Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Before You Get Waxed By A Lyme Tick, Read These Tips First

I'm a veteran at something I *don't* want to be a veteran in, and that is getting deer ticks stuck on me, including the nymphal variety that might be carrying Lyme Disease. It happened to me again a week ago, and it was my third time dealing with that, and as they say "Three Strikes You're Out!" right?

One time I ran in a 5k road race with, unbenownst to me, a tick stuck on my rib cage. Afterward, I called it "reverse doping," because I was actually having red blood cells removed from me during a race, not adding them to me beforehand.

Since I appear to be every tick's favorite date, I've had a lot of experience in "response." I'm like anyone else; I read up on things like CDC web pages when it happens to me, and forthwith are some of the things I learned:

* Remove the tick with tweezers when you discover them, and follow-up right away by cleansing the wound with propylene glycol (or rubbing alcohol). Apparently, the tick has the microorganism in their saliva and when removed they kind of panic and "spit in the wound" as it were. The alcohol can kill the contaminant before it has a chance to enter the bloodstream.

One time my wife was sitting in an airport and we found a tick stuck on her ankle (thank you, infested Massachusetts…). Believe it or not, I went into one of those Hudson News stores that have stuff like compact travel kits and found some propylene glycol (duty free vodka would have worked, I guess). The Hudson News usually carries the Financial Times, not emergency medical kits. Anyways, it worked (thank you, Hudson News).

* Get a protective, or prophylactic dose of doxycycline or Doxy, right away. If it's the right kind of tick in a high-risk area, the doctor will prescribe this, a one-time 200 mg dose of Doxy for an adult (the prescription might be, probably is, different for kids). One time I ran off to an emergency room just to get it, and they were kind enough to provide me one right away. I must have made a convincing "expert victim."

When you take the Doxy, don't take any calcium, iron, or magnesium-containing foods or supplements, because these minerals will apparently bind to the antibiotic and make it less effective. So don't have a steak and a glass of milk right around when you take the Doxy. Even 100% cacao chocolate has a lot of magnesium, iron, and calcium; so much for my feel-good chocolate as I reel from a tick bite!

* Eat anti-microbial foods, like garlic, tumeric, and lemons. I really believe in holistic, commonsense health practices to defeat a microbial attack. Get a lot of sleep. I almost never get sick (knock on wood) anymore anyways. You can bet I've been powdering my eggs with tumeric, eating lemons (yeah, I actually do that anyways), and cooking garlic of late. I haven't gotten Lyme, and this may have nothing to do with it, but you never know…

The gestation period is about 3 to 30 days, so I'm not sitting on my laurels yet. Actually getting the infection entails the now infamous bull's-eye shaped rash, usually around the bite, but it doesn't have to be there, or actually appear with the infection.

I don't have any experience with other tick-borne diseases (yet…), but the CDC site has fairly comprehensive information: http://www.cdc.gov/lyme/

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Read Gone On Kauai With a Scribd Subscription

The equatorial noir novel Gone On Kauai is now available for reading via Scribd. Here's the link: http://www.scribd.com/book/202761214/Gone-On-Kauai.

Kirkus Reviews–Perry reprises his Karl Standt character here, but this novel can easily stand on its own. The island of Kauai is a character in itself (“the flat river moved with a hypnotic slowness, like heavy floodwaters”), and Perry effectively describes its culture, including the super-rich who view Kauai as a trust-fund playground, the surfing locals who personify the laid-back island vibe, and the plague of drugs that are harvested and sold there. Perry depicts the different sides of island life through the perspective of New Yorker Standt, who’s out of his element but relies on his instincts…it eventually provides a thrilling revelation.

Also available on Amazon, iBooks, and Barnes And Noble.

Read Barbarous Coasts too!  @Scribd. http://www.scribd.com/book/202757411/Barbarous-Coasts

Also available on AmazoniBooks, and Barnes And Noble.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The New Crime Novel Compulsion, As Reviewed By The Book Magazine Kirkus Reviews

Third in the Karl Standt detective series, Kirkus Reviews has a new review of Compulsion. Along with Gone On Kauai, the book has a limited $0.99 sale through the first week of August 2014.

The book may deal with the contemporary topic of the perils of online dating, but Standt keeps it old-school with his way of conducting meetings in diners and following leads, no matter where they take him or how grisly the details become.

