Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Read allergy labels and live

…Good news for the allergy-plagued. After January 1, 2006, food labels have to give a heads-up on eight powerful allergens, even if they are in the foods in vanishingly small amounts.

…According to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (see right), 150 people a year die from allergic reactions. Two percent of adults and 5% of kids suffer from food allergies.

…The bad guys are milk, soy, eggs, fish, wheat, peanuts (ground nuts), tree nuts, shrimp and other crustaceans.

…These can sneak into foods. Are you sure that sandwich isn’t made with cold cuts mixed with milk solids? How about that candy? Any wheat in there?

…While you are at it, check out the new labels for: transfats (huge artery no-no), whole grains, sugar added, and good fats.

Can a surgeon give you a big "radio" voice?

…Do you sound like Grandma Moses or Gabby Hayes? (HA dates herself, doesn’t she?)

…Forget that nose job or jowl-ectomy. Some plastic surgeons are now offering “voice lifts.”

…Implants are inserted in a hole in your throat to bring vocal cords closer together. Sometimes collagen is stuck in the vocal cords to fatten them up.

…You can still say “Get the hell off my property, you little punks,” but it doesn’t sound as cool.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Looking for Mr Good Diet


…Marketers have recognized that people on low calorie diets are hungry! So, the WSJ says (Feb 16, 2006), they are trying to invent the next food fad (can you invent a fad with the intention of its being a fad?).

…One new approach will be a food that makes you feel full.

…Older approaches tried to divert the nervous system and make you feel agitated so you forgot you didn’t feel full (think dex).

…Low carb, high protein made people feel satisfied because protein breaks down more slowly.

…Low glycemic then aimed at eating carbs that raised blood sugar levels more slowly. Level sugars keeps insulin pumping evenly and keeps hunger at bay.

…Now the white coats are trying to keep fat molecules intact so that when they hit the lower part of the small intestine called the ileum, they will set off the “Wow, that was great, I am stuffed” response.

…Many other approaches to faking out various parts of the intestine are in the works.

…Funny story. When testing these approaches, researchers found that looking at pictures of food made even well-fed people hungry. So they banned bored subjects from bringing in magazines.

…Ah, humans.

...One doc said if it was a matter of being or feeling full, why do people always have “room” for dessert. In HA’s family, we refer to it as the “pie hole.”

If your doctor seems puzzled or therapy doesn’t work, forge on

….According to a story by David Leonhardt in the NYT (Feb 22, 2006), autopsies show docs are wrong about 1 time out of 5 when it comes to what ails ya.

…This 20% error rate is unchanged since the 1930s and apparently all the MRIs, CT scans, PET scans and lab tests developed in that time have not cut the rate.

…The NYT speculates that this is because there is no bonus for a correct diagnosis. Medical personnel get paid right along to run the tests, do the surgery, and talk to the patients.

…There is also no penalty for failure. Docs don’t go down with their planes like pilots do. Understandably pilots have demanded more studies of crashes and more programs to eliminate them.

…HA thinks the hassled and scattered nature of the medical system is also to blame. Tests may be run, but the results sit around in piles for weeks. Many docs don’t seem to have a spare sec to really focus on the individual patient; think about that patient’s history, symptoms, and test results; and really brainstorm—if only for 5 minutes—what might be wrong. It might be more than one thing!

…In addition, at least out here in AZ, primaries and specialists don’t seem to get their heads together and discuss a patient.

…It’s not an intention problem or education problem, so much as a procedures and overload problem.

….What do you think?

…A friend of HA’s who read this story told her that she decided to dump the dermatologist who had not helped a rash for two years and try another one.

…It’s your body, not the doctor’s. Has HA mentioned this before?

Friday, February 24, 2006

Make kids eat at home


..Making kids eat at home, of course, involves cooking, so proceed accordingly, advises HA, whose child’s father regretfully informed her she even had a stove.

…Those killjoy scientists checked on kids who eat out a lot and found they had increased heart disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure and poor insulin sensitivity.

…Kids who eat out a lot also tend to be overweight.

