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Category Archives for Health

My Brain, My Eyes, and Cataract Surgery

a whole lotta learnin’ goin’ on

It has been one year since I had cataract surgery and so much has happened in this time with the communications between my brain and my eyes that I felt the need to write about it — I hope you all find it as intriguing as I did.

I know that eyes and brains are intimately hooked up. I took a neuropsychology course in graduate school and I’m sure I learned about brains and vision in high school and college.

I know the basics of how my brain and my eyes work together. And I know it’s complicated!

But – knowing this and going through a relearning process post-cataract surgery are two different phenomena. My brain was not ready for the onslaught of new information that it was getting.

[I contemplate the workings of my brain a lot — so I found it fascinating to be aware of what was going on.]

A bit of my eye background….

I am astigmatic — oops change that — I WAS astigmatic. I am also far-sighted. At one forgotten point in my life, my astigmatism was bad enough that I needed glasses most all of the time because my astigmatism issues were fixable with glasses.

At another also now forgotten point in life, my driver’s license got marked with “needs corrective lenses” which didn’t surprise me because I was wearing glasses every minute of being awake.

I did not like wearing glasses all the time and tried contact lenses, but mostly they didn’t work or they fell out or they were annoying — but I liked the idea of not having glasses on so I kept trying different contacts and finally gave up on those because the annoyance factor won out.

Then I developed cataracts which happens to many as we age. Of course, the cataracts got worse as they are prone to do, and those, along with my astigmatism made it very difficult to drive at night. I’m a good driver and I did not wish to create problems for me or anyone else so I stopped driving at night and decided it was time for cataract surgery.

[That in itself is yet another issue..why insurers balk at cataract surgery baffles me.]

Back to my brain and eyes….

Over years of driving – back and forth across the USA, across Canada, driving day and night in snow, sleet, rain, and all sorts of weather and driving conditions, my brain learned how to deal with changes in light, changes in weather, and frequently, a quick change in any or all of these things. My brain and eyes were perfectly in sync.

For example, if I got to a tunnel my brain knew that it was going to take a nanosecond to adapt from light to dark and it knew how to do that, and I knew it knew how to do that and we were safe while going into tunnels. Ditto when skiing in bright sun bouncing off the snow and then going into a ski lodge — my brain and eyes figured it out and it never was an issue.

Then came the cataract surgery — YEA — and pre-surgery, I decided that the lens that also corrected astigmatism would be best for me and my eyes!

More YEA!

My weaker eye [left] got done first, and the subsequent difference between my left and right was very discombobulating — even with my now one lens glasses on for the right eye — it was no fun to do much of anything. Two weeks later I had the right eye done and suddenly both eyes were perfect — and balanced.

I was binocular, bionic — I could see. It was a fascinating experience and I was in constant amazement that I could see very far, further than I remembered I used to be able to do. It was one of those “I forgot how good my eyes used to be because I got so used to them not being too good” kind of moment!

Every. Time. I. Looked. Anywhere.

Then I started driving. It was weird, especially as I have been driving forever! This is when I really noticed that my brain had a lot of work to do and I was fascinated by the interchanges between my eyes, my conscious brain, and my subconscious brain. They were putting together a new reality.

At first, I only did daytime driving because I quickly recognized that I needed time for the brain and eyes to adjust to the new norm. It was pretty quick learning as I was driving on very familiar roads and did not make any “road trips.”

Then came a time where I again drove through a tunnel. A very short tunnel, one I have been through a lot — but still — a tunnel. The brain went: “Get ready for dark. Get ready for dark adaptation” — followed instantaneously by: “Wow — nothing happened, everything is fine.”

By the third or fourth time through that tunnel that I realized there was no longer any “discussion” going on between my eyes and my brain about that situation.

It was when I started driving distances, and at night , that I realized the brain and eyes were still trying to figure something out. The first night-time drive, where I was also in traffic, with headlights coming at me and behind me — the brain was like “Wow the eyes can see everything again. I have nothing to do.” No issues at all.  And my subconscious brain registered that fact.

The conscious brain, though, was still asking itself questions and waiting for answers!

Because I live in the Northwest we have rain — not a lot when I was newly driving again, but enough with some added oddball Spring weather — like thunderstorms, drizzle, and weather that puts you on alert that traffic, lighting, and road conditions might change — and the brain and eyes were coordinating easily about this — the conscious brain was still going: “We got to get ready for this” but it was then an immediate: “Nope, we don’t have to do anything.”

After weeks of driving under different circumstances, my conscious brain began to relax and not be in the “we have to get ready for something” mode anymore. It had had many many years of dealing with astigmatism, eyeglasses, and the issues that came with both and now it no longer had those issues to contend with and was finally exiting learning mode.

