Hearing Loss Threatens Mind, Life and Limb


Ever wondered if  family and friends who are concerned that you might be experiencing hearing loss might be right? Poor hearing is not just an annoying inconvenience.

“Two huge new studies have demonstrated a clear association between untreated hearing loss and an increased risk of dementia, depression, falls and even cardiovascular diseases.”

Read on via Hearing Loss Threatens Mind, Life and Limb – The New York Times

FYI:  I will continue to get mine checked yearly.

My Top Ten Books – 2018

I’m a goal oriented person who hoped to read 35 books this year.  I’m thrilled to report that I have ended up reading 45 books, with time for at least one more in 2018. I use Goodreads to track books that I want to read, books that I’ve read, and to see what my friends are reading.  Consider using the Goodreads app to improve your own enjoyment of and engagement in reading books.

Ten books stood out for me in 2018:

Ten Million Steps by M.J. Eberhart  – M. J. Eberhart, aka  Nimblewill Nomad, was a 60-year-old newly retired doctor in January 1998 when he set off on a foot journey that carried him 4,400 miles (twice the length of the Appalachian Trail) from the Florida Keys to the far north of Quebec.  It is also the first known public report of hiking the International Appalachian Trail, an extension of the AT  from Baxter State Park through northern Maine, New Brunswick, and Quebec. 

On Trails: An Exploration by Robert Moore– Moore is a young man who is already a a huge writer that has won multiple awards for his nonfiction work. As a hiker, I found the whole book interesting, but the Prologue and Epilogue holds the best writing about long distance hiking and “hiker-trash” philosophy that this hiker has ever read.

Play On: The New Science of Elite Performance at Any Age– “Through fascinating profiles and first-person anecdotes, Bercovici illuminates the science and strategies extending the careers of elite older athletes, uncovers the latest advances in fields from nutrition to brain science to virtual reality, and offers empowering insights about how the rest of us can find peak performance at any age.”- from Goodreads

This Land Is Our Land- Ken Ilgunas– “Inspired by the United States’ history of roaming, and taking guidance from present-day Europe, Ilgunas calls into question our entrenched understanding of private property and provocatively proposes something unheard of: opening up American private property for public recreation. He imagines a future in which folks everywhere will have the right to walk safely, explore freely, and roam boldly–from California to the New York island, from the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters.” – From Goodreads

Gut: The Inside Story- Julia Enders : I’ve read a half dozen or so books about the connection between gut health/diversity and functional performance and this one is fun, brief, easy to understand, and well focused.

The Human Superorganism: How the Microbiome Is Revolutionizing the Pursuit of a Healthy Life- Rodney Dietert

“How would you react if you learnt that the microbes in, on and around your body could be the key to your physical and mental well-being? This is the enthusiastic claim made here. And it’s certainly a thought-provoking assertion. The metaphor of the “superorganism” represents the claim that human being cannot be understood in isolation of the bacterial and archaean colonies that live inside it and help it survive and strive.” -Otto Lehto

The Overstory- Richard Powers – This is the only fiction book on my list.   “From the roots to the crown and back to the seeds, The Overstory unfolds in concentric rings of interlocking fables that range from antebellum New York to the late twentieth-century Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest and beyond, exploring the essential conflict on this planet: the one taking place between humans and nonhumans. There is a world alongside ours—vast, slow, interconnected, resourceful, magnificently inventive, and almost invisible to us.” – Goodreads

Reading the Forested Landscape- Tom Wessels This book is a re-read for me.  Given my almost daily forays out into the various ecological locations depicted graphically and verbally in this book, I refer to it multiple times most days.  It is essential reading for exploring the edges of abandoned forests and the overgrown fields and swamps in coastal Maine, where I live.

The Man Who Walked Backward- Ben Montgomery I’ve started to listen to audio books while driving.  There’s plenty to choose from at my local library.  Here’s the first I tried out and I loved it.  I chose it after reading Montgomery’s Grandma Gatewood’s Walk,  the best book I read four years ago.  I wasn’t the only one who thought it exceptionally strong.  Montgomery won the 2014 National Outdoor Book Awards for History/Biography for his story of the first woman to hike the entire Appalachian Trail alone, as well as the first person—man or woman—to walk it twice and three times.  I reviewed the book here.

