Friday, April 28, 2006

Standing in the fam


…The so-called science of birth order was developed by psychologist Arthur Adler and over the next century has been tweaked by observation and study.

…Adler said first-borns got a lot of parental attention and did not learn to share. They also fit into the world of adults from an early age.

…Over half of our presidents have been first-borns.

…First-borns are always told they can do it. They develop a confidence.

…Second-borns come to parents who already know they can rear a child. Instead of coddling when they fall, they get: “Come on, you’re OK.” (Having been through this, the parents know they are.)

…Second-borns, understandably, can be more competitive—trying to outdo the first-born. David Letterman and Donald Trump are second-borns.

…Third-borns can be teased by the competitive second child and become a peacemaker.

…Last-borns tend to be risk-takers, being left on their own when the others leave. They can love attention and be manipulative to get it.

…Coupla things. If kids are more than five years apart, it’s like two first-borns.

…Those second families by trophy wives also reset the clock—you’re starting over.

…Also, in a recent study at Lafayette College in Easton, PA, the docs found that just having an older sibling could make the next kids bigger risk-takers, meaning they are more likely to drink, smoke, use marijuana or other drugs, or have risky sex.

…Hey, what do you expect? Mom liked the older kid better!

…Nuh-uh.

…Uh-huh.

Ummm, java, come to Mama

...HA likes her coffee. She doesn’t swill it down all day, but those two or three cups in the morning—oh, yeah!

…Still, is this good for her wobbly little heart?

…A study of 128,000 men and women done in Spain over 20 years, showed that coffee did not raise the risk of heart disease.

…Harvard waded right in, though, saying, in effect: Wait a hot second, this does not mean you can overload on coffee.

…Another study in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that people with a certain type of liver enzyme risked heart diseases if they drank more coffee.

…French press coffee or perked coffee also showed a link with heart disease.

…OK…HA pours water over grounds in a funnel. Happy?

…P.S. A link between caffeinated sodas and high blood pressure was found. Proceed at your own risk.

….But don’t we always?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The eyes lose it


…HA gets up, walks 15 feet to her office, and tears are streaming down her face.

…She understood this in the days when one of her cats turned rogue and marked up the place (the anti-odor vinegar was worse on the eyes than the original problem). But this kitty has moved on now to a single-cat household where his self-professed excellence can be fully appreciated..

…And yes, Arizona, where people used to go for their health, is an allergy sump.

…But this eye deal stinks!

…Experts at National Jewish Hospital say “allergic conjunctivitis” is caused when our 15,000 daily blinks scrape over jagged pollen grains in our eyes.

…In summer, the offender is grass pollen. Ragweed, later in the summer, is no treat either.

…What can you do?

…Wash hands! Your hands are coated with pollen from touching…well, anything.

….Use saline rinses or artificial tears.

…Wear sunglasses—these can keep pollen from edging into your eyes.

…Use the air conditioner—it can block some of the stuff.

…Slap a frozen bag of peas on your eyes while relaxing. Cuts itching, too.

…If you’re not better, hit up the doc for one of many meds he or she can offer.

…These plink directly into the eye and should be taken continuously. They work better if they are in there before the irritation gets entrenched.

Play--then eat


…What does HA hear most? Write more stories about kid fitness and recess! Seriously. She does.

…Remember the drill? Eat lunch, run outside for recess?

…Some schools in Arizona are reversing that. Recess, then lunch.

…The four schools contemplated the tremendous shift at length and got buy-in from parents and teachers through meetings. An article in the Journal of the American Dietetic Assn in 1996 spurred the changeover.

…Some issues did come up. Kids were amped up after playing, lost their lunch tickets and gotten all grubby. Hand sanitizers were provided for cleanup.

…Some kids dawdled during lunch because they weren’t zipping out to play. More time was allowed for eating. The fast eaters had to just sit there, though, waiting for class time. Everyone knows kids don’t just sit there.

…Kids came in hungrier and thirstier. Kids were offered a mid-morning snack to fuel up.

…When lunch came, there was less waste of beverages (this was confirmed also by a Montana Office of Public Instruction study of three Montana schools that tried this). Wasted food was down 13%. The little beggars are hungry!

