Why the Western diet is killing us and 10 ways to stop it

Fed up with all the mixed messages about what to eat? If so, you’ll appreciate this solid advice from a doctor who’s passionate about dishing out advice on eating right. Don’t make changes to your diet based on some “cockamamie Internet meme,” Dr. Michael Fenster warns. “The biggest threat to the US isn’t some foreign power; it is the Standard American Diet.”

It’s rare to come across a doctor who wants to spend less time cutting into bodies and more time cutting up food, but that’s exactly what this cardiologist and culinary chef wants to do. “There are a number of medical professionals and people in health-related fields who know a lot about their respective specialties but know nothing about food,” Dr. Mike says. “A number of them can’t boil water.”


Dr. Mike on his “Cookin’ With Doc” show.

Stay away from advice from “fadsters” and “celebrity super-star spokespeople,” Dr. Mike warns. “These programs put you on the hook paying out a lot of your hard-earned money each month for some processed, powdered, and wretched-tasting slop out of a box.”

Dr. Mike is one of the few brave doctors willing to give us a shout out about how the modern Western diet is killing us and what we can do to stop it. This book is stock full of evidence to back up his recommendations on what to eat and what not to eat. But then again, how much more evidence do we really need to figure out that the modern Western diet and all-you-can-eat buffets are connected to the disabilities and diseases of modern civilization? It’s ironic that we’ve become so accustomed to shopping in grocery stores stocked with packages that we need to produce evidence to show that real food doesn’t come in a box.

The eating “program” Dr. Mike prescribes is a tasty and nutritious solution that anyone can adhere to. He recommends adding more fresh juice, organic fruits and vegetables, probiotics, prebiotics and spice to our diet while subtracting modern wheat, high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners. “No junk food or fast food,” this doc advises. This savory book is peppered with great tips and jammed with sweet suggestions. I’ve already gone back to read several of the sections a number of times. Each time through I pick up on a new flavor or scent.

CLICK ON IMAGE to buy The Fallacy of the Calorie

Sick and tired from the Western diet? Dr. Mike offers a delicious and nutritious 10-step solution to foodies who battle the bulge:

Step 1A: Begin with a juice detox for 3 days.

Juice is nature’s energy drink. If possible, buy seasonal produce from a farmers market or local organic market. Use a variety of colors of fruits and vegetables such as: carrots, apples, celery, beets, cabbage, ginger, oranges, limes, lemons, berries and leafy greens. Find a juicer that works well for you, preferably one that extracts the pulp. If you work full-time, he recommends starting the detox on a Friday and ending on a Sunday.

Step 1B: Chase the rainbow.

Eat lots of dark leafy greens such as: kale, spinach, broccoli, bok choy, watercress, mustard and other greens. They’re rich in vitamins A, C, E, and K. They also provide a good source of B-complex vitamins. Add a rainbow of different colored fruits and vegetables. This helps to maintain healthy gut microbiome.

Step 2: Incorporate probiotics into your diet.

“What you eat combines with your gut microbiota to fuel your personal bioreactor. This bioreactor aids your digestion, provides nutrients, and not only helps for the basis of the immune system, but helps regulate it,” says Dr. Mike. “The key here is to repopulate your gut microbiome with the right balance.” Check out his book for more details on which probiotics might work best for you.

Step 3: Feed the probiotics.

“It does no good to keep taking probiotics if you don’t feed them,” says Dr. Mike. “Naturally occuring synbiotic combinations such as bananas with live-culture yogurt, or vegetables stir-fried with miso, cost less than supplements and have the added benefit of being delicious.” Prebiotics are found in many foods such as: bananas, honey, garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, artichokes, soybeans, chicory, dandelion greens and burdock. Eat at least 2-4 servings of prebiotic-rich foods a day.


Step 4: Give up modern wheat.

“Modern wheat will kill you,” says Dr. Mike. “But you don’t have to be gluten-free, just be free of modern wheat. Avoid prepackaged breads, cookies, cakes and other modern wheat-containing foods and snacks.”

Beans and lentils provide a good source of flavorful starches. Corn, oats, barley, quinoa, buckwheat and kaniwa are all good non-wheat options. If you buy pasta from Italy, you can be sure it’s made from the ancient grain, semolina durum wheat.

CLICK ON IMAGE to buy Eating Well, Living Better: A Grassroots Gourmet Guide to Good Health and Great food

Step 5: Use sugar sparingly.

Use raw forms of sugar and honey whenever possible. Don’t eat anything with high fructose corn syrup or anything that contains it. Don’t ever eat or drink anything with artificial sweeteners.

Steps 6-8: Become a Grassroots Gourmet.

Avoid the call of junk food. It’s addictive. Don’t go to fast food joints, pizza shops or convenience stores. “After 30 days of eating the Grassroots Gourmet way, you’ll likely find that eating there will make you ill,” says Dr. Mike. “When you’re shopping try to avoid putting the processed, prepackaged, pre-prepared, and artificially preserved items in your cart.” Buy from your local farmers market and cook from scratch. Eat at home as often as possible.

Begin your meals with a small salad or appetizer and wait about 15 minutes before you eat the main course. If you want to have dessert, wait at least 15-20 minutes after you finish your main dish. These are just some of the core principles of becoming a Grassroots Gourmet. These principles are covered much more extensively in Eating Well, Living Better: A Grassroots Gourmet Guide to Good Health and Great Food.

Step 9: Make a conscious effort to evaluate the quality of the food you eat.

Because chicken is no longer just chicken, and a burger is no longer just a burger, and bread is not even just bread, examination of where the food was sourced, how it was produced and the degree of processing must now become our normal procedure.” says Dr Mike. Food safety is not equivalent to a healthful diet.

Step 10: Spice up your life.

Herbs and spices restore taste and texture to food. “An herb refers to the fresh or dried leaves of a plant. Spices are generally regarded as the flowers, buds, seeds, bark or roots of plants.” says Dr. Mike. When food pleases us, we savor it. When you put this vitality back into foods, it helps you break the addictive and manipulative commercial use of sugar, salt and fat.

Garlic, onion, allspice and oregano inhibit or kill bacterium. Using them in combination yields even greater efficacy. The piperine found in black pepper is effective against botulism. Turmeric has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory powers. Circumin has been shown to inhibit the growth of skin cancers. Hot chili peppers are rich in vitamin C and contain antimicrobial and antiviral properties.

Sick and tired of dieting? CLICK ON IMAGE to gain the mental power to achieve your fitness goals. This is how you can begin living the life you've always wanted to live.

Sick and tired of dieting? CLICK ON THIS IMAGE to learn how you can gain the mental power you need to achieve your fitness goals. You can begin living the life you’ve always wanted to live.

Looking for a way to entice someone to read this book? Breakfast in bed might be desirable, but Dr. Fenster offers up an aphrodisiac for dessert near the end of the book. He hints at exotic ways to spice up your afternoon or evening in bed.

Dr. Mike has weighed his options. He’s stepping outside the operating room to tell us how we can avoid the scalpel. It’s time to share your reservations. Would you like to meet your doctor for supper or surgery?