…They peeked at the dining habits of 600 Wisconsin school kids. About 126 of those ate out more than four times a week (not counting school lunches—which were probably the culprit, but that is the stuff of another blurb).

…Yup, the restaurant diners had a couple of points higher cholesterol and blood pressure.

…They also tended to drink more soda.

…Were these fast food excursions? Not mentioned.

…Let kids eat sushi, HA says! Especially after dining at IHOP recently and listening to an ungagged gaggle of charming tots try to outshriek each other.

Always the pregnant Mom's fault

…Do your baby’s prospects of future fatitude lie in what you eat while you are pregnant?

…It’s not as simple as it seems. Researchers at the University of Nottingham, England, found that feeding mice a low-protein diet led to female mice that were less likely to eat fatty foods.

…But when they changed it up and offered the low protein at different stages of gestation, the babies killed for the Twinkies.

…They theorize that the low protein affected formation of the hypothalamus, a gland regulating metabolism.

…In humans, the hypothalamus is pretty well formed by the end of the first trimester.

…What else might be switching on genetic obesity triggers? The docs are not sure. But they do seem to think stuff Moms are doing before they even know they are doing it might be bad.

…Hey, HA is just glad her kid was not a 7-lb green leaf full of rice.

…HA was all about the stuffed grape leaves in the first trimester.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Ah, olive oil, you wonderful food, you


…HA once traveled to Majorca to learn more about olive oil. It was a filthy job, but she sucked it up and did it. What a saint.

… Everyone who hasn’t been in Tora Bora knows by now that hardy Mediterranean types that breathe salt air and toss down olives and olive oil-drenched salads, veggies, fish, and pastas have less colon and breast cancer.

… “Oh-leev-oh,” as it seems to be pronounced onsite on the shores of the Med, is also credited by Johns Hopkins researchers with improving blood cholesterol and pressure after only six weeks of noshing on olive oil covered beans and rice. LDL ( the baddie) fell an average of almost 12 points.

…Of course, a little fishnet-hauling, hill climbing, dancing, and plate-smashing, also staples of the Med, wouldn’t hurt.

….Don’t you hate it when smarty-pants types like HA remind you that exercise and control are still needed? Takes all the fun out of lunch.

…Still, how about Greek or Italian today?

Let us speak of the unmentionable (constipation)

….Opinion Research Corp did a survey of 20,000 adults to determine which city is the, er, most clogged.

…We have a winner! Orlando. Memphis was 2nd, and good old Phoenix 17th.

…They didn’t say why there would be this discrepancy, but HA thinks two words on the Orlando finding: Cotton candy.

…Irregularity, which really needs no definition, is getting one anyway—no action for 2 or more days.

…Disclosure time. The poll was conducted by the Dannon Company to check out the need for its new Activia yogurt, chockful of probiotics (friendly bacteria, but still, ewww).

…Oh, heck, we’re in it now. How about some more stats?

…Irregularity is more of a problem for women than men (14% to 9%).

…Of those admitting to it, a quarter experienced it more than 5 times in the past month.

…The claim to fame of this Activia stuff is that it increases transit time through the gut. Could it increase it a little too much? Could HA, say, still jump on her pogo stick?

…This is not to pooh-pooh it. HA will give this Activia a try.

…No biotics were hurt in the writing of this entry, and HA was not compensated for this plug.

...Darn it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Surgeons inviting criticism, sort of


…When HA’s sister got her hip replacement, they had her personally write “Yes” on the side to be operated. Making a mistake would be so awkward, you know.

…Sometimes, studies show, the support staff in the operating room is afraid to speak up and say things like, “Uh, this isn’t Mrs. Smith, doctor.”

…Yet, at another facility, the doctors were surprised their staffs would not challenge them.

…An alliance of not-for-profit hospitals called VHA is getting surgeons to team-build, have post-op briefings, and even to have “safety pauses,” where anyone in the OR can speak up and comment on the proceedings.

…Kaiser Permanente also has pre-op briefings, like an aviation checklist.

