Winning on the water-a book review of Boys in the Boat

Why do we like books and movies about sports? Have you noticed how many sports stories there are? (This post offers multiple affiliate links to sites that offer a commission to this blog for purchases made there.)

Some sport stories are about fictional characters and situations-

  • Rocky
  • Field of Dreams
  • Bleachers
  • Friday Night Lights
  • Million Dollar Baby

But the ones that most catch our attention and our hearts are those about real people.

  • Seabiscuit
  • Chariots of Fire
  • A League of Their Own
  • The Blind Side

Rowing- athletes in a boat

Most of us know something about the big sports, like football, basketball, and baseball. We probably know less about horse racing, boxing, track, and ice skating. But rowing , rarely if ever on the sports pages or television broadcasts, isn’t one most of us know at all.


The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown.

In Boys in the Boat the United States Olympic Rowing team of 1936 beat incredible odds to win the gold medal. But the meat of the book reviews in detail how each man came to be in that boat, especially Joe Rantz. Based on interviews of him by the author, we learn Joe’s painful early family life, struggle to pay for college, and the grueling physical challenges of preparing for competitive rowing.

At that time the sport of rowing was dominated by the sons of wealthy families and the Ivy League colleges they attended. By contrast, the University of Washington athletes who made up the 1936 Olympic rowing team came from working class families and had to work their way through college. That they did so in the midst of a depression makes their achievement even more remarkable.

You may be surprised to learn how much the sport of rowing physically and mentally challenges the human body. To be competitive, the crew’s eight rowers must work synchronously as the leader, known as the coxswain, calls out commands to set a pace that is fast enough to win but sustainable for the length of the race.

Nazi Germany’s Olympic games

Interspersed in the boys’ stories, Daniel Brown outlines the events unfolding in Germany, as Hitler and the Nazi party rose to power. As part of their plan to dominate Europe and eventually the world, they plan to make the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin a showcase of German wealth, knowledge, power, and athletic ability. Specifically, Hitler hoped the German rowing team would beat England and Italy, the teams historically likely to win. The story of his reaction to an American team that not only challenged but upset the status quo completes a book worth reading.

My reaction to Boys in the Boat

From reading this book, I gained an appreciation for this sport that I previously knew nothing about. My husband and I listened to the audio book while on a 12 hour car trip and it kept us interested and entertained. We were inspired by a story where perseverance, courage, loyalty, and commitment were celebrated and rewarded.


This story proves history lessons aren’t dull, boring, or outdated, but can offer us information and inspiration to help us explore the HEART of health

the BOYS OF ’36 documentary

A PBS video documentary The BOYS OF ’36 is available on Amazon Video, free with Prime or available to rent.

Your comments welcome

If you read the book or watch the video, please contact me with your thoughts. I might use your comments in an update.

Thanks for visiting Watercress Words; I’d love for you to follow-use this form to get email alerts when I post something new. about the HEART of health.

                              Dr. Aletha 

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2019 Women’s health update- hormones, the heart, and HPV

Multiple health issues impact women exclusively or differently than men, so new and updated information is important to share. The issues we women face vary with our age, stage of life and health status.

Let’s look at some medical news about women’s health issues, information I picked up recently from several medical journals I follow.

This is current, general medical information that helps a doctor and patient make decisions about what is right for her. Medical recommendations and practice changes as we learn new things.
If you deal with any of these issues , please discuss with your doctor before  taking any action.

I’m illustrating this post with photos of art featuring women. I’ll tell you more about the source at the end.

statue of a woman holding an infant

Human papillomavirus and cancer 

Infection with the human papillomavirus, HPV, can cause  genital warts and cervical cancer.

The percentage of young women with confirmed HPV (human papillomavirus) infection  in the United States fell significantly from 2006 to 2012. Women who had received the HPV vaccine showed the greatest decline in infection rates, compared to those who had not. Even one dose was effective, even though 2 or 3 are recommended.

