IFA News and Opinion
Issue Date:  October 1, 2013

Little pumpkins for fun...and great taste

Everyone knows Halloween ends the month of October, a celebration in which millions of pumpkins are grown specifically for jack-o'-lanterns.

But pumpkins make great pies, muffins, cakes, bars, cheesecakes and more. Baby ones can be hollowed out, baked, and used as containers for custard or stuffed with many kinds of fillings.

Buy baby pumpkins (3-6 inches) in October and store them in a dry and cool area for Thanksgiving use.

Stuffed Baby Pumpkins

6 baby pumpkins (4-6 oz.)
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
1 shallot, minced
2 cups fresh lump crab meat
Pinch of nutmeg and ground mustard
Salt and pepper to taste.
4 cups chopped fresh spinach
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup Gruyere cheese, grated cup brandy
1 lemon wedge.

The instructions

Roast baby pumpkins in a 350 degree oven until tender (40 minutes to 1 hour). Cool. Cut off the tops with stems intact; scoop out seeds. If roasted in advance, reheat 5-10 minutes before using.

Sauté the crab meat (or chopped colossal shrimp or lobster), mushrooms and shallot with a little olive oil on medium-high heat. Add the mustard and nutmeg; season with salt and pepper to taste. When mushrooms are soft; deglaze pan with cognac, slowly add cream and spinach. Stir until cream has reduced and spinach softens. Stir in cheese and squeeze in the lemon.

Put pumpkins on individual plates or a platter, spoon filling inside and place pumpkin lid on top. Serves 6. Double or triple recipe for a party.

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The Lighter Side ...

Old man

He was eating lunch at a truck stop when three bikers walked in. The first pushed his cigarette into the old man's pie, then took a seat at the counter.

The second spit in the old man's milk, then took a seat at the counter. The third turned his plate over and then took a seat at the counter.

The old man left without a word. One of the bikers said to the waitress, "Humph, not much of a man is he?"

The waitress replied: "Not much of a truck driver either. He just backed his truck over three motorcycles."

About the devil

The Sunday School teacher asked little Johnny, "Do you believe in the devil?"

"No," said Johnny. "I believe it's just like with Santa Claus."

"The devil is my dad."

What to do

An elderly couple just bought cellphones and learned how to text. She was the romantic type and one afternoon sent him this message.
"If you are sleeping, send me your dreams.
If you are laughing, send me your smile.
If you are eating, send me a bite.
If you are drinking, send me a sip.
If you are crying, send me your tears. I love you."
The husband texted back to her: "I'm in the bathroom. Please advise.


Pearls of Wisdom

Riches don't make a man rich, they only make him busier.
               Christopher Columbus, discoverer of America in 1492.

By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination.
              Christopher Columbus, discovered the new world in 1492

What we think determines what happens to us, so if we want to change our lives, we need to stretch our minds.
             Wayne Dyer, self-help advocate

Chuckles Corner

Get a flu shot for the 2013-2014 flu season

You could choose Flublok, a new vaccine developed for people with egg allergies.

October is the preferred month for arranging protection against this year's flu strains. After taking a shot or nasal spray, it takes two weeks for immunization to take hold. That means you will have just enough time to be fully protected for the flu season, which begins in mid November. It peaks in December and January and can last through April.

This year, the Food and Drug Administration is offering Flublok, which is different from other vaccines. People who have avoided flu shots because they have an egg allergy can take Flublok without fear of a reaction. It's made with cultured animal cells instead of fertilized eggs. The shot is very effective and contains no preservatives.

It protects against the same flu strains as the traditional vaccines: H1N1, H3N2 and A and B influenza viruses. Flublok has approval for people between the ages of 18 and 49

The nasal spray is made with weakened live flu virus and given with a mist sprayed in the nose. It's approved for healthy people ages 2 to 49, except pregnant women.

All the vaccines offer 60 percent protection from a full-blown case of the flu. But even if a vaccinated person comes down with the flu, it will be a very light case with mild symptoms.

Everyone over the age of 6 months should get the shot, but it's most important for people at high risk for complications like pneumonia.

This includes people who have such medical conditions as asthma, diabetes, or chronic lung disease; pregnant women; people age 65 and older (who can get a high-dose shot); and those who live with or care for others who are at a high risk of flu complications.


Get early expert care for rheumatoid arthritis

The number of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients who eventually get orthopedic surgery is declining. Doctors at Johns Hopkins Health say that the way to avoid surgery is to get prompt treatment from a rheumatologist.

A recent study in the journal Rheumatology suggests that rheumatologists are more likely than other physicians to recognize and treat RA appropriately. Seeing one of these specialists is important if you suspect you have RA. Without proper treatment, RA can permanently damage joints.

It's difficult for primary care physicians to diagnose RA at an early stage since it can resemble other conditions. Symptoms include morning stiffness in the joints of the hands and feet, also inflammation, pain and swelling. Over-the-counter medications can treat the pain but not the cause.

Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs include methotrexate (Theumatrex, Folex) and leflunomide (Arava). A new category of medications called biologits has contributed to RA outcomes, especially in severe cases. Patients who receive these treatments may go into complete remission.


Sometimes life can be a pain in the neck: what to do about it

If you sometimes have neck pain, a diagnostic evaluation will rule out dangerous problems.

Neck function is very complicated, with many moving parts, so doctors can't usually tell what's causing it.

Even if an MRI or an X-ray shows arthritis in a joint, there's no way to know if that's the cause or if it's something else, such as how you hold your head when you're at the computer.

Doctors say in the first few weeks of common neck pain, a hands-off approach is best. But these self-care steps may speed recovery, say Mayo Clinic doctors.