Perry delves into characters ranging from Vlad, a former imprisoned Russian rebel to iz, an animal lover with platinum hair, and their stories are captivating and plot-driven. Although it’s the third novel in the series, this book makes a good introduction to Karl Standt’s adventures. Perry delivers again in a novel in which ritualistic murders link the deaths of rich New York men.

Compulsion is available wherever ebooks are sold.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

KT Tape: Does It Work, Or Is It A Placebo?

Like many, I first noticed the kinesiology or "kinesio" tape on the various limbs of olympic athletes during the 2012 London games.  The "KT Tape" is almost picturesque, like dabs of paint on athletic forms. The product has definitely taken the pro to everyday banged-up athlete by storm. But is this just another pretty gimmick? We're used to those in the fitness and nutrition world. Does KT really work?

I know what doesn't always work, and that's my right knee, victim of a torn MCL from soccer years ago and much wear and tear. Knees don't "heal"; it'll never really be the same. Still, I do everything on it, weightlifting, hiking, mountainbiking, light soccer (or futbal!), skiing…So I decided to try the tape on the knee, to see if it worked in place of a bulky old neoprene knee pad.

I put a strip over the old MCL and another across the knee. Then I went off to play a little soccer and the next morning, lift weights. I was pleasantly surprised with the results. No swelling, pain, or anything, and I have even kept it on. It seems to be a very subtle, almost weightless form of support.

It's very easy to cut up into strips and apply yourself, despite the creative forms bordering on fashion statements. It turns out that the tape and technique was developed in Japan during the 1980s.

The specific issue I used KT Tape for is not a muscle or tendon tear, but a dysfunctional joint that is easily irritated due to loss of cartilage. So maybe Kinesio Taping isn't optimally designed for my knee, leading me to think that it feels great due to the many wonders of the Placebo Effect. Or, the strong belief that the measures you are taking will heal you.

Here are the scientific rationale, and at least the basic concepts and claims behind KT Tape:

Supporting the muscle -- Proper taping improves the muscle's ability to contract even when it's weakened, reduces a feeling of pain and fatigue, and protects the muscle from cramping, over-extension and over-contraction.

Removing congestion to the flow of body fluids -- Kinesiology tape improves blood and lymphatic circulation and reduces inflammation and excess chemical buildup in the tissue.

Activating the endogenous analgesic system -- "Endogenous" refers to something that is self-originating, and calling something "analgesic" means that it can relieve pain in a conscious person. So, this requirement means that the tape must facilitate the body's own healing mechanisms, a central focus in chiropractic medicine.

Correcting joint problems -- The goal is improving range of motion and adjusting misalignments that result from tightened muscles.

My issue seems to fall into the latter category, so I'm sticking to KT Tape (no pun intended) for now. It seems like a keeper.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Digital Body Fat Scales Are Run By Algorithms More Than Anything Else

I've used digital weight and body-fat scales for years now, but I really wonder about their efficacy. I've obviously thought it's important to have one around, since your level of lean mass v. body fat is so closely linked with health, particularly among males.

You want some kind of accurate barometer of whether you are actually building and maintaining muscle, beyond a mirror (which is the acid test for most of us, isn't it?).

There's also a cachet among fit males and bodybuilders along the lines of whether they have body fat far under 10 percent or not, but I've leave that discussion for another time.

Ultimately, behind the scenes, these "electrical impedance" scales use algorithms to estimate your body fat percentage. Many of them claim an accuracy of about 2.5% on either side of the reading; for example, if it says 10 percent, then your body fat probably falls somewhere between 7.5% and 12.5%.

But here's the wrinkle: much of the reading is going to be determined by the preferences you set before you even step on the scale, such as whether you're male or female, your age, and whether you have an athletically cut body or not (I suppose, the classic X shape). When I set up my last scale, my body fat went from something like 16% to 11% based purely on the latter setting, whether I was built like an athlete or not.

The internal software is basically estimating your body compostion based more on settings than any contact with your body.

And that's not all: I've noticed that the ambient air temperature makes a huge difference.  I always get a lower body-fat reading with a room temperature of 70 or greater. I always get the lowest readings during the summer, regardless of my weight at the time.

For some reason, when I weigh more, the scale counts that as predominantly more muscle (how flattering!). Especially when the room is warm. And when you're wet, the BF reading also goes down significantly. The list goes on.

