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We're still here - let's make the most of it!

I'm going to try to remember to take my BP and pulse every day instead of once a week or so. Today it's 127/70, pulse 73. It's a good habit to have, and I need to stick to it.

I was moderate enough at last night's gala buffet not to have gained any weight today - neither fat nor water retention from too much sodium; I stuck mostly to the vegetable items on the buffet, and avoided the roast beef dripping in "au jus" which is usually salty enough for mackerel to swim in.

To do this year:
The usual "lose 10 pounds."
Remember to take BP and pulse, mentioned above.
Eat out less, at home more often. I got one of those neat "as seen on TV" vegetable choppers from my sister for Christmas; I will be making more stews and vegetable soups!
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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Micronutrients helpful for heart failure patientsec 07 (Reuters Health) - Micronutrient supplementation improves heart function and quality-of-life in elderly patients with chronic heart failure, according to a report from investigators in Germany and the UK.
"The vitamin story has been confused with studies examining the response to single vitamin supplements in relatively low-risk patients," Dr. Klaus K. A. Witte from Castle Hill Hospital, Cottingham, told Reuters Health.

On the other hand, "CHF patients are at higher risk and might have multiple deficiencies. Replacing just one micronutrient might expose deficiency elsewhere (the vitamin E and C interaction, for example), so a combination is important," Witte explained.

He and his and colleagues investigated the effects of long-term multiple micronutrient supplementation in 32 patients older than age 70 years with stable heart failure.

After an average of 295 days, the patients who had been assigned to get micronutrient supplements experienced significant improvements in cardiac pumping ability, the team reports in the European Heart Journal.

Also, patients taking micronutrients had an increase in their quality-of-life score, whereas the participants who had been given placebo supplements had a decrease in their quality-of-life score.

The differences in overall quality-of-life score were mainly due to improvements in scores for breathlessness on exertion, quality of sleep, and daytime concentration among the patients taking micronutrients.

"At present there are few supplements that include the constituents we used," Witte said. "I would generally recommend a combined multivitamin supplement along with zinc, copper, and selenium. I also feel strongly that a high dose Coenzyme-Q10 is important. Most currently available supplements do not have enough Co-Q10."

SOURCE: European Heart Journal, November 2005.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Top Ten List: Ten Reasons Why CHF is Not the Worst Thing That Could Happen

10. No chemotherapy, radiation, dialysis, or daily injections.
9. You get to use handicapped parking spaces at the mall.
8. Perfect excuse for getting out of parties you'd rather not go to in the first place.
7. Lots of chances to lecture people endlessly when they say "you don't LOOK disabled"
6. ICD support groups serve free dinner at quarterly meetings.
5. Get to take part in medical studies and maybe even get paid for them.
4. Take naps in mid-afternoon even if you're under 65.
3. Improve your on-line research skills hunting for low-sodium products.
2. Takes your mind off worrying about getting Alzheimer's when you get old.
And the number one reason why CHF INTWTTCH:
1. Cardiologists' waiting rooms have such great magazines!

It's the beginning of the holiday season! That means, for many people, FOOD.
And all those parties. Snacks and alcohol - what do we do about them?

First off, if you want to be sure there's something at a party that you can eat, bring something yourself; a bowl of my fruit salad with ginger dressing will work nicely. I can't seem to find the old post from a couple of years ago where I put this, so I'll re-print it below.

Eggnog is pretty much off limits. High in fat, higher in sodium than you'd think for a sweet beverage, and often has alcohol in it. A little alcohol will not hurt you, but eggnog can pack a surprising amount in it, with all the sugar disguising the alcohol content. So just say no to eggnog. You'll see "lite" varieties in the supermarket; these are lower in fat and cholesterol, but not any lower in sodium, and they tend to taste like vaguely rum-flavored thin milkshakes - worse, if they have artificial sweeteners in them. So they're not worth bothering with.

