Health & Family

People’s Pharmacy: Outdoor activities enhance vision

Q. I used to work for an eye doctor, and when I would give eye tests to some of the patients, I noticed that the people who were farmers, ranchers and hunters had better and sharper vision than most other people. I saw this all the time. It does seem like if you don’t use your long-distance vision, you lose it!

A. Thank you for sharing your fascinating observation. A recent study seems to confirm that outdoor activities have an impact on vision (JAMA, Sept. 15, 2015).

Chinese researchers enrolled 1,900 first-graders from a dozen primary schools. Half the schools stuck with their traditional schedules, while the other half extended the amount of time the children were outdoors by 40 minutes daily. The children who had more outdoor activities reduced their likelihood of developing myopia (nearsightedness) by 23 percent. A Swedish study has shown that more physical activity may have the added bonus of enhancing concentration on schoolwork and improving academic achievement (Journal of School Health, October 2015).

Beets for blood pressure

Q. I’ve heard that eating beets will lower blood pressure in four hours. Can you confirm this?

A. Absolutely. A study published in the journal Hypertension (May 2013) demonstrated that beetroot juice significantly lowered blood pressure in hypertension patients within four hours. In fact, some subjects saw blood-pressure reductions within two to three hours. The effect was maintained throughout the day.

Beets are a good source of dietary nitrate, which indirectly leads to the formation of nitric acid. This compound helps improve blood-vessel flexibility and lower blood pressure. A recent review of beet juice suggests that this functional food may enhance physical activity, reduce blood pressure and improve cardiac function (Nutrients, April 14, 2015).

Soap for hand cramps

Q. Just two hours ago, I had awful hand cramps that make the bones feel as if they are piling up in a heap on my hand. I’ve never found anything that would relieve them. Not believing holding a bar of soap in my hand would work, but being desperate, I tried this soap-thing remedy. Lo and behold, it actually worked – almost instantly! I will never doubt the soap trick for cramps again.

A. We know health professionals shudder when we describe this home remedy, but it is inexpensive and helpful for many people. A professional fisherman was the first person who alerted us to this tactic for hand cramps. He worked for many hours each day reeling in large fish after large fish. By the end of the day, he was in agony. He heard about using soap for leg cramps and figured it might work for hand cramps as well. He was thrilled with the rapid results.

A woman reported that her husband developed hand cramps while playing cards: “I got a bar of soap and put it in his hand. Within a minute, the pain subsided. He held the bar for about 10 minutes, and the cramp never came back. Now we keep a bar of soap near where we play cards.”

Reach Joe and Terry Graedon at