Your body composition does not change significantly week by week. So that when you step on the scale and the day-by-day fluctuations are four percent or more, you know the scale itself is a bit topsy-turvy. My sense is that most people who rely on scales get a big surprise when they test their body fat % in the most accurate manner in a performance lab, using calipers and pools, etc.

The next time you are pondering whether to deploy the plastic for a fancy "electrical impedance" machine, you might reconsider whether the full-length mirror is a more effective and affordable substitute.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Cold Water Diving Part II: 4 Ways To Motivate Yourself

Today I dived into a river that was a touch over 50 degrees fahrenheit, 10 centigrade. I did three different dives for only about 10-second immersions each. I feel like I am becoming more cold adapted.

By now we've determined that cold-water immersion (CWI) has beneficial health effects. It is an anti-inflammatory activity that has positive metabolic effects over time (you burn more calories and stimulate BAT–see Part 1 of this article), at the very least. It also counts as hormesis, meaning it "hardens" the cells against other insults or "bad things" such as infections. CWI might even have a strong placebo effect, which means in essence you are fooling yourself into a healthy state (better than deluding yourself into an ill state!).

So how do you motivate yourself to do it?

Keep personal records, your P.R.: Keep track of the coldest water you ever dived into, or the longest time you spent in water less than 60 F. or 15 C., so that it becomes an internal competition, a self challenge. This is human nature; the longest you ever swam, the tallest mountain you hiked, the longest you ever threw a frizbee, etc. This factor may appeal to more competitive personality types, but everyone has used the technique of setting or seeking a memorable goal as the simplest form of motivation. Keep a diary or log of your cold-water swims and dive-ins.

I have a kind of index that I track that combines the ambient air temperature with the water temperature. For example, my record is 100 for the combined cold-water immersion and air temperature (which involved diving into 50 degree waters when the air was 50 F., too). It's another P.R. that you can track. for example, today was a sunny 59, and the water was just over 50, making it a 109-110.

Notify your tribe. Share what you did with your friends and fellow CW swim fanatics or health buffs, such as via email or Twitter.  This gives the event more meaning to you than internal gratification, and can motivate others to choose a new healthy activity.

Along the same lines, join a cold water swim or "polar plunge" club, which makes CWI more of a fun social event. It also makes it less likely that you dip your feet in the water and do the old 180 ("Not today…").

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Cold Water Swimming 2014, Redux

I earned a pat on the back today, by doing the 30-yard swim to "the rock" in 53-degree river water. I felt good about it because I had stood in the river for several minutes, getting psyched, and entertaining the notion of actually not doing it. 

The nice thing about this routine is that the swim forces about a 30-second immersion through a mild river current, involves a little scramble on to the rock (which is warm), then forces me to swim back to shore, so I get two cold-water dips.

The river was 46 degrees fahrenheit a couple of weeks ago and I only stood up to my thigh. Then I took two dive-ins this week at 52 degrees, so I feel like I am gradually becoming cold-water adapted again. A man came down to the riverside with his dog the last time, and expressed skepticism (re: fear) about getting into the water ("Gee, only young people do that…"). I've heard this bias against cold water expressed many times.

The "hazards" of cold-water dips, based on the temperature alone, are greatly exaggerated, and derive from an overly pampered population that spends too much time in artificial environments.

The human body can adapt to both cold-water immersion and hot weather. Ancestral peoples of different cultures have used cold river swims, and hot springs, for health reasons for many centuries. Cold thermogenesis, the fancy, science-y term for swimming or immersion in waters of less than about 68 degrees F., is so good at reducing inflammation and tuning the body, that it's now used as an advanced athletic routine (not just after events, but before them too).

Among other effects, cold immersions spur the recruitment and generation of "brown fat" or brown adipose tissue (BAT). This is a kind of fat, unlike white fat which is a storage tissue, that actually has metabolic activity and burns calories, somewhat like muscle or lean mass. BAT is more vascular, thus explaining the brownish color.

When you become cold adapted, you increase body-heat production via non-shivering thermogenesis, which means you burn more calories at rest by means other than shivering. This is called "adaptive thermogenesis." In other words, don't get FAT get BAT!

I'm going to try to swim the cold river five times per week, and to go as late into the year in Vermont as I can. That's the goal, anyway. The next chapter is to spend at least 15 minutes at a stretch in waters less than 60 degrees.