Resolve to be Healthy

© Val B. Bochkov for  The Wooden Leg: For lower-body strength: Sit in your chair, extend one leg out straight in front of you and hold for two seconds. Then raise it up as high as you can, and hold it again for two seconds. Repeat with each leg 15 times.

Can’t get out of the office? Try these tips for a healthier, less stressful workday.,, February 7, 2011, by Courtney Myers  —  The word exercise comes from the Latin exercere, meaning to keep busy or at work. But what the typical adult does at work is sit in a desk chair for eight hours, plus a sitting-down commute both ways and an evening spent in front of the TV. This is a recipe for ruin. Sitting all day increases our risk for obesity and puts us at risk for back pain, poor posture, leg cramps, tense muscles and sheer boredom.

There is something you can do about it.

Exercise is simply the act of keeping your body busy, using your muscles and bones while your heart keeps pumping. You may feel you have no time to do any such thing amid all the rapid-fire e-mails and six-person conference calls (and reading Web articles like this one). You’re not alone. With unemployment up at 9.0%, more of us are buckling down instead of getting out of the office. According to a 2009 survey by the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health, nearly 50% of adults in the U.S. admit that they don’t engage in the suggested 30 minutes, five days a week of moderate physical activity or the suggested 20 minutes, three times a week of vigorous activity. In short, about half of Americans don’t get the physical exercise they need.

But there are exercises you can do right at your desk to keep your body moving. They won’t make you the next Michael Phelps (if there ever is one), but they’ll help you improve your body’s flexibility and strength with nothing but a few minutes and your desk chair. Just remember to check with a doctor before starting any exercise regimen.

Even when you’re not exercising, you should make sure you sit at your desk the right way, says Jason Queiros, a chiropractor at Stamford Sports & Spine, in Connecticut.

“It’s important that your desk chair be at the proper height to reduce strain on your neck and back,” he says. “The chair provides the support for your body throughout the day. Adjust the height so you’re in a 90-90-90 position–feet flat on the floor or on a foot rest and your knees and hips bent at 90-degree angles. Keep your lower spine flat against the back of the chair to maintain proper curvature. The chair will help keep the rest of your back and neck erect in order to decrease your chance of hunching forward, which can cause spasms in the back and neck and lead to headaches.”

Queiros also has advice about your computer screen. “The top one-third of the monitor should be above eye level, both to decrease eyestrain and to prevent hunching forward,” he says. “Make sure you’re not craning your neck forward.”

He adds, “Stretching is important and easy and can help diminish back pain. Try the neck stretch: Touch your ear to your shoulder and hold it there. For a chest opener, stretch your arms back as if you were trying to grab a pencil between your shoulder blades. Stand in a doorway, hold the door frame on each side and walk forward until you feel a stretch in your chest. Last, try supported back extensions. Hold your hips and gently extend your back by bending backward.”

Folks who rarely disengage from the keyboard often develop carpal tunnel syndrome. But this affliction shouldn’t catch up to you if you repeat this simple move every day. Stand at your desk, and, arms straight, place your palms on the desk with your fingers pointed toward you. Lower your body slowly until you feel the stretch (you won’t have to go far). Hold for 15 seconds. Repeat as needed through the day.

The “Magic Carpet Ride” works your core and arms. Sit in your chair with your legs crossed and your feet on the seat. Then place your hands on the armrests, suck in your gut and raise yourself a few inches above the seat, using your belly, muscles and hands. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds. Rest for 30 seconds. Repeat five times.

For lower-body strength, try the “Wooden Leg.” Sit in your chair. Extend one leg out straight in front of you. Hold for two seconds. Then raise it up as high as you can, and hold it again for two seconds. Repeat with each leg 15 times.

If this is too much to remember, take the stairs (two at a time!), not the elevator. Get up from your desk and go talk to your coworkers instead of e-mailing them. Park in the farthest part of the lot, or walk or bike to work. Sip water all day. A homemade lunch with lots of vegetables, fruits and whole grains will help you steer clear of the vending machine while keeping your wallet fat and your waistline trim. Above all, just don’t be lazy.

Push ups – (You can also do Push-ups against a wall or a kitchen counter)

Gabe Mirkin MD, February 7, 2011  —   If you want to become fit and use exercise to help prevent a heart attack, first check with your doctor to make sure that you do not have anything wrong with your heart or blood vessels. Intense exercise can increase your risk for a heart attack if you already have a damaged heart.

