Tag Archives: europe

Better Than Before: Making the Best of Arthritis

arthritisThe Europeans have it all figured out. At the first sign of any aches they don’t take to bed with a bottle of Aleve. No, they head for the thermae of Italy, the baden of Germany, the baths of England, and station thermales of France The treatments at these detox meccas include water (fresh and sea) and mud therapies that promise freedom from pain — not to mention a cleaner liver. And the concept goes back millennia. After all, Spa is not an acronym for Super Place for Aerobics. Rather, it is named after the town in Belgium favored by Peter the Great. (Yes, that Peter the Great!). They are based, instead, on the restorative and healing powers of thermal and mineral springs and imbibing waters that come directly from those sources.

Alas, we in America may be hard pressed to find these types of cures closer to home as there are only a handful of natural hot springs indigenous to this country. And, truth be told, most people don’t even know they exist. Just ask someone in your office to name a liquid that makes you feel really good. I doubt hot, bubbling water would be the first thing that comes to mind. In fact, make mine a kale and celery smoothie — and a Dirty Margarita for The Lawyer.

Does this mean, though, that we have to suffer such inflammatory ailments as arthritis in silence? After all, about 50 million Americans have been diagnosed with one of the seven common forms of Arthritis. Yes, I am one of them. But limited space will not allow me to regale you with stories about my recent hip replacement! (Call me!) Curative spas aside, it is important, therefore, for patients and care givers to understand the potential impact of the disease and how best to manage it. It can be a critical part of making the decisions to make good on your intent to live a healthier lifestyle that is Better Than Before.

Let’s start with learning a little more about the illness itself. For this I turned to Phyllis Crockett, a specialty-trained pharmacist in the Accredo Rheumatoid Arthritis and Inflammatory Disease TRC.

“Arthritis is a complex family of musculoskeletal disorders consisting of more than 100 different diseases or conditions,” she says. “Although common belief is that arthritis is a condition affecting the elderly, two-thirds of people with arthritis are under the age of 65, including 300,000 children. Also, arthritis affects people of all ethnicities.”

According to Crockett the vast majority of sufferers, about 27 million Americans, have what I have, Osteoarthritis (OA), which is characterized by a breakdown of joint cartridge. A vast majority of OA patients are elderly. (But it could be genetic, and the result of what sets in after you’ve sustained an injury! Hellooo!!)

The rest of arthritis sufferers have the more severe form: Rheumatoid arthritis. “Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is characterized by inflammation of the membranes lining the joint. Although it can strike at any age, women are typically diagnosed between the ages of 30 and 60, while male patients are usually older. There are about 1.5 million affected individuals in the United States. Finally, Juvenile Arthritis (JA) is a term used to describe many autoimmune and inflammatory conditions that can affect children ages 16 and younger.”

The disease takes a heavy toll. “Each year, arthritis accounts for 44 million outpatient visits and over 900,000 hospitalizations. In fact, it’s the leading cause of disability in the United States and is a more frequent cause of activity limitations than heart disease, cancer or diabetes. By some estimates, 67 million Americans will have arthritis by 2030.”

So what do we do?

“Managing the disease so that patients can continue to live normal lives is important,” Crockett continues. “Each patient is different and a physician can help determine the best treatment plan, including pain management and managing the symptoms of arthritis.”

She shared with me some tips that she offers her patients, starting with exercise. “It is a valuable tool in the fight against arthritis. OA and RA patients particularly can benefit from both endurance and resistance training.”

Maintaining a healthy weight and protecting against joint injury can help prevent OA. “Every pound of weight lost reduces the pressure on each knee by 4 pounds. Even a small weight loss can be a big help in fighting it.”

Apart from lifestyle modifications, there are also many drug therapies available for arthritis patients—and doctors and specialist pharmacists can help identify the best one for you.

For patients who already are on medication to treat the condition, adherence – taking medications as prescribed – is critical to healthier outcomes.

“But do not self-medicate!” she cautions: “Combining over-the-counter medications with prescription medications can be risky, and can cause side effects such as an increase in GI irritation or a GI bleed. And don’t adjust doses or making changes to the medication regimen without checking with your health care team.”

“Watch for drug interactions: Some common medications like acetaminophen can have a drug-drug interaction with arthritis medications. Limit intake and remember that acetaminophen is often a component in common sinus, cough/cold and pain medications.”

