Photo from Mount Royal, Frisco, Colorado.

"That is happiness; to be disolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep." - Willa Cather

Friday 29 May 2009

Exercise in Pregnancy: New Studies

I have been reviewing recent studies about exercise in pregnancy because I am (hopefully) going to be working on a large research study involving pregnant women and exercise (more details on that at the end of the post).

I ran across two interesting finds:

In a large study of 90,000 births published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, it was found that any form of exercise during pregnancy reduces the risk of preterm birth. This was based on an extensive questionnaire given to pregnant women about their exercise habits. Even one hour a week of cardiovascular exercise was enough to decrease the risk of preterm birth almost 25% compared to sedentary women. And women who continued to exercise greater than 5 hours a week through their pregnancy continued to have a decreased risk (so fear not, crazy runners like me!). Not surprisingly, horsebackriding does not reduce the risk of preterm birth (and this finding makes the study even more valid in my opinion).

Juhl et al. Am J Eipdemio 2008;167:859-866

Next, a team of researchers form Kansas City University has found that aerobic exercise during pregnancy improves fetal heart health and nervous system development. This is still preliminary non-published data announced at the American Physiological Society conference in New York last month. I unfortunately do not have the details of the methods, but "moderate intenstiy" exercising pregnant women were compared with sedentary women. (more details to follow)

So, yes, I am hopefully going to be involved in a large study here in Denmark looking at many lifestyle factors in pregnancy (though I will be looking primarily at exercise) and birth outcomes, including cognitive development in children and development of asthma. This is along side of my PhD project, so I hope there is time!

We're moving into some extremely cheap hospital housing today and tomorrow, so I have to get working. I will post some pictures of our new home soon.

Running Song of the Day: Crush on You by Brakesbrakesbrakes

Monday 25 May 2009

Should we eat red meat?

We were at a fine party on Thursday, with great friends, conversation and food. But as I watched The Lorax happily swallow one meat ball (called "frikadeller" here) after another, I wasn't sure whether to smile or cringe.

Seated at our table were well-dressed, well-educated people from the rich suburbs around Copenhagen. We had had one interesting scientific conversation after another and then I decided to drop the bomb: "There was a large study recently that showed eating red meat is associated with earlier death."

They all stared "What?" They seemed to think I must have meant it helped prevent death, but just had made a mistake in my Danish. Suggesting to a European that meat is unhealthy is practically illegal (though I am unaware of a specific law prohibiting it).

So what did this study show and is it valid? Thus study was in the March 23, 2009 Issue of The Archives of Internal Medicine and based on an extensive surveys of over half a million people in the US between 51 and 70 years old. There was then a follow up after 10 years to see how many of those people had died and what the cause of death was.

The results were as follows:

who ate the most red meat: 1.31 x as likely to die in the 10 years
who ate the most processed meat: 1.16 x as likely to die
who ate the most white meat: 0.92 x (or a little less) likely to die

who ate the most red meat: 1.36 x as likely to die in the 10 years
who ate the most processed meat: 1.25 x as likely to die
who ate the most white meat: 0.92 x (or a little less) likely to die

(white meat includes fish, chicken and turkey. All other meats fit into either red or processed.)

It wasn't just that people who ate more meat were fatter or less educated or ate more total calories (those and many other variables were controled for). I have spent a lot of time looking through the study and my only critiques are that men who ate the most red meat also had an increased risk of accidental death (perhaps men who eat the most red meat tend to have dangerous jobs?...) and that they did not control for income. So there may be other lifestyle factors or other foods one typically eats with red and processed meats that contributed to the results.

What did I gather from this? Well, we should eat less red and processed meats, but not just because we want our families to live long, healthy lives. But also because the raising of animals for meat and dairy products is stripping the earth of its resources. Production of any animal food requires far more resources than legumes, grains, fruits or vegetables. This contributes to the global food price increases as well as the energy, climate and water crises. Do you know that livestock are responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions (which is much more than all transportation emissions combined!)?

Where do I stand on SR's dad enjoying tenderloin on his birthday? The most important thing is our happiness, so enjoy red meat now and then! And I can't tell the wonderful woman who cares for The Lorax during the day to not give him meat. That is certainly not fair. But it is time for a global shift BACK to the rare amount of meat that we used to eat.

Pregnant moms, the "western diet" has been associated with premature birth. So my recommendation to you is to eat a mediterranean diet, but high in fish (which has been shown to prevent premature birth and improve brain function).

What do I eat? A pesco-near vegan diet (I eat dairy from time to time), with probably way to much chocolate, gum and diet soda (I've got my vices, too).

Sorry about the long post! Love to hear your thoughts.