Pick any sport or activity that uses continuous motion (such as running, cycling, swimming, skating, rowing, dancing) that you think you might enjoy. Start out at a relaxed pace until your muscles feel heavy and then stop. For the first several days or weeks you may be able to exercise only for a few minutes. If your muscles feel sore the next day, take the day off. Increase the amount of time gradually until you can exercise 30 minutes a day at a relaxed pace and not feel sore. Then you are ready to begin your training for fitness. Try to increase the intensity of your exercise once a week. Do your jogging, cycling or whatever you have chosen as your sport at a slow pace to warm up. Then gradually increase the pace until you start to feel short of breath and your muscles start to feel sore, and then slow down. Then when you recover, pick up the pace again. Repeat these surges until your muscles start to stiffen and then quit for the day. Take the next day off and go easy the rest of the week. Then once a week, keep on making your one-day-a-week hard workout harder and harder. You will be continuously increasing your level of fitness.

The only way to strengthen any muscle is to contract the muscle against increasingly greater resistance. Your heart is a muscle, so the only way to make your heart stronger is to contract it against greater resistance. When you exercise, you alternately contract and relax your skeletal muscles. This alternate contraction and relaxation squeezes the veins near the muscles to pump blood toward the heart. Your heart is muscular balloon. The increased flow of blood returning to your heart goes inside the heart to stretch the balloon and the heart has to contract with greater force to pump the blood from inside the heart toward the body. The increased amount of blood inside the heart stretches the heart muscle to make it stronger.

The harder you contract your skeletal muscles, the more blood you pump toward your heart, the greater the stretch on the heart to make it stronger. So fitness is determined more by how hard you exercise than by how much you exercise because the harder you exercise, the stronger your heart muscle becomes. Going out and running 100 miles a week slowly does not make you very fit because you are not strengthening your heart very much with a little increase in circulation of blood, no matter how long you do it. Compare lifting a very light weight a thousand times in a row to lifting a very heavy weight 10 times in a row. The person lifting the heavy weight 10 times will become stronger than the person lifting a light weight a thousand times.

Weight Lifting for Middle-Age and Beyond

By Gabe Mirkin, MD, February 7, 2011  —  Many middle-aged and older people have started to lift weights, since extensive data show that lack of muscles increases risk for diabetes, heart attacks and premature death (British Medical Journal, September 2009; Journal of Physiology, September 2009). However, within the first few weeks of their new weight-lifting programs, most get injured and quit.

Usually they are injured because they try to train like younger men: by picking the heaviest weight that they can lift ten times in a row, resting and repeating that set two more times. Then they feel sore for the next few days and when the soreness lessens, they lift heavy weights again, usually two or three times a week. This type of training almost always injures older novice weight lifters and ends their training program.

The safest way for most older men and women to gain strength and increase muscle size is to join a gym and try to use 15 to 20 Nautilus-type machines every day. On each machine they should pick the weight that they can lift and lower 10 times in a row comfortably, without straining or damaging their muscles (which would make their muscles feel sore on the next day). If they feel the least bit sore, they should take a day or days off until the soreness is gone. As they become stronger and the weights feel very easy for them, they should try to lift 15 times in a row, then 20 and perhaps 25 times. They should always do just one set. Only when they can lift that weight at least 20 times in a row and not feel sore the next morning, should they increase the resistance by going to the next heavier weight.

The key to this program is to avoid injuring their muscles by lifting weights in a single set and increasing the number of repetitions gradually so they do not cause next-day muscle soreness. They should not increase the weight (resistance) until they can lift a set of at least 20 daily and not feel sore the next day.

Before any older or out-of-shape person starts an exercise program, he or she should check with a physician to rule out serious problems that might be aggravated by weight lifting.

This program is for beginners and is intended to prevent injuries that plague older people when they first try to lift weights. It will not build very large muscles. It will, however, increase strength and provide the other benefits of a weight training program. After many months (injury-free) on this program, if a person wishes to build larger muscles, he or she can transitioning to a more traditional weight training program.

How to Become Strong

Gabe Mirkin MD, February 7, 2011  —  Would you like to become stronger? Pick 6 to 10 weight-machine exercises and do them in three sessions a week. In each exercise, try to lift the heaviest weight that you can lift comfortably ten times in a row without hurting yourself. When an exercise becomes easy, increase the weight. In five months, you should be able to increase your strength significantly and be proud of your larger muscles.