…The Joint Committee on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO, see links list) says there have been 71 instances in the last decade in which the wrong part of the patient was operated. In 1995, two were reported.

…If you watch those plastic surgery shows on TV, you know lots of things can happen in a bustly operation room—wrong blood, patient’s breathing changes, patient coming out of anesthesia, patient never all the way under anesthesia, sloppy sanitation, bad sponge counts. The more people watching and able to pipe up the better.

Horrible new middle school game

…Anyone with kids knows they use poor judgment at times. At times? Omigod!

…Now comes news of a fun new game—the pass out game—getting popular in middle school.

…Basically, kids choke themselves with a rope and have someone loosen it when they begin to lose consciousness. Result? A big rush they think is harmless.

…Red eyes or bruises, teachers and parents take note. Brain cells die and the “game” can even trigger seizures…or worse, death.

…For more info, go to www.stop-the-choking-game.com.

…What happened to spinning around until you fell down dizzy?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Chocolate...the magical bean


….Mars Candy has launched Ethel’s Chocolate Lounges around Chicago.

….Another to watch for on a corner near you: Vosges Haut-Chocolat Boutique.

….Since chocolate is being called “the new coffee,” it’s okay to nibble it daily—nibble, not scarf.

…At Ethel’s you can even get a Chocolapolitan, containing that other fabulous food group, vodka!

…HA once interviewed Hilary Lifton, author of Candy and Me: A Love Story. As her publicist told HA, she was “all about the candy.” Liftin was worried about Halloween. When she had children, she ventured, how would she handle it? No question, she would eat their treats! She planned to put hubby in charge.

…Dietitions told HA that a little candy everyday, 10 M&Ms or something, would not kill anyone.

…Of course, the buzz now is that the dark stuff is even good for you, high in flavinols, an antioxidant with blood-thinning properties that could lower BP.

…Mars is way ahead of ya. They are launching CocaoVia, a tangy treat loaded with antioxidants, added vitamins, and cholesterol-lowering plant sterols from soy.

…Please, oh, please, Mars, don’t pimp it so much it tastes like a cocoa-dipped shoe sole!

Snowshoeing in school

…HA recently mentioned physical education, admittedly her least favorite subject in school (see archives).She now has learned that schools in the northeast are making the most of the white stuff and getting the kids out on snowshoes.

…500 schools reportedly have the youngsters clumping along on these deceptively easy-looking platters.

…Skiing was deemed too expensive. But HA bets snowboarding would go over, too.

Young folk hooking each other up with 'scripts

…Repeat after HA: Don’t take other people’s prescriptions. Of course, HA is saying this peering into the screen with pinkeye she got from her daughter. And she also got the medicine for it from the same source. So consider the source here.

…Still, in the New York Times, Nov 16, 2005, reporter Amy Harmon talks to young clubbers supplying each other with Ritalin, vicodin, and Prozac.

…The Drug Enforcement Administration reminds us, as is their wont, that this is illegal.

…And kinda dumb. If you took a pill in a club, would you know if it interacted with other meds you take? A couple of people interviewed allowed as they had bad
experiences with peer-given meds.

…Still some of these kids are pretty hip to this stuff. They know anti-depressants (“head meds”) inside and out, the pros, the cons. They whip our their Physicians’ Desk References. They troubleshoot in chat rooms.“We are our own best pharmacists,” one crowed.

…Is this what Bush means by taking control of your own health care? It could come to that.

…One caveat: This kind of thing went on a lot in the 1960s, and not everyone HA knew then is around to talk about it. HA herself popped something that caused year-long brain damage. Scary!

Monday, February 20, 2006

Golfer's wrist--YOW!


…Golf only looks leisurely and low-impact on TV. An orthopedist and sports medicine doc says it puts a strain on every major joint in the body—shoulder, knees, hip and back. In boomers this can lead to the dreaded arthur-itis. This doctor recommends glucosamine and chondroitin, but google it first and make up your own mind. There has been some buzz lately about the two in combo.

…Wrist constantly painin’you? You may have a classic case of "golfer's wrist," a tricky problem identified by Stanford assistant prof John F. Feller, M.D. “We've had patients from 18 to 80 years of age," he sez.