The Man Who Walked Backward: An American Dreamer's Search for Meaning in the Great Depression
“In The Man Who Walked Backward, Pulitzer Prize finalist Ben Montgomery charts Plennie Wingo’s backwards trek across the America that gave rise to Woody Guthrie, John Steinbeck, and the New Deal. With the Dust Bowl and Great Depression as a backdrop, Montgomery follows Plennie across the Atlantic through Germany, Turkey, and beyond, and details the daring physical feats, grueling hardships, comical misadventures, and hostile foreign police he encountered along the way. A remarkable and quirky slice of Americana, The Man Who Walked Backward paints a rich and vibrant portrait of a jaw-dropping period of history.”- Goodreads

The Book of the Hut -John Silverio  Another book that I have re-read.  I wrote a review of it here.  Jack’s book inspired me to build a 14 foot  diameter octagon at my Maine camp on Hobbs Pond.   I plan to head over to the hut today and light the wood stove for the first time.  There will be a ” grand opening” of the little building sometime this spring. Let me know if you’d like to visit !

Please be aware of the current 30% off sale of my own new book – In the Path of Young Bulls.  When ordered though this website, from now until Jan.1, 2019 the book is only $19.99 plus shipping.  Happy Holidays!

Buy In the Path of Young Bulls


My New Book is 30% Off Until New Year’s

When you order through the link on this page my new book , In the Path of Young Bulls,  is 30% off  now until Jan. 1, 2019.   Happy Holidays from Uncle Tom’s Guided Adventures.  Copies will be signed, and there is a chance for you to request an inscription as part of the ordering process.

I hope that you will enjoy the book, which is into its second printing already!  Thanks to all my supporters over the past several years !

Buy In the Path of Young Bulls

Endurance, Activity, Exertion: How Much ?

For the past several months I have been concerned that I have been pushing myself too hard and/or too long on my mountain bike rides. I’m 68. I started to become concerned when a younger guy I was riding with stopped for a rest after a tough climb that spiked both our heart rates.
He told me, “I ‘m going to rest a bit longer, my heart rate is way up, close to 155 [beats per minute]”.
Upon reaching the top of that hill my pulse was 168.
My realization at that moment was, “Wait, if this guy is concerned that he might need more rest, should I be?”

Thomaston Town Forest

When I’m out on trail, I often wear a chest strap heart rate monitor that is linked to my iPhone. My resting pulse rate ranges from 48 to 54 bpm. While I also wear a Fitbit on my wrist, it reads inaccurately at higher levels of exertion. I do use Fitbit to track steps and miles covered while biking or hiking.

Here’s a typical profile, obtained from some of the metrics that Strava offers to those of us wearing chest straps, etc.

Nov. 4, 2018 data from 25 mile ride in Acadia

I discussed these concerns with my doctor at my annual physical, who suggested that I consult with a cardiologist. My physician is a great doctor who admits to having no expertise as to fitness/aging heart rates. I asked around and got the name of a cardiologist in Portland who was reported to have experience in this area.
My MD made the referral and I eventually received a call fro the cardiologist’s secretary. She blocked me from seeing him, stating that the physician was an electro cardiologist who specializes in determining where an arrhythmia (abnormal heartbeat) is coming from. Doctors consult with him in determining if the patient needs medicine or procedures like a pacemaker, an implantable cardioverter defibrillator, cardiac ablation, or other surgeries. Consultations for my issue was not an efficient use of his time.
So, my doctor found me a different cardiologist that was able to see me right away. After reviewing my chart and administering an EKG, that physician told me that whatever I was doing should be continued, and that if anything, he’s recommend a low dose statin to reduce my LDL a bit. He buffered that recommendation due to my strong HDL level.

My 8/31/18 lipid panel results:

I recently reviewed discussion about LDL levels and statin usage in Medscape. Several articles appeared to challenge the recommendations that have essentially placed practically all aging male in the category of risk for heart attack that leads to statin prescriptions.