You now decide that you want to become even stronger. Would you increase your strength more by increasing the number of repetitions or by increasing the weight that you lift? For example, should you try to do three sets of ten for each exercise or stay at one set of ten, just try to lift a heavier weight once a week? Dr. Michael Pollock of the University of Florida in Gainesville divided recreational weight lifters into two groups. In one group, they tried to do three sets of 10 three times a week. In the other group, they did just one set of 10 three times a week, but tried to lift progressively heavier weights. Those who did one set of ten with heavier weights three times week were stronger than those who did three sets of ten without increasing the weight.

Exercise does not make you stronger. If it did, marathon runners would have the largest muscles of all athletes. The single stimulus to make muscles larger and stronger is to stretch them while they contract. When you try to lift a heavy weight, your muscles stretch before the weight starts to move. The greater the stretch, the greater the damage to the muscle fibers and when they heal after a few days, the greater the gain in strength. The results for this study give a clear message. You become stronger by lifting heavier weights, not by exercising more. If you do too much work, you can’t lift very heavy weights and you do not become stronger. When it comes to becoming very strong, less may be more.

Strong in 30 Minutes a Week

Weight lifting can be as important to your overall health as aerobic exercise — and it’s not just for men. Lifting weights can help women build a toned, sculpted, feminine body, and build stronger bones. Plus it can boost your metabolism, making you not only look great but feel great, too.

Some body builders lift weights for more than six hours a day, but you don’t have to waste that much time to become very strong. Training for weight lifting is done in sets. A set of ten means that you lift and lower a heavy weight ten times continuously before you rest. If you repeat these sets of ten three times with a rest period between each set, you have done three sets of ten.

Most competitive bodybuilders spend hours trying to do many sets over and over again. You don’t need to do that. Various studies show that you can gain up to 80 percent of your maximum strength by picking out four to eight specific lifts, lifting one set of ten of the heaviest weight in each, and repeating your program two or three times a week. The reduced workload causes fewer injuries and leaves you with a lot of extra time to do other things.

Lifting weights enlarges your muscles and makes you stronger, but it does not make you fit. Fitness refers to your heart and is gained by exercising in an activity where you move continuously, such as running, cycling, skating, dancing, walking or swimming. A complete exercise program should include lifting weights twice a week and doing a continuous sport at least three times a week. Alternating your activities gives your muscles a chance to recover and helps to prevent injuries.

Q:  Dear Dr. Mirkin: Why is my bicycle racing getting slower each year?

A: Aging saps you of muscle strength by causing you to lose muscle fibers. All muscles are made up of thousands of individual muscle fibers. For example, the vastus medialis muscle of a 20-year-old contains about 800,000 fibers, while that of a 69-year-old contains only about 200,000.

The limiting factor in how fast you can run, ski, cycle, skate or swim is the time it takes to bring oxygen into your muscles. That is limited by how much oxygen-filled blood your heart can pump into your muscles. The faster your heart can beat, the more oxygen-filled blood it can pump to your muscles and the longer and faster you can exercise.

As you age, your heart cannot beat as fast as it did when you were younger. Your maximum heart rate slows dramatically. For people who are not highly fit, the fastest your heart can beat is estimated as 220 beats per minute minus your age. However, highly fit older people can have maximum heart rates that are much higher than those of unfit younger people.

Your maximum heart rate is determined by the strength of your skeletal muscles, not by the strength of your heart. When your leg muscles contract, they squeeze veins near them to push blood toward your heart. When you leg muscles relax, the veins fill with blood. So your leg muscles pump increased amounts of blood toward your heart. This increased blood fills the heart and causes your heart to be faster and with more force. This is called the Bainbridge reflex. The stronger your legs are, the more blood they can pump, which causes your heart to beat faster.

Intense training that strengthens leg muscles can increase maximum heart rate so you will still be able to compete against younger athletes. Although your training will make you faster than less-fit individuals, you are still losing muscle fibers and will not be able to move as fast as you did when you were younger.

Q: Dear Dr. Mirkin: Why are there more heart attacks in cold weather?

A: Increased heart attack rate in cold weather is due to a combination of shoveling snow, breathing cold air and having cold air on your face.

