Friday, October 10, 2014
Short Takes for October
In my Sept. 28 post What Are Boomers Blogging About? fellow blogger Meryl Baer reported on her visit to the Flight #93 Memorial in Shanksville, Pa. Sadly, USA Today and several other news outlets have reported that there was a fire at the memorial on Oct. 3. The fire destroyed the flag that flew over the U. S. Capitol on 9/11, as well as a number of other artifacts. The cause of the fire is unknown, but no foul play is suspected -- it was possibly a result of some construction going on at the site.
Meanwhile, a lot of people were interested in my two posts on the subject of long-term care insurance -- as well as the more authoritative one Is Long-Term Care Insurance for You? brought to us from financial adviser Jeremy Kisner. As a follow-up, if you're interested, here's another pretty clear and thorough look at the issue of long-term care insurance from Rodney Brooks at USA Today.
I'm not saying LTC insurance is for everyone -- but just maybe it's something to put on your Bucket List.
And speaking of the Bucket List, Rebecca Mead takes a jaundiced view of the whole concept of The Bucket List in an article in The New Yorker. Her piece was prompted by President Obama's recent hour-long side trip to Stonehenge as he casually quipped that he'd "knocked it off the bucket list" -- before jetting back to Washington an hour behind his official schedule.
I myself have not made a Bucket List. And my travels have been closer to home -- to Buffalo, NY, and Cape Cod, Mass. But I'm at a loss right this moment. We have no vacation planned. None at all. And that makes me feel anxious. Aren't we retired people supposed to be traveling all the time? One problem: B is still working, which cuts into our vacation time dramatically.
And so for now we're both staying home, trying to stay warm (we dipped down to 41 degrees last night) and focusing on our health by getting our flu shots and scheduling annual physical exams.
It distressed me to learn that Medicare will pay for an annual exam -- but only with a physician's assistant, not with a doctor. If I want to see my primary care physician, I will have to pay $185. To me it's worth it. He knows my history; he knows my usual aches and pains vs. something that might be unusual, atypical or possibly serious. But I thought Medicare was supposed to focus on prevention, since prevention costs a lot less than tests and treatments and follow-up visits.
Oh well, Medicare is saving me a lot more than $185 compared to my previous medical insurance plan, so I guess I don't mind paying. Besides, Medicare did pay for my flu shot.
Finally, in case you do not want to follow Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel's advice to die at age 75, here are two health notes:
1. Artificial sweeteners make you fat. Several previous studies have suggested that artificial sweeteners can give people a "sweet tooth," making them more likely to seek out sugary foods. But a new study from Israel suggests that the artificial sweeteners might have a direct effect on the body's metabolism to make weight gain more likely.
The Israeli researchers studied the use of saccharin and aspartame in a group of mice, and they found the artificial sweeteners raised the level of blood sugar in the animals and increased their glucose intolerance -- which can in turn lead to obesity and diabetes. The researchers then gave saccharin to an admittedly small group of volunteers (only seven people) and four of them developed glucose intolerance, suggesting that the effect of artificial sweeteners shown in mice could also show up in humans. So if you want to stay thin and healthy . . . no Diet Coke for you!
2. Standing up is good for you. A group of Swedish scientists took blood samples from a group of sedentary, overweight men and women, all over age 68. The researchers measured the length of the subjects' telemeres -- the ends of DNA that typically shorten and fray with age. Half the volunteers then started a moderate exercise program, which included less time sitting down, while the other group just continued with their normal lives.
Six months later the Swedish researchers found that the telemeres of the normal group had shortened, as expected. But those of the exercise group had actually grown longer -- their telemeres had become younger. The surprise: the telemeres of the volunteers who had done the most exercise grew less than the others, and in some cases not at all.
So the most beneficial factor in lengthening the telemeres was not exercise, but simply time spent standing up. Or conversely, the less time people spent sitting down, the more their telemeres grew, and the healthier they were. The conclusion: Exercise is good. Standing up is even better.
Finally, on a happier note (I think): I saw my first Christmas ad the other day, for the holiday extravaganza at Radio City in New York. I know, the ads for Christmas seem to show up earlier and earlier every year. But Christmas is the happiest time of year, isn't it?