Running Songs of The Day: Valby Bakke by Peter Sommer and All My Little Words by The Magnetic Fields

Sunday 17 May 2009

Power Mom, Power Wife

We all know those families. The ones that drive a Subaru with mom and dad in the front and two perfectly-behaved kids in the back. All of their luggage is neatly packed; they lack nothing, but still don't have too much. The kids wait patiently to eat at the next rest stop because they certainly don't eat in the car. This is the power family. And behind every power family is a power mom. And there are probably even more of these moms in Denmark than in the US. I, unfortunately, do not come close to fitting this picture.

That is until last week...

I had previously prided myself with being too "cerebral" for domestic chores. And I never got joy out of impressing people with extravagant meals, parties or clothing. But I've come to realize that it's not exactly fun living with someone who doesn't cook, clean or ever take off their smelly running clothes (except to put on scrubs, of course).

This past week, I decided to give this power mom, power wife thing a try.

So I cleaned...

(Above is the cleanest bathroom in the history of my life.)

I bought flowers...

And I cooked some awesome food...

(Note the normal, non-running clothing.)

Can you find the happy son of a power mom anywhere in the above photo?

And I even tried to impress some friends...

And I have to admit it was a fun week. Not only was it an excellent challenge, but SR and I got along great. And nothing cerebral was sacrificed; for one, my PhD project is now more or less in line along with the continued ophthalmology residency. I can only wonder if long-term powermotherhood is in the stars. But the force inside of me that says all I need is coffee, oatmeal and a long run is strong.

Running Song of the Day: The Flowers by Regina Spektor

Saturday 16 May 2009

recommended quick read

Ever wonder what it is like to be in the elite female running group at the Boston Marathon? Meghan Arbogast has a really well-written post about it here...

Saturday 9 May 2009

Swedish Lessons in Love and Geology

Our three day trip to Sweden didn't get off to the greatest start. SR and I began running up the steep hills of Söderåsen with the now heaviest baby jogger in the world. I don't really know why; perhaps we were just tired, but we started fighting. Rather, I should say, I don't really know how to fight, so I started crying. But then, a Swedish woman on a horse crossed our path. She was around 55 years old with a creamy, white complexion, dark hair and blue eyes. We talked about the park and how Americans are so interested in geneology. "He hadn't time for me," she said in her wonderful Swedish accent of a relative she had tried to contact. Soon she was gone and we looked at each other and our beautiful son. Perhaps the woman was an angel.

Perhaps the key is focusing more on each other than our individual lives.

We didn't fight the rest of the trip, but talked a lot about how our lives have changed since we've moved. And we talked about eventually moving to Greenland or Alaska to practice medicine. We both have adventurous hearts and think those places would be wonderful for our kids to live for a while. Of course, we need to be done with our medical training first.

It was hard not to have the time of our lives the rest of the weekend. What is better than running for hours on a gorgeous mountain with someone you love?

Okay, technically one of us ran while the other power hiked with The Lorax in backpack. And technically, Söderåsen is a not a generic mountain, but a horst (raised land pushed together between two faults). Being from the Midwestern US, I was not previously familiar with horsts as geological formations.

We ran three days in a row, both over 20 miles on the second day. The trails were amazing. And great training for the Trans-Alpine run in September!

Now we're back to normal life, but I have a deep happiness. Perhaps the pictures say it all...

(above is our own version of the photo I took from the internet in my last post :)).

Running Song of The Day: Don't Be Afraid to Sing by Stars

Thursday 7 May 2009

Night Call

I just had my first two nights of overnight call since I became a mom. I survived as did SR alone with The Lorax as did most of the patients. (The ones who didn't survive were actively dying and I just wish they would have been out of the hospital and with their loved ones instead.)

People with life-threatening problems almost always wait until the night time to come in. Lab and radiology tests are not so routine at that time (and are simply used less in Denmark (I have only ordered one CT scan so far)), so it is my hands, stethoscope and Danish that need to make the diagnosis. There is always of course a more experienced doctor who can be consulted if needed. I was really nervous, but honestly nights like these are extremely fun and challenging. THIS is why I became a doctor, I thought to myself a few times.

But here's the best part: After two nights of call, I have five days off. One 18 and one 19 hour shift add up to 37 hours, so I am done. Not only can I have an exciting, educational job, but I can have a life with my family, too.

If you ask me, medical residencies in the US and many other westernized countries turn young women into depressed, stressed, overweight or unhealthy people with no family or a dysfunctional one. The thought of working 80 hours a week again as a mom leaves me nauseated. What is it exactly that is so good and educational about working so many hours, I wonder.

Anyway, in our time off, we'll be running a 10k race and then going to Söderåsens national park in Sweden for 3 days.

I imagine it will look something like this...

Lorax update: At 14 months, our guy is over 23 lbs and over 60th percentile in weight. I guess there was no reason to worry when he was born at 6 lbs. I just hope he doesn't continue hopping through weight percentiles at this rate.


and now...

Running song of the Day: The Gardener by The Tallest Man on Earth