Shoveling snow is probably the strongest factor, as more heart attacks occur on the day after a snowfall than on the coldest days. Men often have higher heart rates shoveling snow than when they exercise all out in a doctor’s office (JAMA, March 1995). Your heart has to work two and a half times harder to pump blood through your arms than your legs because smaller blood vessels have greater resistance against blood flow. If you become short of breath while walking, your heart could be too weak for you to lift a shovel full of snow safely. Your heart could beat irregularly and you could develop a heart attack.

Breathing cold air further increases heart attack risk by decreasing exercise capacity and making your heart work even harder by constricting the bronchial tubes that carry air to and from your lungs, and the arteries that carry blood to your heart (Chest, June 1998). Lack of oxygen increases risk of clotting and irregular heart beats.

Cold air on your face causes a reflex that closes blood vessels leading to your heart to reduce the oxygen supply to the hearts of people who already have blocked coronary arteries.

If you have heart disease, do not shovel snow. If you do shovel, take small shovel loads, rather than fewer heavy ones. Hold the shovel close to your body to lighten the load, reach down for the snow by bending your knees and come up by straightening them.

Belly Fat Causes Diabetes, Heart Attacks

Gabe Mirkin MD, February 7, 2011  — Abdominal obesity comes from high blood insulin levels. To prevent blood sugar levels from rising too high after you eat, your pancreas releases insulin, which converts blood sugar to a type of fat called triglyceride. Insulin drives triglycerides into the fat cells in your belly. So having high triglycerides and a fat belly are signs of high blood insulin levels, and high blood levels of insulin constrict arteries to cause heart attacks. Insulin also acts on the brain to make you eat more and on your liver to manufacture more fat, and on the fat cells in your belly to store that fat.

The liver removes insulin from the bloodstream, but insulin causes fat to be deposited in the liver which prevents the liver from removing insulin from the bloodstream. People with fat bellies store too much fat in their livers, which prevents the livers from removing insulin, so insulin levels rise higher and higher to cause heart attacks, more abdominal obesity and eventually diabetes. If you store fat primarily in your belly, you should restrict refined carbohydrates: foods made with flour, white rice, milled corn or added sugars.

Fat cells in your belly are different from those on your hips. The blood that flows from belly fat goes directly to your liver, whereas the blood that flows from your hips goes into your general circulation. The livers of those who store fat in their bellies are blocked from removing insulin by the extra fat and therefore do not remove insulin from the bloodstream as effectively as the livers of people who store fat primarily in their hips. People who store fat primarily in their bellies have higher blood insulin and sugar levels, which raise levels of the bad LDL cholesterol that causes heart attacks, and lower levels of the good HDL cholesterol that prevents heart attacks.

Sit-ups are fine for strengthening your belly muscles, but don’t believe they will get rid of a fat stomach. Exercising a muscle does not get rid of fat over the specific muscles that are exercised. If it did, tennis players would have less fat in their tennis arms, but they don’t. The only way to reduce a fat belly is to lose weight overall, and any type of exercise will help you to lose weight.

Treatment of Insulin Resistance

Squats  (keep your spine straight with arms and head up)

By Gabe Mirkin MD, February 7, 2011  —  Most people who develop diabetes in later life can be controlled so that they are not at increased risk for the many complications of diabetes such as heart attacks, strokes, blindness, deafness, amputations, kidney failure, burning foot syndrome, venous insufficiency with ulceration and stasis dermatitis. Late onset diabetes usually means that a person has too much insulin because his cells cannot respond to insulin. Too much insulin constricts arteries to cause heart attacks, and stimulates your brain and liver to make you hungry and manufacture fat. The insulin resistance syndrome (IRS) puts you at very high risk for a heart attack and is associated with storing fat in the belly, rather than the hips; having high blood triglyceride levels and low level of the good HDL cholesterol; high blood pressure and an increased tendency to form clots.

If you have any of these signs, check with your doctor who will order a blood test called HBA1C. If it is high, you have diabetes and can usually be controlled with diet and/or medication. You should learn how to avoid foods that give the highest rise in blood sugar. When you eat, blood sugar level rises. The higher it rises, the more sugar sticks on cells. Once stuck on a cell membrane, sugar can never detach itself. It is converted to a poison called sorbitol that damages the cell to cause all the side effects of diabetes mentioned above.

