Archive for the 'Health' Category


Saturday, March 31st, 2012

I took ill at the start of March and every day since I’ve  expected to feel better.  There were days in the month when things did improve, but then a day later I would wake up and feel as if someone had stabbed me in the throat again.  Yesterday I went to see the doctor as it was fairly obvious that wishful thinking the infection away wasn’t working.

I will only go and see a doctor if I feel I have no other choice.  But in Japan you are expected to go and see a doctor as soon as you suspect that you are ill, even if you think that illness may be nothing other than a cold.  The doctor was not happy that I had waited nearly 4 weeks to see someone.  I was not happy that the doctor spent his time with me typing notes on his computer and asking me questions as I was expecting him to examine me or maybe even look at me.  At the point where I was wondering why I couldn’t just have sent an email diagnosing myself he did look at my throat.  He then prescribed four different types of medication.  He didn’t tell me much about them, but then I knew that the pharmacist would do this.

When I saw the pharmacist he also wasn’t happy that I had waited for weeks, his assumption being that the symptoms had started maybe a day ago.  He told me that I was being given medication for my throat and sinus infection that included a pain killer, throat tablet, decongestant, and something for the cough.  I was given detailed verbal instructions on how to take the medication and a detailed printout.  If I had received this medication in the United Kingdom I would have been given some additional information.  The throat tablet was an antibiotic.  I wasn’t told that nor was I told that it is important to take the full course of antibiotics.  It makes me suspect that in Japan people take the medication that they are given and don’t just stop taking it when they feel better.  I also wasn’t told about possible side effects the most important one being that one of the drugs would make me drowsy.  Maybe I’m supposed to stay inside and do nothing for the next 7 days?

As always after a visit to a Japanese doctor I arrived home with what seemed like far too much medication.  But I will be good and take it for the next 7 days as I would like to be able to talk without pain.


Medication for Throat Infection

Unexpected Consequence?

Saturday, December 3rd, 2011

Somehow I forgot to blog in November.  It was a busy month and I don’t write as much when I’m travelling.  I also haven’t been overly well, which is probably the fault of my out of control thyroid hormones.  I was at the hospital this week and had the worst set of results in three years.  The doctor wasn’t exactly sure what has gone wrong, but one explanation was a consequence of the March earthquake.

When I went to the hospital in June I was given a different brand of medication.  It was supposed to be exactly the same thing only made by a German company and not a Japanese one.  I couldn’t completely understand what had happened with the old medication but there was some issue with the hospital being able to get their supply after the earthquake and the German supplier stepped in to help.

My doctor told me that some patients had problems with the German brand and that it’s possible that my medication hasn’t been absorbing properly for six months.  It would certainly be odd to blame the earthquake on my insomnia or to say, “really it’s not my diet, the earthquake made me fat”.  It is just one explanation though.  The other ones involve the disease progressing faster than expected, winter badly affecting my hormones, having some sort of viral infection, or my immune system weakening.  Horribly, whatever is happening is probably caused by a whole combination of factors.  I just wish that when things go wrong they could be corrected faster, but it will be four months before the next set of tests, and it could easily take a year to get back to where I was in June.  This could be a long winter.

Cold Prevention

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

We received information today from our medical insurance company listing medication that they supply once a year.  This included a set of things for cold prevention.

Japanese Cold Prevention

I’ve gotten used to the Japanese wearing masks in the winter but I hadn’t heard about Isodine Gargle until one of my doctors asked me if I was using it. She was concerned that my thyroid function was being affected by me gargling too often with products that contained iodine. For me it was an incredibly strange question but it seems that lots of people in Japan gargle with a mouth wash when they arrive home.

I’m not sure what a medical company in the UK would suggest for cold prevention. Maybe a medicated hand-wash, as there was much talk about these after the swine flu scare, but I can’t think of anything else.  All the other things for cold prevention that come to my mind aren’t backed up with much science.  My mother would encourage me to take echinacea which used to make me laugh as she pronounced it like “itchy kneea”.  There was a time when Vitamin C was considered to be the best thing to take to prevent a cold.  And now I hear people talking about Zinc.

When I was younger I spent more time arguing about these things.  But I was never persuasive enough to convince my grandmother that I wouldn’t “catch me death” by going out in the winter with wet hair.


Small Steps

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

I know I’ve been quiet.  I was hoping to write about my new pedometer and the number of steps I take each day.  But the first day I used it I had a migraine.  The first migraine I’ve had in years.  That was promptly followed by shingles, which I haven’t had in just over four years.  I haven’t been walking much.  I haven’t been doing anything much.

