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Why Tuesday?

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

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Viral Loading

As I write this my sisters- I am sitting at 30,000 feet in a tin can over Saskatchewan. Yes. I am on a plane and consider this blog my therapy session. For next to me at this very moment is…. Wait for it… the least considerate woman in all of Canada.

Indeed- she has been coughing every 3 minutes or so since we took off more than 2 hours ago. Yes, as a doctor- I should have some empathy for her upper respiratory tract infection. Truth be told I spend my life around sick people. I am neither scared of them nor worry. But this woman- let’s called her Beth, (why Beth, you ask? I don’t know- it’s the first name that came to my mind) well…. Beth had to be told that she might want to cover her mouth when she coughed.

Yes, after about the first 20 minutes of hacking in my direction I politely asked if “Beth” would mind covering her mouth.

To this she responded, “I’ve had this cold for about a week- I’m no longer infectious”. With that she pulled out a Kleenex and blew her nose in it. I kid you not. You would think that this would prompt me to discuss with Beth my medical background and the possibility that indeed she still might be infectious, but instead, I spent I rummaged in my handbag for an Advil Cold and Flu packet and handed it to my seat mate. Unfortunately it was of the “non-Drowsy variety” or I could have at least put Beth to sleep for the next 4 or so hours. Clearly this was not my day.

And so began my cross country flight from Toronto to Vancouver. Coughing aside- I was seated in a window seat and Beth was on the isle. I hate window seats on planes. In my humble opinion a window seat loses its luster after about the age of 10. When youa re a kid- the window seat is awesome- you can look out and see the tarmack at takeoff and landing- you can lull yourself into fantasy at the view across the clouds.

When you are an adult. The only benefit of the window seat is that you can close the shade across the window in order to see your computer screen a bit better. As an adult, the window seat is social confinement. You are subject to asking someone else permission when you want to get up and sit down. You must always smile obligatorily with polite apologies especially if you are trying to stay hydrating ona flight and have to pee at least once an hour….. just saying.

Safe to say that the window seat next to Beth also offer the added benefit of challenging one’s immune system to a wonderful game of “BEAT THAT VIRUS”.

Beth is a high maintanence flyer. I can tell this the minute she sits down. Firslty it takes her 20 minutes to get settled. Firstly she takes her shoes off to put on travel socks. Then she takes out her contacts and then she uses one of those Pond’s facial wipes to “wash” her face. Next comes moisturizer and, no word of a lie, eye cream. If there were a basin in the seat pocket she’d have undoubtedly brushed her teeth.

Once she has fluffed and folded, and prepared for take off, we begin the battle for the arm rest. After a good 5 minute coughing fit- I retreat. Beth and her bird flu can have the damn thing- I now open my window sill and stair out at the clouds….

I am sorry my sisters if I seem a tad bitchy this week. Beth is undoubtedly a very lovely woman, and I suspect had I gotten to know her- I would have indeed not judged her too harshly. But as I have said before, an airplane does weird things to people. Stick a group of well mannered individuals in a metal container with 30% less oxygen than they are used to and somehow social graces fall apart the minute we reach a cruising altitude.

My beloved compares an airplane flight to the first day of school. You know how on the first day of school you were always a bit nervous and a bit excited to see who you sit behind for the rest of the year? Well to my beloved, Jason, That is an airplane ride. There is that excitement and anticipation about who your seat mate will be for the next few hours? Will they be someone interesting that you can get to know or someone whose path you would have never crossed if not for this flight? Would you find a common denominator of conversation or would it be just a few short pleasantries followed by an in flight movie?

I must remember this bit of wonder while I sit next to Beth and her shtick and her virus. I turn to look at her and try to play nice….

“Are you going to Vancouver on business?” I ask.
“What”, she coughs and removes her ear bud.
“Are you going to Vancouver on business?” I repeat. 
“Yes.” She says and places her ear bud back in its place.
I try again.
“Is Toronto home for you?” I ask.
“What”, she coughs and removes her ear bud again.
One last shot….
“Is Toronto home for you?” I repeat.
“Yes…. I’m sorry, I’m watching this movie. DO you mind?”

If this is the first day of school, Beth has made it perfectly clear, she and I are not going to be locker partners. Nope…. Beth is not signing my yearbook.  