A new study reported by the New England Journal of Medicine shows that women who become infected with the HPV strains 16 and 18 have a much higher risk of changes in their cervix called CIN-cervical intraepithelial neoplasia-which can be a precursor to cancer. These changes may not be picked up by a Papanicolaou (Pap) test.

Thus, protection against infection with HPV should also provide protection against cancers caused by HPV.

Human papillomavirus vaccine

Gardasil, a vaccine which targets the HPV has been available to females and males from 9 years old to 26 years old. Now the age has been extended through age 45 years for both genders.

Here is a link to detailed information about HPV vaccination from the National Cancer Institute.


Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccines

statue of a pioneer woman with rifle and infant

Long-acting reversible contraception-LARC  

Two forms of long-acting reversible contraception are available to women in the United States.

Nexplanon, a contraceptive implant, slowly releases the hormone progestin and does not have estrogen. It can be used in women who cannot take estrogen, such as those with uterine fibroids or endometrial cancer.

Intrauterine devices, IUDs, containing copper only are appropriate for women with past or present breast cancer, ischemic heart disease, and women at risk for blood clots.

Use of LARCs accounts for 12% of all contraceptive use. Additional benefits include controlling excessive menstrual bleeding, potentially saving women from surgery.

Here is a link to Quick Fact about intrauterine devices and other forms of contraception from the Department of Health and Human Services

Intrauterine Device

statue of woman, holding infant, standing next to a child

Hormone therapy and prevention of heart disease

A 2015 Cochrane review of 40,410 postmenopausal women examined the use of oral hormone therapy (estrogen with or without progesterone) taken for at least six months, compared with placebo (no real drug), to determine the effect on death from any cause, and deaths caused by heart disease, stroke, and blood clot in a leg or lung.

The review found no benefits for preventing heart attack (fatal or nonfatal), or death due to any cause.

In women who took hormones they found

 
1 in 165 women had a stroke
1 in 118 women had a blood clot in the leg or lung
1 in 242 women had a blood clot in the lung

The women in this study were all older than 60 years old, so it is possible there might be benefit in younger women.

statue of woman with arm raised and holding an infant

Vaginal estrogen and heart health

While estrogen replacement after menopause is effective at controlling the undesirable effects of night sweats, hot flashes, and vaginal dryness, it potentially increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease-heart attacks and stroke, and some cancers-breast and uterine.

However, results of the Nurses Health Study over 18 years shows no increase in incidence of these complications in women who used vaginal estrogen, suggesting this is a safe option for women who elect to use estrogen. (from the journal Menopause)

The photos- a tribute to women

I took these photos during a recent visit to Woolaroc ,a museum and wildlife preserve located in the Osage Hills of Northeastern Oklahoma. Woolaroc was established in 1925 as the ranch retreat of oilman Frank Phillips. 

These statues displayed there were all models considered for a larger project now known as the Pioneer Woman Statue in Ponca City, Oklahoma.

What do you think? Would you have chosen one of the other statues for the final version?

More women’s health info

To start following Watercress Words , use this form to get an email notification of new posts . Please find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn. Thanks so much.

                              Dr. Aletha 

a statue of a woman holding a child, "CROSSING THE PRAIRIE"
“CROSSING THE PRAIRIE” by Glenna Goodacre, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
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How common meds can hurt your skin

In a previous post I told you how smoking and sunlight affect our skin- premature aging, dryness, and increased risk of skin cancer. Here is a link for you to review or read if you missed it.

How smoking and sun affect your skin’s look and feel

Layers of the Skin diagram

Here is a review of the skin’s layers

Medications and skin -help and harm

In this post I’ll talk about ways medications can adversely affect skin health.

Medications, both prescription and over the counter, can relieve symptoms, hasten healing, and save lives. Even so, adverse reactions are always a risk with any drug. Some of these adverse reactions can involve the skin.

So it is vital that patients and doctors avoid unnecessary or inappropriate use of medications.

