Friday, June 30, 2006

Oh, my aching vacation

…Getting in and out of cars, tour buses, climbing monuments--for people with back trouble, vacation time can be torture.

…Katie Burns Ryan, DC, assistant professor at Northwestern Health Sciences University in Bloomington, MN, has some tips for traveling with a bad back.

…”Sometimes,” she says, “the smallest changes can make a difference in how you feel.”

…Maintain correct posture. If you are driving, get as close to the wheel as is comfortable, back at 90 degrees.

…Use a lumbar support pillow (a small rolled up towel will do) behind your lower back.

…Contract your muscles from time to time to improve blood flow. Start at the legs and work up. Hold, release, hold, release.

…Don’t sit for more than an hour without getting up. Get out at every opportunity on a car or bus trip, walk around.

…Load and unload properly. Never lift, bend, or twist at the same time. Bend your knees. Let your legs do the work.

…Use a suitcase with rollers. When rolling along, keep your trailing arm straight and close to the body.

…Sleep on a soft surface. When camping, bring a foam or blowup mattress.

…Drink water. This helps all muscles cooperate.

…Use a backpack properly. Two straps around shoulders, one around the waist. Put heavier objects closer to the body, lighter ones to the outside.

…Wear tennis shoes. Arch support!

…If you really have constant back pain, consult a doctor or chiro. You don’t want to get progressively worse.

…Better Europe than the surgeon’s office!

…Oh, and HA also suggests getting other people to do the heavy lifting. Isn’t that why people have kids?

You may already be a winner and not know it

…Sleepless nights summing up your life are not good for you. You need your rest.

…James P. Krehbiel, a cognitive behavioral therapist practicing in Scottsdale, AZ, and author of Stepping Out of the Bubble: Reflections on the Pilgrimage of Counseling Therapy, defines success as moving on, no matter what circumstances arise.

…It means being a fighter, the kind that never gives up hope.

…Mistakes are an option, complete failure is not.

…The world is not going to change to accommodate you.

…Persistent people are always knocking on the door of change. (HA isn’t.)

…Many people define success as having the right car, living in the right neighborhood, and having the right job. Many people have these things, but see them fade away on a moment’s notice, Krehbiel says.

…Incidentally, a psychologist at Stony Brook Univ has discovered that money does not make people happy. “It is mostly illusory,” he says. "The rich are not happier than others. If they are, it has little to do with the money they have…Increases in income have mainly a transitory effect.”

…What will sustain you when the American dream is no longer a reality?

…Part of success is to let things be the way they are.

…Move into the future, if you think about it at all, with the conviction that it will work out.

…OK, another sleepless nite coming up! (Aw, HA is just kidding.)

…For more, go to

Thursday, June 29, 2006

High-tech elderly

……Sarah Lueck, writing in the Wall Street Journal (June 26), riffs on the eldercare of the future.

…HA once wrote about NASA’s House of the Future (this was 25 years ago). It had sensors in the yard to trip a burglar alarm should someone sneak in, state-of- the-then-art everything. They had a family live in it and test-drive it. HA asked the wife her favorite feature and she said, “The dishwasher. I don’t have one at home.”

…So much for getting too fancy.

…One health care advance touted by the WSJ was a beeping watch to remind a person to take a pill and whether to eat food with it or not.

…This fellow also could play solitaire online and his physician could “hack in” and see if the old guy was tracking. (Like HA is sooo sure any doctor, anywhere on our planet, would do this.)

…His house monitors when he gets up—and his kids can click in and be sure he’s still toddling around. (The Aware Home at the University of Georgia also does this.)

….A form of caller ID (described as “on steroids”) cuts in whenever someone comes to the door or phones—it has their picture and what was last discussed. (Ought to be helpful for the police.)

…Robo-docs can also be deployed to ask the patient questions.

…If you stand at the sink and take the wrong pill, a disembodied voice will correct you.

…The Aware Home ( also has a screen watching Grandma cook and telling her which ingredients have already been added. If she can’t track that well, should she be cooking with real heat?

…HA does not mean to be a crankypants. A “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” button might be a worthwhile thing to have around. A monitor-headed “doctor,” every move transmitted to kids, and the notion that doctors will tune in to see what level Grandpa is on in his game of Grand Theft Auto—not so much.

…All HA needs is someone to shop for her and a cute cabana boy. At least, that is the plan.

…But we all know HA is cynical. What you do think, readers?

Seriously, tastes like meat

…Meat companies, not some bark-biting vegetarians, are picking up on this new product called SoleCina, a soybased set of concepts and ingredients that can duplicate the mouth feel of meat muscle.

…Meat muscle? Ewww, make that, beef or chicken. SoleCina can be formed into sausage, hot dogs, filets, any configuration.

…It also can be wholly vegetarian or a hybrid with some meat protein.

…Tons of protein, no cholesterol.

…Look for SoleCina products to start showing up soon. It will be incorporated into meat-like products, not sold by the bagful.

…If it doesn’t have the gaggy sawdusty taste of some meat substitutes, HA will be glad.

…Oh, and she was going to show you a picture…but it looked, disappointingly, just like…a hamburger.

…She doesn’t know what else she expected of an edible analog.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Let's talk hair, people

…Chlorine, blasting rays, wind from convertibles (HA’s summers are pretty retro, aren’t they?)…how about those tresses? Or should HA say, dis-tresses?

...Are you working on a summer haystack?

…Writing in the Arizona Republic (June 27, 2006), Connie Midey gets to the “root” of the matter.

…Green hair, says one stylist, is how he knows his blondes have been swimming. HA is platinum. How do you prevent that? Well, hair is a shaft covered with protective scales. Dry those out—and all kinds of mischief can occur.

