Rocky Gorge Wellness Fall Newsletter

Falling in Love with Autumn

It’s been a long year, but the glory of Fall is finally upon us! We’re watching the leaves falling, gracing our landscape with a blanket of vibrant color. Fall also reminds us of another kind of falling. Let’s be more conscious about preventing the injuries that can result from unintended spills.

Balance and Fall Prevention

The National Council on Aging observes “Falls Prevention Awareness Week” every September. Therefore, it’s fitting that we introduce this section, which will be of special interest to readers who are older and more at risk for injury. But whatever your age, you can avoid a number of hazards that can lead to preventable falls.

Avoid Falls Through Strength and Balance

Lower limb stability enhances our brain’s capacity to perceive and navigate our space: it’s called proprioception. That’s why I promote daily regimens that strengthen and stretch. Strong ankles, calves, knees, and quads are integral to improving the structural integrity of those areas of your body. And you multitaskers can incorporate simple stretching and balancing routines while doing other things, such as checking your emails on your phone while standing, waiting in a line for takeout or to cast your vote at the polls, or waiting for your soup to come to a simmer on the stove.

With improved muscle strength, sharper reflexes, and a firmer core, you’ll be better able to achieve good balance and posture.

Simple Movements for Balance and Lower Body Strength

We can avail ourselves of many exercises that improve our balance and body awareness. Here are two basic, simple movements that can be done every day, any time or place without equipment, to improve balance by aligning our bodies and encouraging muscle memory.

Squats

Squats improve alignment and balance by working the core, back, hips, glutes, quads, and hamstrings. They are said to be one of the most functional exercises one can do!

How to do squats: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees as you would to sit on a stool or chair. Make sure you are protecting your knees by pushing your hips back. You should be able to see the tops of your feet. Exhale on the squat, raising the arms forward, keeping the chest open and the shoulders down. Inhale as you rise. To begin, do 8–12 repetitions.

Heel raises

Heel raises strengthen calf muscles, ankle joints, and improve circulation in the lower legs.

How to do heel raises: Place a chair in front of you and stand about 6 inches away. You can also support yourself at a kitchen counter or sink. Grasp the supporting object. With feet shoulder-width apart, slowly raise your heels so you stand on the balls of your feet. Repeat 10–15 times. Increase reps as you gain strength. Alternatively, you can place your palms on a wall to do this exercise. Make sure you’re standing completely straight and not leaning forward.

Situational Awareness

Being hyper-aware of your surroundings can prevent falls! A friend recently sustained a serious face plant when she tripped on uneven pavement, leading to a damaged wrist and knee and blurred vision in one eye. Yikes. We often (wrongly) assume that artificial areas like sidewalks and curbs, parking lots, decks, and even interior public spaces are uniformly level, but surprises lurk everywhere at home and in public spaces. Take a good look at your surroundings for obstructions on the ground and on walls, such as:

  • Loose and creased area rugs and runners
  • Cracked tiles and uneven floorboards
  • Rogue electronic cords and cables
  • Sidewalk curbs
  • Accumulated yard waste (those colorful leaves!) that can hide holes, depressions, sticks, and stones
  • Protruding objects on walls, such as door handles, racks and hooks, railings, hanging shelves, electric switches, and light sconces

Prevent Falls Through Medication Awareness

We are lucky to have a wide array of drugs that can improve our wellbeing. But some medications can also throw off your balance. The Harvard Medical School shares helpful information regarding drugs that impair balance by suppressing the central nervous system. They can contribute to imbalance by causing lightheadedness, affecting our alertness and reaction times, and slowing movement.

Balance-disruptive drugs include— 

Over-the-counter drugs that cause drowsiness, such as:

Diphenhydramine (Benadryl™), found often in sleep aids and sometimes combined with pain medications as well as cold and flu therapies.

Prescription medications, such as:

  • Anti-anxiety drugs
  • Drugs for overactive bladder conditions
  • Blood pressure medications
  • Tricyclic antidepressants
  • Sleep aid medications
  • Drugs that relieve chronic pain and nerve pain, such as narcotics
  • Medical marijuana

Discuss these potential hazards with your health provider and pharmacist.