Opt for an anti-inflammatory regimen like the Mediterranean diet – you know the drill, easy on the acidic foods like sugar, white flours, and alcohol, and sticking with leafy greens, whole grains, and lean proteins. “But some foods and beverages can block the effects of arthritis medications,” Crockett concludes. “These include grapefruit, apple and orange juice as well as milk and yogurt. Wait at least four hours after taking medications. Exact times can vary depending on the disease and the treatment. Check with a trained clinician.”

I can assure you from very painful, personal experience that if arthritis does go too far, surgery may be the only option. So if your intent is to help avoid – or at the very least, prolong – this possible outcome, be aware that lifestyle modification and medication may be the answer.

 

A Lifetime Searching for Lost Beauty

auschwitz It’s  been almost 70 years since the end of World War II, yet in the time since it ended, we’ve still felt the reverberations of the damage done in the six years of war.

A new example? In the past year, German officials have discovered a trove of approximately 1,400 works by artists like Matisse, Renoir and Picasso just waiting to be found in a Munich apartment.

Beside the feeling of elation over the recovery of works long thought lost is the heartbreaking reminder that there are still families seeking the restoration of pieces looted or sold by their family at rock bottom prices in an attempt to escape Nazi persecution. Reading the article ourselves, we were amazed by the number of grandchildren and great grandchildren who have spent a lifetime committed to bringing a part of their lost family home. Uncovering the works were a victory for honoring the artists but also for the men and women who originally owned them.

Read the story and then see a sample of the recovered pieces here.

What do you think of this amazing find? Share your thoughts in the comments below. 

Is Zurich’s New Drive-In Prostitution a Good Idea?

Even putting aside the moral and ethical arguments against prostitution, there are some sound concerns expressed over the practice. For one, we must take health and safety into consideration any time people will be coming into close contact with one another. And as a still largely underground industry (unlike the medical field, where bodies also come into close contact) there is very little precedent for regulation in prostitution.

What if governments decided to stop prosecuting prostitution and instead establish measures to ensure safety and fair-play? That is exactly what Switzerland, the small, beautiful, chocolate-rich country, has been doing since 1942 when it legalized prostitution. And now, in an effort to enforce safety regulations, the Swiss city of Zurich has instituted what are colloquially being called “sex boxes.” This is essentially a drive-in brothel where cars can enter a small park with sex workers lined up all around, and clients and prostitutes can negotiate with one another to determine an agreement. Once paired, they’ll enter small wooden garages to…conduct their business.

Though there won’t be surveillance, prostitutes will need permits in order to use the facilities and will have access to panic buttons and on-site social workers in case of emergency. There are also policies in place in the country to enforce health checks and screenings in order to reduce the risk of HIV and AIDs. And the “sex box” sites also offer showers, lockers, laundry, and other facilities. As reported by the National Post:

“We built the place to be secure for the sex workers. It also had to be discreet for the sex workers and the clientele,” said Michael Herzig of Zurich’s social welfare department. “But we thought if we build the place, we can also make it look good.”

Here’s a look at the facilities:

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SWITZERLAND-PROSTITUTION-BUSINESS

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You might be surprised to learn that Switzerland isn’t alone in such policies. Eight European countries currently have legal and regulated prostitution, and countless others in Europe and around the globe have legalized but unregulated prostitution. Here’s a map outlining prostitution in Europe:

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What do you think of Zurich’s “sex boxes”? Can you imagine a U.S. city instituting something along those lines? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!

 

Photo credit: AP Photo / John Heilprin

Photo credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

Photo credit: Fabrice Coffrini / AFP / Getty Images

Map credit: Wikimedia Commons

 

5 Mindful Dining Lessons from an Italian Bistro

Pizza Salsicce close-up - Tiamo 2 AUD16.90 mediumUpon arriving in Bologna for a conference, I was determined to make every minute count: I checked into my hotel, checked my email, took a quick nap, showered and left for some sightseeing. At this point it was about 3:00pm and lo and behold, it was siesta (an Italian tradition when most businesses shut down for a few hours to ‘rest’).  As a result, I was forced to stop my touristic whirlwind and took my own siesta in one of the few open bistros, choosing to eat dinner early so that I could take advantage of my “Perfect Storm” of jet lag, hunger and nothing to do.