…Kids calm down at lunch and get back down to business afterward more quickly.

…Nurses report 38% fewer after-recess tummyaches.

…Still, at first, some parents and kids thought this was taking insane liberties with time-honored tradition.

…Then, gradually, they got to accept or like it.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Kids! Eat the entire collection


…Kids like to collect stuff. Baseball cards (no wait, Dad does those), marbles (are they still around?), beanie babies (same?).

…Well, OK—how about collecting veggie stickers?

…You know—those things that NEVER come off without a gummy patch of fruit skin or rind?

…A guy named Robert Zyluk has issued a Produce Passport…a booklet in which kids can stick the stickers off fruits and veggies—after they have been purchased and eaten.

…Apparently kids are all but dragging their parents to the produce section to score the stickers—and presumably the tasty treats.

…Go to www.producepassport.com. The booklet, which is full of fun facts in addition to sticker-sticking space, is $2.95.

Domestic abuse--junior level

…HA first got wind of dating teens getting physical (in a bad way) when her kid was in junior high. She’d say, “What? Her HIT her? Omigod, you girls cannot let that happen!”

…Then, of course, being HA, she repeated this about a million times until the kids got sick of hearing it.

…Did it do any good or not?

…Writing in the Apr 24th Arizona Republic, Karina Bland talks about a program called “Love is Not Abuse,” developed by some NY nonprofits.

…Teens at 400 high schools so far have learned what to do if a relationship gets violent.

…According to stats developed at Harvard, one in five girls 14-18 is abused by a boyfriend. If you include emotional abuse and harassment, that’s one in three.

…More dismaying numbers…a third of kids know a girl in this position, a fourth of teen girls say they have been subjected to verbal abuse. Twenty percent say at least one boyfriend has threatened to harm them or himself if they break up.

…This is serious stuff. Are the kids seeing it at home? What makes this crap in the least acceptable?

…Kids are urged to seek help from a domestic abuse facility immediately.

…Parents need to watch out for bruises or behavior changes (such as having to “check” with a boyfriend before doing something). Alcohol or dug use can also surface to dull the pain and confusion.

…Parents need to constantly instill a sense of worth and give kids lots of chances to talk.

…No one has the right to lay hands on you—no matter what your age.

…When HA thinks of insolent punk high school boys ripping up on these girls, it makes her furious!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Summer! Watermelon!


…HA received a fancy-schmancy press packet urging kids to eat more watermelon.

…Parents, it points out helpfully, often bring snacks to team sporting events. Why not make it watermelon instead of some nasty old cookies?

…A 2-cup serving has 20% of a day’s vitamin A and a quarter of the C—that in addition to the serving of, er…water. It is loaded with lycopene (more than tomatoes). In fact, the lycopene makes it red. Such anti-oxidants keep unruly rogue cells from bashing up your good ones.

…Kids need to keep slurping in hot weather, yet they often forget. Check out http://www.momsteam.com/ to customize a fluid plan for your tot.

…(HA has also heard that watermelon is a good diuretic…so is this, pardon the expression, a wash?)

…Watermelon can be made into drinks (cocktail and punches). It can become salsa. The syrup can be poured over ice cream. It can be dipped, made into popsicles, and snow-coned. You can make a watermelon split.

…And of course, the whole melons can be carved (by people besides HA) into huge boats and baskets. (You should wash even a watermelon before cutting into it and carrying field grunt into the fruit when the knife plunges.)

…Check out www.watermelon.org for tips.

…It is also awesome if dropped from a building. Did HA write that out loud?

Ah, smells like victory

…If you don’t live in Arizona, you may have grass. We have it here, too, but it’s scrappy unless manicured on a golf course by tiny, very thirsty gnomes.

…Grass grows. Growing means cutting. And to men, cutting grass means the sweet elixir of gasoline fumes.

…What is it with men and those fumes? A friend of HA’s was weed-eating with a gas wead-eater and the fumes crept into HA’s house and set off the smoke detectors. Ah, the power, the glory! Manly!

…So HA hardly dares bring up the idea of a rechargeable electric mower. Sunlawn (www.sunlawn.com) offers one, tho, for anyone still reading.

