Monday, February 25, 2013

Feeding the body, mind and spirit.

Daniel Day-Lewis has won the Oscar for best actor and for those who have seen him in Lincoln, he is a deserved winner of the prize. From now on when I think of the great Abe Lincoln, I will always see the character portrayed by DDL, who seems to disappear as his subject emerges from inside him - a truly great Actor.

And I was delighted to read that he does not intend to appear in another film for at least 5 years but will go to his farm in Ireland and learn how to be a Stone-Mason! This is the same guy who previously "disappeared" to Italy to learn how to be a shoemaker! No doubt he can afford to indulge in his pastimes, but for the rest of us mere mortals it's a great challenge to pause and consider what "craft" would we like to take on during the various stages that make up our lives.

Over the years I've attempted to learn the wooden folk flute with a modest degree of success. I gave up Irish dancing after deciding that touring with Riverdance wasn't for me - well actually I couldn't coordinate my feet with my brain fast enough! I went through a spell of oil painting which I really enjoyed, but it's a bit like golf and you need lots of time and a dedicated room to leave all your oils out between sessions. But it's something I intend to go back to.

We took up walking some years ago and that's one thing that we've been successful at keeping up and it has led us on some amazing adventures. We also intend to try canoeing now that we've moved to near the river once we've found the right teachers. Meditation is another practice that we are attempting: it's harder than you imagine as I find my mind wondering "hither and yon" during the sessions, but they say it improves with practice!

Then there are the languages of French (love it), Italian (romantic and you definitely need to talk with your arms) and Spanish (only lasted 8 weeks but the young brides Paella was delicious)

Finding new ways to use your brains, move your bodies and elevate your spirit are the very foods of life and I sincerely wish you are all having a veritable banquet! Let me know what you've tried.
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Monday, February 18, 2013

Heamachromatosis - the downside of being Ironman

It's funny how you remember a face!

I vividly remember one that I only saw once decades ago on the wards of my Alma Mater in London. It was, and I kid you not, a bronze face on a walking, talking human being. I mention this because today's blog is on Haemachromatosis, a genetic disorder causing iron overload which, if not managed properly, can lead to Iron toxicity and permanent damage to various organs - and one of those is the pancreas: damage your pancreas and you get Diabetes. Diabetes caused in this way is often known as "Bronze Diabetes" and the man whom I saw all those years ago was suffering from that very same condition.

Haemachromatosis is one of the most common genetic disorders in Australia, affecting up to 1 in 8 persons of Northern European descent. It occurs when both parent carry a copy of a defective gene - called the HFE gene - and pass it on to their offspring who will then have a 1 in 4 chance of having problems associated with a protein responsible for absorbing Iron into the body. This faulty protein allows too much Iron to be absorbed and if undiagnosed can lead to serious organ damage.

The good news is that if someone in your family is known to have Haemachromatosis, then screening can happen at an early age and the necessary precautions to be taken, so that the toxic effects of Iron overload are managed properly.

Because the iron levels are slow to build up, Haemachromatosis is diagnosed in later life - usually in males in their 50's and 60's, and mainly a decade later in women who up to the menopause are "iron shedders" with monthly menstruation. It is rare that it presents early in life, although this can happen. The diagnosis is suspected when patients are found to have raised iron stores within the body - a test that looks for the saturation level of certain protein responsible for carrying iron around the body. If these levels are high then genetic testing is warranted.

The condition is relatively "easily" managed by frequent blood letting to drain the body of excess iron, and once this is down to acceptable levels then blood letting is usually performed every 3 to 4 months. The good news is that this blood is generally safe for transfusion uses unless there are other associated health concerns.

If left untreated then the iron can build up in critical organs

  • The heart - where is can lead to heart failure or irregular heart beats.
  • The pancreas - where it can lead to Diabetes
  • The liver - where it can lead to cirrhosis
  • Joints - leading to arthritis.
  • General fatigue

Haemachromatosis is common, it is often asymptomatic until our later years and yet is eminently manageable with early intervention. Don't be cast in bronze whilst you're still alive: leave that to our Hollywood action men and women!

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