…The hand closest to the end of the club is affected. The owie results from a single "duffer" shot into rock or patch of hardpan. The energy runs up the club and TWANG! You can also get it from repeated use of a club that's too short.

…Technically a stress fracture, golfer's wrist involves the breaking off of a little "process," or nub, called the "hook of hamate" on a small bone in the wrist called the hamate. The pain is felt opposite the thumb, usually on the palm side of the wrist,
but sometimes on the back.

…The remedy? Minor surgery. Ask your doc. And be glad you have something to ask about. Some patients diddle around for years trying to get this diagnosed.

When perfectly nice brains attack

…There was a movement to call strokes “brain attacks.” What happened to that?

…If you suddenly feel draggy, scramble your words, get a splitting headache, or fall, you might be having a stroke. Even the clunkiest Emergency Departments these days have heard of the clot-busting drug called TPA and start it on patients within the prescribed three-hour window.

…Now a new study at the University of Cincinnati says dripping the drug directly onto the clog by passing a tube through the artery into the head gives you a 65% better chance of walking, talking, and functioning.

…The doc said it was like pouring Drano on a hairball.

… Despite that charming description, HA wants it! Strokes run in her family. Her Dad was in the chair for 10 years.

...See the comments section on more stroke symptoms and how to assess a person who might be having one.

Will ED cart pull horse?

…Out here Phoenix way, Gilbert Hospital is opening a huge ED with a few overnight beds attached.

…This is the opposite of most hospitals, which are boxes of acute care beds with an Emergency Department screening and treatment area. If the patient can go home after treatment, great, if not, the grim bed wait or a transfer to another hospital begins.

…Importantly to the powers that be, they think they can make money on ED care, without acute care.

…One goal is to cut Phoenix’s 12-hour wait times in the ED. HA could fill all her bandwidth with sob stories about her excruciating waits for beds and treatment.

…What will happen when the miserable masses at the other EDs get the word about Gilbert Hospital and stream over? Will their promised 30-minute maximum wait hold up?

…HA wishes some of these hospitals would bring in the military to advise them. I bet wounded soldiers don’t wait 12 hours to get anyone to pay attention to them.

…There also could be way less aimless wandering by personnel—they drift back and forth like fish in an aquarium. You think it’s like “ER” back there with crash carts and George Clooney racing to your side? You wish.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Bread, milk, penicillin


…Is it HA’s imagination or is the flesh falling off the bones of the health care system as you read this? We have gone from ED to Urgent Care to … nurses in a box at the grocery store? Wal-Mart, Target, CVS and Rite-Aid are among the stores offering medical. retail.

…Many of these facilities are run by licensed nurse practitioners, who are highly trained, smart cookies who can prescribe medicines. You can even shop in the store until your appointment; they will page you.

…The damage can be $50 or so, similar to the insurance copay at an Urgent Care, but way lower than what even an insured person would pay at the ED. Of course, your copay at the doctor’s office would run less, but many doctors don’t have same-day appointments available….and hey, you needed milk anyway.

Let's pay interest on those medical bills!

…HA digresses, but don’t you love those Estimate of Billing things that come from the insurance company…the ones that say, “Your charges were $11,323, but we are going to toss your hospital $1,222 and call it a day?”

…Anyhow, now comes the neat news that Kaiser Permanente is offering credit cards with $5,000 limits to customers in Hawaii and Colorado—and soon, California. Just pay with the card (the whole amount, thank you, come again).

…Oops, interest is up to 23%! That ought to teach those heart patients.

…You know what HA loves? The new practice at her local Emergency Department. While you are lying on the gurney clutching your guts, a nice lady comes over and sees if this is a good time to render your copay.

…Could you come back or bill me? Step back!!! Ooops! Sorry ‘bout that.

Just like an ATM, except with drugs in it

…HA wrote about these people ages ago and now the idea is spreading. Mendota Healthcare has its InstyMeds machines that allow Moms with cranky kids to get their prescriptions from a machine in the doctor’s lobby rather than corraling the screamers at the pharmacy counter.