…Chlorine in the pool draws moisture out of the hair and if the pool is not properly balanced, Midey writes, chlorine can oxidize copper in the water, which then bonds to the hair and turns it green.

…The trick is to moisturize the hair and keep those protective scales in place. Wash with unchlorinated water first; this keeps so much of the treated stuff from entering. You can even use a leave-in conditioner.

…After swimming (and all this goes for salt water, too), wash with a product aimed at your hair and hair color. Some people douse their heads with club soda, too.

…To protect against sun damage, which can make hair dry and brittle, get split ends trimmed frequently and condition with UV conditioners. Can the blow dryer as much as possible.

…Don’t rub hair dry or drag a brush through wet hair. Pat it or finger-dry it. Use a comb with widely spaced teeth.

…Hair is dead cells (which is why it won’t get cancer from the sun), but its growth responds to a healthy diet, Omega-3 oils and B6 and B12.

…Take a multivitamin and chow down on salmon, flaxseed oil, almonds, citrus, beans, bananas, and lean meat and poultry.

…And, no, you don’t have to wait half an hour before going in the water. The Red Cross nixed that notion decades ago.

Causes of the O-word

…Everyone seems to think if you eat less than you are burning, you will burn the fat you have stored.

…Sounds good in theory. How does this account for what every dieter knows—you may not lose any weight for days on a stringent diet and then lose 2-3 pounds overnight. Why wasn’t that fat wearing off to fuel your underfed daily activities (yes, some usable energy is stored in the liver, but that doesn’t last long).

…Seems like a few things about this haven’t been figured out, despite the fact that obesity was in all the papers!

…For one thing, there is a doctor who has been studying adenoviruses that seem to cause chickens to get fatter while sickening and dying. Antibodies to these are found disproportionately in overweight subjects. Fat you can catch? Wouldn’t that be every starlet’s basic nightmare! Not to mention, every non-starlet!

…Now, in the International Journal of Obesity, some scientists took a look at various studies and identified 10 things that might worsen the weight loss picture.

…Inadequate sleep.

…Endocrine disrupters (stuff in some foods that alter fats in the body).

…Nice temperatures (cutting calorie-burning sweating and freezing opportunities).

…Less smoking (yes, it suppresses appetite).

…Medicines that cause weight gain.

…Population changes (older people and Hispanics have higher obesity rates).

…Older birth Moms (yes, there was a study or two).

…Genetic influences during pregnancy.

…Darwin (fat people tend to oursurvive skinny ones, yes, it’s true, sorry, boneys!).

…Like mating with like (heavier people having babies tend to produce heavier kids).

…It’s not all the occasional trip to Dairy Queen.

…Keep on it, researchers!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Jiggy with the condiments

…Is jiggy even an expression anymore? Where is Will Smith when you need him?

…In 2003, Teresa J. Farney had a piece in the Arizona Republic on the new kids on the condiment block.

…The mustard shelf is a sea of yellow, of course. Fruit-flavored mustards are now around. Ketchup? Yup, green! And ketchup also contains mystery ingredients—such as apricots, beer, celery, raspberries, and rum. Rum?

…Mayo, well, some people even make it fresh. And it has morphed into tartar sauce, aioli (garlic mayo), thousand island, and remoulade.

...And don't forget the ranks of hot sauces, Tabasco, and good old A-1.

…Condiments used to cover up less than fresh flavors. Now, the food is fresh, usually, but many think less bursting with flavor. Maybe it’s the wornout soil.

…Sauces now go on beforehand, too—as marinades.

…Sandwiches are definitely rocking. Have you tried the turkey and pesto at…wait for it…Wendy’s?

…Any other weird condiment uses, readers? (Don’t get too spicy!)

Countries differ on what is healthy

…There is some twit on the Travel Channel who is constantly pounding in broiled bat and sauteed monkey brains, but he is not who the French National Dairy Council had in mind when it did a study in 2002 on Mind, Body and Health.

…First, the study found that worrying about food and eating apparently does not prevent obesity. The United States, the study observed, suffers from acute nutritional anxiety.

…They said the key is more variety in food, more information about it, and more enjoyment. Worry less, they said.

…OK, which foods are the healthiest? Despite the constant blatting about the French and wine-drinking, the British thought wine was a healthy food more often than the French.

…Europeans and Americans rated fruits and veggies highest on the health meter, followed by fish. In France, dairy beat fish. In Switzerland fish was neck and neck with cereals.

…Dairy rated higher than meat in the UK (slightly higher), France (much higher), and Switzerland (much higher).

…The importance of food to good health? Average of almost 9 out of a possible score of 10.

…Vitamin pills, though, did not rate high abroad.

…Dieting was also not considered essential to good health.

…Though eating in moderation was.

…In Germany and Italy, exercise beat out choosing healthy foods.

…Most interesting of all, eating well in the United States meant selecting the right nutrients and quantities, and not too many calories.

…In Europe, eating well meant sharing and conviviality.

…Enjoy the company and the moment, one Italian respondent said.


Monday, June 26, 2006

How to get in to see an exalted specialist

…Remember in “Sex and the City,” when Samantha had to er, dangle, her movie star BF Smith before a bored doctor’s nurse to even get an appointment with a famed oncologist?

…Dennis McCafferty, writing in USA Weekend’s new HealthSmart section (June 12-19, 2006), ticks off some ways you might be able to get an appointment with the cheeses with year-long waiting lists.

…Get your current doc to recommend you. People used to be afraid of offending their doctors by asking for second opinions. Don't be.

…The top docs are detectives, diagnosticians. Emphasize any unusual aspects of your case. “My doctors seem stumped, they have never seen anything like this before.”

…Explain to the staff that you are coming from a long way away or that you have failed eight other treatments.

