.”
While the stereotypical compulsive shopper is a woman in her 30’s, experts say the ease and speed of Internet shopping is luring more men and young people.
According to the director of the Impulse Control Disorders Clinic at Stanford University School of Medicine, the Internet is dangerous for compulsive buyers in two ways.
“Transactions move so quickly, it’s hard to pause to reassess the buying urge,” says psychiatrist Elias Aboujaoude. He says The Internet also lets people disassociate from reality and assume a grandiose alter ego fueled by virtual cash.
“Online, money is no longer anchored to reality, so what do we do? We spend more,” Dr. Aboujaoude says.
While buying a book on amazon.com recently, another title caught my eye. With one click, I impulsively bought the second book. Makes me wonder whether we’re all at risk. When does “retail therapy” cross the line into compulsive shopping?
Experts says purchasing turns pathological when people continue to do it, even though it causes financial problems, disrupts work, family or social life. If shopping involves deceit, such as hiding bills and packages…that’s another red flag.
Some facts about compulsive spending from the Wall Street Health Journal:
*Most compulsive shoppers earn less than $50,000 a year.
*Compulsive shopping typically starts in the late teens or early 20’s.
*People typically overspend for several decades before seeking help.
*Many compulsive shopper also suffer from depression, anxiety, substance-abuse or eating disorders
*About half of compulsive shoppers also hoard.
While there is no specific treatment for compulsive shopping, experts agree changes in behavior can have a huge impact on breaking shopping addiction:
1. Admit you are a compulsive spender. That’s half the battle.
2. Get rid of checkbooks and credit cards. They just fuel the problem.
3. Don’t shop by yourself. If you are with someone else, you are much less likely to spend.
4. Find other meaningful ways to spend time.
And keep in mind that while behavior change is crucial to recovery, so is reaching out for help. I recommend the Department of Behavioral Health at Palomar Health. Highly-trained professionals there can help you or a loved one shop ‘till you stop!
We were 23 when my best pal, Julie, and I boarded an airplane in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and flew to Seattle. We’d decided to visit a mutual college friend from our days at the University of Northern Iowa. Neither of us had ever flown on a commercial jet. It was the farthest had ever been away from home.
That trip was a big deal for two, young corn-fed, Iowa gals. And we had a ball. One of the highlights of our adventure was a ferry ride from Seattle to Victoria. We bought sweaters, sipped tea at the Empress Hotel and three hours later, hopped aboard the ferry and headed back to Washington. My one and only Canadian experience…until now!
Tom and I recently returned from a terrific 10-day tour of Western Canada with a wonderful travel company called Holiday Vacations. What a treat to have the time to really experience the people and the beauty of our neighbor to the north!
We started out just as Julie and I did with a trip to Seattle and ferry ride to Victoria. But this time, we got to spend two days touring the capitol of British Columbia and two glorious nights as guests of the elegant Empress Hotel. (We opted out of re-enacting the tea experience. High tea? $67 per person. Gulp!) However, we did enjoy a very reasonably priced cup of Canada’s own Tim Horton coffee!!
Then we explored the British-inspired city… viewing historic sites, including the Parliament Building on the lovely Inner Harbor. Beautiful flowerbeds and gardens reflected the area’s passion for gardening.
Speaking of gardens, the next day we visited the world famous Butchart Gardens. OMGosh! I’d been told it would be gorgeous, but what my travel mates and I experienced was simply stunning. As we walked from one eye-popping garden to the next, Tom had to keep reminding me to close my mouth. The vibrant colors and dazzling displays kept my mouth agape for hours!
Our tour of Vancouver the next day was fascinating. Surrounded by water and mild weather, Canada’s third largest city reminded us a lot of San Diego. And while Vancouver doesn’t have anything like our Balboa Park, we did take an afternoon to stroll spectacular Stanley Park, a 1,000 acre wilderness and recreation retreat. Truly, a local gem.
