5 things I learned last week


Above is a picture of Betty Ford Alpine Gardens in Vail. Although Vail is mostly known for skiing, it’s equally as beautiful in the summer. We spent last week here and in/near Boulder, CO.  You may not know this, but Boulder is a “new age” destination.  If you want pot brownies you won’t have an issue finding any for purchase. It won’t be out of a trunk either, it’s sold amongst chocolate dipped oreos and candied applies. Maybe that’s why the city has won such accolades as #1 Happiest City and America’s Foodiest Town.

During my travels, I had a chance to do a lot of reading and eating, which brings me to my list of 5 things I learned last week.

1. Hope and Pancreatic Cancer – All in one sentence.

Life expectancy for people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer has not changed in decades. My grandfather’s experience in 1972 and Patrick Swayze’s in 2009 were remarkably similar.  By the time you feel sick enough to see a doctor, you are likely stage 4. That’s why I was thrilled to read there may be a blood test coming out that diagnoses this disease in it’s early stage, giving a 50-75% cure rate. To put that in perspective, the current 5 year survival rate is just 6%. The test still needs to undergo additional trials and years of further development. But, it’s promising and that’s a word that doesn’t normally go with pancreatic cancer.

Curly kale.
Curly kale.

2. Baby Kale is damn good.

It may seem completely unrelated to my first topic, but is it really? 1 cup of raw Kale packs nearly 3 grams of protein, 2.5 grams of fiber, potassium, zinc, calcium, vitamin C, A, and K, Folate, an omega-3 fatty acid, and nutrients that protects against macular degeneration and cataracts. It’s compounds have been proven to reduce the risk of many cancers, particularly colon cancer.

Before my trip to Colorado, I was only buying Curly Kale (pictured above). Even this kind can taste good if you do the following. My recipe assumes you purchased no more than a salad bag full.

  • Saute 3-4 cloves of garlic in olive oil for about 5 minutes
  • Rub the uncooked kale in additional olive oil, until lightly coated
  • Put in sauce pan and mix with prepared garlic and toss occasionally until slightly wilted.
  • Mix in pepper and salt to taste and sprinkle brown sugar (splenda brown sugar works well too) over the top.

In Vail, I had baby Kale for the first time. No cooking is required, it is served as a salad. Throw on some slivered apple slices, tomatoes, parmesan cheese and creamy balsamic vinaigrette and you will be a fan too. And, you may just live longer. I found baby kale in the prepared salad section of my local Kroger. If they have it, your store should too.

3.  The rate of schizophrenia in the general population is 1%, but your risk could be as high as 50%. 

I discovered this interesting fact while reading, “Shrinks. The Untold Story of Psychiatry”, by Jeffrey Lieberman. A genetic component to this disease was first identified in the 1960’s. If you have at least one family member with schizophrenia, your chance of developing it is 10%. If both your parents have the disease, your risk goes up to 50%. The risk does not change if you were raised by your biological parents versus adopted. Identical twins also share this same 50% risk.

Schizophrenia, bipolar depression and autism are the highest heritability among mental disorders. However, Schizophrenia is known to skip entire generations only to emerge later. And- not everyone who develops the disease has a known family history. Why? It is not the gene alone that causes the disease but also how many copies of the gene you receive. Even identical twins do not have the same number of copies of each gene. I don’t know about you, but I found this fascinating.

4.  There is a new treatment option for fibromyalgia and it’s not Lyrica. Keep reading even if you don’t think you care. Seriously, you should.

I love the fact Lyrica has made the name “Fibromyalgia” better known, but I personally felt no relief from the drug. Thankfully, there are other treatments that help, including (possibly) high-pressure oxygen chambers. The study was small, so I can’t say this is 100% the case, but it does give a lot of promise. The same researchers also state that the fibromyalgia is “the result of neuro-chemical imbalances in the brain” that cause abnormalities in pain processing.

Why should you care?

It is estimated that up to 5% of women have fibromyalgia. Chances are you know at least one person and they may need your help understanding what’s wrong with them.

Imagine feeling like you’ve been hit by a truck and a doctor saying there is nothing wrong with you. It’s an overwhelming feeling. This type of diagnosis is typical for fibromyalgia patients. There are no tests available and there is still a belief amongst some doctors, it’s not a “real” disease and is the result of emotional imbalance.  Even articles in magazines about unexplained fatigue, still forget to include fibromyalgia as a possible cause. Chronic wide-spread pain and fatigue are the most common symptoms, but there are many others. This can lead to multiple diagnoses that seem disconnected but actually are not.


5. Sharknado 2 is a watchable movie.

My 7 year old niece chose this movie to watch when we were visiting. I had low expectations, which I know was incredibly short-sided of me considering Ian Ziering (Steve from 90210) and Tara Reid were in the movie. What was interesting was all the cameos, including Kelly Osborne as a flight attendant, Jared from Subway, Kelly Rippa, Billy Ray Cyrus and dozens more. Sure, sharks gorged on many of the stars and the movie lowered my IQ a few points. But, it was  fun to watch. I can’t say the same for “Baby’s Day Out”.


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