Dr. Mike affirms the slow foods movement. Be patient. I have a gut feeling this doc is going to help tens of thousands of people live happier and healthier lives.

Dr. Michael Fenster during a Health & Wellness Channel filming

Dr. Michael Fenster during a Health & Wellness Channel filming


Michael Fenster, MD, is a Board Certified Interventional Cardiologist. He has taught students, interns, residents and fellows. He has also served as an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the North East Ohio Medical University. In addition to addressing audiences from the lay public, he also speaks to peers at the American Heart Association, the American College of Cardiology and elsewhere.


Dr. Michael Fenster

Dr. Mike co-managed an award-winning restaurant. He received his culinary degree in gourmet cooking and catering from Ashworth College where he graduated with honors. He was their alumni of the year in 2013.

He has written columns for numerous culinary magazines, websites, The Tampa Tribune and is a monthly contributor for Luxuria Lifestyle.

He is a medical and culinary consultant and regular guest speaker on the Josh Tolley Show, a nationally syndicated radio program. He is also a regular on the One Life Radio.

He has been a regular on The Daily Buzz show as well as Daytime TV, entertaining and informing during cooking segments. He has hosted his own local cable TV cooking show, “What’s Cookin’ with Doc.” He also co-hosted “Cooking From the Heart,” with Fitness Hall of Fame Instructor Forbes Riley. He also headlined the Annual Florida Blueberry Festival where five live shows, “Just What the Doctor Ordered-Live from the Florida Blueberry Festival.” This was simulcast worldwide via web by the Health & Wellness Channel.

To book Dr. Mike at your next event, contact his agent Kristin Haggar.

Read the label before you buy organic pet food

Are you the type of person who walks to the farmers market to buy organic tomatoes and other veggies from a local farmer? Just as you’re concerned about what goes into your own body, you need to be equally concerned about what your furry friends are ingesting.


Imagine that you were planning to install an electronic dog fence and wanted to know your four-legged friend would be safe in your absence. Wouldn’t you read invisible dog fence reviews before buying and installing it? Why not do the same for pet food which can affect the health of your best friend?

CartoonDogEatingMagnetsYou may be nodding thinking, I buy top of the line organic pet food. In fact, it even has organic in the name. But this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s natural.

As a good pet parent, you want to make sure you don’t have any poisonous plants in the home. It’s equally important to evaluating the ingredients in pet food. As a smart consumer, you have to read the ingredients on the label. Things to watch out for specifically include:

  • names of unrecognizable products
  • anything listed as a byproduct
  • chemical names that are not typically in food
  • inorganic flavoring or dyes

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) regulates the ingredients in pet food distributed in the US. AAFCO allows ‘organic’ food to contain additives or processing aids that are part of the manufacturing process, as long as these substances are unavoidable. These substance amounts aren’t defined or strongly regulated. This is a problem for those who feel organic pet food should be totally organic.

Another thing to consider is that many of the products that end up in pet food are shipped in from other countries. Though these countries may say the food is organic, it’s not as strongly regulated as food for human consumption. There’s no guarantee that the ingredients noted as organic are truly organic if they’re from an unregulated country. It’s unfortunate that the regulations on pet foods are not as stringent as for human food, but this is the sad fact.


Although this shouldn’t stop you from buying organic food for your furry friends, you just need to be wary of the ingredients and the company standing behind the product. Choosing pet food is not as simple as choosing an electronic dog fence. If you become an avid label reader and put in a little research time, you may help your pet live a longer and healthier life.

How to stop a dog from begging at the table

Your pet doesn’t get to choose what they eat each day, nor are they able to read labels. Do your pet a favor and find the best so that they may stick around for many years to come.




Acupuncture helps man with ankle pain to avoid 3rd surgery

A man limped into Dr. Lily Wu’s office with a history of two prior ankle surgeries . . .

“When he came to see me the first time, he told me he had two prior surgeries on his left ankle. He had metal screws in his ankle. He was feeling good for a couple of years, but the pain came back,” Dr. Wu said. “Eventually, he was in pain again every day. The pain was affecting his daily life so much that he was considering a third surgery. He said he only noticed when he wasn’t hurting because he was in pain most of the time.”


“After the first acupuncture treatment, he was able to go dancing that same night without being bothered much at all by the pain. The next time he came to see me, he was so excited with how much the treatment helped him,” Dr. Wu said.

“In about 6 treatments, he only noticed when he did have pain. This was the opposite of how he felt before he started treatment when he was in pain most of the time. After about 10 treatments, he went on a long bike ride and had no ankle pain,” Dr. Wu said.

This 53-year old man had an active lifestyle. After he started the treatments, he remained active in all kinds of sports such as skiing, hiking, playing basketball, beach volleyball, soccer, and more.

“He was typically coming in weekly unless he was out of town,” Dr. Wu said. “He was totally recovered after about 30 treatments over a period of 8 months.”

“During this time I also treated him for back pain. He used to have back spasms, but after a number of treatments, the back pain stopped as well,” she said.

Dr. Lily Wu

Dr. Lily Wu


Dr. Wu earned her Doctorate of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. She’s a licensed acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist. She is on the Palo Alto Medical Foundation doctors’ referral list of qualified acupuncturists.

She practices in San Jose, CA. For more information, visit her website at Lily Wu Acupuncture. She is fluent in both English and Mandarin Chinese.


Chinese Medicine doctor halts man’s chronic stomach problems 

7 Tips on drugs from a personal medication consultant

Are you busy taking care of your elderly parents? You may not understand everything that’s going on with their medications and the potential errors that might be happening. Do you want to help keep your parents as healthy as possible, but you feel confused with all the information and don’t have enough time or expertise to find all the answers?


More than half of Americans 65 and older take five or more prescription medications at any given time APhA. If you, or someone you know, is taking multiple prescriptions, you’ll want to read on. Getting advice from a personal medication consultant could help you reduce your risk of adverse drug interactions or possibly even save your life!

Dr. Carrie Fu is a personal medication consultant who has a passion for senior medication wellness and healthcare management.

“I help people set goals to manage their health and embrace life without being dependent on drugs. I also help people avoid risks that result from medication errors and oversights.” Dr. Fu said.

Here are some general guidelines from Dr. Fu:

1. Stick with one pharmacy.

This way, all your drug information is based in one place. When you go to multiple drug stores, they don’t have your complete medication history so they can’t check for drug interactions.

2. Keep a list of all your medications.

Each person should have a personalized medication list, not only their current medication, but also their past meds. You can type up a document or just write it down. You should give your medication list to all your providers, including your pharmacist, dentist, acupuncturist, primary care physician, or anyone who is providing your health care. Dr. Fu recommends that you check the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists website for an online form to record your medicine list.


3. Get a consultation every time you pick up a prescription.

Ask for a pharmacist consultation before you take your prescription. Find out how to best take it. It’s always a good idea to ask the pharmacist if there’s anything in particular you need to watch out for.

  • Are there any side effects?
  • How long do I need to take this?
  • Should I take it with or without food?