Our next adventure took us aboard the famous Rocky Mountaineer. We spent two peaceful days riding the rails, taking in breathtaking panoramas of the Canadian Rockies.
Next stop? Banff…and a lovely lunch overlooking famous Lake Louise. For decades, Lake Tahoe has been my favorite lake…but Lake Louise is now a close second! The glacial blue waters of the lake give it a surreal jewel tone look. Depending on the color of the sky and the angle of the sun, the lake among the mountains sparkled in brilliant hues from sapphire to emerald to aquamarine. Simply stunning.
Our coolest (and I mean that literally!) experience was a trip along the Ice Fields Parkway to the awesome Columbia Ice Field. There we boarded an enormous vehicle called the Glacial Explorer…a bus-like vehicle sitting atop huge balloon tires that literally drove us onto the Athabasca Glacier. Carefully, we stepped off slipping and sliding on the gigantic block of ice cascading down from the peaks of the magnificent Rocky Mountains.
Back to Banff and lunch at the historic and (truly) grand Banff Springs Hotel…with a view of shimmering Lake Louise. So much beauty, it was hard to take it all in.
Finally, it was time to bid farewell to the beauty of Canada and its warm, welcoming people…back to the US as honorary Canucks, eh?! Can’t wait to go back!
I don’t know about you, but I am sick and tired of all the doom and gloom email forwards that fill my inbox. I guess the one about AIDS-tainted needles imbedded in movie-theater seats is making the rounds again. I’m sure I’ve deleted it a half dozen times over the years.
Although I refuse to buy into the sky-is-falling emails, it hacks me off when these scary (and often irresponsible) warnings plant a seed of doubt. I actually found myself scanning my seat before a movie recently…just in case a needle was about to stick me in the bum.
Well, no more. No more hand wringing over bacteria or other dangers lurking out there. I’m going to relax and enjoy life…and I owe it all to a viral email from someone who has also had it with those email “freak-outs.”
Kinda puts everything in perspective, don’t you think?
“As we progress through 2014, I want to thank you for your educational e-mails over the past year. I am totally screwed up now and have little chance of recovery.
I can no longer open a bathroom door without using a paper towel, nor let the waitress put lemon slices in my ice water without worrying about the bacteria on the lemon peel.
I can't sit down on a hotel bedspread because I can only imagine what has happened on it since it was last washed.
I have trouble shaking hands with someone who has been driving because the number one pastime while driving alone is picking one's nose.
Eating a little snack sends me on a guilt trip because I can only imagine how many gallons of trans fats I have consumed over the years.
I can't touch any woman's handbag for fear she has placed it on the floor of a public toilet.
I must send my special thanks for the email about rat poo in the glue on envelopes because I now have to use a wet sponge on every envelope that needs sealing.
ALSO, now I have to scrub the top of every can I open for the same reason.
I can't have a drink in a bar because I fear I'll wake up in a bathtub full of ice with my kidneys gone.
I can't eat at KFC because their chickens are actually horrible mutant freaks with no eyes, feet or feathers.
I can't use cancer-causing deodorants even though I smell like a water buffalo on a hot day.
Thanks to you I have learned that my prayers only get answered if I forward an email to seven of my friends and make a wish within five minutes.
Because of your concern, I no longer drink Coca Cola because it can remove toilet stains.
I no longer buy fuel without taking someone along to watch the car, so a serial killer doesn't crawl in my back seat when I'm filling up.
I no longer use Cling Wrap in the microwave because it causes seven different types of cancer.
And thanks for letting me know I can't boil a cup of water in the microwave anymore because it will blow up in my face, disfiguring me for life.
I no longer go to shopping centers because someone will drug me with a perfume sample and rob me.
I no longer answer the phone because someone will ask me to dial a number for which I will get a huge phone bill with calls to Jamaica, Uganda, Singapore and Uzbekistan ...