…Now another company, Asteres, is popping Script-Center machines in some Left Coast drugstores and will soon install them in Giants on the East Coast.

…The founder of Mendota once told HA that he got the idea after driving around half the night trying to find an all-night pharmacist to fill a ‘script to quell his screeching child’s ear infection.

…Good idea, but why stop with drugs? Anything worth having is worth getting “vended,” HA always says.

...Ideas, readers?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

How about a nice dish of fish sherbert?


…Jones Soda is offering Salmon Soda, tinted a beguiling orange, with—as the company’s prexy says—“a smoked salmon aroma.”

…The company (seriously, you will never convince HA that this company urine-tests) also offers turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie flavored drinks, although these obviously are quite seasonal.

…This puts HA in mind of her family’s custom of joking about fish sherbert as the most disgusting food imaginable. Halibut Ripple, Salmon Swirl, yes, HA and her posse have advanced this repugnant concept in some detail.

…Best HA diet plan ever? A nice dish of fish sherbert before every meal!

…This also reminds HA of her mother’s custom of cutting cals by ordering cottage cheese with chocolate sauce in restaurants. One time, a gum-smackin,’ Flo-type waitress shot back: “How about some cheesecake with gravy, hon?”

Videos that cut to the chastening

…A gleaming forceps peels away dead tissue as a foot drips blood. More Jack Bauer foreplay? Nah, it’s a health insurance company’s online video of a procedure that might be faced by members with diabetes—if they are not careful!

…Of course, the companies say this is a way of educating their members and giving them reasonable expectations for their surgery, but some employers see this as a way of telling their beloved workers that “this is your future” if you don’t give up everything and wrap yourself in bubblewrap.

…According to a story in the Wall Street Journal on November 30, 2005, One company had a lot of gallbladder surgeries and bought the videos to encourage workers to discuss the surgery more fully with their docs, assuming they did not run screaming into the night first.

…One financial benefits manager said what was frightening to people was “lack of knowledge.” Yeah? HA thinks seeing a foot being flayed and being told you’re next is also a little creepier than denial.

…HA recently attended a two-hour seminar with her sister, who was facing a hip replacement. The speaker showed how to use a walker properly, but spared us a hammer-pounding gorefest.

…In yet another creative insurance development, some companies are providing members information on various treatments via their cellphones so they can pounce on the doctor right in the little room and demand a cheaper treatment. A woman wrote a letter to the Wall Street Journal in response, saying she had decided not to take a cholesterol medicine because she was only borderline—and her doc fired her on the spot. He had only been her physician for oh, 50 years. Good thing she didn’t ask for a discount, she might not have gotten off so easy.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Black box just sorta sounds bad, doesn't it?


Harvard did a study of 930,000 ambulatory care patients and found that 42% got prescriptions for drugs that carried Black Box Warnings (BBWs). As the scary name implies, this is the FDA’s strongest label for high-risk.

…Half of those people should have gotten a lab test before beginning the BBW med, but did not.

…Many of these patients should have gotten a pregnancy test, especially before starting on some BBW meds for skin problems.

…When patients were supposed to get continuous monitoring while taking the drug, about 12.8% did not get sent to the lab on a regular basis.

...Sometimes BBW drugs were handed out on the same visit with drugs that interacted badly with them.

…Concise and focused warnings, were better than vaguer mentions. HA totally gets that. Skull and crossbones and we’re done here.

An Emergency Department doc once told HA that all drugs have side effects, it's just that some have good side effects. Still, persist in discussing with your doctor. It's your body, not his or hers.

HA also discusses medications with her pharmacist. In the 1960s there were 600 drugs, now there are more than 8,000. Doctors usually have a list of medications they trust and dispense. The pharmacist keeps track of more and, to HA, more importantly, hears people's experiences with these substances. Ask. Most pharmacists have a private room for such palaver, if you are worried about people overhearing.