Avoid the foods that cause your blood sugar to rise quickly. These include all types of flour products: bread, spaghetti, macaroni, bagels, rolls, crackers, cookies and pretzels; refined corn products and white rice; and all sugar added products. Eat lots of vegetables, un-ground whole grains, beans, seeds and nuts. Eat fruits and root vegetables (potatoes, carrots and beets) only with other foods.

There are two type of drugs that are used to treat diabetes: those that lower blood sugar and raise insulin, and those that lower blood sugar and lower insulin also. As I mentioned earlier, insulin is a bad hormone, so the safest drugs are those that lower both insulin and sugar. Virtually all diabetics should be on Glucophage before meals. It prevents blood sugar levels from rising too high and sticking to cells and has an excellent safety record. However, eating a few bagels will produce such a high rise in blood sugar that Glucophage will not be effective. So Glucophage is used in addition to avoiding foods that cause a high rise in blood sugar. If HBA1C cannot be controlled with diet and Glucophage, your doctor will usually add Actos 30mg. They are essentially the same and can cause liver damage, so liver tests must be done monthly, at least for the first few months.

You should be seen monthly and get either a HBA1C (which measures blood sugar control over the past two months) or fructosamine (which measures control over two weeks). Each time that your HBA1C is above normal, you should yell at your doctor to change your drugs and he should yell at you to change your diet.

If your HBA1C is still not under control, you need to take a bad drug that raises insulin levels. I usually start with Glipizide XL. If that doesn’t control your HBA1C, I raise the dose, and if that still doesn’t work, you will need to inject yourself with insulin.

Eat Lots of Fruits and Vegetables

By Gabe Mirkin MD, February 7, 2011  —  Increasing fruit and vegetable intake from five to eight servings a day prevents heart attacks and prolongs life. For every additional serving above two per day, there is a four percent decrease in the rate of heart disease deaths (European Heart Journal, published online January 18, 2011). Not eating enough fruits and vegetables is a major risk factor, in itself, for heart attacks and premature death. Eight servings a day of fruits and vegetables will weigh approximately one and a half pounds.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture have just released a report recommending that Americans eat vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free milk, seafood, eggs, beans, peas, nuts and seeds; and restrict salt, refined sugars, fats, and refined grains. Among their 23 recommendations:
• Limit daily intake of salt,
• Restrict saturated fats,
• Replace refined grains with whole grains,
• Restrict solid fats and added sugars,
• Limit alcohol to one drink per day,
• Eat lots of fruits and vegetables,
• Replace meat and poultry with seafood, and
• Do not gain fat weight.

Lunges (keep spine straight and head up),, February 7, 2011,  by Michael Liedtke, SAN FRANCISCO —

Even before his first day on the job at Google, Ujjwal Singh was trying to figure out how to use his passion for the spoken word and the company’s technological prowess to help Egyptians bypass government efforts to muzzle the massive protests there.

Singh, 38, helped start an online service that lets fans share voice messages with the likes of Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers. Google bought the startup Jan. 25, and a Google product team leader trying to figure out a way around Egypt’s recent Internet blackout asked Singh for help before he reported to work.

A weekend of brainstorming and programming later, Speak2Tweet was born – a service that lets people call a phone number and leave a message, then posts a link to the message to Twitter.

It allowed Egyptians to communicate even as the regime of President Hosni Mubarak cut Internet and cell phone services for days, trying to squelch furious protests in the streets of Cairo demanding an end to his three decades of authoritarian rule.

By the time Singh started his job Monday, his service was already part of the uprising.

“He designed, built and launched his first product before he started at Google, which is now our all-time record,” says Steve Crossan, a Google product manager who has been working at the Internet search leader for five years.

Almost 2,900 spoken tweets had been posted as of Friday afternoon on the Twitter account (at)speak2tweet. Some of the heaviest volume came after access to both Twitter and the Internet was restored in Egypt earlier this week. The alternative method of tweeting has turned into a forum for longer-form expression because the voice recordings aren’t confined to Twitter’s 140-character limit.

The service has been used to express outrage, indignation, fear, exhilaration and pleas for help in the fight to oust Mubarak. “This corrupt regime must be eliminated,” said one of the translated tweets on AliveInEgypt. Another said: “For all our Arab Brothers, for all the men in Tahrir Square. Please help us, stand with us, if you abandon us we will die.”

One woman, speaking in English, said it would take more than an Internet blackout to silence her. “The last time when they did this I was completely freaked out,” she said. “I was so scared that they are going to, like, shoot us all and nobody would know about us. This time I am not scared at all. I feel like I want to tell them, `Bring it on.'”