…Go to extremes. One patient even flew in a private jet to see the doctor while he was in Florida during spring training. A no-no? Saying you can come to the doctor’ home. They hate that. Another thing that doesn’t work: Lying. One woman came in April for her October appointment, then tried to act confused. “She wasn’t a good actress,” laughed the doc.

…Probably any approaches in the stalking area also would not be well received.

…Be sure this is the right doc for you in the first place. Check their websites. You might find things you don’t like.

…To find top docs, go to,, or The latter looks at hospitals—but it doesn’t hurt to know about the place you may end up.

…HA once talked to a woman who had waited 8 hours for a doctor mentioned in Parade magazine. Personally, she wonders if one doctor can be this different from other known and respected docs in town.

The Kenguru

…Now, from Hungary, comes the Kenguru, described as a small, stylish, and cheerful vehicle for the wheelchair-bound.

…No doors, no seats, you roll the chair in the back, lock it in place, man (or woman) the joystick, and you’re off!

…It’s electrically powered with a range of about 35 miles. It goes up to 40 mph, so is not for long hauls or freeways.

…It’s about $13,000 US.

…HA has no idea how you could get one of these. The website is and she could not get the English part to load.

…Auto dealers should probably take the plunge and distribute the things here.

…Only one nagging pang…Does this look safe or would an already disabled person be put-putting around in a little shell while heavier, more sturdy vehicles blasted past?

Friday, June 23, 2006

Don't Leg-o

…HA can’t help it. Even though she knows it was a serious effort, she laughed when she read about research at Indiana Univ that showed that it might be a good idea to make kids’ toys heavier to give them more exercise.

…Can’t you see the tots heaving brightly colored anvils about?

…They studied 7- and 8-year-olds playing with 3-lb blocks versus cardboard blocks.

…The kids humping around the 3-lb blocks showed more calorie burn and better muscle activity.

…They are also going to try out the weighted toys on overweight kids, and kids with special needs.

…”Maaaa, Johnny took the piano and he won't give it back!”

Test yourself?

…HA is always joking (sort of) that she should just knock off, go to med school, and take care of herself!

…A few years ago, a doc she interviewed gave her the website of a lab who could do her thyroid tests for her.

…”You mean…get my OWN tests?” HA replied. (She never did it.)

…Nick Timiraos, writing in the Wall Street Journal (June 20, 2006), says this is all the rage now.

…Well, aren’t they always bleating about “consumer-driven health care”?

…At and, you got to the site, select a test, enter your zip code and get directions to a specimen-collection lab near you. You don’t need a doc’s prescription—and it’s walk-in.

…One nurse never even called her doctor—she got her yearly tests, nothing looked worrisome, that was it.

…Of course, she’s a nurse. How do we mortals know what these chicken-scratchings mean?

…It kind of says on the report if your numbers are normal, high, or low. It does on the one the doctor gets, too.

…The drug ads, one woman pointed out, are asking us to tell THEM about medicines. Maybe we can tell THEM about our tests, too.

…Pro or con, readers?

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Magical fruit

…Mel Brooks’ “2000-Year-Old Man” used to love nectarines. He would say, “I would rather eat a rotten nectarine than the best peach in the world!”

…Nectarines, pah! HA is all about the bananas.

…Bananas contain three natural sugars, sucrose, fructose, and glucose. Energy!

…Some researchers think bananas help with depression, because they contain tryptophan, a protein that is converted into the pleasure stuff, serotonin.

…Bananas are good for PMS. The vitamin B6 regulates moods.

…Containing iron, bananas help anemia.

…They reduce high blood pressure and stroke, according to some studies—it’s their potassium.

…For the same reason, they make students more alert.

…They keep you regular and when mixed with milk and honey, can banish a hangover.

…The inside of a banana skin can tamp down an itchy mosquito bite. Taping on a hunk of skin yellow-side-out can also cure a wart.

…They calm the nervous system.

…They regulate body temperature.

…They can help with nicotine withdrawal—the B6 and B12.

…Eating bananas regularly can cut the risk of stroke 40%!

…Forget apples. A banana has 4 times the protein, twice the carbs, three times the phosphorus, five times the Vitamin A and iron. It is also loaded with potassium.

…Did you know you CAN put bananas in the fridge—they turn black almost immediately, but keep.

…Take that, Chiquita!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Should you drug your kids?

…HA just wrote a story on ear care and a doc advised parents to not let kids sleep during airplane landings because they wouldn’t clear their ear pressure. He said if all the kids are screaming, that’s a good thing.

…Well, that would depend on your POV.

…Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Sue Shellenbarger took on the subject of whether you should knock the tots out for long flights.

…One couple was split.The father brought a DVD player, but after many hours, the squirming youngster tired of that—and of everything else—and Dad asked Mom to get out the Benadryl.

…A site called took a poll of 3,657 parents. A third said they would never sedate their children. Twenty-four percent said they never had to. But 18% said they had and would again.

…The owner of said this was sort of the dirty secret of parents.

…Pediatricians are split, amazingly. Twenty percent might be in favor, 60% never thought about it, and 20% were incensed at the thought.

…If you are considering this, you must ask your doctor! Benadryl is not meant as a sedative.

…Some children get a reverse effect—zipping into action! Think about that one.

…Shellenbarger followed up a few days later, saying she had gotten a blitz of email, running 2 to 1 in support of Benadryl, with a physician’s permission.

…But another guy wanted to give her a lifetime supply of Soma and send her to an island with like-minded people. (Who would do the work on that island, with everyone lumbering around like spaced-out zombies? Never mind.)

…Some suggestions people had: Buy the baby a seat. If the child can get comfy, he or she may conk out sans medication.

…Encourage airlines to have a no-kid zone with earphones for the sensitive.

….Tell the older ones to knock off the nonsense. They may be reachable via language, who knows.

…Maybe a saline nasal spray if the pressure is bothering the little ones (ask the doc first).

