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The Girlfriend's Guide to Health will be updated every Tuesday.... Stay tuned dear readers and let me rock your world.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Counting Down My Generation

All right my girlfriends let the countdown to forty begin. Yes, my cyber sisters…. In less than one month, I will hit the big one. Yes, yes, I know, forty is the new thirty and you are only as old as you feel…. Blah, blah, bullshit.

I, like many of my sisters out there am taking my fourth decade on this planet like most women would… I am taking it like a bullet. In fact, I can safely say that I have chosen the most appropriate way to celebrate this mid life birthday by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.

Yes, y dear girlfriends, in order to find the most appropriate fete, I will spend 12 days wandering the largest peak in Africa in the hopes of proving to myself and all of my Facebook friends, that I STILL GOT IT.

Interestingly as I have found out over the lat six months, this birthday party of mine takes a bit more preparation than one would have thought.

First there is the physical training. Yes, I am one with my bike and know my way around a pool and a running path. But lately, I have taken it up a notch and added a hundred flights of stairs to my nightly regimen.

There I began in the stairwell of our apartment building climbing up and down until I hit one hundred. Fearing a dramatic death in the stairwell and wanting avoid the embarrassment of being discovered days after the fact, I took to the Gauntlet machine at the YMCA. This is essentially the treadmill equivalent of a stairwell and allows me a much more fashionable work out, complete with Aveda products after the fact.

My fitness regimen complete and underway, it was time to get my health in line for the trip.

Thus past week, my beloved and I made a trip to the travel clinic in Vancouver to get our vaccinations in line for our African adventure.

My list of shots required is as follows:
Yellow Fever
Hepatitis A
Hepatitis B

Now, I had most of these vaccines either for medical school or for other trips, but I did not escape from the clinic without a booster for Typhoid, Hepatitis A and Yellow Fever. Safe to say, my arm is killing me.

Vaccines work by presenting a foreign antigen (or trigger) to our own immune system. They are essentially a way to prime the immune system in a similar way to an infection without the person having to get sick in order to be immune.

This antigen can present itself in one of four ways. Most vaccines today are either inactivated viruses (which are killed and can not replicate) or virus-like particle based vaccines (where the vaccines contains pieces/proteins from the virus that elicits an immune response similar to an actual infection). Inactivated vaccines such as the one for Tetanus require a booster periodically to reinforce infection. Virus-like particle based vaccines such as Hepatitis B and HPV do not require boosters.

Attenuated or live vaccines are vaccines, which contain very low weak levels of the actual virus that do replicate very slowly and as such are essentially a low-grade infection. Boosters are required less often and there is a VERY small risk of actual infection in immunocompromised hosts. One such example is Yellow Fever.

Nothing scares you more than having to sign a release form before some lovely woman shoot you up with the Yellow Fever virus.

Google Yellow Fever and you will see what I mean. It’s a freakishly scary disease.

Further more, attenuated vaccines hurt like a mother funhouse. Four days later, my arm is still sore and I am anything if not a whimp.

I can however rest knowing that my immune system is having a frat party right now in preparation for what is to come.

Fitness in check, vaccines in tow, I am healthfully ready to climb my proverbial mountain.

Yes, I am a lunatic. Blame forty, blame Africa, and blame the birthday of all birthdays…. If there is, however a Yellow Fever outbreak in Vancouver…. I’m ready. BRING IT ON.

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