4. Take into consideration over-the-counter drugs and vitamins.

A lot of people don’t realize that vitamins are like medicine. If you take too many vitamins you could get a kidney stone, for example. Or if you’re taking a thyroid medication you need to know that you shouldn’t take calcium supplements within four hours.

5. Don’t abruptly stop medications for chronic conditions.

If you want to taper off or discontinue your medication, it’s critical that you consult with your doctor, pharmacist or a specialist. If you abruptly stop taking your blood pressure medication, for example, you increase your risk of having a stroke.

6. Have one medical professional who has access to all your medication history.

Medication errors can happen when a patient moves from one location to another. Problems often arise when patients change care between a hospital and a retirement home.

7. Know your rights, resources and benefits.

It’s important to get more involved with your own healthcare. You can start by going to AHRQ for suggestions on how to ask questions and talk to your clinicians. It’s also important to understand your drug prescription benefits under Medicare Part D.

Dr. Carrie Fu

Dr. Carrie Fu

Dr. Carrie Fu is a consulting pharmacist who specializes in personal medicine and Medication Therapy Management (MTM). As a medication consultant, she helps her clients understand their medication and feel well.

Even if you have a chronic condition, you can still be well. She helps people to be as healthy as possible from a medication perspective. She wants to help her patients be in the best health by taking the least amount of medications. Whether you have diabetes, high blood pressure or another chronic condition, Dr. Fu can help improve your medication regimen.

Health is your #1 asset. She helps people to embrace life without being dependent on medications. There’s no magic bullet, but there are always options. She’s a health coach who focuses not on your illness, but on creating more wellness in your life. She is also on the provider panel at Doctor Quickly. To set up your own personalized medication consultation, contact Dr. Carrie Fu.

Chinese Medicine doctor halts man’s chronic stomach problems

Dr. Lily Wu met a young man at a store when she was returning a purse that she had purchased. When he noticed on her account that she was a doctor, he asked what kind of doctor she was.

After she told him that she was a Chinese Medicine doctor, he proceeded to tell her about his severe stomach problems that he had been having for the past five years. He had no appetite and didn’t want to eat at all.

“Can you help me?” he asked. “I’ve tried everything, but nothing worked. But I haven’t tried Chinese medicine.”

“What are your symptoms?” she asked.

He told her that he woke up every morning feeling nauseous. He had no appetite and couldn’t eat breakfast. Sometimes he couldn’t even drink water because he felt like his stomach was closed up. His also mentioned that his mother had similar chronic stomach problems.


He was about 5’10 and only 140 pounds. He usually couldn’t eat until around lunch time when he felt he had to force himself to eat even though he didn’t feel like it. Sometimes at lunch he would eat and then have stomach pain afterward.

Because he was a 23-year old business student, his digestive issues also had a negative affect on his social life. He couldn’t go out to eat with friends. And he couldn’t take vacations because his symptoms would get worse.

Dr. Wu told him to come to her clinic. There, they talked more. She diagnosed that it was a liver and spleen energy imbalance issue. After diagnosis, she gave him a treatment and prescribed an herbal supplement for him to take.

In the first week he didn’t have any improvement because he had a hard time swallowing the pills. He didn’t take the full dose as she recommended. But after about 10 days he started feeling some improvement. He woke up with an appetite and wanted to eat. He used to have constipation and night sweats, but now he doesn’t.

Before he saw her he had been to many doctors and he also tried meditation. But nothing worked.

“You saved my life!” he told her.

“It makes me feel so good when I can help my patients like this,” Dr. Wu said. “When people have chronic conditions like this, the symptoms can go back and forth. It’s important to know how to take good care of your stomach.”

All you can eat 3.ai

The main causes of stomach aches are poor eating habits and stress. Here are some tips from Dr. Wu on how to avoid stomach issues:

Dr. Lily Wu

Dr. Lily Wu

  • Eat warm foods. Ice cold drinks and foods put extra stress on the stomach.
  • Drink plenty of water (warm water is best). Sometimes when the body is dehydrated, people mistake it for hunger and end up overeating.
  • Eat smaller meals more frequently.
  • Avoid overly sweet, salty, oily or spicy foods.
  • Stop eating when you feel about 70% full.
  • Wait 30-60 minutes after meals before doing any strenuous exercise. It is helpful, however, to take a walk after a meal.
  • Don’t eat about two or three hours prior to going to bed.

Dr. Wu earned her Doctorate of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine from the University of East-West Medicine. She’s a licensed acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist. She is on the Palo Alto Medical Foundation doctors’ referral list of qualified acupuncturists.

She practices in San Jose, CA. For more information, visit her website at Lily Wu Acupuncture. She is fluent in both English and Mandarin Chinese.

Acupuncture helps man with ankle pain to avoid 3rd surgery

How to find a trustworthy doctor for a dental implant

Your smile is one of your greatest personal assets. If you’re looking for a way to replace missing teeth and restore your beautiful smile, implants are a terrific solution. Regardless of which tooth (or teeth) you lost, implants can be a great way to create natural-looking replacements that are customized to you.

Vietnam granny with the playful spirit of a child. Photography by Heward Jue

Vietnam granny with the playful spirit of a child. Photography by Heward Jue

The most important step in getting a dental implant is finding a doctor who’s right for you. It’s equally important that you find a doctor who will help you understand the process and what to expect along the way. Dr. Wen Fan, an oral surgeon practicing in Silicon Valley, provides answers to some of the most frequently asked questions on dental implants:

Who do I go to?

Dental implants typically involve two doctors: your general dentist and an oral surgeon. The surgeon removes the non-restorable tooth (if necessary) and places the dental implant. Your general dentist places the dental crown on the dental implant to make sure it has appropriate esthetic form and function.

The best way to find a surgeon is to have your dentist recommend a Board Certified Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon or find one through the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons.

How long does it take?

Typically, the oral surgeon will first remove the bad tooth and and place a bone graft. The bone graft helps to strengthen the area so that your dental implant will be secure. The average bone healing time is about 3-6 months. After the bone has healed, a the oral surgeon can do the dental implant. The newly placed dental implant will need 3-6 months to integrate or “fuse” to the bone. Once this is complete, you go back to your general dentist for the crown.

Can I get a “tooth in a day?”

In some cases, dental implants can be placed at the same time as removing the bad tooth. This is considered an “immediate” implant. For front teeth that affect your smile, temporary crowns can sometimes also be immediately attached to the dental implant as well. This technique works very well in the right situations. This type of temporary crown is short-lived and needs to be replaced with a permanent crown once the implant has integrated. Be aware that this technique should only be used in very specific situations.

DensitsHeliumCartoonIs it painful?

Most people have some mild soreness for a few days after the tooth is pulled, but most surgeons prescribe some pain medications to help ease the discomfort.

Surprisingly, most people have less discomfort after the dental implant placement than their initial extraction. Most patients will have some mild soreness for 1-2 days that is relieved with over the counter pain medications such as ibuprofen.

How long do dental implants last?