I’m contagious and should really stay inside.  But yesterday I snuck out and bought coconut milk so I could make a coconut cake.  I couldn’t find raspberry jam so I made a cream cheese coconut frosting to go with my cake.  I also decided to make a dinner that involved lots of chopped vegetables, multiple salads, and dips.  All this on a day when I shouldn’t have been allowed near a knife.  I was a wee bit clumsy.  Both the kitchen and I survived.

Today I want to exercise but I’m not well enough.  Another few days of this and my wall crawling won’t be metaphorical.

Stepping Up

Friday, May 20th, 2011

Now that many train stations have switched off their escalators to conserve energy it’s taking me longer to get around the city.  I can no longer dash up a moving escalator to make the train that’s about to leave the platform.  Running up the stairs isn’t practical.  Not only would it exhaust me but the other people on the stairs aren’t moving in an ordered manner.  Escalators are easier as no-one is running down one while you are running up.  There are also rules on the escalator: you stand on the left and walk on the right.  There are no rules on the stairs and I’m surprised that aren’t more head on collisions during rush hour.  Actually there are arrows painted on the stairs to indicate the routes for walking up and down but these get obscured by the hundreds of feet on the stairs.

At times I feel like I’ve walked up a lot of stairs and on Wednesday I decided to count them.  I went to the clinic and did some grocery shopping.  The 355 steps I walked up were in three train stations and on two foot bridges.  I monitor the amount of exercise I do in a week but I haven’t been counting the walking I do between train stations or to and from the grocery store.  I have a tendency to think of exercise as a planned activity like today when I walked 4 miles along the river.  Or when I spend an hour at the gym.  But now I’m curious about the amount of general walking I do.

When I go on long walks I plot the routes using Google maps and work out distances.  I also record the time it takes me to do the walks.  I don’t want to do this for general dandering around the city so I have jut bought a pedometer to count the number of steps I take in a day.  I’ve no idea how many steps I take in a day and don’t know if I’ll come close to the target of 10,000 that I have been told about, but I should know this time next week.

Overweight In Japan

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

Ovid wrote an interesting post discussing the differences in weight between Americans and Europeans.  The Japanese appear to be thin yet there is still a lot of concern about obesity and the indicators of metabolic syndrome in Japan.  Actually, I had never heard of metabolic syndrome until I moved to Japan and was very shocked to hear people that I would consider to be underweight discuss their concerns about becoming obese.

On the World Health Statistics report for 2011 the number of  Japanese men over the age of 20 that were considered to be obese was 5.5%.  For American men the figure was 30.2%, and for British men the figure was 24.4%.  The definition of obese used was “individuals with a body mass index (BMI) ≥30.00 kg/m2“.

The Japanese, however, don’t think about obesity in the same terms as Europe or America.  My husband, Marty, works in Japan and has annual health checks.  As part of this he is weighed and his waist circumference is measured.  Ovid quoted the following figure as the average weight for a British man – 79.75 kilos (175 pounds).  Marty is about the same weight as the average British man and has about 20% body fat.  His BMI is less than 30 but in Japan he is considered to be obese.  He is very healthy but he gets a grade “C” for weight.  Yes, he actually gets grades for everything that is tested.  They have told him that his ideal body weight is 62.5 kilos (138 pounds)!  (Since I’m from Northern Ireland I just have to write that in stone: they want Marty to weigh just over 9 and a half stone!).

The other measure for obesity is his waist circumference.  The Japanese government has decreed that men should have a waist of less than 85 centimeters (33.5 inches) or they are at risk for metabolic syndrome.  Marty’s waist is currently 89 centimeters (35 inches), another strike against him.  Japan isn’t the only country that uses waist circumference as a health indicator.  But in America there are concerns when a man’s waist is larger than 102 centimeters (40 inches) and in Europe if it is over 94 centimeters (37 inches).

Marty doesn’t get overly annoyed at the results he gets from work, after all since moving to Japan he has lost 10 kilos (22 pounds), but I am glad that I don’t have someone grading me on my weight.



Out Of It

Monday, May 16th, 2011

I’m having one of those days where my head is a bit foggy, and everything spins from time to time.  I’m not sure what is causing the dizziness but Marty is also feeling a bit strange.  Brain fogginess and dizziness are not a good combination.  I discovered that today when I was swinging my legs wildly while trying to walk down the steps to the train station.  If I had just been dizzy I would probably have sat down until the dizziness past but since my brain is moving slowly it took me much too long to realise that the lurching and leg swinging could have made me fall.  My first thoughts were all about Monty Python and nothing about how strange it was for me to be behaving like that in public.  It also never occurred to me that maybe I wasn’t well and that I should have turned round and went back home.