…HA’s daughter’s elderly German pediatrician recommended Benadryl from the appearance of the first pox of chicken pox and for the next four days.

…She slept thru chicken pox on a doctor’s orders! Not the same as a 10-hour flight to Europe, but the only thing HA can add here.

…All in all, she is not thrilled with the idea of knocking kids out. In later life, they will not be able to settle themselves down. They may even see a plane and fall over asleep.

…What do you think?

Sometimes it does take a village

…Ever get the impression that the government is full of snooty time-servers who can never get anything accomplished?

…Good news from Harlem. Yes, you read that correctly.

…African-American kids from Harlem and Washington Heights have officially caught up with other US children—in fact, surpassed them—in getting immunizations.

…Over two years, vaccination rates leapt by a third.

…All it took was 23 community organizations working together.

…Parents were educated at every turn, reminded, followed up.

…The program, Right Start, used proven best practices to get kids the 14 shots and immunizations they needed over at least six doctor visits.

…For more info, call Elaine Ault at (202) 408-9804.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

How is your emergency kit coming along?

…I know you are wondering how HA is doing with her “Bird Flu or Other Unspeakably Inconvenient Emergency Kit.”

…HA won’t sugarcoat this. It consists of a couple of water cooler-size water bottles and a huge jug of peanut butter.

…Of course, the Department of Homeland Security urges us to stockpile more in case it can’t deal with the next emergency effectively (if?).

….Writing in the Wall Street Journal (June 16, 2006), Charles Passy road tested some commercially available kits and showed them to hurricane survivors.

…The Red Cross says you need five things: food, water, first-aid supplies, a radio, and a source of light. (Snap! HA has water!)

….These kits contained such items as a urinal bag, a knitted cap, a knife with 13 doodads on it, leather gloves, a toilet bucket, a flashlight with siren, a multifunction pliers (which one hurricane survivor liked), sunblock, a solar radio, and playing cards.

…Surely, we can do better. HA’s family doesn’t like playing cards.

…You know best what you need. You can use the $150 or so these kits cost to assemble your own.

…Bet none of these kits contained paperbacks. What’s a disaster without decent reading materials?

...For even better advice, and how is that possible, go to

Clean, but dead

…Mycobacteria cause such nasties as TB and leprosy—and now scientists have found that strains of these can whomp up and overwhelm some immune systems and cause horrible respiratory problems.

…Shortness of breath, night sweats, high fevers—pretty soon you begin to think something’s wrong with ya.

…Sufferers can go from doctor to doctor, writes Jane Brody in The New York Times (June 13, 2006).

…Oh, yeah—and if you get this stuff bad enough, you can die.

…And it’s everywhere. Moist showers, hot tubs, people breathing on you. Although it’s cropping up more in semi-tropical areas, it has been a problem everywhere.

…HA reads stuff like this and almost turns into Howard Hughes with his facemasks
and clean tissue boxes on his feet!

…For some reason, these things hit thin, white women more than any other group. Whew. HA is not thin.

…One reason for this stuff popping up is that hot water heaters no longer heat water as hot.. Many are capped out at 125 degrees to keep from boiling children.

…Also people shower more—breathing in the damp, bacteria-laced fumes.

…These infections can be treated, but docs need to know what they are dealing with. If your physician seems puzzled or frustrated, mention the hot tub—or better yet, this news site.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Televised shrinks—no, not Dr. Phil

…According to Kirk Johnson, writing in the New York Times (June 8, 2006), some psychiatrists are going “telemedicine,” practicing over the computer instead of face to face.

…This is especially true in rural areas without a shrink for miles.

…At least 18 states pay for some telemedicine under their Medicaid programs. But the trend really started with the prisons and the need for mental health services in these remote locations.

…Both the doctor and patient “see” each other over the computer.

…All the doctor can’t do is touch or smell the person, but one doctor said when it came to psychiatry this was probably a good thing—meaning, she hastened to add, in person contact contained a lot of distractions.

…One doctor avoids wearing zigzaggy patterns, which can “strobe” on TV and disturb some patients. She also pans around the room to show paranoid patients there is no one else there.

…After a short while, doctors and patients report, you forget you are not in the same room.

…Except both sides have an “off” button.

Diabetes care in a single pill?

…The American Diabetes Association says 7.2 million people might dodge premature death and disability it they took a “polypill,” a combination of low-dose aspirin, a cholesterol-lowering drug, blood pressure pill, and medicine to lower blood sugar.

…Tab? $100 a year.

…This would be a money-saver, not to mention a lifesaver. Using computer modeling, the eggheads said a “cure” for diabetes would reduce serious complications by 1.4 million a year—saving $700 billion.

…If everyone got the best diabetes treatment available, 18 million people would escape premature death—saving $325 billion a year.

…If at least 80% of people with diabetes got the best care, complications would be reduced by 60%--saving $150 billion a year.

…Billions—with a “b.”

…Is there such a “polypill”? Not yet.

…At their meeting, the diabetes specialists likened the disease to a biological weapon that could kill 40 million people.

…It’s already here, they said.

…It must be. HA’s niece has a red “hazardous” sharps container in her office bathroom—for people’s insulin needles.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Body language shouts volumes

…Knight Ridder reporter Janea Philip says people give away their thoughts by their actions.

…Eighty percent of communication, in fact, is nonverbal, according to one expert.

…First dates, job interviews, meetings, talks with your spouse—your body may be having its own private say.

…According to Philip, some signs include: Picking at your nails or wringing your hands shows you are nervous.

…Think about the expression on your face—the other person will be.

…Arm positioning is important. Crossed arms mean dissatisfaction or vulnerability.

…You may be saying yes, but shaking your head no.

…If you glance to the right, you may be pulling your throughts from memory. To the left—from your creativity.