Everyone’s biology is different so there is not guarantee on the longevity of dental implants, but many believe that a healthy dental implant will last a lifetime. Since our current form of dental implants was not introduced until the early 1980’s, there really isn’t enough data to make a blanket statement that implants last a lifetime. A lifetime can be 20 more years for some, but 50 or more years for others. We do have good data that shows healthy implants can last 20-30 years, but will they last longer? Probably, but we just don’t have good long term studies yet.

What should I watch out for?

If you feel that the doctor is pressuring you to get an implant . . . be wary. Successful, established and experienced surgeons love providing their patients with dental implant care, but never pressure them. Choose a doctor who takes the time to educate you and allow you to make an informed decision. Make sure you find surgeon who’s willing to take the time to communicate and allow you to digest the information.

Be wary of dentists (non-surgeons) who claim to have “implant certificates” or “special training” in implants. These “implant training certificates” or special implant training are not recognized by the American Dental Association, and often times consist of a few weekend classes that practice on an animal jaws in a classroom.  Your best bet is to seek out a Board Certified Surgeon.

Be wary of any doctor who tells you that implants are free of complications or that they have not personally had complications. Any surgeon that works with implants routinely will have complications. Granted the complications may not be significant, but they do happen from time to time.

Be aware of discount pricing that’s routinely advertised. Practitioners who offer discount prices may be using knock-off or generic implants. These lesser brands have issues with quality control and long term stability. Find out if the surgeon is using a reputable implant system. The three most popular and reputable implants are: Nobel Biocare, Straumann and BIOMET 3i.

Dental implants are an investment in both your health and appearance. If you don’t feel quite right or comfortable with your surgeon for any reason, get a second opinion. Not all patient-doctor relationships are a good fit, so there is no need to force it. Before making your final decision, you may also want to check for reviews on Yelp or other sites specifically designed for doctor reviews.

Why we need to do doctor reviews on our last doctor visits

A patient sat in a dental chair with a broken front tooth. After discussing the restoration procedure, the patient said, “Before we begin Doc, I gotta know if I’ll be able to play the trumpet when you’re finished?”
“Of course you will,” the dentist said.

“Great! I couldn’t play a note before.” Dental India

Wen S. Fan, DMD, MD

Wen S. Fan, DMD, MD

Dr. Wen Fan obtained his DMD from Harvard School of Dental Medicine and his MD from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. He has special interest and expertise in the field of dental implant surgery, orthognathic/corrective jaw surgery and pathology. He practices in both San Jose and Cupertino, CA. He’s fluent in both English and Mandarin Chinese. He’s also a diplomate on the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.



When’s the last time you did a check up on your dentist? 



9 Ergonomic tips from a Silicon Valley chiropractor

My neck and right shoulder were really bothering me, especially on days when I spent a lot of time on my computer. That’s when I finally decided to seek professional help and get an ergonomic assessment from Dr. Jackie Casab.

“What kind of computer do you use?” she asked.

“A Mac,” I said. “I often work remotely using my laptop.”

“Apple products are all about style and looking pretty. They have nothing to do with ergonomic correctness at all,” she told me. “When you’re looking at products, don’t pay attention to the brand name. Pay attention to what will work best for your health, especially if you’re working on a computer every day.”

monkey man evolution

monkey man evolution

“Many products are interchangeable these days. Just because you use a Mac doesn’t mean you need to use their mouse or keyboard,” she said. Then she continued on with a number of suggestions on how to improve work posture. Here are the ergonomic tips she recommends for anyone who feels achy or stressed after working on a computer all day:

1. Trash your stylish mouse.

Put the palms of your hands flat on your keyboard. This is called pronation. It’s an unnatural position for your hands and wrists. Now put your palms together. This is a natural position for your hands. It should feel better.

Are you attached to your mouse much of the day? If so, use a mouse that requires as little pronation as possible. Pronation causes irritation to all your wrist and arm muscles.

It can be especially irritating if you rest your wrist on your computer or desktop. Your chances of causing carpal tunnel syndrome, radial tunnel syndrome, extensor tendonitis or rotator cuff tendonitis are all increased. If you mouse a lot, trade your stylish mouse in for one that’s more ergonomic.

2. Make sure your arms are as close to your side as possible.

When you hold your arms out too far, you put stress on your rotator cuffs. This is most likely to happen with your dominant mousing arm.

Holding your arms out can cause shoulder irritation, pain and disfunction. Eventually it will cause numbness and tingling into the fingers. It can also bring on carpal tunnel-like symptoms. To avoid this, try one or all of the following:

  • Use a keyboard without a 10-key pad on the right side of the keyboard.
  • Alternate your mouse back and forth equally between your dominant and non-dominant hand. Only about 1 in 100 people are ambidextrous. If you’re one of them, this solution may work well, but if not, just realize there can be a learning curve involved.
  • Add a Humanscale keyboard with a clip mouse to your desktop so that you can adjust your keyboard and mouse for custom support and comfort.

3. Relax the angle of your elbows.

Keep the angle of your elbows between 100-120 degrees. If you don’t, you’ll constrict nerves causing increased muscle tightness and irritation which leads to symptoms such as muscle ache or elbow pain that may be construed as carpal tunnel.


How not to sit when working at a computer. See how the angles formed by the joints in her arms, legs and hips are too small.

 4. Sit straight with your shoulders rolled back and down.

When you lean toward your computer, you automatically hunch your back. This increases the tension and irritation in your shoulders.

When your shoulders roll forward, you’re automatically raising them. This tightens the muscles along the tops of the shoulders and increases symptoms such as lower neck pain, fatigue, headaches, and other common stress symptoms.

Next time you feel stressed at your desk, lean back and relax your shoulders. It will go a long way in helping to reduce the tension in your body.

5. Relax the angles of your lower body.

Have a slight downward angle in your seat so that your hips form an angle that’s greater than 90 degrees. Let your feet sit flat on a surface below your chair. Your knees should be at an angle of 90-100 degrees.

Your knees work the same as your elbows. If you close the angle too much, it causes constriction of your nerves and blood flow. This can lead to decreased blood flow throughout your lower limbs which may make you feel cold. It can also cause muscle tightness or cramping.

hold your head up high when working at your computer

6. Hold your head up and back.

Dropping your head angle more than 30 degrees is considered excessive flexion of the neck. This increases the tension across the top of your shoulder and in the muscles in the back of your skull.

It also greatly increases your chance of sprain, strain, fatigue, and the likelihood of getting tension headaches.

7. Make sure your eyes land in the upper third of your screen.

“Laptops are never ergonomic,” Dr. Jackie says. “You can’t possibly have your screen and keyboard in the right place at the same time when using a laptop.”

Make sure your main screen is sitting high enough so that when you’re looking straight out, you’re looking at the upper third of the screen. This works easiest if you have a second screen at your desktop or a detached keyboard.

If your desktop is high, use a keyboard on your lap. Choose a tent keyboard or one with a bit of an ergonomic wave, such as the Microsoft natural ergonomic keyboard.

8. Use the 20-20-20 rule.

Look 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes when working on a computer. One of the reasons people have sight problems is that their eyes get fatigued from staring at screens too long.