Thanks to you I can't use anyone's toilet but mine because a big black snake could be lurking under the seat and cause me instant death when it bites my butt.
And thanks to your great advice I can't ever pick up a dime coin dropped in the car park because it was probably placed there by a sex molester waiting to grab me as I bend over.
I can't do any gardening because I'm afraid I'll get bit by the Violin Spider and my hand will fall off.
If you don't send this e-mail to at least 144,000 people in the next 70 minutes, a large dove with diarrhea will land on your head at 5:00 p.m. tomorrow afternoon, and the fleas from 120 camels will infest your back, causing you to grow a hairy hump. I know this will occur because it actually happened to a friend of my next door neighbor’s ex mother-in-law's second husband's cousin's best friend's beautician!
Oh, and by the way...
A German scientist from Argentina, after a lengthy study, has discovered that people with insufficient brain activity read their e-mails with their hand on the mouse.
Don't bother taking it off now, it's too late.
P.S. I now keep my toothbrush in the living room, because I was told by email that water splashes over 6 ft. out of the toilet.
NOW YOU HAVE YOURSELF A VERY GOOD DAY”
In recent months, I’ve shared with you about the wonderful birthday group of gals I’m blessed to be part of. We’ve been meeting to celebrate our respective birthdays for more than 30 years. I’m grateful for all seven of these fabulous women. We’ve been through a lot together…most of it fun!
Due to my complete ineptness in the kitchen, the “girls” surprised me on my last birthday with copies of their favorite, easy, crowd-pleasing and idiot-proof recipes.
My last entry, in August, was Marlena Brown’s all-in-one-bowl chicken pesto pasta. If you haven’t given it a try, it’s a winner.
Today, I want to highlight one of Kendra Dawson’s signature recipes. We call her the soup queen…for good reason. Beef barley to chicken vegetable, Kendra’s homemade soups can’t be beat. And that goes for her famous Latin American specialty, pozole.
Pozole is especially popular in Mexico and the American Southwest, but my Gringo friend Kendra morphs into “Kendrita” when pozole’s on the menu.
Kendra’s made this recipe simple for all us Gringos. Add a salad and thick slices of bread and you’re sure to get a big !Que Bueno! from your family and friends.
3 cups cooked chicken (chopped)
32 oz. chicken broth
1 15-oz. can hominy (drain and wash)
1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes
1-2 cups of your favorite salsa
2-3 celery stalks, chopped (leafy tops ok)
1 small-medium white or yellow onion
1 lg. or 2 or 3 small red, green or yellow bell peppers, chopped
(optional) parsley or cilantro sprigs to garnish
1. Chop chicken and place in bowl
2.Chop celery, onions and peppers and place in bowl
3. In a large soup pot, place chicken broth, sliced tomatoes, salsa. Use the tomato can and fill twice with water and add to pot.
4. Bring to a boil. Add chopped onion, celery and peppers. Lower heat to medium. Stir frequently. Cook 10 minutes.
5. Add hominy and chicken. Cook about 10 minutes
Serve in soup bowls.
Garnish with parsley or cilantro, if desired.
While swimming laps one morning, I noticed a young lady in the lane next to me was struggling a bit. She would swim a few strokes, then stop and tread water awhile before trying again. She looked very fit, but clearly was not comfortable in the water.
At one point, we struck up a conversation across the lane line and I learned Abby was a marathon runner recovering from surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon. Swimming was not her sport, but she told me she had to do something…first because she wanted to maintain her fitness level. But even more importantly, she did not want to gain weight.
I can relate with the young distance runner. 30 years ago, following a running injury, I recall severely cutting my calorie intake for fear of “blowing up like a balloon!”
I now know that’s crazy thinking.
Injury is an unfortunate, but inevitable fate for most athletes or active people. However, if you’re not able to exercise due to a broken bone, torn tendon or unexpected surgery, the right foods can actually help you heal quickly and avoid gaining weight!