…Personally, HA prefers direct body language, such as that pictured.

Parents: Asthma can get serious fast

… Nearly half the parents of kids with this disease don’t know how serious it can get, according to the European Academy of Allergology and Clinical Immunology.

…One in three fatal asthma attacks involves a child with a mild form of the disease. Mild!

…Asthma, worldwide, increases 50% a decade.

…This disease, featuring inflammation and narrowing of the airways, is more than an occasional grab for an inhaler—it can kill.

…Yet, many parents trail off on use of inhalers and anti-inflammatories if the kids complain or experience side effects.

…Three-fourths of kids who do not comply experience at least one problem as a result: worse or more frequent attacks, limited activity, or nighttime episodes.

…Almost 60% of parents think they comply, but the vast majority of docs don’t believe it—based on how the kid is doing.

…Even some famous Olympians have asthma—but they control it.

…HA was once told she had asthma and had the inhalers and breathing treatments. It was a reaction to a medication and gradually went away (9 mos).

…But she learned wheezing is no breeze. You surely don’t want your kids experiencing it.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

You lucky downward facing dog!

…Writing for Reuters, Ellen Wulfhorst talks about the cushy life some office workers have (as opposed to freelance writers). Massages, baby! Yoga!

…Such perks boost the bottom line, they insist.

…Probably beats a cigarette and a cuppa joe for focusing the mind.

…HA did yoga for a decade and was the better for it.

…Out here Arizona way, they do the kind with the heat turned up. Yes! Even in summer when our heat is already turned up by larger forces.

…If they do this in the workplace, do they have, you know, showers?

…HA (don’t laugh) used to have a staff. She never liked it when applicants asked about quitting time first thing. Can you imagine the job interviews at these places?

…”My last job had heated stone massages and all you have is hot tub with lousy rose petals?

…“I don’t THINK so.”

Cortisol, we hardly know ya

…Writing in the Arizona Republic (june 13, 2006), Connie Midey explores the powerful “fight or flight” hormone, cortisol.

…”It’s not a simple hormone,” one doc said. An excess of cortisol can cause problems, but the doctors aren’t sure what things are caused directly by an excess.

…We need this stuff. Excreted by the adrenals atop the kidneys, cortisol acts on every cell in the body.

…Like its fellow hormone, adrenaline, it plays a role in fight or flight.

…In healthy amounts, Midey wrote, it helps the body respond to stress, produce energy, regulate heart functions, normalize blood sugar, and fight infection and inflammation. (Synthetic cortisol, hydrocortisone, is often used for allergies and to fight inflammation.)

…When chronic stress keeps the cortisol squirting out, it becomes toxic. It destroys tissues, can make you insulin resistant, slows healing, and impairs memory.

…Binge eaters seem to have more of it.

…Even thin people subjected to stress and then left with pastries in the room, will grab them.

…You can’t just knock this stuff out of the body, because it’s so vital to life. And commercial diet aids that claim to suppress it are not effective, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

…Yoga, reading, a nap, listen to music…these might be better.

…Oh, and (you guessed it) exercise. Aerobically fit people deal with cortisol better.

…Another tip: Keep fruit and veggies around. After that meltdown, you won’t be able to get your hands on an M&M.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Glamor Moms

…HA’s nickname has always been Packmule Mom, which is somewhat lacking in the zotz department.

…Writing in the Orange County Register, Theresa Walker talks about “Hot Moms,” who wear heels with their sweatsuits and are loaded with healthy empowerment and confidence.

…There is a book (natch): “The Hot Mom’s Handbook” by Jessica Denay.

…Denay sells Hot Mom tank tops and movie stars wear them. Apparently, this gal is also plenty sizzly herself, single with a 6-year-old.

…It’s all about attitude, she says.

…Hot Moms get their nails done, take classes, and get together with other HMs to bodyboard.

…50,000 of them also signed up for the Hot Moms Club.

…Bodyboard? Couldn’t HA just be Luke Mom and get a Latte Grande?

C-sections surgery, not “extreme” Day Planning

…Writing in the Arizona Republic (June 12, 2006), Kerry Fehr-Snyder tells of a labor and delivery nurse who asked for a Caesarean section instead of a vaginal birth. A labor nurse!

…Some docs are going for this now.

…Up to 18% of C-sections are by choice. Attempts to cut the C-section rate are now out the proverbial window.

…Some movie stars even get a C-section/tummy tuck thing. How do you think they get flat stomachs so fast so they can fit into their wedding dresses?

…Planned sections allow Moms to finish projects at work and skip the tearing and possible pelvic floor trauma of a normal birth.

…The cost has come down and for major surgery, is only twice the cost of a vaginal birth now, about $12K.

…The change in doctors’ attitudes came in 2003, when the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said elective sections were ethical so long as the doctors discussed the risks of both.

…Still, the docs don’t recommend them if you plan to have more than two births. Zipping and unzipping that incision too many times can result in a hysterectomy.

…Or adhesions. Listen to Auntie HA now. When she was in the hospital doubled over in agony with a paralyzed intestine, the docs sort of shrugged. “Your abdominal surgeries,” they said.

…You do not want to be in the fetal position yourself 20 years after the blessed event.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Doctor knows best

…The American Medical Association has decided the salty foods have to go and sugary sodas need to cost more.

…At their annual meeting, the mainstream docs are asking the FDA to be stricter about processed foods, fast food, restaurant food.

…Naturally, our premier national nanny, The Center for Science in the Public Interest, is all for the salt restrictions.

…The AMA also thinks taxes will cut soda consumption slightly, just as they did cigarette smoking.

…Some states already have such taxes.

…Michael Jacobson of CSPI thinks earmarking those funds for programs promoting a better diet would be a plus.

