B.J. Abercrombie

Heal Thyself

Carroll County News columnist B.J. Abercrombie of Berryville is a wife, mother and Nana, and an unofficial "health coach." Her column on health and wellness-related issues appears every second and fourth Tuesday of each month on the Opinion page and at CarrollCoNews.com. She can be reached at bjabercrombie63@gmail.com.


New column will discuss health, wellness, our bodies

Monday, May 14, 2012

Expert as defined by Webster: "one especially skilled or learned; having great knowledge or skill; an authority."

This I am not. Let me set the record straight from the beginning, I am no expert about anything really. I can sew and bake. I can roller-skate. I do a little gardening. I can fish and swim, but I do not excel exponentially at any one thing.

Last year I took a painting class, but I can't say I'm a painter. Years ago I took guitar lessons, but no longer own a guitar. I've traveled over the country, but would not be able to recount historical or geographic facts like an expert traveler could. I've planned fundraisers, bike-a-thons, baby showers and birthday parties, but I am not Martha Stewart or Miss Manners.

I do, however, love to learn. I have a tenacious appetite for learning, acquiring knowledge, gathering information, researching topics.

As a kid, if I didn't know something, I'd look it up. The New Webster's Dictionary occupied a sacred spot on my desk in my room. All 8 pounds of it! I got it for Christmas when I was about 10 years old. It's a very large hard bound, black covered, monster of a book. You know, the kind they kept on the wooden podium at the library.

I would spend hours thumbing through the now yellowed pages. It has not only extensive alphabetical definitions, but in the very back, the miscellaneous section contains a multiplication table, metric conversions, color photographs of all the Presidents, a secretaries' guide, color maps of the world and even a foreign word guide. I still pull this old book down off the bookshelf once in a while.

I remember when I was about 8 years old, the door-to-door salesman came calling. Yes, I am showing my age! He lugged in a black satchel with a partial collection of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Oh, they were beautiful, navy blue covers with red spines and their gold-gilded edges.

Between those pages contained the mystery of the Amazon, color photographs of birds and flowers. I especially liked the section about the human body with it's transparent cellophane pages that you overlay on one another to learn how each body system fit together.

Oh, how I wanted those books! But Mom and Dad decided even in monthly installments , $600.00 was beyond our middle-class means. So that 1971-volume set was packed back in the man's black satchel. I cried as the salesman walked down the sidewalk.

When I was a teenager, my hippie brother got me interested in herbal remedies and vitamin therapy. So I began reading Linus Pauling and Jethro Kloss. I spent a lot of time and money at the local health-food store.

This same brother claimed that Yoga helped with his chronic back pain, so I bought Yoga videos, my yoga mat is probably collecting a bit of dust these days. I worked in a health food store for several years and met lots of interesting people with compelling stories. After many years of self-study, I choose a more traditional, formal route and now work in a health-care facility.

I still believe it is vital to ask questions, read, use the Internet, be curious. As we age, it becomes even more important to educate ourselves about our body and our health.

As modern health-care evolves and changes, we should be more responsible for our own well-being. Be it physical, mental or spiritual. We should know our own body better than anyone else.

Unfortunately, in my work, I see everyday folks that do not know what medications they take or even why they take them. They may not understand their chronic illness or disease or what to do to control their symptoms.

Our doctor or surgeon or therapist or pharmacist can only do so much, the rest is up to us. We need to be practicing more self-health care.

If you take daily medication, do you know what side effects to watch for? If you take an herbal supplement because Cousin Mary does, do you know the potential adverse interactions with your present medications? If you are diabetic, do you know what a low glycemic index diet is? Do you know about Omega 3 fatty acids or that an astonishing number of people are deficient in Vitamin D? If you take Coumadin, do you know your latest PT/INR level? If you have high-blood pressure, do you understand what over-the-counter medications to avoid? Did you know that massage therapy or petting your dog can reduce stress and also lower your blood pressure?

Anyway, I hope in this column we can learn together about our health, bodies and well-being. It may be a recipe, the symptoms of lyme disease, or the virtues of acidophilus.

And I end with this quote I found in that big, black dictionary: "Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it." That's from Samuel Johnson, the most quoted man of the 18th Century. That, I looked up on the Internet.

* * *

Carroll County News columnist B.J. Abercrombie of Berryville is a wife, mother and Nana, and an unofficial "health coach." Her column appears periodically on the Opinion page and at CarrollCoNews.com. You can write to her by emailing bjabercrombie63@gmail.com or writing her at the paper.