A nutrient-rich diet is key in helping your body heal and get strong again. Eating too few calories during the recovery process can affect complete and adequate healing. Not only that, but an extreme reduction in physical activity during recovery can lead to a natural reduction in appetite and food intake.
So, while you’re healing, choose a variety of quality foods…foods that give you the most nutritional “bang for your buck.” Don’t eliminate food groups, because they all work together.
Eat every two to four hours to keep your blood sugar constant and don’t overeat at the end of the day. Small snacks and meals keep your metabolism active. And be sure to include these nutrients:
Don’t cut out the carbs! When you have bread, fruits, vegetables and whole grains in your body for fuel, the protein you eat can be used to heal and repair muscles. Too few carbs and your body may burn protein for healing, which hinders healing. Combine a smaller portion of carbs with other nutrient-dense foods.
Choose foods such as lean meats, legumes (beans, lentils, soybeans) nuts and low-fat dairy. You need extra protein post-injury to fuel recovery. Make sure each snack or meal contains proteins. Try adding nut butter, egg whites, spinach or lean meats/soy wherever you can.
Plant and fish oils
Fats in these oils (olive, canola, nuts and avocado) have anti-inflammatory properties. Immediately following an injury, the first response is inflammation. These foods can assist in inflammatory control.
Herbs, spices and botanicals
Again, these nutrients can help manage inflammation. Curry powder, turmeric, garlic, cocoa, tea…along with fruits and veggies…are great sources. Consuming these on a daily basis in various recipes provides a strong foundation for recovery.
Vitamins and minerals
An adequate intake of fruits and veggies such as oranges, broccoli, strawberries, baked potatoes, cabbage, tomatoes and cantaloupe provides the powerful antioxidants that decrease inflammation. Vitamin C helps your body form collagen…a protein need for strength and flexibility. It also repairs tendons and ligaments and strengthens bones. Vitamin A helps your body heal by promoting cell growth and development and immune function.
So Abby…you’ll be back in the swim of things (hopefully out of the pool and back on the road!) before you know it! Fuel yourself well while you’re waiting and you’re sure to have a personal best at your next marathon!
Until then, see you at the pool!
When faced with the reality of having a life-threatening disease, most of us run the emotional gamut from shock and denial to despair and gut-wrenching fear. When Patricia Ogundare’ received her diabetes diagnosis two years ago, the otherwise measured, soft-spoken woman was overcome with only one emotion … anger.
“I was very, very angry,” recalls Patricia. “I thought my body had betrayed me.”
Proud of her health and vitality and far from overweight, the petite Patricia found she was also embarrassed. “If I had diabetes, it must be my fault,” explains Patricia.
Well, the Patricia I met recently was all smiles as she came bounding through the park on her morning power walk toward our meeting spot at Lake Hodges.
Through diet, exercise and a positive attitude, Patricia is successfully controlling
her diabetes without medications.
“I go to the gym first thing in the morning, use the elliptical, do strength training and sit-ups,” says Patricia. From there, she heads out for a five-mile trek through Rancho Bernardo. “Instead of waking up and taking a pill, I wake up, eat well and take a walk – that’s my medication!”
Before her diagnosis, Patricia was blissfully unaware of the ticking time bomb inside her. She’d come to the doctor for treatment of a bloody nose. A routine work-up revealed her blood glucose was a dangerously high 300. Today, that number has dropped to a healthy 119. “I still have diabetes,” she acknowledges. “But it’s under control.”
A strong family history and her African-American heritage put Patricia at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. According to Vivek Nazareth, M.D., a family practice physician with Arch Health Partners, African-Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans and Asians are at double the risk of developing diabetes.
“Patricia was smart to get control before serious, irreversible complications could take hold,” says Dr. Nazareth.
“From the very beginning, Patricia was receptive, motivated and took advantage
of our team-based care at Arch Health,” says Certified Diabetes Educator Fritz Steen who helped Patricia get on the right track to reclaim her good health.