  • Stay active. If you feel the need, take 10 or 15 minute breaks during the day to rest your neck.
  • Improve your posture. Keeping your head in a neutral position is the key. Practice sitting and standing tall. Avoid positions that lean to one side or tilt downward for periods of time.
  • Relax. Tense muscles benefit from stress-reduction techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation and progressive muscle relaxation. A warm shower also makes muscles relax.
  • Use nonprescription pain medications (Tylenol and others). After a strain, use an ice pack wrapped in a towel for up to 20 minutes at a time.
  • Neck rotation: Slowly rotate your head from side to side.
  • Neck tilting: tilt your head to one side then the other, moving your ear closer to your shoulder each time.

    Neck bending: bend your neck forward as if trying to touch your chin to your chest. Then carefully bend it backward.

    If pain persists for four to six weeks, other treatment options may include physical therapy, prescription medications, injections and needling, chiropractic manipulation, or short-term neck immobilization.


    Fire ant sting can be serious: get treatment

    Stinging fire ants are common in the southeastern United States. Some experts estimate that up to 16 percent of Americans stung by a fire ant suffer severe allergic reactions. But many who know they are allergic don't adhere to therapy that could prevent a life-threatening reaction, say allergists at Johns Hopkins University.

    People can build immunity, but the allergy shots are required monthly for three to five years. Avoiding treatment means every sting will have a worse reaction, which could include anything from hives to vomiting and diarrhea, weakness and cardiac arrest.

    If you are allergic, carry an epinephrine pen with you, wear gloves when doing yard work and don't wear sandals or go barefoot.


  • Exercise at midlife pays off for decades later

    In their 40s and 50s, people who made a point of staying fit before may get pretty busy. They start wondering if lifting weights, exercising at home or going to the gym is worth the time and effort.

    There has always been some evidence that people who are fit at midlife are more likely to be healthy in their 60s, 70s and 80s. The best evidence available now comes from the Cooper Institute in Dallas. It has a database of patients who have gone to their preventive medicine clinic since 1970

    Chronic illnesses

    Their study, published in the September Archives of Internal Medicine, focused on data from 18,000 healthy people whose cardiovascular fitness was measured by treadmill tests in their 40s or 50s. By examining Medicare claims on these subjects, researchers found that those who were most fit were much less likely to develop heart disease, Alzheimer's, diabetes, kidney disease, colon or lung cancer during the next 20 to 30 years.


    They also found that subjects who were fittest at midlife were one-third less likely to develop dementia in their 70s and 80s. Cardiovascular fitness helps prevent dementia by reducing the risk of diabetes and hypertension, both of which can contribute to dementia. But even after controlling these factors, the reduced risk for dementia and Alzheimer's disease remained.

    Fitness now

    Doctors at the University of California, Berkeley, say one benefit of being fit in middle age is that it increases the likelihood that you'll continue to exercise, eat well and stop smoking.

    If you're past middle age and didn't exercise much back then, you can still get many of the benefits of midlife fitness if you start to exercise now.

    It's never too late to start improving your fitness level with exercise and other healthy habits.


    Shingles are not generally contagious

    If you live with, or have a friend who has developed a painful case of the shingles, you may wonder if close contact with them could make your own dormant chickenpox virus activate, giving you shingles too.

    If you had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine, there's no danger that you'll get shingles from a person who has it, according to the University of California, Berkeley.

    If you never had chickenpox or the vaccine, there is a small chance that you could get chickenpox from the shingles sufferer if he or she is in the contagious stage of the disease.

    Pregnant women who never had the disease or the vaccine should stay away from the patient.


    CrossFit for the superfit

    CrossFit is a trademarked regimen that is licensed to gyms and certified trainers. Developer Greg Glassman, quoted in The Wall Street Journal, says workouts are most effective when performed with equipment such as weights, medicine balls and pull-up bars. CrossFit exercises can be as simple as bouncing a weighted ball or jumping off a wooden box. Such exercises and power lifts or push-ups are typically mixed into a session.

    For people who want a quick sample of a CrossFit workout, one CrossFit training facility in Maryland, offers two routines.

    The measure of effectiveness is how quickly you can complete a set number of repetitions. Completing a program in 12 minutes, for example, is better than doing it in 15 or 20 minutes.

    For these starters, however, just do as many as you can without undue stress. As you gain strength over time, you'll be able to do more.

  • Do three sets of these weight-free exercises: 30 pushups, 40 sit-ups and 50 squats.
  • Another routine is to alternate running a quarter of a mile then doing 15 burpees for a total of 15 minutes.
  • Burpees begin in a standing position. Then squat and lower your hands to the floor. Kick your feet back into a push-up position. Then return to the squat and then the standing position.


    How to help your eyes adapt to night driving

    There are a number of conditions that can affect your vision. They are especially noticeable when it comes to night driving.

    Cataracts affect the lens at the front of the eye. They can create glare, fuzziness and a halo effect around lights.

    Diabetes can cause problems because higher blood sugar can affect the liquid in the middle of the eye. And it's possible that your prescription for eyeglasses should be changed.

    After ruling these conditions out, one possible cause involves being in bright light for 2 to 3 hours before night driving. It can slow how quickly your eyes adapt to lower light. If you must be in bright light, try wearing sunglasses during part of that time.

    The easiest suggestion: Allow 20 minutes for your eyes to adapt to lower light before hitting the road. Writing in Prevention, Dr. Sanjay Gupta also recommends taking a multivitamin that covers your vitamin A and C and beta-carotene needs, as well as omega-3 capsules.