When you look at least 20 feet away it allows your eye muscles to completely relax. This decreases your amount of eye fatigue and your chances of vision degeneration. Set a timer to help you remember to do this every 20 minutes or download a 20-20-20 app.

But what if you work in an office with no window? Plan reasons to get up: take a bathroom break, walk to lunch, take a water break, walk while you’re taking a phone call, schedule meetings outside your office. Keep your eyes and your body active throughout your workday.

9. Get up and move at least once an hour.

If you sit too long, the ligaments in your back and spine start to stretch. They’re like rubber bands. Over time, they can’t recoil as easily. This can cause instability and lower back pain. A lot of people resort to pain medications, anti-inflammatories, or muscle relaxants that mask the symptoms. But because these drugs don’t solve the problem, their physical condition continues to go downhill. Get up every hour to do some stretches, even if you work in a cubicle.

10 Tips from a Silicon Valley author in love with hiking

If you’re concerned about the cost of purchasing products to support good ergonomics, be sure to ask your employer. In many cases, companies will pay for these tools. In the long run, they’ll have more satisfied employees with fewer sick days. For more information on employer responsibilities and worker rights on ergonomics, see the OSHA guidelines for prevention of musculoskeletal disorders in the workplace.


Dr. Jackie Casab of Casab Sports & Wellness Chiropractic

“Keep in mind that you can’t put a price on your long-term health,” says Dr. Jackie. ” If you ignore your body and its symptoms, your aches and pains will only get worse.”

You don’t need to change everything at once. It takes time to adjust to new habits. There’s a bit of a physical learning curve. It’s better to make small adjustments over time until you reach a point of feeling comfortable at the end of each workday.

After the initial adjustment with Dr. Jackie, I felt a lot of relief in my neck and back. In the following days, I also began to incorporate her recommendations in my home office and I started feeling immediate benefits.

“Be proactive and health will follow,” Dr. Jackie says.

After years of unexplained spasms and back pain, chiropractics gave Dr. Jackie relief she hadn’t felt in years. And it all happened practically overnight! Her personal experience, along with the amazing benefits that chiropractics had on her horses prompted her to pursue a career as a chiropractor. She earned her Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.


Dr. Jackie Casab

“That sense of how amazing the world can be when things are working correctly in our bodies is what I want to return to all my patients,” says Dr. Jackie.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of stress and overall tension at the end of each workday, call or text Dr. Jackie Casab at 408-372-8469 for an adjustment and personal ergonomic assessment at Casab Sports & Wellness Chiropractic.


“In addition to these tips, there are many other solutions to consider such as: foot rests, document holders, chair ergonomics, desktop height, rounded edges on desks and more,” says Dr. Jackie.


Dreaming of ways to minimize your allergy symptoms?

If you have sleep issues caused by allergies, it’s a good idea to look for solutions before your minor symptoms snowball into bigger health issues. Getting a good night’s sleep is one of the best ways you can strengthen your immune system and combat allergies symptoms such as: sneezing, coughing,  snoring, dry mouth, itchy eyes, runny nose or difficulty breathing.

Sleepy Woman

After having a bad “allergic” reaction to Tempur-Pedic memory foam mattress topper, I decided to consult with an expert on ideas for how to make our bedroom a better place to sleep. In case you or someone you care about is sleeping on a Tempur-Pedic product, be sure to check out this post:

WAKE UP and read the label on your mattress

After I got rid of the memory foam mattress topper, I called Kirsten Flynn of Sustainable Home to ask her to do a checkup on the rest of our bedroom. Before she came to our home she sent me some terrific advice about mattresses. Check out her answer to the following question:

I’m shopping for a new mattress, preferably natural/organic if it’s affordable. Any advice?

Although we had already gotten rid of the Tempur-Pedic about a month or two earlier and our symptoms had drastically improved, I had a gut-feeling that our Gateway Mattress and box springs may need to go as well. It was simply based on some of the symptoms my husband and I experienced since the time we got the bed.

So when Kirsten sent some information about organic mattresses (ones that have not been sprayed with flame retardants), I immediately started searching for a new bed and we even purchased one from The Futon Shop before she came to do the consultation on the rest of the bedroom.

When Kirsten got to our home, she asked a number of questions to understand our lifestyle and what might work best for us. After doing a walk-through, she concluded that the main thing we needed to do was to minimize the accumulation of dust in our bedroom.

We live in a city and we like to keep good air flow through the apartment. She mentioned that this allows a lot of the outdoor air to enter our sleeping space. Although I didn’t think of it as an issue previously, as soon as she mentioned it, I suddenly saw dust everywhere.

Not only is there a lot of dust from the road outside, it’s exponentially worse on the days when the landscapers come through and use their blowers to clear away leaves and other debris. Kirsten mentioned that they cause even more pollution when they use gas-powered blowers rather than electric. The gas powered blowers put out exhaust causing even more harm to the environment, and especially to the operators.

Here are a few tips that Kirsten suggested to help reduce the dust in our bedroom and to minimize some of the allergic reactions my husband and I were experiencing:

Wash bed linens and other textiles regularly

You’re probably already familiar with the benefits of washing your bed sheets regularly. It helps to minimize the risk of bed bugs as well as any allergic reaction you may have to the dust and particles that accumulate on your pillow and sheets.

Keep your window treatments simple, and easy to wash. If you prefer to sleep in a dark environment, buy washable room darkening curtains or blinds that are easy to clean.

Minimize the number of soft surfaces where dust can settle

CD1631CCommon soft surfaces in the bedroom include: clothing, curtains, bed linens, stuffed animals, cushions on chairs or benches.

One of the biggest issues Kirsten found in our bedroom was the fact that my “closet” was out in the open. She suggested that I find ways to cover the clothing. Although we have a small walk-in closet, it’s not big enough for both my husband and me to store all our clothing, luggage, shoes and so on.

InterMETRO natural cotton canvas cover

One thing I love about this sort of open rack storage system is that it makes it easy to see all my clothes at once. The shelves are easy to adjust, unlike closet shelves which are usually screwed into the wall. We’ve had this wire shelving garment rack system for years. These sturdy racks break down into flat parts making them very easy to move. But the biggest issue is that they’re completely open.

She suggested that I cover the open clothing racks since each individual clothing item becomes a place where dust can settle. There are many places for dust to enter the room and settle in between the open shelves of the clothes. She suggested that I find a way to cover the clothes better to help keep the dust from accumulating in the clothes.

With a little searching, I found this InterMETRO natural cotton canvas cover. It was just what I needed. I also incorporated Sterlite stacking drawers to keep dust off my folded clothes.

Minimize the main source(s) of dust

Some of the common things that increase dust in your bedroom include: pets, children, clothing, shoes, open windows or doors, and possibly even food. You can curtail most of these sources from the inside of your home, but you also need to consider what’s going on just outside your bedroom doors and windows.

off-the-leash-1-dogs in bed

If you’re like me and you like to open your windows, you’ll have extra dust in your home. If you have pets, you’ll have extra dust in your home. If you wear shoes indoors, you’ll have extra dust in your home.