Sun sensitivity due to medication

As mentioned in the previous post , some medications can make your skin more sensitive to sun exposure, called drug-induced photosensitivity.

Any drug can cause a reaction, even if you have taken it before without a problem. Some of the more common “skin reaction drugs” include

  • Anti-inflammatory medications, the NSAIDs
  • Psychiatric medications
  • Chemotherapy drugs
  • Blood pressure lowering meds
  • Antibiotics
  • Statins-cholesterol lowering drugs

Reactions can vary from scaly rashes, blisters, redness, dryness, itching, to severe eruptions all over the body that can be painful and occasionally life threatening.

This is what your skin looks like under a powerful microscope.

Melasma-drug induced skin color change

Melasma (muh-LAZ-muh) is a common skin problem. It causes brown to gray-brown patches, usually on the face. It is much more common in women, probably because it is triggered by female hormones, so it often starts in pregnancy. Women of color are also more susceptible.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Melasma can be caused by

  • Sun exposure
  • Hormone medications-birth control pills, post -menopause hormonal therapy

Here is an excellent discussion and photos of melasma from the American Academy of Dermatology

Use antibiotics wisely for your skin’s sake

Probably the most common drugs that cause a rash or other adverse effects are antibiotics, probably because they are used so often. A

Antibiotics such as penicillin, amoxicillin, sulfa, tetracycline, and ciprofloxacin can cause several skin reactions .

  • urticaria, also known as hives
  • photosensitivity, mentioned above
  • a scaley rash that may peel off
  • a measles-like rash, called morbiliform
  • blisters

So doctors prescribe antibiotics only for infections that are serious enough that the risk of adverse reaction is worth the possible benefit.

Colds,  flu, and bronchitis are caused by viruses and don’t respond to antibiotics. Even sinus and ear infections don’t always need an antibiotic to resolve. Please don’t pressure your doctor for an antibiotic when you don’t need it. Read more about antibiotic misuse at my previous post

How to navigate the antibiotic highway

6 smart facts about antibiotic use
graphic created by the Centers for Disease Control, http://www.cdc.gov

The American Academy of Dermatology shares

10 skin care secrets for healthier skin

What you should and shouldn’t do now

Please understand I am not saying we should never use these medications as sometimes they are the best choice for our overall health. You should be aware of the potential for reactions and report them promptly to your doctor if they occur.

If you are taking any of the drugs listed here, do not stop without talking to your doctor.

Coming soon-more skin care tips

In a future post I’ll look at common skin injuries and how to help injured skin heal.

Thanks for joining me to explore skin problems and the HEART of health. Even if it’s winter where you live, don’t forgo sunscreen; the sun doesn’t take a holiday from damaging skin.

Please share this post and follow Watercress Words where we explore and share the HEART of health.

                              Dr. Aletha 

a cute monkey checks out his face in a mirrow
We all care about our appearance, including this cute monkey. Photo by Andre Mouton on Pexels.com

A 5 year love affair-with healthy eating

 

One of my all time most viewed posts is a story about my friend Pam and her weight loss journey using the Weight Watchers program.  After successfully reaching and maintaining her weight goal, she started coaching others who have been equally successful. Recently, she was honored for 5 years as a coach.

a smiling woman holding flowers

Pam’s clients showed appreciation for  her for 5 years of service.

 

 

Many of us would like to weight less than we do, but some people struggle with severe excess weight that threatens their health and keeps them from enjoying life as they would like. These are usually people whose BMI, body mass index, is 30 or more. For people with diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, and osteoarthritis, even lower BMI can put them at excess disease risk.

Body mass index chart

A BMI of 30 or more represents obesity. BMI Chart created by Vertex42.com. Used with permission.

 

 

The United States Preventive Services Task Force, USPSTF,  recently reviewed weight loss methods and made a recommendation to physicians about how to help patients with weight.