If you want to have a festive beverage that's very holidayish, consider mulled apple cider - there are thousands of recipes out there on the web. One way to make the making of mulled cider easier: instead of using cheesecloth balls to hold the spices (who even owns cheesecloth any more? How many of us would know where to find any if we wanted some? [The answer to that is: fabric stores.]}, use wire mesh tea balls. A large tea ball will hold the spices and brown sugar and allow the brown sugar to dissolve out into the cider just as cheesecloth would. And it's then washable and re-usable for your pot of tea.

Other beverages include sparkling cider - Martinelli's makes a non-alcoholic sparkling apple cider, as well as apple-cranberry and a couple other varieties. A chilled bottle or two of this with a festive bow is as welcome a hostess gift as wine, and drinkable by all. I served sparkling cider with Thanksgiving dinner, and everyone enjoyed it; we never even got around to opening the wine.

And then there's tea. Chai tea is a rich, spicy tea. It can be served sweetened or un; with milk or without. And there's decaf versions, if you are supposed to limit your caffeine intake. I also served chai at Thanksgiving - I made a huge pot of decaf chai, we sweetened it with Splenda, and drank it with dessert and afterward. One of my sisters-in-law is pregnant, so she really appreciated the non-alcoholic options. You can find decaf chais in various supermarket brands, such as Celestial Seasonings, or some good whole-leaf chais from on-line vendors, such as Plymouth Tea.

Finally, alcohol itself: a teeny tiny bit will not hurt most of us. I take 9 pills a day, including 5 that say on the label not to drink any alcohol. I have discovered, though, that I can handle 1/4 of a serving of alcohol without any ill effects. So I can allow myself a couple of gulps of beer or hard cider, or the bottom of a wine glass of white wine or champagne, or a bottle-cap-ful of Bailey's or other liquer poured over ice cream or into hot cocoa. I don't do it that often, but I can do it. Check with your doctor, and see if he or she goes into screaming fits at the idea, or instead says "yeah, you can have a sip of that as long as you don't drink a whole glass." Once you have that permission, though, don't overdo it!!

Festive Fruit Salad
suitable for bringing to parties or serving to company
1 banana
1 box of strawberries (more is OK- if you want to get a quart box instead of a pint box, that's fine)
1 large (quart) container of cubes of melon - most supermarkets have these, cubed honeydew and cantaloupe, sometimes watermelon too
1 can mandarin orange slices in juice
1 can pineapple chunks in juice
2 kiwi fruits (melon and kiwi are even higher in potassium than bananas!!)
several pieces of candied ginger

Use a bowl with a liquid-tight lid, such as Tupperware, to make this salad in.

1. Open the 2 cans and drain the juices into a separate bowl. Put the fruit in the bowl you're making the salad in.
2. Dice up the candied ginger into teeny pieces. Put it in the juices to steep. You can add a little bit of sugar to this if you want, but not too much!
3. Chop the banana into bite-sized chunks. Halve the strawberries. Cut the melon cubes, which are usually pretty large, into bite-size chunks. Put them in the salad bowl, and toss a couple of teaspoons of the fruit juice with them to keep everything fresh - the vitamin C (ascorbic acid) in the juice will do that.
4. Peel one kiwi, slice it in half, and then slice into thin slices to toss with the rest of the fruit. (You'll use the other kiwi at the end.)
5. Pour the rest of the fruit juice/ginger mix over the tossed fruit, and stir thoroughly. Cover, stick in the refrigerator, and let sit for at least 2 hours, and preferably more. At least once, more often if you think about it, tip the bowl around to stir up the ginger-juice so the fruit at the top gets to marinate in it.
6. Just before serving or setting off to the party, peel the other kiwi fruit and cut into thin circles. Toss the salad one last time, then place these kiwi circles decoratively on top - arrange them in a pattern, or cut snowflake shapes out of them first, or something decorative. Cover the bowl again until the minute you're ready to serve it or to put it on the buffet table at the party you're attending.


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