We all have personal preferences. You may want to keep your windows open, sleep with your cat or wear shoes in your home, but consider making slow changes toward a cleaner sleeping environment.

All my clothes were open to collecting dust and I had a lot of shoe boxes and shoes stacked on top of boxes. Not only do the shoes and their boxes collect dust, but shoes can bring other toxins and bacteria from outside into your home.

Why your home should be a shoe-free zone

Can you begin by making your bedroom a shoe-free zone, for example?

Clean the floor

Kirsten recommends vacuuming frequently using a vacuum with a HEPA filter. If you have hard surface flooring, you can vacuum up the dust and then wet-clean the floor. Wet-cleaning is the best way to remove all the dust.

Vacuuming also helps to pull dust out of carpeting. Keep in mind, however, that no matter how much you vacuum, you’ll never be able to get all the dust out of the carpeting. It settles deep into the carpet and padding, and just keeps getting dirtier over the years.

housecleaning cartoon

If you have wall-to-wall carpeting, it’s best to replace it with hard surface flooring. But if you’re renting or don’t have the budget to switch out the flooring, the best solution is to vacuum frequently.

Dust regularly

Dust tends to accumulate on nightstands, headboards, and on less accessible areas such as the tops of armoires, mirrors and door frames.

You have to decide what “regularly” means to you. If you take steps to reduce the sources of dust in your bedroom, then “regularly” can be less often. If you want to spend less time dusting, try to simplify your bedroom as much as possible. Less stuff means less dusting.

When you’re dusting, be sure to use a nontoxic spray. Check EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning for ratings on common household cleaners.

Use an air filter

Kirsten suggested that we purchase an Austin Bedroom Machine air filter so that we could keep the air as clean as possible. According to Austin, clean air offers a number of benefits:

  • sounder sleep
  • reduced snoring
  • stop sneezing
  • reduce nighttime allergies and asthma attacks
  • strengthen your immune system
  • reduced coughing and wheezing
  • eliminate dry mouth and runny nose

Buying a quality HEPA air filter might seem a bit extreme at first, but think about it for a minute. Smokers and people who live in highly polluted areas increase their risk of health issues. The cleaner the air, the better. If you have allergies and you’re extra sensitive to air borne pollutants, clean air may be the one thing you need most to help get a good night’s sleep.

I’m a big believer in drinking pure water to flush the inside of my body:

Drink distilled water daily to detox and defend your body

The same logic applies to flushing out your lungs. If you sleep in a clean environment for about a third of the day, it gives your lungs and body a chance to rejuvenate every night.

But what about the cost? A good air filter is a small investment in comparison to the cost of poor health, not only as it relates to your daily productivity, but also to the cost of long term illnesses that occurs because your body doesn’t have the chance to regenerate each night.

Looking for other ways to minimize your allergy symptoms and improve your indoor air quality throughout your home? Check out more suggestions from Kirsten at:

5 Ways to Improve your Air for a More Sustainable Home

Even Rodney Dangerfield believes that everyone deserves a good night’s sleep. “I asked my wife, ‘last night, were you faking it?’ She said, ‘No, I was really sleeping.'” Just-One-Liners


AAFA logo - Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America

5 Ways to Improve Your Air for a More Sustainable Home

If there were a good chance that a few basic tips could add weeks, months or years of better health to your life, would you be interested?

“I love my business and I love my clients. I want to tell them what’s most beneficial for them. When my clients make decisions about what to put in their home, they don’t always realize it, but they’re also making decisions that can affect their health,” says Kirsten Flynn.

Following are five suggestions you may never hear if you hire an interior designer. But you will learn about these things if you hire Kirsten Flynn, the principal designer at Sustainable HomeShe describes herself as an interior designer who has “an extra layer of knowledge in addition to the passion for design and product that all designers have.”


Here’s her advice on a few ways to improve the air in your home for a safer living environment.

1. Use zero-VOC paint.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are chemicals that disseminate from paints and other solids and liquids that contain them. Although you may not notice any immediate health effects, long-term exposure can have a negative impact on your health.

When you’re buying a piece of painted wood furniture, ask about the paint or varnish. If the seller doesn’t know what kind of paint was used, keep looking for other options.

“Anytime you’re making changes to your home, you should enjoy it,” says Flynn, “but it’s equally important to consider the health effects.”

When you’re painting a room, look for low-VOC paints. They’re readily available in most places that sell paint and you can get them in any color. Before you start your next paint project, look for companies that specialize in zero-VOC or environmentally friendly paint such as Yolo.

YOLO paint colors

2. Keep your home as formaldehyde-free as possible.

Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen. Check out the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) to learn more about the health effects of this toxic chemical. When it’s in your indoor environment, it becomes airborne. You may not be aware of it, but it ends up in your body when you breath.

When you’re buying wood products, ask if the wood materials are formaldehyde-free. When formaldehyde is in your indoor environment, it affects your indoor air quality. It’s commonly used in glues to adhere things to floors, including wood flooring.

It’s also used in wood furniture and cabinetry. It tends to off-gas over time so if you buy older things or things made of solid wood, it helps to minimize your risk of exposure.

The next time you’re looking for new cabinets, look for a company that cares about the health of their customers and doesn’t use formaldehyde. You can get high end custom cabinets from great companies like Bamboo Cabinets, and you can also find more affordable pieces at companies like IKEA.

BambooCabinets kitchen

If you’re skeptical about the dangers of formaldehyde, consider what happened to thousands of Hurricane Katrina victims who were exposed to hazardous levels of formaldehyde when they were living in temporary housing made by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) trailer manufacturers.

Many of the people who trusted FEMA to help them after they lost their homes, went from being homeless to living in toxic temporary housing. Check out ToxicTrailers.org to hear some of the stories about how formaldehyde affected these adults, children and even pets.

3. Keep flame retardants out of your home.

Before you purchase anything that has foam, such as high chairs, upholstered furniture or cushions for chairs in your kitchen, read the labels carefully or check with the manufacturer before bringing these products into your home.

Flame retardants mimic hormones. They can have a long term effects on how the body develops. They can be especially detrimental for pets, children and pregnant women, all of which are particularly sensitive and vulnerable. Children and pets tend to get even more exposure because they’re more likely to breath in dust near the floor or even lick things that have been on the floor.

“Do what you can to protect yourself, but don’t worry about what you can’t control because that will only stress you out and make you sick anyway,” says Flynn.

Arlene Blum is a biophysicist whose research was instrumental in banning cancer-causing chemicals used as flame retardants on children’s sleepwear.  She advocates against Semi-Volatile Organic Compounds (SVOCs) and other chemicals harmful to humans. Check out her talk to learn more about some of the health effects of flame retardants:

4. Vacuum often.

It’s best if you can get a vacuum with a HEPA filter. It can help with even ordinary allergies. It helps to minimize your exposure to pet dander and pollen and it can even help to filter out some flame retardants.

Flynn happens to use a Miele vacuum with a HEPA filter, but there are many other good brands that can do the same job.

