Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes


Aging is the most interesting thing in life.

Leonard Cohen


I am now in my 60s. I recognize new behaviors creeping up:

  1. I worry about falling more. I grab hold of my walking partner on icy or unsteady ground; I like the safe traction of the beach or lawns.
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  3. When going out, instead of trying to figure out what type of food I want I’m really thinking ‘which restaurant has the easiest parking’?

     

  4. I’ve had botox injections.
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What Is Mercury Retrograde And What Does It Have To Do With You?

Love+Medicine - Mercury Retrograde

I went to the librarian and asked for a book about stars… The scale of the universe suddenly opened up to me. There was a magnificence to it, a grandeur, a scale that has never left me. Never, ever left me.

Carl Sagan

Mercury in retrograde comes up in conversation too many times for me to ignore. It seems to be the default scapegoat when you’re having a bad day, your computer crashes or if you have to explain doing something really impulsive (like texting an ex). Before we start judging it as fact or folly, L+M wants to know what it actually means. It suits me as a once aspiring astronaut who always wondered about astrology.

Mercury Retrograde. Take a deep breath. And don't text your ex.

Mercury is a tiny planet that moves super fast. When Mercury zips around the sun, as it passes Earth it appears to be moving backwards, from Earth’s vantage point. This optical illusion is what is known as Mercury retrograde. This happens about 3-4 times a year and lasts three weeks each time.

Stargazers have always been fascinated by retrograde motion. “As above, so too below” is the cardinal astrologic rule. When Mercury speeds by, it creates a sort of disruption or turbulence that is thought to affect us on earth. In astrology, Mercury is associated with communication, relationships, travel, contracts, and computer codes. The 1st century poet Marus Manilius called it the “inconsistent, vivacious and curious planet.”

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The Magic of the Bird Feeder

I don’t feed the birds because they need me; I feed the birds because I need them.

Kathi Hutton

Watching birds has become part of my morning routine. For me It is a an exercise in being still. I’m not a bird watching nerd – the cardinal, robin, woodpecker and chickadee are the only ones I recognize by name – I just enjoy watching them move.

Birds add sound, color and movement to a stationary house. At my house, there is always action at the bird feeder. I can be in the middle of a conversation, cooking a meal or writing but my attention shifts to the birds outside my kitchen window.

Two of my feeders hang on the backyard deck. One is a cylinder feeder with hot pepper seed. This is a way to entice the birds and keep the squirrels at bay – squirrels dislike the spicy food and birds are quite indifferent to spiciness. They love the mixture of tree nuts, sunflower, peanuts and hot pepper.

These simple, inexpensive structures provide a microcosm of nature right outside the window. I moved recently from a palatial office with a view of Lake Mendota to a cubicle. My patients use the word “dreary” or a similar adjective when describing my new office – but there is one shining light. I have a window which faces a courtyard and I hung a bird feeder from one of the trees. There was reluctance by the birds to enter the dark enclosed courtyard. I had to coax them in by moving the feeder in increments to it’s present spot. The word is out now – I am starting to see more birds lately, dipping in and out. They provide the perfect antidote to the dull and depressing interior.

I have a definite love-hate relationship with birds. The swooping Magpies in Australia scare the crap out of me.


I’m the one with the bike helmet covered in cable ties, even in the off season in Hervey Bay. I won’t ride a bike in Australia without them. Hitchcock’s masterpiece The Birds had such an effect on me that I wrote Alfred Hitchcock a letter, asking about the special effects. He even wrote me back, signed with his iconic signature.

I know that watching the movement and activities of the birds is beneficial to all of us, if we take the time to actually do it. It can lift our spirits in a simple, subtle way. I consider it calming like meditation. Watching birds is proven to improve the quality of life for patients suffering from dementia. A bird feeder is the perfect gift idea for someone who is suffering. After stressing about what to buy for a memory impaired family member, I bought a small bird feeder. This gift has provided hours of multi-sensory joy for her.

I usually wake up to the call of the Mourning Dove, when the clock strikes seven o’clock on my Audubon birdsong clock but today is a rainy Sunday. I’ll wait for the nine o’clock Northern Chickadee.

If you don’t have a bird feeder, get one. Hang it high so it doesn’t attract coyotes. Most importantly, hang it in a spot where you can see it. Take notice. True zen can only be found in nature.

Are You Due For A Tune-Up?

Dr. Annie K’s Spring Sex Tune-up

 

The human body is an absolute wonder. The way it bends and stretches, responds to pain and pleasure, protects us. It is upon us to take the time to honor and respect our bodies – by both daily words of gratitude and royal treatment. Like any intricate machine, our bodies require maintenance.

Here is my proposed sexual health checklist for men and women. My guess is that your doctor isn’t asking these questions (but should).

 

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Stay Young Forever! Who Knew it Would Be So Easy? Dr. Annie K Gives you the Low-Down

Today a sponsored article appeared on my Facebook feed entitled “15 All Natural Ways to Stay Young Forever.” Sponsored by Medical-News.org, it has 3,120 shares and 7,700 comments.

The author is Simi. Just Simi, like Madonna or Cher. A search for his/her bio on medical-news.org came up with nothing. Is the author a robot, a teenager sitting in a cubicle or a true medical professional?

Articles like this infuriate me. They perpetuate a myth that people want to stay young forever AND that if you follow Simi’s recommendations, you will. I conduct scientific research on aging on a daily basis. Spewing this bullshit as science is maddening.

The article was not entirely full of crap. Yes, water, fruits and vegetables are good for you and coconut oil feels great and smells divine. Protect your skin from the sun – really? Tell me something I don’t know.

I have nothing against facial yoga. But claiming “it’s benefits are the same as facelift surgery” may be a reach.

“Sweat is not good for the skin.” Are we worrying that our increasingly sedentary and morbidly obese population is sweating too much? People don’t sweat enough. Sweat rids the body of toxins. It protects the body from overheating like a brilliant homeostatic machine. On the contrary, try to work up a sweat every day.

Sleeping on your back with two pillows is recommended in the article. Actually sleeping with no pillows elongates the neck that is tipped forward most of the day. Benefits of sleeping on the left side are well documented in medical literature for digestion. Sleeping on your back may double the risk of sleep apnea. Just keep it simple and get enough sleep, in any position that’s right for your body.

Running a marathon as a way to stay young forever is an unrealistic goal for the average reader. Just move, every chance you can. Park far away. Do Kegel exercises.

“Staying young involves many things to be achieved but the easiest one is ensuring that you avoid stress.” Even if I could forgive the clumsy syntax, this advice is useless. Who, in the evolution of the animal kingdom, has succeeded in avoiding stress? What matters is how we cope with it.

Shaving made the cut, no pun intended. It “enables the skin to be conspicuous.” Is that really medical news?

The article recommends drinking green tea at night to calm down and improve sleep. Green tea has great health benefits but it contains caffeine and is obviously not a beverage for bedtime. This is health 101 – no caffeine at night.

We live in a youth-obsessed culture that places merit on superficiality and physical attractiveness rather than deeper values like wisdom, experience and graceful aging.  Don’t get sucked in by the promise of a simple fix. Be smart and skeptical. Always check credentials of the author – is this person qualified to write about medicine?

Finally, don’t trust anyone who proposes natural ways to health without mentioning sex. Watch for my upcoming article, Sex and Longevity – How to Make your Heirs Angry.