Mobility Limits from Age or Surgery

If you’re experiencing temporary limits on leaning and reaching, especially after surgery, invest in a handy grabber tool to avoid overreaching for objects. I know people who continue to use them, after they’re no longer medically necessary, for reaching objects on high shelves and clutching items on the floor, like dropped car keys or your pet’s feeding bowl.

Lights On

We are all conscious of curbing our energy use, but many falls occur in underlit areas. Invest in energy-saving lighting, especially in parts of your home where you tend to keep the lights off most of the time. Well-placed night lights in all rooms and hallways will help you avoid those bumps and falls. 

Come to Your Senses and Count on Them!

Finally, get your eyes and hearing checked! Make sure your visual acuity is examined to correct not just near and distance vision, but your depth and peripheral perception.

Diminished hearing can limit awareness of when something or someone is behind you. After all, we are not equipped with radar or antenna!

How’s About Them Apples?

The apple is perhaps the most symbolic crop that we associate with the autumn harvest season. Apples have become immensely popular year-round, eaten raw and widely used in cooking. This is not a forbidden fruit!

Everyone in our family is crazy about apples (Malus domestica). Reportedly there are more than 7,500 varieties of this world-favorite fruit. It has become a dominant and important crop in America, especially in the Northeast. While apples’ wild ancestors are native to Central Asia, trees may have been cultivated as long as 10,000 years ago and have been grown worldwide for centuries. Nowadays, over 200 varieties are still popular. But here in the U.S. we tend to still say that something is “as American as apple pie!”

Apple Nutrition

We know it’s a cliché, but an apple a day can keep illness at bay! In Wales, they’ve been saying for more than 200 years: “Eat an apple on going to bed, and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.”

Apples are low in calories (about 95) and are good sources for Vitamins A, C, B1, B2, B6, E, and K, potassium, and soluble and insoluble fiber. The soluble fiber, pectin, is used to thicken jams, jellies, and pie fillings. Pectin is a good prebiotic for digestive health, directly feeding our gut microbes. Soluble fiber is believed to decrease blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Polyphenols in apples, more specifically the flavonoid quercetin, protect our tissues from free radicals and improve vascular health. Any apple with red skin contains about 10 mg. of quercetin.

Apples are often touted for weight loss diets because they deliver energy and volume from fiber while being less dense in carbohydrates.

Apple cider vinegar, especially raw and unpasteurized, can alleviate gastric distress and deliver essential probiotic microorganisms to our intestinal tracts.

For a long time, apples were pressed exclusively for hard cider because many raw apple varieties were not very palatable. Hard cider keeps longer than the non-alcoholic variety. But drink too much of that, and you may be at risk for falling!

Fresh “soft” cider is refreshing, full of vitamins and minerals, and great for cooking or gently warmed with spices like cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, cloves, orange peel, anise, and ginger. Keep in mind that fresh soft apple cider is just as high in fructose as other fruit juices, so limit your consumption to about three cups a week if you’re watching carbs and calories.

Contemporary agricultural innovations have tweaked and perfected apple varieties and hybrids. Yet there are still lots of private, small-scale orchards around the country that offer a delectable range of heritage, hybrid, and heirloom varieties. If you’re lucky enough to live near any of them, apple picking is a perfect pandemic activity that will afford you and your family and friends outdoor exercise and crisp fresh air.

Ways to Fit Fresh Apples into Your Meals

  • Blend into soups based on winter squash, parsnips, or sweet potato
  • Sauté with sausages and sweet onions for breakfast and top with maple syrup
  • Slice or grate raw in salads and slaws
  • Add thin slices to cheddar or brie sandwiches with cranberry relish; add roast turkey for a protein boost
  • Snack on raw apple slices slathered with peanut, almond, or sunflower butter

Apple Recipes for Warmth and Comfort

Harvest Apple Oatmeal Muffins

Makes one dozen high-fiber, fragrantly spiced muffins.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

Ingredients:

1 ¼ cup rolled oats
1 ¼ cup white or whole wheat flour
1 cup buttermilk or plain yogurt
1 teaspoon each of baking powder and baking soda
¼ cup crushed walnuts
½ cup sugar or 1/3 cup stevia (or follow the proportions recommended for your product)
¼ cup maple syrup
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 cup apple sauce, preferably sugarless (or substitute with apple butter—see below)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon each ground cloves and nutmeg
A pinch of salt

Soak the oats in the buttermilk or yogurt for 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, blend the dry ingredients, adding the nuts last.
Beat the egg lightly with a fork and add the oil.
Add the soaked oats, egg, oil, and apple sauce gradually to the dry ingredients, mixing well.