At RosaRose I ate local fare and watched the Fords, or shall I say bicycles and mopeds, go by. As a European, this time off is custom. As an American, however, this is foreign (pardon the pun). But yet, with no cellphone to answer… no laptop on which to type… no internet to distract… you somehow acclimate quite easily. So easily in fact, you quickly find yourself dreaming of this lifestyle as your own.

Although I clearly had other plans for my day, my new agenda was quite appealing and I was in no rush to leave my little Perfect Storm Haven. My storm became a calm: my jet lag seemed to dissipate, my hunger was satisfied and my ‘nothing to do status’ became my very own enjoyable siesta. After a couple of hours, I left recharged and ready for another several hours on the go. Maybe there really was something to this siesta after all!

In Italy, life seems less hectic… more simple. Undeniably, it becomes easy to think of adopting their lifestyle. Turns out, there were several life lessons to be learned during my time in a simple Bolognese Bistro:

  1. Take a Break: We tend to busy ourselves constantly and forget how important it is to take a break, decompress and relax. Being forced to stop and relax because there is NOTHING ELSE to do, gives you an opportunity to really understand how wonderful it is to do nothing.
  2. Eat GOOD Food: This means good in quality and in taste. If the quality is good, there is a good chance it is going to taste good too. The higher the quality of food you eat, the more likely you will eat less. My siesta meal was prosciutto, tomatoes and mozzarella…although a bit higher in fat than I would normally eat, as an appetizer it made me full for the rest of the day!
  3. Drink Just Enough: Often, I feel that many people over indulge in alcohol in the United States. In Europe, drinking is a social aspect of the culture. A glass of red wine with dinner is very normal. That said, you rarely will see binge drinking among locals.
  4. Slow Down: In the United States, especially in coastal cities, I feel that we run at a million miles a minute. Slowing down helps you enjoy more in life. For instance, when eating, don’t scarf…savor every morsel in a slow and purposeful fashion. You’ll feel satisfied on less food.
  5. Love the Ones Your With: During my time at RosaRose, it was apparent that people really enjoyed being together. They were smiling, laughing and chatting up a storm. Even the waitstaff were jovial. Whether it be friends, family or your partner, make time together special and fun.

Have you traveled to Italy or any other place in Europe? Did you have a similar experience? What valuable lessons did you learn from time abroad?

 

Originally published July 2012

Dîner en Blanc: The Biggest, Classiest Dinner Party in the World – Tonight!

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If you happen to be in Paris, France tonight and are privy to the underground communications of the Dîner en Blanc, then you are in for a treat! Founded nearly 25 years ago by François Pasquier, this ongoing dinner party – the largest in the world – convenes yearly in public places undisclosed until just an hour before the event. Diners must be personally invited by organizers, friends of organizers, friends of friends of…you get the picture. But apart from that layer of exclusivity, the event is grassroots, diverse, and non-commercial. Though technically not legal as it often descends upon landmarks, including in past years the Eiffel Tower site, the Louvre Pyramid, the Trocadéro Esplanade, the Château de Versailles, and the Esplanade de Notre-Dame, officials tolerate the innocent revelry of this “dinner in white.”

The “en blanc” part refers to the all-white outfits, linens, and decorations diners come equipped with, creating the aura of a chic, classy restaurant as opposed to the makeshift, outdoor picnic it truly is. Picnic or no, the event is all class. As outlined on their website, guests are responsible for bringing:

A table, two (white) chairs, a picnic basket comprised of quality menu items and china dinner service. They must wear white and be dressed elegantly. Originality is encouraged as long as it stays stylish and denotes taste.

It might sound a bit stuffy, but as the organizers urge, the guidelines are in place mainly to create a container for a magical, festive (and photogenic!) event. And the rules haven’t kept other communities from initiating their own local versions of the Dîner en Blanc, now in eighteen countries around the world!

Dîner en Blanc, a new documentary, captures the whimsical nature of this non-traditional dinner party, and the trailer alone is bound to whet your interest:

Looks like fun, eh? Good luck finding a way in to this exclusive party – but if you have a contact for any of the cities, can we be your plus one? 🙂

Photo credit: Dîner en Blanc

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