Here a study that perked my interest-Lack of an association or an inverse association between low-density-lipoprotein cholesterol and mortality in the elderly: a systematic review
“Our review provides the first comprehensive analysis of the literature about the association between LDL-C and mortality in the elderly. Since the main goal of prevention of disease is prolongation of life, all-cause mortality is the most important outcome, and is also the most easily defined outcome and least subject to bias. The cholesterol hypothesis predicts that LDL-C will be associated with increased all-cause and CV mortality. Our review has shown either a lack of an association or an inverse association between LDL-C and both all-cause and CV mortality. The cholesterol hypothesis seems to be in conflict with most of Bradford Hill’s criteria for causation, because of its lack of consistency, biological gradient and coherence. Our review provides the basis for more research about the cause of atherosclerosis and CVD and also for a re-evaluation of the guidelines for cardiovascular prevention, in particular because the benefits from statin treatment have been exaggerated.” https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/6/6/e010401

A recent vision exam lead to further tests that were very useful to me in broadening my own investigation about my particular needs and risks. I have fairly good eyes, or I thought I did until my latest yearly check up with an ophthalmologist. My trusted ophthalmologist had retired this year, so I went with an individual who moved from New Jersey who took up the practice. His initial examination reveled some structural concerns in the posterior region of one of my eyes that suggested concerns about the connection to the optic nerve. He was concerned that I might be experiencing the initial stages of glaucoma.
Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve. This damage is often caused by an abnormally high pressure in your eye, and is one of the leading causes of blindness for people over the age of 60.
Four additional tests were ordered, one of which was a 30 minute carotid artery ultrasound scan of both sides of my neck, which displayed the results as live-action images on a monitor. The carotid ultrasound showed some age-related plaque but no significant narrowing. My doctor reported this as essentially a normal result and didn’t recommend any further follow-up. The other tests also ended up with normal results, ruling out glaucoma for the time being.

Bottom line: I plan to continue to keep up with my normal routine of 75-90 minutes of moderate to vigorous daily of hiking or off-road biking. I plan to continue to use 3 minutes of daily heart rate variability monitoring to gauge my state of recovery and adjust the day’s physical activity accordingly. There is a lot to be said about advocating for one’s self in the medical sphere these days, with a number of studies out there that lead to conflicting recommendations.

Book Review: The Man Who Walked Backwards

The Man Who Walked Backward: An American Dreamer's Search for Meaning in the Great DepressionThe Man Who Walked Backward: An American Dreamer’s Search for Meaning in the Great Depression by Ben Montgomery

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ben Mongomery’s new book was a must read for me. He’s the author of Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail, a book that I rated as my #1 read in 2014. Mongomery was a finalist for the Pulitizer Prize in 2010. I’m a long distance backpacker, and I relish stories about long adventures powered by foot.

The book is about Plennie Wingo, who was crushed economically by the Great Depression of 1929. With no jobs available to him, and with a wife and daughter to support, Wingo came up with a crazy idea- walking around the world. When he realized that someone had follow up on that stunt, he really got creative and decided to walk it backwards. Through practice, determination, and a pair of glasses that had side mirrors on them that allowed him to periscope what was behind him, Wingo managed to get himself up to 3 m.p.h.

Wingo eventually made it across all the USA ( in two separate trips), but was stopped short in Europe, after he left Hamburg and found himself jailed in Instanbul.

The book depicts life in the USA after the Great Depression, where a quarter still bought a lot. yet a dollar was hard to find . Wingo struggled more than expected in getting through the USA, where he was stopped numerous times by the police who told him it was illegal to walk backwards. He was no stranger to jails, or to con men who put forth the veneer of wealth and friendship to extract what meager funds he did beg up through wearing advertising signs and selling 25 cent postcards of his walk. Many folks also did help him, offering beds, meals, and even some cash surprises.

I thought I ordered a copy of his book through my local library, but I received the 8CD audiobook instead. I have a ” new” used car and had never even considered playing an audiobook through the stereo. I recommend this audiobook. It is unabridged, and very well read, included lively dialogue aided by differing voice patterns by the reader. A bonus CD has 17 pages of maps and photos that brought the book to life.

The book is a great reminder, along with Mongomery’s excellent Grandma Gatewood’s Walk, that major adventures are available to evereryman and everywoman. Taking that first step out of the door is the hardest thing anyone can do, and after that, you build up a momentum that who knows what can happen!

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