29 ways to Leap into 2016

There are clearly not 24 hours in a day, especially when we have numerous things to do. No, there are far fewer. Actually, there are 23.9344699 hours so now you have your excuse for not getting things done! And similarly, there are not 365 days in the year, in fact the correct number is 365.24 and this is the reason why February has an extra day every fourth year. But you knew that. Did you also know that: 

  • We all slow down with age; so does the earth. The average decrease in the length of a year is 0.5 seconds per century due to earth’s rotation slowing;
  • The total length of the year 46BC was 445 days after the Emperor added 80 days. Appropriately this was the “year of confusion;”
  • The name “April” derives from the Latin aperio which means to “open: and refers to plant buds opening at this time;
  • February honors the Roma Februa festival of purification held on the 15th of the month.  

Well, in honor of this leap year, and February’s 29 days, here are 29 interesting, useful, and healthy thoughts:

1. There’s only one of you and you are your best hope of having a good life. The evidence that doing good things and feeling good about yourself and your fellow man is compelling. So take some time each day to be grateful – your brain chemistry, heart function and loved ones will thank you.

2. Engage someone who cares about you in some healthy behaviors that will benefit you both. Eat well together, exercise together and fly together for sheer joy!

3. Trinities play a role in religion and, even if not of a spiritual nature, having a balance between family, work and joyous pursuits is good for you. It’s just like weight and balance in an aircraft; if out of kilter, things will not go well. Of course, if you focus on what you really enjoy doing, maybe you can find a way to make a living doing that.

4. Most of us have four limbs so do something each day to move and strengthen them. In the movies we are used to seeing stressed pilots with gritted teeth desperately pulling on the yoke to avert a disaster. Try doing pull-ups just in case your chance to be a movie pilot comes along.

5. Ensure your five senses are all celebrated daily; take time to smell the roses (but don’t sniff the Avgas, it ain’t good for you!), taste your food, the touch of a loved one, the sight of the wild blue yonder and the sound of that reciprocating engine. Check your eyes and ears well in advance of your AME visit.

6. "The Sixth Sense" was a darn good movie and is often characterized as the ability to see into the future. The real sixth sense is proprioception, the ability to know where each part of your body is. This is what enables you to touch the tip of your nose with eyes closed. Or to walk properly. If you notice any issues with balance, it might be a problem with your sixth sense, and the aura and vision you have should be of an expeditious doctor’s visit.

7. With all this calendar calculus, I am relieved to note that there are still seven days a week. Every healthy endeavor you embark on should be part of your routine every day of the seven days a week and the 365.24 days a year!

8. Hours of sleep – not a bad general target to aim for as most Americans don’t get enough sleep. Develop some good habits – we have written about this, and the common problem of sleep apnea – many times. So although people tend to say “you snooze, you lose” actually the opposite is also true – if you don’t snooze you lose!

9. The number of hours you should probably fast prior to having your blood lipid levels measured. Just as you need to know your VNE and other V numbers, you need to know your lipid levels. Failure to know and take appropriate action for lipid and aviation digits can have similarly dire consequences.

10. Commandments, green bottles, fingers, and most commonly prescribed drugs. These include an antacid (omeprazole), pain reliever (hydrocodone), antiobiotic (azithromycin) and 7 others. Because you were prescribed a medication in the past does not mean you will always need it, so ask your doc to review medications regularly. Also, never take a new medication without checking the AOPA medications database to ensure you are not swallowing something that the FAA will not!

11. "The 11th hour” is an expression meaning “late in the day.” Don’t be late in the day to book your AME check up; if something needs sorting and there is no flex time you may cause unnecessary delays for yourself while dealing with FAA.

 12. There are 12 letters in the word “vaccinations” so take twelve seconds to ascertain if your jabs are up to date. Do you need tetanus? Hepatitis? HPV vaccines? Jabba the Hut was a character in Star Wars. A jab in the butt could save you from being a sky walker too soon.

13. That is how many vitamins there are, nine are soluble in water (the B group and Vitamin C) and 4 are soluble in fat. I attracted some criticism in the past for inviting people to not take vitamins unless they need to. Rather, focus on a good diet, exercise, sleep pattern and life balance. And talk to your doctor; you may disagree with me but hopefully you will trust what your personal physician tells you!

14. Valentine’s Day, celebrated to commemorate the massacre of some Chicago gangsters……oops, sorry! Make a vow to get all your heart parameters checked out: blood pressure, lipid levels and if appropriate, a heart scan. Also make sure you are all set with cards, flowers and chocolates. The latter is also good for your heart and if you miss all three I guarantee your health will suffer.