When I got to the train station I saw a older women stop at the top of a set of steps with a pram.  There are steps everywhere in Tokyo and it’s really noticeable at the minute as most of the escalators have been turned off to save electricity.  I walked up to her and said “would you like a hand?” and then proceeded to help lift the pram.  In Northern Ireland this would have been a perfectly normal thing to do.  But not here in Tokyo.  For a start I completely forgot to speak in Japanese.  I wasn’t thinking straight at all, I was just falling into a pattern of behaviour.  For some reason people don’t stop to help people with prams or wheelchairs in Tokyo.  I try to follow cultural rules but at times I just can’t help myself.  I can’t see an elderly woman struggle with a shopping basket in the supermarket without wanting to help.  I have been told that it can be seen as insulting to offer help, that I’m suggesting that the person isn’t capable, but I feel so rude when I don’t help.   And I can’t see a women with a pram at the top of a set of stairs without wanting to help.

I have no idea what the women thought about my help.  She told me that she was fine, and that she didn’t need help, but by that stage I had already lifted the pram .  I set the pram down, she thanked me, and I climbed the steps into the train station.  It was only when I got to the platform that I realised that I’d forgotten to speak in Japanese.  I hadn’t even noticed when she spoke in Japanese to me because I completely understood what she was saying.

I managed to catch the train and get the shopping without anything else odd happening.  But I will spend most of the afternoon sitting down as I really don’t like the spinning sensation when I stand up.

Dental Visit

Friday, January 7th, 2011

I was a bit worried about going to the dentist this morning.  I was only going for my six-monthly check-up and clean but I was concerned that they are going to hurt me with a sharp pointy drill thing. The dentist surgery is beautiful and they do their best to make you feel comfortable, going as far as putting a blanket over my legs when I was lying on the chair.  If it wasn’t for the strange cleaning implements it would feel more like a spa than a dental surgery.

The cleaning wasn’t as gentle as promised, as the pointy thing slipped and hit my gum at some point, but it wasn’t terrible.  It all sounds worse than it feels.

Chocolate Bad, Exercise Good

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

Yesterday I found a box of revels that I had bought when I was in Belfast.  A yummy box of chocolate goodness that I managed to scoff in under 10 minutes.  This caused me a problem. There were 480 calories in that box, 480 calories that I really didn’t need to eat yesterday.

During the winter my thyroid disease gets worse.  I can tell this by the way I feel, but just in case I am not convinced my last hospital visit provided me with a print-out of my blood tests clearly showing the problem.  A side effect of the condition is weight gain.  I have been told that this can be controlled with a low calorie diet and exercise.  Funny enough a box of revels doesn’t exactly fit into a low calorie diet.

There are times when I let things slip, but that’s usually because I’m on holiday or I am travelling.  Yesterday was a normal day in a normal week.  This morning as penance I fitted in an extra gym visit.   It didn’t start well.  I think I was still half-asleep and maybe sprayed the deodorant on my face instead of under my arms as I started to sneeze violently.  Or maybe I was just allergic to the concept of going to the gym.  Once I got over my sneezing fit I dragged myself out and did manage to use the cross trainer for an hour.  I’m really glad that there are more benefits to exercise than burning calories.  The thought that I have to sweat for an hour just to counteract the effects of a few minutes of eating is fairly horrible.  But maybe not horrible enough to make me give up chocolate.

New Year, New Exercise

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

I decided to give push-ups another go.  I tried this last year but I find them nearly impossible to do.  This year I’m going to start by doing push-ups on my knees.  I’ve always felt that these weren’t good enough but I think that doing this has to be better than doing no push-ups at all.  I can do about 20 of these in one set, unlike the 1 I can manage of the proper form push-ups.

Every month or so I buy a new exercise DVD.  This month I bought Pussycat Dolls Workout.  I tried this yesterday for the first time and I’m not sure what I make of it.  I suppose it is fun, but there is a really strange section in the middle the requires the use of a feather boa.  I can’t imagine exercising in underwear, high heels, and a boa.  So instead I wore my gym wear and used a wooly scarf – not quite “pussycat”.  It’s not a fantastic workout but it’s a fun one and there are a couple of dance moves that I wouldn’t mind mastering.

January won’t be a good month for exercise as I’m going to be on holiday for most it.  Sure, I’ll try to swim and go to the gym whilst I’m away, but I won’t be surprised if I give that up for lounging around and reading books.