From anger to advocacy, the 55-year-old dynamo now shares her story so others
might be inspired to make lifestyle changes that can help prevent and control the potentially deadly disease. “Many say they don’t have time to exercise … it’s just easier to take medication,” says Patricia. “For me, it’s easier to exercise.”
Patricia’s experience is also having a domino effect. She’s completely changed her family’s eating habits. She’s working less to minimize stress. And all that walking has become a great social outlet. “I was so busy, I didn’t even know my neighbors,”
Patricia explains. “Now I know them all by name!”
As we wrapped up our visit, I asked Patricia whether she was still angry about having diabetes. With a huge smile she exclaimed, “I love my life! I’m not letting diabetes control me. I’m controlling my diabetes!”
Just had my annual physical and the news is good! My blood pressure, pulse, temperature and blood work are all within normal levels. No change in weight or medications. I’m sleeping well and my energy is good.
But just when I thought it was safe to button my blouse and head for the car, my doctor sat down for a final chat. “Now that you’re sixty,” she pointed out, (what a buzz kill!) I’d like you to make a few more appointments. As she got out her prescription pad, she explained, “You’ll need to get the shingles shot, an updated bone density scan and a colonoscopy!”
What!? I could swear I just had one of the miserable colon scans! But medical records don’t lie. There, in black and white, on my doctor’s computer screen, was the date of my last colonoscopy. 2004! Ten years ago! I was fifty. It was clean. And I didn’t want to have another one.
My whining clearly falling on deaf ears, the doctor handed me the script and advised me to set up an appointment… soon. Well, don’t tell my doctor, but I may just “buy” a little time because there are some new technologies on the horizon that may be easier and even better than the conventional colonoscopy.
Look, I know colonoscopy is important. In fact, the procedure has long been considered one of the most effective cancer-prevention tools. Some studies credit colonoscopies with reducing colon-cancer deaths twenty-five percent over the last decade.
It’s just that, like root canal, colonoscopies just aren’t much fun.
Doctors use long, rubber tubes with small video cameras to probe the colon. On high-definition monitors, they look for abnormal growths called polyps, which over ten to fifteen years can become cancerous.
While many of us avoid the procedure for fear it will be painful or expensive, it’s actually the preparation that ranks highest on the misery scale. Swallowing quarts of nasty drink preparations keep you on the edge of your toilet seat for hours. Uncomfortable at best, the whole process can be exhausting and disgusting.
So forgive me if I’d like to hold off making that appointment. There’s been a recent and exciting surge in new methods and devices already on the market or in the pipeline that just may eliminate (sorry!) the need for invasive colonoscopies!
Imagine swallowing a tiny camera embedded in a pill capsule. How ‘bout a DNA test or an endoscope that provides almost panoramic views of the colon? Sure beats gagging down gobs of chalky goo and a procedure that takes up most of the day!
But alas, while these new technologies could play an important role in reducing colon cancer deaths (nearly 51,000 last year in the US) there are still FDA hurdles to clear preventing their approval… at least in the very near future.
Until then, I guess I’ll bite the bullet and make my colonoscopy appointment. It’s the smart thing to do. Besides, the drug they give you makes you forget all about the gag-a-licious drink from the night before!
But next time, you better believe I’m going for the camera in a pill!
Is it me or is this season’s watermelon the best ever? Seriously, I can’t get enough of the tasty treat. Juicy and super-sweet…it’s like candy! Tom and I can devour an entire mini seedless melon in one sitting!
But when it comes to watermelon, apparently, I’m not very creative. At my house, watermelon is served one of two ways…in wedges or trimmed from the rind and cut into cubes. Period.
My friend, Sara, has completely changed that notion. On a hot, muggy day recently, Sara served a salad I’ll never forget…featuring—you got it—watermelon! In a large bowl, she whisked two tablespoons each olive oil and red wine vinegar and ¼ teaspoon salt. To that she added three cups each cubed, seedless watermelon, sliced peaches and baby arugula; one-half cup packed basil leaves and ¼ cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped.