Over Spring, Summer, Fall and now Winter, my eyes, brain and I have driven in many different conditions. Fog, heavy rain, heavy traffic, highway traffic, traffic circles, road construction, to places I had never been, etc.  I saw that we are fine! We are cool! We are coordinated! We are good to go!

My brain had obviously been going back and retrieving what it used to know from pre-glasses and early-glasses learnings — those memories are still there in spite of years of inaction or not needing to be accessed.

Most of the time we don’t pay attention to the connection between our eyes and brain. I certainly never did. And then: WOW did I pay attention!!

It has been fun! It has certainly has been interesting! And – it has been very educational!

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Skirts, Waist Sizes, and Breast Cancer?

belly fat

I've lectured groups about belly fat and why it is "bad" and here is yet more "proof" that collecting that fat in your middle is not-too-good!

Recent research shows an easy way to let you know if your belly fat poses a risk for you as you age.

How? Remembering if your skirt size has gone up in the last few decades!

The study tracked more than 90,000 women in their 50s and 60s living in England.

During the three-year follow-up period, 1,090 women developed breast cancer.

The researchers found that a unit increase in UK skirt size every 10 years (for example from 12 to 14) between 25 and post-menopausal age was linked to a 33% increased risk of breast cancer.

Going up two skirt sizes in the same period was associated with a 77% greater risk, they report.

Much of our belly fat accumulation is lifestyle related and it can be reduced by good nutrition, exercise, and simple lifestyle changes.

And knowing that you need larger skirts every year may indicate that you do need a change!

And maybe next we need to study men and pant sizes to see if there is a correlation with some adverse health outcome for them?

Comments?
Thoughts?

Thank you!!!

[Comment section is way down the page near the bottom​]

Sleeping Pills and Alzheimers

pills may harm you

If you read this blog, you know I am not a fan of
big pharma and pill pushing!

Too many people, especially older people, are prescribed drugs that they may not need, or that may mix badly with others drugs they are prescribed.

​Correlation studies are not about causation - they only indicate that things "seem" related. In this study, the relation was between pills for anxiety and an increase in the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

Long-term use of pills for anxiety and sleep problems may be linked to Alzheimer's, research suggests.

A study of older Canadian adults found that past benzodiazepine use for three months or more was linked to an increased risk (up to 51%) of dementia.

I am not anti-medications for medical issues where they are needed, but I have known too many people over 65 being prescribed pills for too many issues that might have other solutions. 

We are too pill happy and
too often see medication
as the answer to a problem.

Thoughts?
Comments?

Thank you!

Getting Your Sweat On: In Shorts Bursts!

Get your sweat on!

Some research in Scotland, with only a few participants, showed that high intensity training [6 second bursts of going "all out"] may be very beneficial.

Over the 6 week study, they increased the burst to 1 minute and the researchers found this HIT exercising lowered blood pressure and made regular life tasks like dog walking easier for the participants.

More research is needed with more people, but it does seem to be saying that:

Getting your sweat on, in short bursts,
is good for you at any age!

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"...you're never too old, too frail, too ill to benefit from exercise, as long as it's carefully chosen."

"We know even into your 80s and 90s there's a benefit from developing a very slight sweat by exercising on multiple occasions per week."

So? What are you waiting for?

Me? I'm taking woof for some short burst training.

Have you tried this? How did it help? Or not?

Comments?  Thank you......

Alzeiheimers: Failing Drug Trials

Trial Drugs

Do we rely too much on drugs and not on prevention?


According to some recent researchers:


Between 2002 and 2012, they found 99.6% of trials of drugs aimed at preventing, curing or improving the symptoms of Alzheimer's had failed or been discontinued.

This compares with a failure rate of 81% for cancer drugs.

The failure rate was "especially troubling" given the rising numbers of people with dementia, said Dr Simon Ridley, of Alzheimer's Research UK.

"The authors of the study highlight a worrying decline in the number of clinical trials for Alzheimer's treatments in more recent years," he said.

"There is a danger that the high failure rates of trials in the past will discourage pharmaceutical companies from investing in dementia research.

"The only way we will successfully defeat dementia is to continue with high quality, innovative research, improve links with industry and increase investment in clinical trials."

Frankly, maybe instead of looking for drugs, research ought to look at other ways of staving off the effects of Alzeiheimers. There has been research on tests for Alzeiheimers and there is also newer research on alternative ways to prevent the disease.

I don't want to go on my big pharma rant here, but maybe looking for alternatives to drugs might just be the best thing?

Not just for this, but for many diseases, prevention may be better than drug treatment - especially when over 99% of the trial fail??

Just thinking out loud.....

Your thoughts? Comments?
Thank you

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