Maybe she is pissed at me for pointing out to her proper coughing etiquette or maybe she is just not feeling well. Hell maybe Beth is evil and this is a typical day. Maybe the coughing is the evil seeping out of her. In any case, we touch down in about 90 minutes and here I sit waiting for her to begin her “landing ritual”. Will she put back on her shoes and reapply her eye cream? Will she touch up her lipstick and indeed brush her teeth?

Will I go home and develop fever, chills and nightsweats? 

According to a review article published in 2012 about airborne infection rates in aircraft cabins the average human being releases 8 viral particles per cough and the average person with influenza coughs at a rate of 35-48 coughs per hour. This translates to 384 influenza particles released per hour. Multiply this by a 5 hour flight and you have almost 2000 viral particles all over me. 

All I can hope for is that I have been exposed to whatever Beth is cooking and that my immune system has already been primed for battle somewhere down the road. 

Not much evidence this week my sisters…. but hey, thanks for listening. In a few hours I’ll be home safe and sound and this will all be a memory. A very well documented memory indeed.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Spring Broke

Oh my girlfriends.... in the spirit of Spring Break, well, I'm taking one. Not from life but just from our little Tuesday date and only for one week. So forgive me my sisters if GGTH springs ahead and skips a week. I promise (pinky swear) to be back next Tuesday with all the witty banter and healthy rage you've come to expect from this girlfriend....

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Counting the Hours

We sprung ahead this past Sunday as I am sure you are all aware. This year I must say that Daylight Savings (DLS)- well she kicked my ass. You see I spent the weekend in Toronto  mixing business and pleasure and my internal clock was already off kilter from the three hour time change.

Rest assured it was a fabulous weekend. It was my best friends 29th birthday (again) and we welcomed the day with festivities abound. I should say that not only is she the ultimate soul sister- she has two daughters, my nieces, ages 6 and 10 who really are the apples of my eyes.

We began the weekend in celebration. Tea at the Four Seasons hotel (truthfully they no longer have high tea at the Toronto Four Seasons- fret not my sisters- we ordered coffee and cheese plates and definitely made due), This was followed by a trip down Bloor street and stops at all of my happy places. My girlfriends know how Good a shopper I can be- safe to say that this weekend I indeed did play to my strengths.

The evening was capped off by dinner with fabulous friends and then back home to bed to set my clock forward and begin another day. I had plans for Sunday my sisters…. I would go for a run and then spend the afternoon teaching my nieces how to bake an apple pie. Yes, we made the crust from scratch and yes it was perfection. The day indeed slipped away from me (damn you DLS!) but it was indeed capped up by a good round of dressup. It turns out that if you put a 10 year old in a Lanvin dress she feels as good as the 42 year old who bought it. Nothing is more life affirming than two little girls who think you are a cross between Wonderwoman and Auntie Mame.

But I could not help but feel like I was indeed short changed from my weekend of bliss.

I’ll state my bias up front…. I love sleep….. I really LOVE it. I love getting ready for bed, I love the feel of those cool clean sheets at 8:30 at night when the rest of the world is just finishing dinner. Those of you who read my blog regularly (thanks- I should have the ten or so of you for dinner sometime) know that I really am a fan of  getting my eight hours a night of slumber…

For me- sleep is like the perfect pair of strappy sandals… it should be cherish and protected. I keep my Manolos in their preassigned boxes. Why would I piss away an hour or two of sleep? I will multitask like a maniac. I will milk every hour out of every day doing three different things at once. But I WILL NOT loose sleep over any of it. Unless I’m on call, I’m getting eight hours a night. Let’s be clear dear girlfriends… if it is 2 am and I am awake… someone better be sick.

So you can imagine that springing ahead an hour should put me off. Losing one precious hour was akin to breaking a heal. It turns out, I am not alone….

More than 1.5 billion men and women are exposed to the transitions involved in daylight saving time: turning clocks forward by an hour in the spring and backward by an hour in the fall. These transitions can disrupt internal clocks or chronobiological rhythms and influence both the quality and quantity of sleep. This effect can last up to a week after the change.