Meant to serve four, I think I gobbled down three servings myself! It was like a cool breeze for the palette! Sara’s salad is now in the recipe rotation at our house and now I’m on the lookout for other fun ways to enjoy watermelon.
Here are a few of the “wacky watermelon” recipes I’ve found. From now on, when it comes to watermelon, I’m thinking outside the rind!!
Grilled Chicken-Watermelon Tacos
Toss 2 c. chopped seedless watermelon; 1 jalapeno, minced; ½ sm. Red onion, minced; ¼ c. each lime juice and chopped cilantro; and ¼ tsp. salt. Serve on 8 (6-in.) warmed corn tortillas with 1lb. sliced grilled chicken and ½ c. crumbled Cotija cheese.
Feta-Watermelon Stacks (great for appetizers!)
Cut 1 sm. Seedless watermelon into 1-in. cubes (about 40) Top with 1 (1 –lb) block of feta cheese, cut into 1-in. squares (1/4 in. thick), and 1 c. basil leaves; secure with toothpicks. Transfer to platter; sprinkle with 3 Tbsp. olive oil and ¼ tsp. each salt and pepper.
Frozen Watermelon Coolers
In lg. blender, puree (stopping often to tamp down solid ingredients with wooden spoon) 4 c. cubed seedless watermelon, frozen; 5 c. ice; 1 c. each raspberry sorbet and lime juice; and ½ c. confectioners’ sugar until thick and smooth. SO yummy!
No-Cook Watermelon “Cake” (a truly “wacky” watermelon recipe…but looks so cool!)
Slice 2 short ends off 1 lg. seedless watermelon so it sits flat; cut away rink to make cylinder (tricky part!) Transfer to cake stand. Frost with 2 (8-oz.) containers whipped topping. Top with berries and mint.
One more thing. Despite the popular notion that watermelon is made up of only water and sugar…watermelon is actually considered a nutrient-dense food, a food that provides a host of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants for very few, guilt-free calories.
It was the experience of a lifetime as I went “home” to Iowa this summer and joined more than 15,000 cyclists for the 42nd annual RAGBRAI…my first RAGBRAI.
RAGRAI is the somewhat awkward acronym for the Register’s (Des Moines) Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa…the oldest, largest and longest recreational touring bicycle ride in the world.
Speaking of awkward, as a lifelong competitive swimmer, I quickly learned swimming and cycling aren’t even loosely related. But my lack of skill in the saddle didn’t really matter, because I wasn’t riding for me. I was riding to remember--my amazing Dad and legendary Iowa bicyclist--who went home to be with the Lord last year.
My step Mom, brother, three nephews and two grandchildren comprised “Team LeBeau,” a small but mighty family contingent hell-bent on pedaling across the Hawkeye State to honor an amazing husband, father, grandfather and 41-consecutive-year participant of the iconic biking event.
For those not familiar, RAGBRAI is an annual, seven-day, bike-riding party that begins in a selected community along Iowa’s western border and ends in a town along the state’s eastern border. This year’s route took us from the northwest city of Rock Valley—through 418 miles of lush northern Iowa farmland—to Guttenberg, a charming river town on the Mississippi.
It all began in 1973 when two Des Moines Register newspaper feature reporters decided to take a bicycle ride across Iowa, writing about their experiences. Of 300 riders starting the ride, 114 (including my Dad) completed the trek.
Dad was officially honored on Day 6 of this year’s ride…a 67-mile leg that started in Waverly (home of Wartburg College!) and ended in American flag-draped Independence, Iowa. The course was a blur of color that day…with more than 1,500 pairs of mismatched striped socks warn by riders honoring Dad. His signature attire, the vintage stockings were on sale through the RAGBRAI website…and completely sold out.