Mr Poison meet Mr Antidote

…It’s kind of like Philip Morris’s ludicrous ads about how bad smoking is, but Pepsico has built 13 playgrounds at schools around the country to help kids work off their products. The company also is sponsoring courses in elementary and middle schools. The theme: Balance the food you choose with the way you move (sternly noted: “choose” and “move” do not rhyme unless you are Fiddy Cent). Coca-Cola Co. is also doling out the pedometers and McDonalds thinks it can teach kids to play. Yeah? Do they know all the verses to “Here comes the doctor, here comes the nurse, here comes the Lady with the Alligator purse”? Now that was a rhyme scheme! And hopscotch--jumping, balancing--pretty soon Nike will claim they invented it! After running around, chasing, screaming, climbing the monkey bars, and scraping your hands over asphalt to scoop up jacks, it’s Cheetos Time! The violent orange scum on the roof of your mouth, what a rush. Maybe they could pitch playing as…you know…fun? Just a thought.

… Do kids have PE and recess anymore? HA thinks the above may be a self-indulgent nostalgic riff, although she did see some tots cavorting outside a school the other day. Probably waiting for the parole officer.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Boobs and diabetes

…A study done at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston showed that nursing moms had lower blood sugar levels that those who didn’t breast-feed. For 12 years, 157,000 nurses were followed (calm down, by researchers). More than 6,000 developed Type 2 diabetes, but those who breast-fed for at least a year had a 15% lower incidence. Researchers described the effect as small and by no means guaranteed. Still, nursing benefits babies and maybe the Dairy Queen gets one, too! Only fair.

...Check out the comments. A reader has some more good reasons to breast-feed.

Deadly veggies


. . .Veggie-borne crud is on the rise! Those pre-cut and allegedly pre-washed salads are not the only culprits. The FDA has even sent a crabby letter to the California leafy greens people. When they get grumpy, watch out--the FDA has access to drugs, don’t forget. Even washing at the plant (manufacturing kind) is not the whole answer, because germies can get in through cracks in produce. Unless you fancy slurping down evaporated irrigation ditch water and the occasional pit stop by field workers, wash, wash, wash.

Oops, Birdie Bug, come with us

…HA is getting more and more concerned about the Birdie Bug as it strikes in
Africa, Iraq (which really needed the aggravation), and subtly sneaks around the world. Now she has learned that the Centers for Disease Control put out a phone-book thick, proposed rule in November giving the Feds new powers to follow us around and slap coughing passengers into quarantine. Travelers would be asked for phone numbers and emails in case they need to be notified of a sickie on their flight and tracked down and put in quarantine. For more info, go to www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dq. HA is all in favor of the government messing with nature, human and animal, in this case, but is uneasy about what if anything is being done. Mostly it seems to be fanny-covering and meetings. Still, what else can they do?

…Quarantine itself is tricky. To make it work, as some public health officials admit, people who try to leave quarantine would have to be physically restrained (or even shot, do not insert Cheney joke here). The urge to leave, of course, would be occasioned by reluctance to be locked into a facility with people exposed to or suffering from a potentially fatal disease. That would be one for The Big Book of Duh. But joking aside, someone besides Homeland Security needs to be making those calls. They may depend on sick people to just drown, which is not practical. You can never get a hurricane when you need one.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The dreaded clipboard


. . . The Congress, the president, everyone but HA’s dog Spencer, has kicked around the idea of an electronic chart, some sort of computerized system containing all of one’s medical records including x-rays and MRI films. Kicked it around, but never really achieved it. HA wrote about this 15 years ago—and a doctor she went to recently gave out his email but later revealed that his secretary printed the emails, he dictated answers, and she typed them into a return email. Let’s hear it for Computer Literacy in the Medical Work Place! (In all fairness, HA’s mother’s doc does tap on a Blackberry.)

. . . If we get an electronic chart, will we be sorry? Will our lives be laid out for the likes of vengeful insurance companies and collections agents? Stay tuned

. . . Oh, and when you do fill out your gazillionth clipboard, do you ever wonder why ailments people actually get are never on there…like shingles or atrial fibrillation or a dislocated shoulder or a joint replacement? They are big on cancer, heart failure, and the big boys, but a past history of insomnia, heel cracks, or a stiff neck is never a choice. Those suck!