A study out of Sweden examined the influence of these time changes and transitions on the incidence of myocardial infarction or heart attacks. The researchers examined a Swedish Registry of heart attacks comparing the of acute myocardial infarction during each of the first 7 days after the spring or fall time change. They then compared these numbers to the incidence of myocardial infarction  on the corresponding weekdays 2 weeks before and 2 weeks after the day of interest.

The incidence of acute myocardial infarction was significantly increased for the first 3 weekdays after the transition to daylight saving time in the spring. In contrast, after the transition out of daylight saving time in the fall, only the first weekday was affected significantly.

The researchers saw an increase in myocardial infarctions of more than 100 heart attacks on the Monday following the SPRING AHEAD period versus almost 50 less heart attacks on the Monday following the FALL BEHIND corresponding Monday.

This was also a significant increase over the previous and the following Mondays during the two weeks prior and following.

And so came the dawn on my Monday morning. I woke up at 7am Eastern which was indeed 6 am eastern and then really 3 in the freakin morning my time. All so I could go for a run and still be back in time to wash my hair. You see I was indeed filming a spot for those two fabulous boys- Steven and Chris on CBC- and it was imperative that my crazy ass hair not get in the way of my medical message.

But as I stood there blowing out my curls I could not help but feel the fatigue and indeed wonder how many others in the world were eyes wide shut on this Monday of Mondays?

I blamed the time change, I blamed the Daylight Savings. As for the Four Seasons, the apple pie and the dressup? It was indeed all the fuel I needed to face the days ahead.

SPRING AHEAD is a risky business. A few days later and the dust is just settling….
I am back to bedtime in my own time zone and up walking the fluffy monsters while its still dark outside. Frett not my girlfriends- like all good sisters I will do what a woman does best, keep calm, adjust and when in doubt- I’ll bake an apple pie and play dress-up all over again. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Viva Italia

As I write this my sisters, Milan fashion week has come and gone (Paris is in full swing) and here I sit in a fabulous Italian coffee shop drink my Americanno nestled in the bosom of the MADREPATRIA (Italian for Motherland).

My cyberstisters know I hate to play favourites but what is it about those fabulous Italians? Is it me or do they just seem to get it on all fronts? Shoes, clothes and food- yes the Italians are the trifecta of fabulous.

Here’s the evidence:
Did my girlfriends know that all luxury foot wear in this worlds is indeed made within a 500km radius if Venice. Indeed there are 3 luxury footwear houses that have been making fabulous footwear since the early 1500’s. Don’t believe me? Walk into any luxury shoe store, flip over those gorgeous pair of Manolo’s, Louboutins or Jimmy Choos and check the bottom of the 100% leather soles. What does it say? Made in Italy. Now put the shoes down, stop reading and try those sole savers on…..

Believe me, my sisters- I’ve done the leg work…. Literally. Nothing says craftsmanship like a MADE IN ITALY label. I have the credit cad bills to prove it. From FENDI, to PRADA, to MARNI, to GUCCI and MIU MIU and ARMANI. Need I go on? Those dudes know how to cut a dress.

Imagine my delight when just last week the New England Journal of Medicine published the results of a large scale randomized trial on the Mediterranean Diet. The study looked at 7500 patients from Spain who were at high risk for cardiovascular disease. More than half of the patients had Diabetes, 70% had high blood pressure. The researchers randomized the patients into one of three groups. One group were instructed to eat a low fat and high carbohydrate diet. The other two groups were instructed to eat a traditional Mediterranean Diet the only difference was one Mediterranean Diet group had olive oil as their source of fats and the other had walnuts.

After 6 years of study Mediterranean Diet groups had a 30% reduction in cardiovascular events over the low fat group. This translated into a 32% relative reduction in stroke and a 27% relative reduction in heart attacks.

What does all this mean my sisters? What fascinates me about these studies is not that the Mediterranean Diet was high in olive oil and fats but more so what the diet was lacking…. Refined carbohydrates.

In  fact below is the figure taken directly from the study highlighting a list of foods recommended on the Mediterranean Diet.

Sometimes my sisters…. It’s all about what we take away that counts….

And so ends another week with an homage to my Mediterranean girlfriends…. I raise a glass of vino to you my sisters of the sea as I slip off my stilettos and cuddle up in my Missoni Pajamas. You girls really do have all the fun.