Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Forget texting, even listening while driving can be dangerous

Watch for gorillas.
Tim Newman, Medical News Today, asks if you were listening on the radio, would you notice a gorilla beside the road?

Maybe not, according to a study presented to the British Psychological Society.

Researchers at the University College Cork (and Dublin) say we only have a set amount of attention--and it needs to be on traffic and the road.

This is called the perpetual load theory--once we have put our attention to the maximum load of info, other info is not processed.

They used a full-size driving simulator and tested whether listening to the radio would affect the ability to see or take in other info.

Thirty-six drivers took part. Half were told to listen for when the traffic reporter switched from a male to a female voice (low attention needed). The other half wer asked to listen for updates on a specific road (requiring high attention).

Every so often as they drove, a gorilla or elephant would be at the side of the road.

In the low-attention load group, 71% spotted these. In the high attention group, less than a quarter saw the out-of-place animals.

The high attention group also performed less well in obeying yield signals, recalling what vehicles had passed, and in actual driving--meaning lane position, speed, and reaction time to hazards.

Hmmm...Think that one over. That was the radio--it didn't even count the screaming kid in the back, the yammering spouse, the putting on of makeup and eating of breakfast.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Parents, step in before your kid glows in the dark

Tech in protective wear--child not.
If you've been to an ER recently, and I hope you have not, they recommend CT scans for many children's head bumps or intense stomachaches.

CT stands for computed tomography. To get detailed images of bones, organs, blood vessels, and soft tissues, it uses ionizing radiation.

Use of CT scans is growing worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

Radiologists and other experts are urging awareness and accountaibility for CT scans on children.

One of the authors of the WHO report, Donald Frush, MS, medical director of the Duke Medical Radiation Center, says this radiation  in very high doses can cause hair loss and skin redness.

Children tend to be more susceptible because they are still growing.

According to the WHO report, the average dose of radiation in the US has increased since 1987, due most to medical procedures.

Parents should be afraid to ask questions.

--Why is this test necessary?

--What are our other options, such as ultrasound or MRI (no radiation)?

--How will they adjust the radiation to suit a child?

--Does your facility routinely do this? Is this a priority? Does the staff have proper training to do this?

It's OK to ask, Frush says--in fact, it's a good idea.

Look, I know it's hard when your child or even you are hurt and when you finally see a doctor, that doctor says we need pictures. But radiation can build up. At least ask.

Personally, I have succumbed to many CT scans...Now I will ask.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Vitamin deficiencies--still possible

Ew--that isn't good.
In this big, rich country with fare of every description and a more or less half-health literate population, you'd think vitamin deficiencies would be a thing of the past.

While we are not exactly 18th century sailors keeling over with scurvy, our various "diets" and "food plans" and otherwise unbalanced eating behavior can result in issues, according to the Food Technology Institute.

I have personal experience. I have intestinal issues and tend to steer away from the recommended bales of veggies and also from dairy, so when my hair started to fall out a month or two ago, the dermatologist checked my blood for Vitamin B1, folic acid, and iron (my thyroid tests were normal) . Or wanted to--I could not get a ride to the lab, so am looking up foods I can emphasize to maybe up these levels if indeed they are the culprits.

The Food Technology Institute says people in weird dietary spaces need to pay attention to getting essential nutrients.

VEGETARIAN AND VEGAN. As much as 20% of the global population is one of these. These people must eat legumes, soy products, nuts, seeds, and whole grains--no meats, poultry or seafood.  They may be higher in calcium and fiber, but lower in Vitamin D. Pay special attention to calcium, Vit D, Vit B12, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, and zinc.

HUGH PROTEIN/LOW CARB/GLUTEN-FREE.  Emphasis here is on eliminating carbs and often whole grains.  You could be missing out on B vitamins and fiber. Eat more quinoa, brown rice, and sweet potatoes.

PALEO. supposedly based on what cavemen ate, the idea here is to eat lean meat, seafood, nuts, fruits, veggies, and healthful oils. No grains, legumes, dairy, and foods with refined sugar and lots of salt. These people need to supplement with folate, B vits, calcium, and Vit D.

OK...I don't see my situation there.  Back to the research.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Migraines affect the whole family

A new study from the Montefiore Headache Center of the Albert Einstein School of Medicine (Mayo Clinic Proceedings) says one member with the pain and disability of migraine headaches affects the emotional, social, and financial well-being of the entire family.

The Chronic Migraine Epidemiology and Outcomes Study looked at 4,022 people with migraines, along with their spouses or partners.

--Approx 41% of people with migraine and 23% of the spouses said the migraine sufferer would be a better parent if he or she did not suffer from migraines.

--Half of the migraineurs missed at least one family activity in the past month.

--One-third of the sufferers and 21% of their partners said migraines threatened their long-term financial security.

--The burden was worst among people with chronic migraine--defined as 15 or more headaches a month.

The sufferers see this happening and suffered from guilt, worry, and sadness--in addition to the debilitating pain and workplace issues.

If this affects you, revisit your medical condition--see what new approaches there may be.  Your family is counting on you.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Maybe "blue light" isn't all that bad

Do you check your phone in the dark at night? I know I have an MP3 player with blue light I click on when I can't sleep. That supposedly can interfere with melatonin production and sleep--but that is not what this is about.

This is about whether blue light can harm your eyes.

The Vision Council says 90% of adults use digital devices more than two hours a day (is that all?).

There have been stories on how blue light can do all sorts of bad things to you, but Adam Gordon, OD, clinical assoc professor at the University of Alabama's Birmingham School of Optometry, says overuse and exposure to blue light can lead to eyestrain and focusing problems--but does not appear to cause long-term harm, eye disease, or damage to the retina.

Blue light is part of the visible light spectrum--high-energy light just beyond the potentially harmful ultraviolet light.

Blue light goes to the retina, triggering "sight."

Ultraviolet light can be harmful to the eye, contributing to cataracts, ptergia (growths) and perhaps macular degeneration.

We are exposed these days more to blue light--through fluorescents, LED, etc--and our digital devices.

Digital eyestrain comes from not blinking as frequently and the resulting dry eye. The effect can be burning or stinging. Plus, with digital devices, you are looking at a pixilated image that is rapidly alternating or flickering many times per second. It makes it hard to maintain focus.

There are special eyeglasses to help while using digital devices. They block the blue light. These may help if you spend a lot of time at the computer.

But otherwise, you can use the 20/20/20 rule. For every 20 mins on the device, look away for 20 seconds, focusing on something 20 feet away.

I do that--I gaze into the yard and daydream...Sorry, was I just doing it?