There is no way to verify that every tweet came from the site of the protests, or even from Egypt. When the service can trace the country code of the call, it adds a note, or hashtag, specifying the location.

The service’s use was limited by the very problem that created it: Without Internet access, most Egyptians didn’t know Speak2Tweet existed, says Jillian York, a project coordinator for the Berkman Center for Internet & Society in Harvard University.

Even so, it provided a vital link between Egypt and the rest of the world, says Cynthia Wong, director of the Center for Democracy & Technology’s Project on Global Internet Freedom. As the word of the service spreads, York expects it to attract more voice messages because only about one-fourth of Egypt’s population has Internet access.

“It’s important for activists and companies to do everything they can to keep the channels of communication open when a government is trying to shut them down,” Wong says.

The service got its start Jan. 28, when Crossan began to wonder how people might be able to get their messages out to a mass audience without the help of Internet or text messaging on mobile phones.

Crossan says he wasn’t interested in making a political statement – he just wanted to tackle a complex problem that also might further Google’s crusade to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible.”

So Crossan contacted a former Google colleague, Katie Stanton, who now oversees Twitter’s international services. She referred him to Benjy Weinberger, another former Google employee who is now a Twitter engineer. The two men spent the rest of Friday swapping ideas through instant messages and e-mail.

Cooperating with Google on the project was a no-brainer for Twitter. “Twitter is more about human communications than technology,” Stanton says. “We want people’s voices to be heard.”

Initially, Crossan and Weinberger tinkered with a system that would interpret the tones of a telephone keypad and translate the sounds into tweets. After that idea proved too complicated, Crossan remembered something he had read earlier in the week: Google had just acquired a Palo Alto, Calif., startup called SayNow, which developed technology that lets teens exchange spoken messages with celebrities.

Crossan, 39, decided to contact SayNow’s founders, Singh and Nikhyl Singhal, about the problem before they were scheduled to start work for their new parent company.

Crossan was helping his 2-year-old son ride a bike for the first time in a neighborhood park Saturday morning when he heard back from Singh. The two men figured they might be able to develop a voice-to-tweet service by building on the same technology SayNow used.

“Voices capture emotion, personality and the moment,” Singh says. “It gives you the intangible that you can’t get through text and data.”

The idea had another appeal: It would work whether the person was calling on a rotary telephone or a smart phone.

With the help of Google employees in Switzerland and Australia, the new tweeting service was taking shape late Saturday night when Crossan realized he had overlooked one detail: He hadn’t even told Google what he was doing.

That wasn’t a major oversight because Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin have always encouraged engineers to devote 20 percent of their time to pet projects. In theory, the freedom is supposed to foster new ideas and drive employees to work harder so their pet projects might turn into actual products more quickly.

The formula worked well in Google’s early days, but the pace of innovation has slowed as the company grown to more than 24,000 employees. Google CEO Eric Schmidt is stepping aside from that job in April and handing the reins to Page as part of an effort to weed out bureaucracy and accelerate decision-making.

In Crossan’s case, he saw that one of his bosses, Bradley Horowitz, happened to be online late Saturday. Crossan e-mailed him about the new service. Crossan said Horowitz told him the idea was “awesome.” Crossan and Singh spent the rest of the night spent coding.

Although the speak-to-tweet service was available before dawn Sunday morning, it didn’t attract a lot of attention until Google announced it on its corporate blog Monday afternoon.

Now, Crossan and Singh are hoping the speak-to-tweet survive will survive long after Egypt quiets down. If nothing else, they say it will serve as a reminder that phones still can serve another purpose besides texting and surfing the Web.

In better times, The New York Times, February 7, 2011, BOSTON (AP) — Transit officials say a 3-foot-long boa constrictor that slithered away from its owner on a Boston subway car a month ago was found on an adjoining car Thursday.

A commuter spotted Penelope the snake and alerted a train attendant at a Red Line station. Transit authority officials took the train out of service to search it. Finally at 8:30 p.m., train attendant Sharon Lynch — a snake owner herself — caught the snake.

Penelope’s owner, 30-year-old Melissa Moorhouse of Allston, had traveled around with the snake around her neck and lost it between two stations Jan. 6. She’s thrilled to have her pet back, and says she’ll pay more attention the next time she takes Penelope out in public.