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Tips for Monitoring Health & Treating Injuries

  • Monitoring Cardiac Health

    In late 2003 and early 2004 I learned (the hard way) that results from most routine cardiologic tests can not be relied on. Following my best-ever tennis year and without warning I became consistently short of breath when exercising. Shortly afterward a nuclear stress test showed a problem which led to an angiogram and then, on the same day, emergency quintuple coronary bypass surgery. Two of my arteries were 99% blocked and two others had 90% blockage — none of which had shown up in prior routine echo cardiograms and ordinary, non-nuclear stress tests.

    The moral is that any test apart from a nuclear stress test is unreliable — as confirmed by my cardiologist.  Click here for information about nuclear stress tests and here for information about angiograms (cardiac catheterizations).

  • Pay Attention to Warning Signs!

    On a Saturday in late May 2015, a sudden inability to type the word "worth" (no strength in those fingers) sent me to the ER and days of tests culminating in a 5-hour surgery to repair a carotid roto-rooter job done in 2004. Once home and feeling better I was now sporting a Frankenstein-like 4.75" scar on my neck. My surgeon said I'd dodged a bullet and was "good for another 100,000 miles."

  • Rotator Cuff

  • A common cause of rotator cuff injury is reaching into the back seat of a car while driving.  Click here for a simple regimen of strengthening exercises and stretches.

  • Affordable Hips & Knees

    A 2013 article in the NY Times tell the story of a total hip replacement successfully performed on a 67-year old American in a Belgian hospital for $13.6k (including airfare, convalescence and rehab). The patient, Michael Shopenn, said "We have the most expensive health care in the world, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's the best. I'm kind of the poster child for that." The follow-up article listed US cities (Buffalo NY, Glendale CA, San Antonio TX) with costs comparable to those in European hospitals. Links: initial article and follow-up article.

  • Protection from the Sun

    The threat of skin cancer from overexposure to the sun is well known. Here's a link to an online store selling a transparent sun protection cream whose zinc content doesn't leave you looking white. It's also water-resistant, long-lasting and has been favorably reviewed by many users. It was recommended by my dermatologist.

  • Treating a Sore Achilles Tendon

    I'd suffered for a few years from a mildly sore Achilles and then, when rehabbing from the bypass surgery on my treadmill, the condition became so acute that I could only manage stairs by walking sideways. The orthopedic physician I consulted gave me a simple exercise that greatly reduced the pain within a day or two and completely eliminated it within a couple of weeks.

    Most of us are familiar with the runner's exercise of leaning our hands or forehead against a wall with feet together about three feet from the wall and body straight. That action stretches the two outside calf muscles but a different exercise is needed for the muscle in the middle — the one that attaches to the Achilles tendon. To stretch that middle muscle and relieve the pain, put all your weight on the affected foot flat on the ground about a foot from a wall and pointed towards the wall. Let the other foot trail behind. Then, with palms against the wall, extend the knee forward towards the wall as far as is comfortable. Hold the position for 20-30 seconds and repeat a few times. That's all there is to it.

    Neil Hurlbut, on the other hand, was sidelined for eighteen months with a severe Achilles problem.  Neil persevered with rest combined with twice-daily massage of his Achilles (to promote blood flow) and re-emerged as a first-year 75 in 2009 with convincing wins in Rancho Mirage and Houston.

  • Tennis Elbow Relief

    Early in September 2006 I suddenly experienced what I consider to be a moderate case of tennis elbow. A friend suggested the Spiro elbow splint and while that helped it wasn't a cure. Seeking a cure on my own, I tried extending my arm straight ahead (palm down) and then rotated the arm 180° to the outside (palm up). That simple motion, reversed and repeated numerous times, gives me relief and reduces the soreness. It was most effective when I clenched my fist.

    For more severe cases I suggest a $15 investment in an instructional DVD created by a professional therapist who's treated my wife me numerous times.  Lisa Wiley's discipline is  myofascial release or "MFR" and, based on our experience, it's more effective than chiropractic or massage.

  • Exercises to Build & Sustain "Core" Strength

    Stuart McGill, a highly regarded professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo in Canada, sees "too many people who have six-pack abs and a ruined back."  He recommends doing just the following three exercises:

    Side Bridge/Plank: lie on your side and raise your upper body (from feet if possible, otherwise from knees).  Hold for 10-20 seconds.

    Bird Dog:  from all fours, raise an alternate (opposing) arm and leg with abs tensed.  Hold 3-5 seconds and repeat 10 times for each side.

    Curl Up (approved crunches):  lie down, one knee bent with hands positioned beneath your lower back for support — without hollowing your stomach or pressing your back against the floor;  gently lift head and shoulders, hold 1-3 seconds and relax back down.  Repeat 10-20 times with each knee raised.

    Click here for photos and more information.

  • Nutrition before, during and after Play

    An expert recommends eating a "fistful" of food (e.g. energy bar) one hour before a match, something during, and another fistful within 15 minutes after.  She also suggests the usual hydration routine (gulping more effective than sipping). Click here to read the entire (short) article titled "Eating to Fuel Exercise."

  • The 11 Best Foods You Aren't Eating

    1. Beets: Think of beets as red spinach because they are a rich source of foliate as well as natural red pigments that may be cancer fighters.
    How to eat: Fresh, raw and grated to make a salad. Heating decreases the antioxidant power.

    2.Cabbage: Loaded with nutrients like sulforaphane, a chemical said to boost cancer-fighting enzymes.
    How to eat: Asian-style slaw or as a crunchy topping on burgers and sandwiches.

    3. Swiss chard: A leafy green vegetable packed with carotenoids that protect aging eyes.
    How to eat: Chop and sauté in olive oil.

    4. Cinnamon: May help control blood sugar and cholesterol.
    How to eat: Sprinkle on coffee or oatmeal.

    5. Pomegranate juice: Appears to lower blood pressure and loaded with antioxidants.
    How to eat: Just drink it.

    6.Dried plums: Okay, so they are really prunes, but packed with cancer-fighting antioxidants.
    How to eat: Wrapped in prosciutto and baked.

    7. Pumpkin seeds: The most nutritious part of the pumpkin and packed with magnesium; high levels of the mineral are associated with lower risk for early death.
    How to eat: Roasted as a snack, or sprinkled on salad.

    8. Sardines: "Health food in a can". They are high in omega-3's, contain virtually no mercury and are loaded with calcium. They also contain iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper and manganese as well as a full complement of B vitamins.
    How to eat: Choose sardines packed in olive or sardine oil. Eat plain, mixed with salad, on toast, or mashed with Dijon mustard and onions as a spread.

    9. Turmeric: The "superstar of spices", it has anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.
    How to eat: Mix with scrambled eggs or in any vegetable dish.

    10. Frozen blueberries: Even though freezing can degrade some of the nutrients in fruits and vegetables, frozen blueberries are available year-round and don't spoil; associated with better memory in animal studies.
    How to eat: Blended with yogurt or chocolate soy milk and sprinkled with crushed almonds.

    11. Canned pumpkin: A low-calorie vegetable that is high in fiber and immune-stimulating vitamin A; fills you up on very few calories.
    How to eat: Mix with a little butter, cinnamon and nutmeg.

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