15. This is how many letters there are in “Slip, slap, slop, slide” a marketing slogan developed by the Australians to stem the tide of skin cancers so prevalent in that lovely country. Given that one million Americans each year develop these malignancies, it would be wise if we followed suit. So, every day: Slip on a shirt, Slap on a hat, Slop on sunscreen and Slide on your shades.

16. Billion a year. Yes, that is what it costs to treat patients with osteoporosis or thinning of the bones. This is a slow and insidious disease that unless you notice you are ½ an inch shorter than you used to be, may not declare itself until you suffer a pathological fracture (meaning the bone breaks because it is diseased). The silly thing is that it is detectable by a simple, widely available and painless screening of your bone density, and treated by medications that are fairly innocuous and still allow you to fly. If you are in a hospital having a hip replacement you may be walking…. but you sure aren’t flying any time soon!

17.…..Years. That is the time lag from research making it from bench to bedside. You can help expedite that. Get involved in patient advocacy, support efforts to change the legislative agenda. Yes, we need to ensure nothing dangerous makes it to market, but too cautious is equally dangerous.

18. This is the legal age to buy alcohol in my native Britain, although at younger ages beer or wine can be consumed with a meal if purchased by an accompanying parent. Responsible introduction and supervision of drinking helps defray the risk of overuse. Each day think about your consumption and keen an eye on those you care for.

19. In the 19th century, Samuel Hahnemann coined the expression “homeopathy” to distinguish this alternative approach from conventional, or “allopathic” medicine. Before embarking on such cures, please run it by your personal physician. I have an open mind, but please don’t have an open check book!

20. Every day, approximately 20 people die in the USA because there is not an organ available for transplantation. Also every day, 6,775 people die in the USA and although not every one is a potential organ donor, there is a terrible waste of kidneys, livers, hearts, lungs, pancreas, cornea, bone and other human bits and pieces that could save a life. So become a donor. I am, and heartily (and kidneyly) ask you to join me!

21. Three squares a day is what one is offered in the armed forces, and with seven days a week, that comes out to 21 meals. I know, I am stretching it here, but I was asked to do a Leap Year themed article for goodness sake! Think about what you eat, how much you eat and how you eat. We consume way too many calories in the USA and too much red meat, fat, sugar and other stuff that is not good for us. Eat slowly, eat less, eat well.

22. There are roughly 2.2 pounds in a Kilogram and having been brought up in Europe that is how body weight is measured. Ten times 2.2 is 22, the number of pounds the average middle aged fella could comfortably lose. Less weight equals less illness, longer life, and, most importantly, you burn less Avgas hauling your rear end around!

23. It takes the average brain around 20 – 25 minutes to register that one’s appetite has been satiated and if you eat rapidly, too many calories will have been consumed by the time your fuel gauge is deemed to be on “F.” So, to misquote Simon & Garfunkel in the 59th Street Bridge Song “slow down, you eat to fast, got to make the salad last!”

24. In a recent National Report Card on Prescription Drug Adherence, only 24% of Americans earn an “A” grade for diligently collecting prescriptions, refills and taking their medication as advised by their doctors. We have to think outside the pillbox to make sure we take the meds we need.

25. Any more than 25 breaths a minute is concerning for an underlying lung issue. When flying, use oxygen more liberally than the FAR AIM suggests and monitor your pulse oximetry while aloft. Exercise helps enhance respiratory capacity and smoking destroys it – stay far away from any form of tobacco or even e-cigarettes.

26. One day try eating some sesame seeds, a bunch of tomatoes and keep an eye open for when they are about to head out to sea. Bowel transit time is a good indication of whether you are getting enough fiber in your diet. Ideally it should be less than 26 hours.

27. There are certain signaling chemicals in your body called antigens and one of them, HLA B27, signals for autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. Moore’s Law applies to computing, with a doubling every two years. The speed of medical innovation is so rapid that much of what I learned in medical school is wrong or irrelevant. This is an exciting time to be involved in medical science!

28. There are 28 bones in your fingers, the phalanges,  and you should think about affording those guys some protection. I keep oven mitts in the plane so I can check the oil when the engine is hot and wear gloves whenever the weather is cold. Remembering which to wear is, of course, a stretch. Be conscious of overuse syndromes such as from typing that can cause problems in later life.

29. There is a rather old-fashioned ritual that ladies can ask a man’s hand in marriage on Leap Day. If that is the right thing for you then go for it; those in a happy marriage have lower rates of various diseases and live longer. But whatever you do, be honest to yourself and those around you.

So, enjoy this last and extra day of February and all its joys and see you next month!

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Jonathan Sackier
Dr. Jonathan Sackier is an expert in aviation medical concerns and helps members with their needs through AOPA Pilot Protection Services.

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