Monday, March 5, 2018

Breathing, Moving, Inhaling

Image result for copd breathing test
Staying in Breathing Shape
I'm a professional genealogist.  For genealogists' Salt Lake City visits are a must. But at over 4000 feet above sea level, for those with compromised health, Salt lake City require advanced health preparations (AHP).  With the same rigor that my friends prepare for marathons, triathlons, or their active survivor-style trips, I prepare for anything over 2000 feet above sea level. (Really 200 feet above seal level, but I fear you will think I am exaggerating. I'm not)!

Cities nestled in high altitudes have major impacts on my already compromised health. What are my compromised health issues, you ask?  Well there are only really four:

  1. lungs - pulmonary hypertension, and chronic pulmonary embolisms. Need I say more.  
  2. heart - who needs a right atrium? I have an enlarged heart!  Bigger is better right? Not!!!!  
  3. oxygen - I used to say that that breathing is overrated.  I haven't had a good breath since 1992.  Literally, 1992 was the last time I remember having a healthy oxygen saturation. That was my pre-COPD diagnosis. In 1993, I was working in Switzerland and decided to take a long weekend holiday to ski the Alps in St. Moritz - Club Med (does this resort still exist)? This was my first known presentation of "organ betrayal."  I had to request a ride in the snowcat down the mountain alongside the blue run. The full story is rather funny, but only because no one I mowed down on a "fainty" tumble down the top of the run was injured. 
  4. blood - I have a blood clotting autoimmune disease.  This disease keeps me sober, because the intoxicated rarely can pronounce "antiphospholipid antibody syndrome." This is the root of my compromised health. 
Besides my compromised lungs, heart, oxygen and blood, I'm quite healthy.  I have to stay in "breathing" shape.  I know the healthy persons in my life always want to be in "fighting shape," but for me, it's breathing shape.  Now believe me when I tell you that breathing shape is not that great. I usually need an Uber, shuttle or taxi in Salt Lake City for anything over a block. No, I'm not exaggerating.  I can manage to cross a street.  That's it! I struggle to cross the street from the hotel to the conference center. I think my brother has longer fishing lines than my walk across the street. But, before I can get to either door, I have to stop and catch my breath, sometimes twice door to door, and that does not include the wait required at the pedestrian crosswalk .  But for me that's breathing shape, especially for Salt Lake City.  Hubby says if I find myself being disappointed a lot, I need to lower my expectations.  I've become very "cool" with that!

So let me share with you how I stay in Breathing Shape. 

When first diagnosed my doctors directed me to just rest. Exercise was out, "just try to accept the life you have," they said.   My thought was "is that even considered living."  After a 28 day stay in the hospital, within six months I enrolled in a chair yoga class.  I became active with the Lung Association and was a planner for the local gala fundraiser (five years of this).  I could do that from my bed.  I could still talk you know. Yes, I was short winded, but my mouth is strong willed. 
Visit: Yoga 8 Poses
I advanced out of chair yoga to senior yoga (Silver Sneakers).  Ok...they did have their share of chairs too, so I wasn't alone. I was forty-five and I would catch the seniors sneaking that pathetic glance at me, as they nodded to each other. First rule: discard the past.  There would be no more skiing the slopes. I probably can no longer make it to the ski chair, let alone breath that mountain air without fainting and falling out of the chair.  So, I just exercised from my yoga chair next to that eighty-nine year old woman.  I did graduate out of the yoga chair to the pregnancy yoga class.  Don't laugh! Those mothers-to-be get soothing music and modified yoga positions. And it emphasized breathing.  Something I really needed to work on.  

I now walk around the block everyday, rain or shine, heat or cold, wind or humidity. Sometimes it takes me twelve minutes to walk around the block;  sometimes it takes me twenty-four. Sometimes, my route is charted for the flattest route, sometimes - ok, rarely, I try to make it up the slightest of inclines without having to stop in front of every house for my dog to mark a tree. This is not a rigorous walk, this is a friendly route.  I am the only person in the neighborhood that can name every person on the block and tell you how many children they have.  The key is to build up stamina. 

Eat right.  
I'm NOT even going to give you my speech.  But your diet weighs in on your inflammation, pain, and comfort level of the day. Why have a bad day? We already struggle to breath. And in Salt Lake City, your food choices need to be intentionally good.  I probably under eat just a bit. Never hungry, but never full.  "Full" hurts when you are struggling to breathe.  

The lower my weight, the better I feel.  Let me change that, I feel optimum when my weight is in the lower half of the recommended Body Mass Index (BMI)  Again, don't get too excited, I just want to cross a street. For those with compromised health, we must do whatever it takes to be at the Breathing, Moving, Inhaling (BMI) optimal level. 

Last Tip
Penn State News: Mindfulness
Oh and my last tip to you.  Smile.  Just smile with every exhale.  With a smile, you can make it to the other side of the street, even in Salt Lake City. 