Poople on people

. . .The health care system might work better if we didn’t have so darn many people. Plus look around you. Birth control is a good idea. If you are too forgetful to take your daily pill, you probably will forget to read HA everyday, but be advised anyway that Johnson & Johnson has issued a warning on the Ortho Evra patch. Apparently this thing oozes too much estrogen too fast. This can lead to world-class PMSing and even worse, fatal blood clots. If you look down and there is a patch on you (and it doesn’t say “Kick Me”), give the doc a call.

. . . Speaking of having more people alive, smoking rates are…ta-da…dropping! Only 20.9 percent of adults now indulge, down from 21.6 percent in 2003. This has trended downward since the 1990s, encouraged by state-wide no-smoking bans, nagging spouses, and outdoor smoking areas whipped by Force 5 winds and Minus Ten chill factors.. Smoking is higher in men than women, and in poor people rather than rich people. Poor people! The ones who can least afford the stinky things.

You call this print fine?


. . .You may be reading this because you are retired and have time for such blather, so listen up. If you have a company health plan for retirees and are thinking about switching to one of the mind-numbing, soul-sapping prescription drug plans under Medicare Part D, read the teeny letters. At Boeing, anyhow, opting out of the company prescription plan could mean all your health benefits are canceled. Remember who you are dealing with—this is your former employer, think back

. . .If you have even a passing interest in creating a rational health care system in this country (something of an obsession with HA), check out CodeBlueNow, a grassroots organization run by Kathleen O’Connor (www.codebluenow.org). Rational health care Now! Rational health care now! Never mind, we will work on the slogan.

Another buzzkill weight loss doodad

. . .HA is sorry, she meant “biological brake for a hunger hormone,” this one cleverly named obestatin. So far it’s only been tested in rats. The dox are rhapsodic, using words like “intriguing.” A third of adults are obese (yes, we already know who we are), but will have to hold the confetti for now because dox still haven’t decided whether this works only by making the rats feel too sick to eat.

Walk it off, walk it off

. . . If you have a taste for domestic birds, you can sharpen those mental faculties by going on the brisk family walk after dinner instead of reclaiming your dent on the couch. Corinne Gediman, author of “Brainfit: 10 Minutes a Day for a Sharper Mind and Memory,” calls walking an elixir for a stronger memory (unlike other popular elixirs favored by Health’s Ass that fog your memory the next morning). This assumes, of course, that you want to remember those fun family wad-ups in gory detail.

. . . The dox at the University of Illinois back her up with a study of 29 non-exercising adults who started a six-month walking program and lived to tell about it…no, they were able to answer more attention-demanding questions than their tater counterparts. Such questions, of course, would be along the lines of “Explain Schroedinger’s theory of light wave dynamics.” They just spouted it right out! No lie.

Birdie Bug

. . .Babies, babies, at least practice Informed Panicking. Those dressing-drenched Chicken Caesars won’t give you anything except swampy arteries. Yet, in a recent poll, 42 percent of collitch grads said eating infected chicken would result in a case of Avian flu.

. . .For one thing, the Birdie Bug hasn’t plopped on our shores in humans. Even if it were present in our American chix and robins, cooking kills it. You do braize your robins before you make robin stew, no? Oh—and don’t sleep in a chicken coop or bring your parrot to bed (you know who I am talking to).

. . .By the way, when CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta was explaining Bird Flu on “Real Time with Bill Maher,” all I could think was: “Yu-um, this guy is way cuter than he needs to be.” I went right back to thinking about sick chickens in Vietnam, though, honest.

. . . Still leery of the fowl ones? Some foamers are using the Birdie Bug as an excuse to lure people into the cult-like claws of vegetarianism (crazy talk about how vegetarians live long, are healthier, and scarf up few of the world’s resources, stuff like that). Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is even offering a 16-page “Vegetarian Starter Kit.”
If you feel compelled to sign up.