Saturday, February 25, 2012

Living in a Hawaii resort - what we have learned

For the past two years we have been renting a condo in the resort community of Kona, Hawaii. During that time we have made progress on our health and been able to publish a book. Thinking about the past two years, we realize we have learned some things about ourselves by living here.
  1. Morning sunlight can make the entire day more wonderful. Kona tends to have great sunlight in the morning and our second story condo has windows that are situated so that we can sit next to them and bathe in the early sunlight. Rain storms or heavy VOG (volcanic emissions) later in the day cannot damper the uplifting effect of a daily dose of sunlight in the morning.
  2. We will actually use an exercise room. We have been using the condo complex’s exercise room regularly for two years now. Using the weight lifting and aerobic exercise machines for only 20 minutes, three times a week has made a big difference in our overall strength and fitness. Surprisingly, we have only been joined by others working out in the small exercise room a couple of times the entire time we have been here. We have to admit we never used exercise rooms in previous apartment complexes in California, so something is different for us in Kona.
  3. We will swim in a pool almost every day if it is warm and clean. We have yet to tire of spending time in the condo complex pool even though it is a long walk from our unit. Doing water aerobics for 45 minutes most every day and socializing with the people at the pool has been a great daily habit for us. We enjoy the pool whether it is crowded or empty and miss going if we cannot make it a particular day.
  4. We need quiet. We have found it essential to have a quiet environment. We find noise and activity very distracting when trying to write or study. Unfortunately, we live above a very active parking lot and during the high season the noise and activity can last from early morning to very late at night.
  5. We have come to avoid walking on streets with lots of traffic. Alii Drive is nearby and a favorite walking and running place for a lot of people, but a few close calls with drivers has chased us away. We have found that protected paths, far away from cars, are far more enjoyable for walks.
  6. The VOG is still a pain. Hawaii Island’s volcano is churning out more volcanic emissions (VOG) than ever. Though we live in an area with less VOG than most of Kona, our fans and every counter and possession are covered daily with a thick, gray, volcanic dust.
  7. Neighbors are really important. In our condo community, we live closely together with open windows and can hear everything and everyone. Being in a resort area, neighbors change more frequently, many of them staying only a month or two. On the upside, we have met some really interesting people from all over the world, but on the downside, we have to wait patiently for them to unwind and get on Hawaiian time and pace.
  8. Stairs are a challenge. Though we like the extra exercise of going up and down stairs to get to our second floor condo, long term we do not want to have to deal with stairs. Everything has to be hauled up and all the trash hauled down which is a stress on our backs and knees.
  9. Parking is important.. We never realized how important a well designed parking lot is in a densely populated community.With small parking spots, getting in and out of a car is like a gymnastic routine. We now see the importance of having space between cars and extra spots for guests.
  10. We enjoy the socialization of condo living. Living in a condo and sharing the facilities has led to a lot of socializing with visitors and residents. The turnover has been dramatic during the two years we have lived here, but in general we have found the people that show up around the pool to be very fun and we have learned a lot from them.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Chasing Sunshine in an Age of Global Dimming

We marvel at how healthy and happy our seasonal visitors look after just five weeks in the Hawaii sunshine. Looking at their transformation makes us think about how much of our adulthood we have been chasing sunshine. After moving from the tropical island of Java to attend college in Portland, Oregon we learned that researchers were finding that the earth was in an age of global dimming

Studies were finally published in the mid-1980’s about the dramatic decline in solar radiation striking the Earth’ s surface. There was 10 to 15% less sunlight reaching the ground than when we were kids and the dimming was increasing every year. After four years of constant drizzle and grey skies in Portland, we were convinced it was far more than 15%. That was the beginning of our search for sunnier places to live.

PORTLAND, OREGON on average 48% of sunshine days a year

Our first move was south, to Dallas, Texas, where there were more jobs and more sunlight.