Kathleen Brandt, Keynote Speaker
"Health is Wealth"

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Brain Stimulation is Important

Related image
Today the conversation came up twice.  "How did you keep going when you were so sick?" My answer is always the same. I just kept functioning.  I didn't want for yesterday, I lived in the present.  What can I do today?  That was, and still is, my daily morning question.  Sometimes, it's walk the dog, sometimes, it's read a book, or listen to French tapes.  I get dressed everyday, style my hair, put on makeup and a smile and "function."  

The definition of function: "an activity or purpose natural to or intended for a person or thing."

Well what was natural one day was not the same the next, so I functioned for "that" day.  It would sometimes take me all day to pull together an evening meal. For me, that was the easy chore.  Getting dress was sometimes breath-taking. It took tactical planning to succeed, but each day I planned my successes.  I still do.  

Here's an excerpt of a day in 2004.  
Brain Stimulation
In spite of feeling weak and short of breath 24/7, I picked up more hobbies. I sewed more, did crafts, decorated the house, and prayed a lot.  For one, I prayed that my hair would stop falling out. I could take feeling sick, but the loss of hair reminded me daily I was sick.  It was an announcement to the world, "Hey look at the sick woman over there!"  

One day I was at a Dillards with mother.  I hate shopping but anything to get me out of the house. I believe it was Mother’s take-back day.  She and her friends would go shopping. Come back with a bag full of items that they had tried on in the store.  They would wait until the next day, and try on their new garments. Then they declared the items ugly, and unfitting, or unbecoming, or wrong color, and they would take back 80% of whatever they bought.  I’m just guessing here, but it does seem that they returned eight out of ten of their newly purchased clearance items. 

This particular day was one that confirmed that people saw me as sick. It was about 2004.  I was forty-four years old and it was getting more difficult to hide my thinning hair.  But it wasn’t the hair that caught this woman’s attention.  She asked, “when are you due?” as she stared at my distended belly.  I weighed no more than 132lbs; well within my BMI but I suffered from ascites. Some days were worse than others. I tried to dress accordingly. On bad days, I'd hide it behind large flowing tops.  But some days it was not possible to hide the protruding ball that was my abdomen.  I usually stayed home and worked on the family genealogy, when I knew I was not fit to go out in public.  The days I would only feel safe within the confines of my house. Surprisingly,  the student’s at the Community College, where I taught part time, never mentioned it, but I often taught sitting on a desk. I would arrive early, position myself on top of the front desk next within arm reach of the projector.  They knew I had breathing issues, everyone knew I had breathing issues.  But the students were unexpectedly kind and tolerate. Plus, I was the exercise and game queen. Is there a better way to teach Spanish?

When I did leave the house, barring work,  it was to go to the National Archives - KC. I’d also take genealogy classes locally.  My theory was, I can feel bad sitting in someone else's chair as well as my own." I had added genealogy to my hobby list in 2000 and was pretty knowledgeable of the local repositories and resources.  I found my “free-colored” family in a 1860 census at the National Archives - KC. I was visiting the Kansas City Bannister branch of the National Archives. This was an unexpected discovery since only free persons were listed in that Federal census. But my grandfather Cecil always claimed his grandfather was born free. This research consumed me. I lost my troubles in the stacks of the genealogy library, the National Archives, and the State Historical Societies (Missouri and Kansas). My worries did not surface while rolling microfilm and digging in newspaper collections. Mother would sometimes join me.  In spite of her being an archival researcher, she was very distracting, but loved the research.  We would talk about my findings all the way to our little church in Ringwood, OK and back.  This was my passion. And it helped make the six hour one way trip to serve the Lord tolerable.

By 2002 I was teaching days at the community college. I was still an adjunct, and taught ten credit hours. I was making a name for myself as being strict, but my students were learning and they didn’t dare show up without their homework. That allowed for more classroom games, more speaking Spanish, more cultural experiences.  I was getting more involved in the school, and proposed two new classes.  The emphasis was on writing intensive courses, and again my thought was “I can do this.”  I didn’t expect the administration to take a visibly weakened adjunct teacher seriously when I proposed two Writing Intensive courses: Latin American Humanities, and Latin American Literature.  But the proposals were accepted and implemented. These classes were always filled and I was honored to share my master degree studies.  Plus, when my health worsened, and online courses became popular, these writing courses easily transitioned to my home office.

Teaching was not my passion.  But I was functioning. Slow, methodical, short of breath... but functioning.

Kathleen Brandt, Keynote Speaker
"Health is Wealth"

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Health and Genetics

Can DNA Uncover Health Hints?
Staying abreast of the trends in genealogy can be daunting, but is definitely necessary for the serious family historian or professional genealogist.  

Why Now?
In 2004, the Surgeon General, in cooperation with other agencies, launched the Surgeon General's Family History Initiative to encourage all American families to learn more about their family health history.  Thanksgiving has been declared National Family History Day, allowing for updates and information to be shared at an annual family gathering. There's even a "My Family Health Portrait Tool" to enter your family health history and learn about your risk for conditions that can run in families. But can genetics and genealogy really paired?  The answer is yes. 

What is Medical Genealogy?
Medical Genealogy, Genetics for Genealogists, and Family Health History are all names we hear when referencing tracing and documenting one’s family medical patterns.  It is  not just the application of genetics applied to traditional genealogy; therefore, I prefer the term “Medical Genealogy” as I believe this keeps the family historian focused.  (How many geneticists do you know who are genealogists or family historians?).”