…(To be honest, HA once saw him put a hurting on a crudite platter and leave the shrimp behind.)

…Jump back out of the way, more nannying coming!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Have your lawyer meet you at the swings

…In a story done on KATU News in Portland, Oregon, litigation was cited as a kid’s worst enemy.

…Climbing trees, going so high on the swing you almost go full circle over the top, jumping off the swing at the highest arc, hanging upside down, throwing cherry bombs…

…OK—-no cherry bombs…

…..All of these pursuits of, dare HS say it, a normal childhood, are out in some places.

…There are even “No Running” signs—on playgrounds!

…Portland removed all swings from elementary school playgrounds.

…Also no merry-go-rounds (those heavy, hard-to-push things), tube slides, track rides (huh?) or teeter-totters!

…No teeter-totters?

…No dodgeball. Of course, no tether ball!

…Tether ball is an outright killer, the thug of playgrounds!

…Oh, no tag (“encourages fights”).

…But kids learn what they can and can’t do from taking little risks…

…Shut up, HA, and hand over that bubblewrap!

Uh, uh, uh..don't reach for certain BP meds

…If you’re pregnant, heads up!

…Physicians and the FDA thought the so-called ACE inhibitor class of blood pressure medicine was OK in the first trimester, though they could damage the fetus’s kidneys in the second or third.

…These things are the second most commonly prescribed drug on the market.They have been around 25 years.

…Exposure to ACE inhibitors in the first trimester (say when you are taking them and don’t even know you are pregnant or are not trying to get pregnant), tripled the risk of serious birth defects. Seven percent of babies ended up with serious problems.

…The heart was most often affected, but the limbs and face also came in for defects, as did the brain or spinal cord.

…Problem is, no one wants to test drugs on pregnant women—and the expectant mouse mommies don’t always present an accurate picture.

…The FDA may strengthen the “black box” warnings. But until then, pass it on!

…P.S. HA thinks tuna for preggos is also off the approved list.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Can we throw the bum (docs) out?

…As HA may have mentioned, her father was a physician. But she maintains a "healthy" skepticism about some aspects of the medical system.

…The docs are scarcer, more overworked, and (seemingly) somewhat less professional than in days of yore.

…The pols whine about big malpractice awards, but if one of these folks maims or kills a loved one, you may need the money to get by for the rest of your life.

…According to Public Citizen, a do-gooder nonprofit, 5.5% of the docs accounted for 57.5% of the malpractice payouts between 1990 and 2004. Each doctor who ended up paying was a repeater—having two or sometimes dozens of payouts.

…Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen, remarked in a letter to the AARP Bulletin that stricter discipline of doctors did not reduce malpractice premiums, but that throwing the worst offenders out might improve safety.

…In AZ, HA can check her docs for complaints, suits and wrist slaps over the past five years. But what if they came from other states? No way to know.

…Incidentally, when HA once checked on a doc she had been referred to and told her primary that this guy have once operated on the wrong leg of a woman, her primary seemed surprised that there was a way to check.

"Amber Alert" for the demented elderly?

…Also in the AARP Bulletin (June 2006), a story about a Georgia family whose mother, an Alzheimer’s sufferer, had wandered off and was found dead.

…They petitioned the Georgia legislature to create a statewide alert system for missing adults with dementia and other forms of impairment, similar to the America’s Missing Broadcast Emergency Response, or Amber Alert, system.

…The Alzheimer’s Association says 60% of the 4.5 million Americans with dementia eventually wander.

…Colorado has a similar law that goes into effect this summer.

…Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, New Hampshire and New Jersey already have a system.

…New York decided no, saying too many alerts would dull the impact (kind of like car alarms?).

…What do you think, readers? Would a wandering older person really stand out like a kidnapped child?

….If he or she were being obtrusive, wouldn’t someone move in to help without highway signs or recorded phone calls?

..With the Alerts, wouldn’t every person “of age” be given the hairy eyeball by well-meaning types?

...The family mentioned at the beginning? Their mother, sadly, was found 500 feet from their home, not in the bus system or wandering the interstates.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Feng shui junior

…Terry Sapienza, writing in the Wash Post Apr 22, talks about a book called The Peaceful Nursery: Preparing a Home for Your Baby with Feng Shui, by Laura Forbes Carlin and Alison Forbes.

…FS, of course, is the Chinese “art” of placement.

…General idea: Your home affects your well-being and baby will feel the same.

…Step one is clear out clutter. If it’s a mess now, wait’ll you have to cope with baby gear. If you don’t need something, it isn’t useful, or you don’t love it (at least one), toss!

…Paint a relaxing color…blue encourages relaxation, green serenity and growth.

…Don’t haul in a bunch of smelly and toxic carpets, pressed wood, or other icky stuff. Paint well ahead of time.

…Make sure the crib has a view of the door. At least one side of it should be against a wall.

…Forget piling the pillows and stuffed animals. Keep it simple. Safer without that stuff anyway.

…All you need are diapers, wipes, blankets, snap-up onesies, blankets, and food.

…The rest is clutter and baby will notice!

…You know…on some level.

Talk about low-tech medication control

…Laura Landro, writing in The Wall Street Journal (May 23, 2006), again wonders about those 7,000 hospitalized patients a year who will die because they took the wrong pill.

…Under federal regs, as of last January, hospitals are supposed to have systems to “reconcile” medications—meaning make sure the patients get the right thing, both in terms of what was ordered and in terms of everything else the patient is taking.

…This means collecting a drug and allergy history and checking for interactions.

…The last time HA was in the hospital, they didn’t even check for allergies anymore—they just asked you on the spot. What if you were out of it?

…They are also putting this off on patients and families, who need to keep better med records.

…Eventually this info will be online or in a hospital’s computer if you have been there before (the latter is true now in some hospitals).