As my brother, Carter, and I rode together, we reminisced about the guy who made us clean our rooms and encouraged us in all our endeavors. I believe his impact on the cycling community rivals that of Lance Armstrong (who, by the way, rode RAGBRAI with his entourage. I was just too far behind to actually see him!) A great cyclist, Dad never cared about the race. He just wanted to encourage all levels of cyclists to get involved by socializing and having fun.
So from Rock Valley to Okoboji and Emmetsburg…through Forest City and Mason City…we made our way through northern Iowa’s beautiful countryside…celebrating Dad’s life and legacy with hills, heat, headwinds and a sense of purpose… all the way to the northeastern Iowa border town of Guttenberg. As the magnificent view of the Mississippi River appeared in the distance, my stepmom, Kaye, summed it up. “I feel like he’s still with me and encouraging me along the way.”
Me too, Kaye. Me too.
A native Chicagoan, my grandmother lived her entire life on the city’s south side. As Iowa kids, my sister, brother and I thought it was “cool” to visit the big city and stay with Gram in her cute apartment on the top floor of an old, three-story “walk-up.”
But during a summer heat wave, Gram’s third story dwelling was anything but “cool.” With no air conditioning and barely a whisper of cross ventilation, the sauna-like conditions in her home were not only miserable, they were downright dangerous.
Gram actually lost one of her elderly neighbors during a brutal summer heat wave nearly 50 years ago. She died inside her stifling apartment…the victim of heatstroke. Fortunately, my Gram survived the brutal Chicago summers. She lived a full life and died peacefully at the age of 75.
Sad to say, that same scenario continues to play out in cities across the country today. As the temperatures continue to rise is San Diego, the risk of developing heat stroke increases…especially for seniors…like my Gram’s friend.
A recent study at the University of Chicago Medical Center found that forty percent of heat-related fatalities in the United States are among people over the age of 65. As we age, our bodies become less resilient to changes in temperature. In addition, many seniors take prescription medications that can inhibit their ability to regulate temperature or perspiration. Seasoned citizens are also more likely to have chronic medical conditions that change normal body responses to heat.
Heat stroke is the most dangerous heat-related illness, but recognizing the early warning signs can ward off a dangerous outcome.
The first signal is bright red, hot-to-touch, dry skin. By not sweating, your body’s natural cooling mechanism is not working. Body temperature can then rise to 106 degrees or higher within 15 minutes. Dizziness, nausea, headache, rapid heartbeat, chest pain, fainting, increased fatigue and breathing problems are additional indications of heat exhaustion.
Fortunately, heat stroke is preventable. To stay safe as the temperature rises this summer and early fall, follow these simple guidelines:
1. Stay indoors during the heat of the day. If possible, leave the house before 10 a.m. or after 6 p.m.
2. Drink plenty of water. Even if you’re not thirsty, continue to drink liquids -avoiding caffeine or alcohol, which contribute to dehydration. If you’re taking water pills, check with your doctor about how much you should drink when the weather is hot. Also, avoid cold liquids. They can cause cramps.
3. Dress in light-colored, loose-fitting clothes…in cotton, if possible…it breathes better. Wear a wide-brimmed hat when outside.
4. If you don’t have air conditioning, find cooler places to spend the day. Visit the library, mall, movie theater or senior center to escape the heat.
5. Stay in contact with friends and family. During times of extreme heat, it’s a good idea to have a friend, neighbor or family member check in twice a day to look for signs of heat-related illnesses.
6. Take it easy. Avoid exercise during extreme heat. Rest and take a cool shower or bath.
7. If you notice signs of heat-related illness, be sure to call 911 immediately.
Although air conditioning is readily available, many in southern California choose not to have it. After all, most of the year, our weather is quite temperate. But when that occasional heat wave hits, be on the alert for signs of heat-related illness…in yourself…those you love and the sweet lady in the apartment down the hall.
It could mean the difference between life and death.