HEPA filter benefits

5. Use an air filter or purifier in your home.

If you already have a filter on your furnace or HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system, check the MERV rating. The Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating is a scale used to indicate the effectiveness of air filters.

It’s best to choose a filter with a rating of 13 or higher to get the most particulates out, but you also need to be careful not to over-stress your HVAC system. A filter with a higher MERV rating can cause your HVAC system to work harder. Check with the manufacturer to see what level filter your system can take.

Free Fresh Air: Hurry! Offer Ends Soon

If your HVAC system can’t accommodate a good filter, Flynn recommends getting an air purifier from a company such as Austin. If you can only have one unit, begin with your bedroom where you can purify the air you breath for about a third of your day.

 Sustainable Home logo

You can’t control everything, but you can take steps to minimize your exposure to toxins when you’re at home,” says Flynn.

Kirsten Flynn works mainly with residential projects in the Silicon Valley area. She enjoys creating functional and beautiful interior spaces. She also teaches and speaks about green building as it relates to interiors.

She was the first recipient of the Green Design Certificate from Canada College. She’s a Certified Green Building Professional. She’s also a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, Coop America and the American Society of Interior Designers.

kirsten portrait outdoors

In her free time, Flynn enjoys giving tours of the green buildings at Hidden Villa. She is a lifelong environmentalist and artist who enjoys traveling, gardening and pulling out non-native plants in parks.

air quality cartoon

Want more advice from Flynn? Here are a few ways to connect with her:

One final tip from Flynn: anytime you’re bringing consumer products into your home, check Environmental Working Group Consumer Guides to check the safety rating before you make your purchase.

EWG logo

WAKE UP and read the label on your mattress

About nine months ago, my husband and I purchased two twin Tempur-Pedic TEMPUR-Topper Supreme Mattress Toppers (that fit well side-by-side on a king bed) at Bed Bath & Beyond. We’ve slept in a number of comfortable hotel beds when traveling and we were hoping to get that sink-into-the-mattress super-soft feeling.

If you own, or you’re considering purchasing a Tempur-Pedic or memory foam product, I urge you to keep reading . . . especially if your children are sleeping on these products.

Over the course of the next several months, my husband developed rashes that started in his torso and progressed to his arms and legs. I was waking up with headaches that got progressively worse. I started making changes to my already healthy diet thinking that maybe I was developing food allergies. I’d often wake up with hot flashes. I brushed this off thinking that it might have something to do with my hormones.

We would sometimes feel stuffy in the morning. When I woke up, my eyes would be irritated and foggy. We thought we might be experiencing some seasonal allergies or sinus issues. My husband and I are quite healthy so I kept searching the web for what might be going on with us.

cartoon sick in bed

Eventually, I noticed that I’d start to feel congested as soon as I laid down in bed at night. I sometimes felt queasy in the morning, but better as the morning went on. And I knew I wasn’t pregnant! I kept Googling for answers to what might be going on until one day, I stumbled upon a number of articles and books on the dangers of polyurethane foam, the very thing we’d been sleeping on for the past six months.

The day I discovered these resources, my husband and I stripped the memory foam mattresses off our bed and within a few days all our symptoms began to fade away.

It had already been more than six months since we purchased these at Bed Bath & Beyond, but I was determined to get the $600+ back for these items that had such a negative impact on our health. I called and explained the situation to the manager. He was very kind and told me that I could return them despite the fact that they were past the return date. I’d been in this store a number of times and I always find the staff to be very friendly.

I sincerely appreciate that the manager approved our return with no hassles, but if the corporation really cared about their customers, they’d get these products out of their stores so others wouldn’t have to go through what we went through. Or worse yet, that others sleep on these for years with subtle, but mounting health effects, only later to hear from their doctor that she or he doesn’t know what caused their illness.

Bed Bath & Beyond executives need to be aware of the affects of their products not only on their customers but also on their employees who are breathing in this stuff for hours when they’re at work. Something this serious should be addressed in their Corporate Responsibility Report.

Bed Bath & Beyond offers a number of useful household products, but when I go in their stores, I try to get in and out as quickly as possible. There are a lot of strong odors being emitted from cleaners, plastics and the bedding. I don’t like the odors or the feeling I get when I’m in their stores. And because they’re packed with products from floor to ceiling, the air is especially thick with who-knows-what particulates.

After the experience with the mattress toppers, I’m even more convinced that I should avoid going in Bed Bath & Beyond stores.

Tempur-Pedic has a number of attractive phrases on their website, such as: “your best night’s sleep, what we believe, buy with confidence, and TEMPUR love stories,” but they carefully seem to avoid any promise of providing beds with safe, non-toxic materials. Buyer beware!

Peel the sheets of your mattress and pillows and read the materials on those labels that say:


mattress label

But even if you’re a label-reader, Dr. Robert Bartosh of Pro-Active Wellness & Injury Centre warns that your mattress or mattress topper may contain additional materials or chemicals that are not required by law to be listed on the label. Before you buy your next mattress, take a few minutes to hear what he has to say about the potential risks of memory foam:

CVS recently vowed to stop selling tobacco products because they’re harmful to their customers. It’s time that Bed Bath & Beyond makes the same commitment to pull hazmats out of their stores!

If you’d like to replace your bed, be sure to shop at a store committed to providing all natural mattresses that are free from toxic chemicals, such as Sleep Essentials in Roanoke, VA, or the 100% organic wool mattress from The Futon Shop.


Chemical Sensitivity Foundation logo

10 Tips from a Silicon Valley author in love with hiking

Do you hate to exercise? What if you could find a way to work out for four hours solid every week and not mind a bit?

Miriam Nuney, a transplant from the flat plains of Illinois, has lived in Silicon Valley for decades. Once the hiking bug bit her, she dragged her husband out with her, convinced the exercise would do them both good. After shedding many pounds and getting into the best shape of their lives, they started inviting people to join them to discover the joys of getting above the stresses that technology can’t cure, but nature still can. Here’s what she has to say about hiking:

Ever go hiking with a group of friends?  There’s nothing like chatting the hours away, huffing and puffing up the hills and skipping along the trails, breathing fresh air, and staying blessedly away from all those handy tech-gadgets and cell phones that seem to be running our lives instead of making them easier.

Hikers on bridge Miriam Nuney IMG_2235

Photo courtesy of hiker Joan Kushner.

You’ve probably even seen hiking venues along your commute route and not even been aware hidden paths are calling for you to tread on them next weekend. I should know. You were me.  And boy was I surprised to find dozens of parks and designated open space areas ribboned with public trails just waiting for me to explore. So I did.

After years of hiking in the hills above California’s famed Silicon Valley, where the burning desire to escape confining cubicles and intrusive technology reaches dire levels, I can assure you there is nothing better for your physical and mental health than escaping into tantalizing wilderness and letting your cares and worries drop away for a few hours.

Hiker in woods Miriam Nuney DSC_0221

Photo courtesy of hiker Denise Herbst.