The Task force encourages  doctors to refer patients for  “intensive, multicomponent behavioral interventions” to successfully lose weight. 

What exactly does “intensive, multicomponent” mean? 

 

 

A Patient Page in JAMA explains it this way- Interventions that are

  • done in a group or individual setting, provided in person or virtually, and use print or online materials
  • occurs over 1 to 2 years and with 1 to 4 sessions per month
  • includes counseling about nutrition and exercise as well as education about how to self-monitor both of these components.
  • includes help to identify barriers to weight loss, and  help with problem solving related to challenges
  • support from other people who are also working on weight loss
  • education  focused not only on weight loss but also on weight maintenance after interventions are completed.

 

 

Here is a link to the page-

Behavioral Interventions for Weight Loss

 

 

a lady in bare feet standing on a scalefeet in sports shoes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I haven’t used Weight Watchers but from what I understand about it, this is the type of program they offer. I’m not necessarily promoting WW, as they are called now, but if you want to lose weight I suggest looking for a program that includes these features. It certainly has worked for Pam and those she coaches.

“If we want to be people’s partners in what healthy means to the, it has to be about more than just weight. It has to be a total approach to how they can live their healthiest, best lives.”

Mindy Grossman, CEO of WW, quote taken from TIME magazine, October 15, 2018

 

 

And here is my story about Pam and her break-up with junk food.

How I “broke up” with junk food

and fell in love with healthy eating.

Meet my friend Pam. My husband and I met Pam and her husband in a ballroom dance class. I was immediately captivated by her radiant smile and Southern charm. Since then I have learned more about her and watched an amazing transformation in her life.

Pam and I attending a wedding at the dance studio

Pam and I  at the dance studio

 

 

Pam graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts from Mississippi State University in 1980. With a major in Communications, she started her career as a writer and Account Executive for advertising and public relations agencies in Mississippi and in Oklahoma where she moved after marrying.  She was the Marketing Director for a large medical clinic for several years. Since 1995, she has enjoyed being a stay-at-home mom with involvement in PTA, church and community. In 2012, she was named Volunteer of the Year by her community public school system.

But despite such a charmed life, there was a struggle, one that Pam shares with many people. In this blog I have discussed the physical and emotional consequences of excess weightyou will be encouraged by Pam’s success story which she so generously shares with me and you.

“Breaking up is hard to do. ” By Pam Whitson

“I was happily married to the love of my life and should have been having the time of my life.   Sadly, my self-confidence and my happiness had been stolen, and I was the thief.

For over two decades, I robbed myself of peak energy, vitality, health and beauty by totally disregarding my intake of food.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, I thought about what I should do.  I spent money on self-help tapes, gym memberships and weight loss programs from the practical to the extreme.  I whined and wished about it constantly.  And it didn’t help knowing that I was not alone; almost half of adults are overweight or obese.

And I had occasional moments of success.  Like the time I was within four pounds of leaving the “obese” category. (Obese is a BMI, body mass index, of 30 or higher)  After months of hard work, I ran to Glamour Shots for the mid-1990s version of a sequin and big hair make-over.  On the way home from my triumphant photo session, I stopped by my favorite barbecue place and started eating my way right back to where I was before.  I gained all the weight I had lost back and more.

I joked my way through feelings of depression, because  I had an unhealthy relationship with food.    I thought about it way too much.  I ran to it for instant gratification.  I was too in love with the tastes, the textures, the sheer delight of food.  Even now, I love to grocery shop.  One of my favorite places on the planet is the cereal aisle of the grocery store.

cereal boxes in a store

“One of my favorite places on the planet is the cereal aisle of the grocery store.”

 

 

Finally, at age 53, after twenty years of carrying way too much weight for my 5’7 ½” (1.7 meters) (yes, the half inch counts!) frame, I was ready for a change.  Really ready.  Change isn’t easy.  Change hurts.  I walked into Weight Watchers and pretended it was my first time ever.  I read everything.  I listened and participated.  I went to every meeting.  I hung around afterwards and pestered my leader for every little nugget of information I could cling to.