Distribute batter into a greased muffin tin and bake for about 25 minutes. Or pour into a greased glass or ceramic baking dish and bake for about 30–40 minutes for “Apple Bread.”

Apple Butter

My sister, an editor for our newsletters, was so crazy about apple butter when she was a kid that we still call her “Amy Applebutter.” Apple butter takes apple sauce to a deeper level, being a more concentrated, rich and spicy brown spread that pairs marvelously with buttered bread, hot biscuits or toast, and as a condiment for hearty pork and turkey dishes, or blended into baked goods.

Slow-Cooker Apple Butter

Makes about 24 servings

Some folks recommend using a variety of apple types. Choose crisp, tart varieties, such as Cortland, Granny Smith, MacIntosh, Braeburn, Ida Reds, and Gravensteins, rather than bland types (such as red or gold delicious).

Ingredients:

5–6 pounds apples, cored, seeded, and peeled
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup each of white sugar and brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground cloves

Into a large slow cooker, place the apples and vinegar. Cook on HIGH for 8 hours, stirring occasionally. Reset the cooker to LOW and continue cooking 10 more hours. Again, stir occasionally. (No, you don’t have to get up at 4 a.m. to stir the pot!)
Add sugar and spices and cook about 4 more hours. Adjust seasonings to taste.

If the contents are still a little lumpy, put in a food processor or use and immersion blender (easier!) to render the apple butter into a thick sauce.

*Note: for an even darker, more fiber-rich apple butter, don’t peel the apples. Run the cooked product through a food mill or sieve after cooling.

This apple butter can be preserved by canning, but you can also freeze 4- or 8-ounce portions in plastic containers and thaw as needed. Refrigerated, it lasts about a month.

And tell us how you like them apples!

Essential Oil of the Season: Eucalyptus

The intensely fragrant, volatile aromatic oil that eucalyptus produces protects the tree from dehydration in dry climates and defends it from pests. Almost all eucalyptus (Myrtaceae family) originates in Australia, but it is cultivated worldwide in frost-free regions.

Its powerful compounds have been recruited by humans for a long, long time. In fact, it is probably best known and appreciated for its support of respiratory health. Eucalyptus is excellent for opening bronchial passages through inhalation of vapors and chest rubs. Patients with flu, colds, staph infections, pneumonia, COPD, and asthma benefit greatly from its vapors.

Eucalyptus’s antiseptic and antimicrobial properties make it useful for topical wound dressings and mitigating lung infections. It’s been used effectively to alleviate pain. Moreover, it’s sometimes a component in insect repellants. Therapeutically, it is used in body rubs and massage oils. And its vapors are rejuvenating, clearing your head when you most need it.

As with all essential oils, do not use directly on the skin. Always blend with distilled water or a carrier oil, about 10 drops per oz of water or oil.

Eucalyptus Hacks

Eucalyptus Steam Therapy:
For chest congestion, fill a 6-quart pot or steamer pot with distilled water. Add 5–6 drops of eucalyptus essential oil. When the water comes to a simmer, turn off the flame and wait 10 minutes. Gently lower your face over the water. Place a towel over your head and over the sides of the pot and slowly inhale the vapors, being careful not inhale too sharply. If the water is too hot, wait several minutes or add a little cold water. This mixture can be saved and used repeatedly over a couple of days as needed.

Eucalyptus Essential Oil Diffuser:
Alternatively, for a less intense but prolonged experience, add about 10 drops to your diffuser, or follow the recommended proportions for your device.

Face Mask Relief:
And eucalyptus comes to the rescue in the Age of COVID-19! Add a few drops to a carrier oil or ointment, such as a salve or petroleum jelly, and apply to the rims of your nostrils with a cotton swab before putting on your face mask. You’ll appreciate the effects!

It’s Fall, But We Are Not Fallen!

As we continue to live with caution over these next several months, let’s keep on nourishing and moving our bodies. Let’s continue to show kindness and concern to each other. Keep eating apples, wearing your mask in public, and strengthening your immune system!