…But for now, some hospitals are issuing wallet cards for you to write down your drug record and carry it with you.

…Another program, Vial of Life (, offers forms you can fill out and store in an empty pill bottle in the fridge for the paramedics to find. Yeah, that ought to do it.

…If that doesn’t sound too lame to you, there are other places to get a form, but wouldn’t a piece of paper do as well?

…If you are in the hospital, things can go wrong. A drug you take at home may not be offered. Or the hospital can forget to tell you to restart a medicine when you get home. Or the hospital doctor can send you home with a drug you are already taking and you may take it twice.

…HA once wrote about care across the venues—what happens when you leave the hospital for home or rehab or vice-versa. She concluded this care and continuity was minimal.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Fruits of sweet science

…According to Katy McLaughlin, in the Wall Street Journal (June 3, 2006), fruit growers are trying to find ways to make fruit sweeter.

…One horticulturalist at the Univ of Arkansas has worked for 26 years to breed the tartness out of blackberries.

…Heard of a Kandy Primo? Despite the spelling, candy is right! It’s a cantaloupe with a high sugar content. (HA is from Missouri, we eat cantaloupe with salt there and call it “The Midwestern Treat.”)

…The Cara Cara orange has tripled sales in the past few years. Sweet!

…Jazz and Pink Lady are ultra-sweet apples that don’t turn grainy. HA read about one of these in a novel over the weekend—the characters were saying how it was the best apple they ever ate!

…New fruits used to be bred by universities—now big companies do it with an eye to the bottom line.

…Or how about weirdies like the Grapple (pronounced Gray-Pul)? It’s a Fuji apple dipped in Concord grapejuice and is flying off the shelves. Kids send it fan mail.

…Apparently, nutritionists are pretty unfazed by this stuff, saying vits, minerals and fiber in these engineered creatures are also up, despite the slightly higher calorie count.

…Meanwhile, the companies are showing up at sporting events and passing out free samples. Free samples. Of fruit.

…If people have any hesitation (although chefs don’t love these), it’s because they think it’s Frankenfruit—genetically engineered.

…But no, it’s the same old cross-pollinating and grafting Luther Burbank did.

…Only with sugar in mind.

Some docs and pharmacists can't tell one pill from another

…OK, the docs HA can understand, but some pharmacists can’t identify pills?


…A prof at Rush Medical College told Amanda Gardener of HealthDay that a third of the time, these guys could not ID three common pills.

…In the study, which appeared in the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, 100 docs and pharmacists were asked to ID Zocor, lorazepam, and naproxen. They were allowed to go on the Internet and look in their Physicians Desk Ref.

…Overall, they hit it 63% of the time. The brand name one (Zocor) was nailed 78% of the time, the generic prescription (lorazepam) 64% of the time, and the non-prescription painkiller (naproxen) only 48% of the time.

…36% of the docs got all three, and 48% of the pharmacists. (Meaning half the pharmacists didn’t do so well.)

…Patients often show up EDs and doctors’ offices with their pills in a pillbox or hankie and don’t know what they are.

…This may also account for the half a million calls to poison centers each year—where the caller may say, “I don’t know, they’re pink.”

…If they weren’t for a universal coding system before, these professionals are now.

…This reminds HA of a Sixties Guy she knew. If you had a pill and asked him what it was, he would grab it out of your hand, fire it down, and say, ”I’ll let you know."

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Not all hot-wired kids need a pill

…If your kid has ants in the pants…it may just be high-energy and not require medication.

…Every parent knows that if you put adults and kids in a room, within 15 minutes the squirming, running, grabbing, staring at, and yelling effects a complete transfer of energy from the adults to the kids, which leads to more squirming, running, etc.

…The little energy vampires!

…HA does not want to get into some argument with people whose kids are a bad outtake from one of those “Nanny 911” shows and so wild they can’t learn or think, but she suggests this may be fewer than the number being medically treated.

…One educator describes these kids as “advanced creative thinkers” (thinkers, not stinkers).

…There is a difference between kids with quick brains and impatient attention spans and kids with a real chemical brain imbalance.

…This woman is named Elaine Ely, PhD, and she offers a test so you can see if your child is an advanced creative thinker or menace to classroom serenity.

…Go to

…Incidentally, kids and now adults on ADHD drugs can end up in the Emergency Dept.

…Some docs even think the FDA should slap a black box warning on Ritalin, Concerta, and Adderall (the latter is uptown meth).

…No one has died of this stuff—yet.

…But shouldn’t we think long and hard before dosing the youngest among us?

…Try to think of them as free entertainment…and we can always crate them.

…Joke, don’t email.

Your own personal B-team

…You are lugging around three pounds of bacterial cells, but they comprise 90% of the cells in your body—they are just tiny compared with the human cells.

…These little passengers digest your food and perform other useful functions for you—in fact, you could not live without them, according to a story by Rick Weiss in the Wash Post (June 5, 2006).

…Some of these bacteria manufacture vitamins not found in the diet, including several B’s.

…They break down the poisonous substances in plants so they don’t kill us.

…They grab harmful hydrogen out of the gut and convert it to methane (which can lead to embarrassing moments, but hey, blame the dog).

…They make a food colon cells need to survive.

…Doctors are even looking toward being able to analyze our bacterial load and tweak it.

…Downing an acidophilus pill will soon be considered so 5 minutes ago.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Wait--this isn't a spa?

…Remember when a trip to the dentist was no day at the beach?

…According to Jennifer Alsever, writing in the New York Times (Apr 30, 2006), some dental offices are piling on the amenities, such as aromatherapy, green tea, paraffin hand waxings, blankets, video eyeglasses, etc.

…One woman was afraid of the dentist, but now is searching for an excuse to go.

…Er, hon, they have spas with no drills, have you heard about those?