Pam before weight loss

Pam and her daughter

 

 

I rejoined Weight Watchers in July, 2012, with 20 pounds (9 kg) still off from a previous Weight Watcher effort. I lost 40 pounds (18 kg) in 4 1/2 months to be at goal before Thanksgiving! I learned to maintain this loss during the required six week maintenance period with Weight Watchers and became an official Lifetime Member before the year’s end of 2012. This meant a lot to me because my birthday is New Year’s Day. How wonderful to start the year at a healthy weight!

At Weight Watchers I learned I could change.  I could change what I put in my grocery basket.  I could change what I ordered in restaurants.  I could change how much I moved.

I could change my relationship with food for good.

I still enjoy food.  Very much.  Maybe even more than before because now I appreciate my food as fuel to live a healthy and active and even beautiful (in the eyes of the beholder) life!  I still enjoy the tastes, even more so because I choose only the best.  My plate is colorful with roasted veggies and fresh fruits and salad greens.  I enjoy grilled lean chicken, steak and seafood.  My carbs are high fiber, full of flavor and texture.  I no longer long for the processed foods full of white flour, sugar and fat.

By pairing healthy eating with increased physical activity, I changed my weight dropped from 226 lbs (102 kg) to 150 lbs (68 kg).  Now 70 pounds (31 kg) lighter and at a healthy BMI of 23, I feel so much happier and healthier.

But once I started eating better, even before I was near my goal weight, my self-esteem and confidence were instantly restored.  Just knowing that I had a plan gave me optimism and excitement.  I’ve been at goal for almost three years and I wouldn’t trade it for the world (or even a crisp cookie). And I now stay about 10 pounds (4.5 kg) below goal as a safety net.

Pam on a well deserved vacation

Pam on a well deserved vacation

 

 

In addition to my daily walks, I enjoy ballroom dancing, Jazzercise, swimming and an occasional bike ride.  I wear a Fitbit and accomplish 15,000 steps a day.

I’ve been a Weight Watcher leader for two and a half years and just LOVE it! I never imagined I would do this; you might as well as told me I would become an astronaut. While helping me stay at a healthy weight, I enjoy the privilege of making new friends and helping other people be their most confident and healthy selves.

Just for fun, I’ve started a Park Walking group that explores different parks in our city every two weeks. We took a summer break (Oklahoma gets real hot in the summer) but will be back on the trails in September. Along with my awesome Weight Watcher members, I’m enjoying a new healthy relationship with food for good. ”

Pam leading a Weight Watchers meeting

Pam is now a WW coach

 

 

Weight Watchers may not be the answer for everyone, but Pam’s idea of changing our relationship with food should be a part of any weight management plan.  Our eating habits affect our health in other ways, so even if you are not overweight, using food appropriately is important.

Physical activity  has health benefits beyond weight loss. I joined Pam’s walking group and find it a fun way to exercise and make new friends. (My favorite walking shoe is Go Walk by Skechers.)  In addition to social dancing with our husbands, Pam and I were in a ladies dance team. We performed a Western theme dance routine to the song “These Boots are Made for Walking” . That’s so appropriate for someone who walked her way from a BMI of 35 down to 25. If she can do it, so can you.

( This post contains affiliate product links; purchase through these links pays a commission to this blog; thank you)

 

Our son introduced my husband and I to Hello Fresh delivery meal kits and we’ve enjoyed the convenience, taste, variety, and quality. The meals feature lots of fresh vegetables with vegan  and “fit” choices. We think we are eating healthier and ever with less work. Here is a link through which you can get $40 off your first order.

HELLO FRESH OFFER 

 

Thanks for letting me introduce you to my friend Pam. We would love to hear your weight management stories. Please share in the comments or send me a message if you want it kept anonymous. Remember, support from others is an important step toward success.

Dr. Aletha