I’ve hiked with people who’ve achieved significant weight loss (we’re talking forty+ pounds!), recovered from spinal and knee surgeries, reduced to the bare minimum medications for chronic asthma and diabetes, and recuperated from bike and running injuries.

All from simply putting one foot in front of the other–again and again.

Walking is a natural human activity, so . . . if you can walk, you can hike.

Hiking generally means getting out into a large park and walking on dirt trails, usually including climbing hills, and occasionally crossing streams and clambering over fallen tree limbs. Yes, nature has a way of reminding us it has an awesome power we can’t control, but hey–humility is good for the soul. Learning to let go of problems we can’t do anything about is one way to alleviate unnecessary stress.

Hikers crossing stream Miriam Nuney DSC_0352

Photo courtesy of hiker Denise Herbst.

And don’t make any excuses about being too old–or young.  I’ve hiked with 10-year old kids who had more energy than me at the end of the hike, and a frail-looking 72-year old Chinese woman who carried water from her wells at home to keep fit.

In fact, she had the last laugh on us on one of our more challenging hikes at the Pinnacles National Monument in central California. This hike includes clambering over incredibly steep steps carved into a sheer volcanic mountainside, fortunately with sturdy handrails for those of us with a fear of heights. Afraid she might fall and break her hip, we dogged her every stride despite her protests she was “quite capable, thank you.”  

2012-03-10 Miriam Hiking Pinnaccles 058

Photo courtesy of hiker Joan Kushner.

We made it safely back to the parking area for a picnic lunch, and wouldn’t you know it–the youngest in our group slipped on a quarter-inch of low-lying water on the pavement and went down on her hands and knees!

A few minutes later we squished together on a picnic bench. I perched next to her on the very end and crossed my legs, only to find myself teetering off bench and onto the ground. Our Chinese friend couldn’t stop laughing at me. Trail hazards be damned!  It was the modern conveniences that got the better of us.

HIkers checking the trails Miriam Nuney DSC_0322

Photo courtesy of hiker Denise Herbst.

Before you head off hiking, here are ten safety precautions you should follow:

  1. Check the park’s website for trail conditions, maps, and entrance fees.
  2. Bring one friend…or more!  It’s unwise to hike alone.
  3. Estimate your time on trail–generally you hike at half the speed you walk.
  4. Bring 16 oz of water per hour on trail, and bring snacks such as nuts, granola bars and fruit.
  5. Wear a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, sturdy shoes and socks (jacket and gloves as needed). 
  6. Pack a basic first aid kit with bandages, a pain reliever and any special meds you need.
  7. Hike in the daytime. Avoid hiking at dawn or dusk due to bugs and critters.
  8. Check weather forecasts and be prepared for even the slight possibility of bad weather. 
  9. Pack a spare change of clothes and extra water, and leave in the car.
  10. Anticipate making your way out on your own. Most trails do not have cell phone coverage, so don’t assume help is a quick phone call away. 

hiking cartoon

Don’t let the unknown outdoors stay unknown for long. Get out there and embrace it!  There is nothing more real than getting out into the hills and meeting head-on the challenges of nature and, best yet, overcoming them.

Hiking Group Picture--Miriam Nuney

Photo courtesy of hiker W. Douglas Lamb.

If you live in Silicon Valley or you’re planning a trip in the area, be sure to check out Miriam’s eBook, 101 Great Hikes Above Silicon Valley, available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Smashwords. To join their hiking group at no charge, send an email to JohnMiriamNuney@aol.com. For comments or suggestions about this blog post or her ebook, email Miriam directly at MNuney@aol.com.

101 Great HIkes Above Silicon Valley by Miriam Nuney s260x420

Book cover photo by Robert L. McQueer.

Why You May Need a CryoHelmet in Your First Aid Kit

What on earth is a CryoHelmet? And why would you want one in your first aid kit?

Dr. Doug Farrago is glad you asked. Here’s what he has to say:

For the past two years I have been consumed with the treatment of concussions. I personally had three bad ones in my own life. My son lost a full year of football after a head injury as well. At that time, his teachers didn’t even give him a break from schoolwork as they would now. I’m glad we’re getting more knowledgeable about head injuries and that public awareness is growing, but my concern is that no new treatment has been added.

Douglas Farrago MD

Douglas Farrago MD

All we do is keep these kids out of activity and that’s what really drives me crazy. I knew there had to be more we could do. I started to scan the research and found something very interesting. Cooling the brain seems to really help control the damage and help it heal. That is when I teamed up with All-Star Sports to create the CryoHelmet, a portable ice unit for head injuries. 

Study after study I looked at showed that head injuries could be treated with therapeutic hypothermia or icing. The rat studies are phenomenal and the human studies in severe traumatic brain injuries are positive as well. Minor head injuries, of which concussions are a part, unfortunately have not been studied much. That is changing and the CryoHelmet is proud to be a part of it. Until the CryoHelmet came along, there was nothing efficient, effective or portable to use on the field or in research studies. Now there is. 

CryoHelmet may be effective in reducing inflammation from head injuries, lowering body heat and lessening migraine pain.

CryoHelmet may be effective in reducing inflammation from head injuries, lowering body heat and lessening migraine pain.

As the protocols stand today, the athlete is just required to rest. While I believe rest is crucial, I also feel icing the head and cooling the brain has enough healing properties that warrants its use. Why? 

The potential benefits such as decreased brain inflammation and decreased neuronal death, are huge, while there are no known negative consequences. That’s why a few different concussion clinics around the country are already putting the CryoHelmet to use, one of them being Dr. Marc Hilgers.

If your child or grandchild plays a sport that involves any contact, then please look into getting a CryoHelmet. If you’re an athletic trainer or know one at a school, explain why a CryoHelmet (at least one) should be frozen and ready to go at each athletic contest in case a concussion occurs. Encourage them to check out IceYourHead.com to learn more about the benefits of therapeutic hypothermia for concussions and other head injuries. 

Please like us on Facebook@CryoHelmet and follow us on Twitter@CryoHelmet to help spread the news. This costs you nothing and really helps us out.  As a bonus, we’re posting new information as it comes out, so you’ll be updated continuously on the latest research.

Mike Keefe concussion cartoon

Oh, one more thing. The research on using ice for migraines and insomnia is really impressive as well. Instead of meds, why not try the CryoHelmet? Once again, there are no side effects! If you don’t already have one in your first aid kit, check out the CryoHelmet website to learn why you might want to get one soon.

A man staggered into a hospital with a concussion. He had multiple bruises, two black eyes and a 5-iron wrapped around his throat.

“What happened to you?” the doctor asked.

“Hmm . . . I was golfing with my wife when she sliced her ball into a field of cows. I found a ball stuck in a cow’s fanny. Pointing to the cow’s rear end, I yelled to my wife, ‘this looks like yours.’ I don’t remember anything after that.” JokeBook

If you want to learn more about how to prevent concussions and other sports-related injuries, check out Sports Medicine Institute, Aspen Sports Medicine FoundationAmerican Sports Medicine InstituteNational Center for Sports Safety or other similar organizations dedicated to preventing injuries.

National Center for Sports Safety logo