“Medical Genealogy is the practice of tracing and recording family health patterns that are unique to your family (hopefully to include three generations) in order for the family practitioner to analyze.
Defined by Kathleen Brandt - a3Genealogy,
 Not an official definition, 2010. 

Although genealogists and family historians are quite talented, we don’t want to cross the lines of diagnosing based on family history, or predicting life spans or early deaths based on information and patterns.  Our job is to recognize patterns and document them.

What Traits and Health Analysis Discovered via DNA?
As a community, we can begin by gathering family data and creating a helpful family health tree. You may also want to include the 23andMe limited health analysis approved by FDA standards, using DNA. Know that only 23andMe include the following reports:

Carrier Status: are you a carrier for an inherited condition? This includes cystic Fibrosis, Sickle Cell Anemia, Hereditary Hearing Loss, Sj√∂gren-Larsson Syndrome and more. To see the list of possible reports from A - Z visit the All Carrier Status Reports. You may also find it interesting that some genes are most notable within ethnic groups. This is a great place to visit to learn about common diseases if you are of French Canadian , Ashkenazi Jewish, Danish, Finish of African heritage. 

Food Preference: Most would agree that DNA can affect lactose intolerance, and muscle composition. It's not far fetched to believe that DNA can affect alcohol flush reaction, but can DNA really affect caffeine consumption? According to 23andMe the answer is yes.  Learn more at Wellness Reports (scroll down linked page.)

Traits Report: Of course genetics play a part in your "likelihood of having certain characteristics" to include the color of your hair and facial features, but the list of 23andMe Traits reports include  whether an individual will have asparagus odor detection.  Yes, Asparagus Odor Detection! 

Kathleen Brandt

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Family Health Tree: Medical Genealogy and You

What is a Family Health Tree?
In 2010, I was honored to serve on a committee for the Surgeon General project that provided Access the My Family Health Portrait Web Tool. I was an advising member for a Kansas University Medical Center grant whose goals were stated as“helps users organize family history information and then print it out for presentation to their family doctor.”  This website is now housed and maintained by Health and Human Services.
Using the tools provided, genetic genealogists may create an At-a-Glance Medical Tree.  Once you’ve gathered your data/information, by following the symbols that are defined (or add some of your own), this tree can be a breeze, and useful to the entire family and can be reviewed by your geneticists if necessary.

Where to Find Data/Information? 
  • The information needed to complete a “family health tree” is probably in your family files.  Take a close look at the cause of death on death certificates or obituaries.
  • Review medical records - we often get a copy of veteran medical records.
  • Take note of patterns: premature deaths, infertility patterns in women, birth defect patterns (I have seen some noted on census records), sibling patterns of illnesses, etc. 
The Goal - Take it to Your Doctor
In the end you should have a tree completed like the one above.  Your family and doctor will appreciate the family research. 

Kathleen Brandt

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Understanding DNA for Medical and Health

Medical Genealogy questions have flooded the Brandt Motivation email box.  So, I will spend time the next few days in posting on this series. 

Remember, we use these types of DNA test only in conjunction with medical genealogy and with a geneticist.

Kathleen Brandt

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Your Super Bowl

World Cancer Day and Super Bowl Sunday
There are many reasons to eat healthy. For me my options are dictated by my health and the strong need to keep inflammation at bay.  I have a rare autoimmune disease, as many of you know, antiphospholipid antibody syndrome, also called lupus anticoagulation or Hughes Syndrome. Inflammation can determine everything for me, breathing, pain, discomfort, ascites, edema, activity level, focus level, hair loss...I said everything! So I keep "Clean Recipes" close at hand and probably properly choose to eat this way 80% of the time.

So I though I'd share a few that I found from my Pilates Studio.  They are fun.  These were posted by Pilates 1901 in Kansas City if you want to meet me there.  It's one of low cardio exercises that I do on a regular basis that help keep the heart pumping and the lungs working. It's low key but I get to concentrate on breathing.  Yes, breathing is an issue.

Clean Eating - A Bowl for Lunch or Dinner

            Protein – 120 calories chicken, turkey, fish, tempeh, tofu, edamame, or eggs made with 1 tsp HEALTHY oil. 

    1      Grain – 1/2c quinoa, brown rice or diced, cooked sweet potato.
    2      Greens – 1c kale, baby spinach, or other leafy greens (I used fresh chopped Red Leaf lettuce, here)
    3      Veggies – 1c roasted, steamed or raw veggies
    4      Beans – 2T-3T of your choice of beans(optional) If using canned, be sure to rinse!
    5      Fat – 50 calories avocado, feta cheese, hummus, guacamole, or homemade dressing (from CFC dressing guide).
    6      Unlimited fresh lime, lemon juice, or vinegar may also be used as additional dressing.
    7      Seal, store (dressing/fats separate) in the refrigerator & eat within 3-4 days.
Kathleen Brandt
Put It Into Action Series

Thursday, February 1, 2018