…Some dentists even offer fresh-baked cookies.

…Hey, what happened to the carnations with the ridiculously long stems that you never knew what to do with?

…One dentist said going to the dentist would not be an ordeal, but be like having your hair done. HA thinks we are a ways from that.

…Of course, a lot of dentistry today is cosmetic, whitening, straightening, rather than those boring old fillings and fall-over-dead-expensive bridges.

…Doctors are getting into the spa game, too, Alsever reports.

…There are 1,500 medical spas worldwide now, three times the number three years ago.

…Most of this is cash—insurance isn’t falling for the green teeth…oops, green tea.

…One question: When you get gum recontouring, implants, computerized smile analysis, veneers, and gum grafting, do you get a robe to keep?

On-the-spot panic diagnosis

…According to an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, a Univ of Washington psychiatrist, Wayne Katon, MD, found that between 3% and 8% of patients visiting their primary care physician had panic disorder.

…Symptoms include pounding heart, chest and abdominal pain, and shortness of breath.

…The doctors do a ton of tests to rule everything else out—and often are left with the panic diagnosis.

…According to Katon, panic disorder is treatable in 4-6 weeks with medication or cognitive therapy, or a combination.

…His recommendation is to include mental health professionals in primary care offices to speed diagnosis.

…HA was going to be snarky and say, “Sure, they can say it’s all in your head sooner.”

…OK, she will say it.

…For the 90-some percent with a physical problem causing the symptoms, being put on antidepressants right out of the box could be a move in the wrong direction.

…Or do you agree? Comment!

…Heaven knows, there are enough reasons around to panic.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Venus calls her GFs, while Mars fights or flees

…In 2002, UCLA did a study that showed friendships among women are a survival device.

…Hanging out with friends can even soothe the gut-wrenching stress the rest of life’s pettiness strews around.

…The docs found that women respond to stress with a cascade of brain chemicals, as one article put it, that make them form and maintain friendships with other women.

…Before this study, they thought both men and women experienced “fight or flight.”

…Instead of fleeing or fighting, the “anti-stress” hormone oxytocin makes women run for their children and circle the wagons with other women.

…This apparently does not happen with men because testosterone reduces the effects of oxytocin. Estrogen enhances it.

…Two of the women docs got started on this subject when one remarked that every time the stress level got high, the women came into the lab and cleaned, drank coffee, and gabbed—and the men disappeared and holed up.

…This led to the “tend and befriend” response idea.

…Other studies show that more friends women have, the longer they live and fewer physical impairments they have.

…Studies also show that when women take opiod blockers—blocking the natural opiate of oxytocin—they withdraw more.

…Married women, the docs say, also turn to their friends more than their husbands for emotional support. In a study done by PacfiCare Behavioral Health, 45% of hubbies regularly turned to their spouses for emotional support, while only 21% of women did.

…Some of this is from The Big Book of Duh, but interesting, huh?

Do you let your doc wing it?

…Dr Welby is pretty long dead and not everyone does whatever the doctor says anymore, not without research, anyway.

…Might this extend to wondering about off-label uses of drugs? Off-label is a use the FDA has not endorsed.

…(HA almost died of a drug being used off-label.)

…People with depression and attention-deficit get seizure medicine, for instance, according to a story by Sandra G. Boodman in the Wash Post (May 23, 2006).

…Some insomniacs get medicine approved for treatment of schizophrenia.

…Estrogen as a way of treating thinning bones was an off-label use.

…A new study in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed that a fifth of the prescriptions written in 2001 were for off-label uses.

…73% of these lacked strong scientific backing.

…Backup apparently ranges from good evidence to what amounts to experimentation.

…Some docs are persuaded by industry studies, others by “thought leaders“ among their peers (those would be the big-name docs who speak at conferences all the time).

…Many times, pediatric uses are off-label simply because not much drug testing is done with children.

…You could ask, HA thinks.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Watery Rockettes

…Water is 8 pounds to the gallon. It’s a weight—and you can use it to create 12 to 14 times the resistance of air for a better workout.

…Water aerobics is no longer for seniors. The average age is now 40.

…Kick boxing and other martial arts are also going “wet.”

…Water is also more refreshing than a big hot sweat bath.

…Six million Americans exercise in the pool—especially Boomers with banged up ankles and knees.

…Don’t overdo it at first—you will get sore just as you would with any unfamiliar exercise.

…You can up the aerobic ante with belts, special weights and webbed gloves, if you want.

…Of course, there is always swimming, too, while you are there.

…Do HA a favor? Would ya send her a picture of those webbed gloves?

Say we did have a Bird Flu vaccine

…Would you take it?

…A team from the Univ of Michigan Med School and VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System gave 2400 people a questionnaire to see what they would do.

…As reported in the Journal of Internal Medicine, participants were divided into four groups. The first were asked to imagine themselves as the patient in two scenarios: taking an experimental vaccine against a deadly flu or chemo for a slow-growing cancer.

…Take the medicine or take their chances without it?

…The other three groups were given the same scenario but asked to answer from (1) the standpoint of a doctor advising a patient, (2) a parent deciding for a child, and (3) a medical director of a hospital deciding for many patients.

…Only 48% would take it for themselves.

…But 57% of those imaging themselves to be parents would give it to their child.

…63% of those acting as a doctor would advise it for their patients.

…And 73% o the medical director group would give it to a lot of patients.

…Much the same applied to the chemo scenario.

…In a reaction they call the “omission tendency,” people tend to avoid bringing immediate medical harm on themselves, even though waiting might be riskier.

…Doctors and medical directors tend to take more proactive risks. Action is more justifiable than doing nothing.

…Parents will “do anything” for a child.

…If do unto others is the Golden Rule, the docs said, maybe the Platinum Rule is make better decisions for other than for yourself.