DALLAS-FORT WORTH, TEXAS on average 61% of sunshine days a year

Though Dallas was warmer and sunnier than Portland, there was still not enough for us. We moved to the beach communities of Los Angeles County in search of more sunny days.

LOS ANGELES COUNTY, CALIFORNIA on average 73% of sunshine days a year

There were definitely more sunny days, but the Santana winds and smog gave us sore throats and burning eyes for weeks at a time. Eventually, we made our way to New Mexico, where we heard rainbows and sun were the norm.

ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO on average 76% of sunshine days a year

The sun in New Mexico was wonderful, but we had to endure nine months of freezing cold temperatures to be in it. To get back to a warmer climate and better job opportunities we moved to Northern California.

SAN FRANCISCO COUNTY, CALIFORNIA on average 66% of sunshine days a year

The jobs were great but the lack of sun affected us even more than earlier and SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) became a challenge every winter.

To survive the overcast winters, we started coming to Hawaii to soak up the sun. At first we came for a week, then two and then a month at a time. Hawaii is the ultimate warm and tropical place for us, so we were thrilled when we finally were able to move to the islands. We picked Hilo for its affordability and the many cultural and science events.

HILO, HAWAII on average 41% of sunshine days a year

After living in Hilo, we learned that places in Hawaii vary dramatically in sunshine from place to place on every island. For more sun, we moved to Kona on the west side of Hawaii Island where there are twice as many sunny days.

Kona, HAWAII on average 82% of sunshine days a year

We love how sunny the winters are in Kona. We also like that we are only a 30 minute drive from the Kohala Coast, a desert climate area with even more days of sunshine. On cloudy days in Kona we can drive up to the beach and usually get a huge dose of sunshine.

With the world focus on global warming, there are few studies on global dimming these days, but we notice that every year we age the healing power of sunshine seems greater.

Places in Hawaii vary in days of sunshine, which is something to consider if you are seeking sunshine when vacationing or moving to Hawaii.

HONOLULU, Oahu on average 71% of sunshine days a year
KAHULUI, Maui on average 67% of sunshine days a year
LIHUE, Kauai on average 58% of sunshine days a year

The figures for sunshine were extracted from the NOAA database of average possible days of sunshine.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Is there a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease?

Our concern about our memories and mental functioning grows as we age. When we lost our keys in our 30’s we didn’t see it as a sign of dementia starting, but as we get older, lost keys cause us to wonder. Fortunately, there is a lot of promising research on how to keep our brains functioning well and possibly prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Many studies have shown that taking the nutritional supplement R-alpha-lipoic-acid seems to improve the functioning of the cell's mitochondria and reduce the rate of decline in mental functioning in Alzheimer patients.

In the last five years animal studies have shown that adding the nutritional supplement acetyl-L-carnitine with alpha-lipoic-acid appears to actually recover mitochondria functioning, rather than just slow down the rate of decline. Research has shown the two supplements to be effective at restoring heart functioning as well as mental functioning.

Alpha-lipoic-acid seems to energize and improve the mitochondria’s function of converting food to energy while adding L-carntine seems to actually reverse damage by removing the build-up of protein in the cell walls that block the transfer of nutrients.

We first researched L-carnitine in the 1990’s when we became vegetarians.The best source of L-carnitine is beef, with smaller amounts available in cheese and other animal products. Taking the supplement made a big difference in improving our energy levels.  Since returning to a beef diet, with the availability of grass-fed Hawaii beef, we have not been taking the supplement. We wonder if feed-lot beef and the “pink stuff” washed in ammonia used in fast food restaurants and grocery store ground beef provides the level of L-carnitine that we had as kids.

Though we have taken both of these nutritional supplements at different times, we never noticed a significant benefit from either of them.  Since reading about the study, we started taking them together. We noticed improvement within a week in strategy video games we play every day to exercise our brains, with no other explanation. We plan to keep taking them as part of our nutritional supplements in the hopes of retaining our mental functioning as we age. If you are a regular reader of our blog you can judge for yourself whether it is helping us think and communicate better.