…It cuts for 75 minutes without wimping. It also trundles around the yard on the power of two 24-volt batteries.

…You can also just push it manually, sans electricity.

…It’s $379.

…HA knows money is no object, you are willing to pay more to get the fumes. She is just sayin.’

Monday, April 24, 2006

Head for pills


…Americans, we love our pills. All those little bottles. So pretty.

…In January of 2005, USA Today Weekend posed a little quiz about pills and pharmacy.

…Don’t depend on your doctor to have a record of your current prescriptions. That young woman who writes things down in “the little room” could make a mistake. That is why they ask everytime. Better to keep your own list with you—or bring the bottles when you go.

…Most doctors aren’t too confident about helping you taper off drugs. Ask doctors specifically if your current meds are necessary.

…The medicine cabinet, despite the name, is the worst place to keep medicine—it’s humid and hot in there. Try a kitchen cabinet or dresser drawer.

…If you have kids or grandkids, make sure the bottles are childproof (tho in HA’s experience, strong little kid fingers are best for opening those childproof ones).

…Do not flush drugs down the toilet—some reservoirs have detectable hormones from discarded birth control pills.

…If you start to weird out, it may not be “Old Timers Disease,” as Tony Soprano puts it. It could be all your meds fighting in there. Check out the website to the right on how your pills may be interacting. If you can remember to, that is.

…Don’t assume drugs are tested on people like you. Older people and kids usually are not part of testing protocols. Women of childbearing age, by law, were not allowed to be in tests until 1972.

…Women react to many drugs differently than men do. The FDA withdrew 10 drugs since 1997-- four clearly affected women more: Posicor, Seldane, Hismanal, and Propulsid. A bunch of these drugs were found to be toxic. Researchers came to see that the cases of side effects they were seeing were largely in women, even though ten times as many men were taking the substances.

…If you believe an herbal or supplement is helping, you must believe it is doing something. That something could be bad, such as making blood thinner (gingko) or increasing susceptibility to estrogen (saw palmetto). If you are on a statin such as Lipitor, some kinds of antibiotics can be a no-no. Speak up!

…People who take a lot of drugs have more of a chance of getting a bad interaction. Patients who take six a day have an 80% chance of something fighting with something else.

…Women take an average of 4.8 ‘scripts, men 3.3. By age 65, people may take as many as 10 prescriptions and by 75, that total could rise to 13.

…Start quesioning them now!

…Several years ago, HA faithfully stuffed a pill in her mouth for months as she got sicker and sicker.

…Ooops—reaction!

Men & women fetch different advice from Internet

…Some docs looked at a thousand internet postings from people diagnosed with cancer and found that men sought medical treatment advice and women were looking for emotional support.

…The men had prostate cancer (www.prostate-cancer.org.uk) and the women had breast cancer (www.breastcancercare.org.uk).

…Their conclusion: Men could probably use emotional support, too—and women could benefit from medical information.

…Interesting, though.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Ms. Freeze


…Freeze 24/7 is a new face goo that’s being pushed at high-rent dept stores these days.
…Even The Botoxed supposedly see and feel a difference with this stuff.

…Welcome to “instant skin care.”

…Not so fast, ladies. Freeze 24/7 is involved in a smackdown between scientists. The Freeze folks say their active ingredient can penetrate the skin and tell the muscles to relax, but that they don’t have research on this penetration.

…Yet, other docs say, there is a test for this (using cadavers, words fail HA).

…Even though Freeze 24/7 supposedly alters the skin, it’s considered a cosmetic, which is subject to lower standards of “proof.”

…Something, the experts say, may be altering the skin, but the muscles might not be involved. (Botox slackens them, thus preventing them from yanking the skin into grooves.)

…Maybe it’s just making the skin feel cool and numb, so you don’t want to “crack” it with smiles or frowns.

…Those smiles can be killer, you know.

50,000 beat the Reap

…The National Center for Health Statistics reported that 50,000 people who were expected to die did not die in 2004.

…This is the biggest drop in Croakings in 70 years.

…How can this be? they chorused. We are older, and more importantly, as they came out and said—fatter than houses!

…Well, jumped in the naysayers, this is based on only 90% of the numbers (even though it is consistent across the states).

…The death rates for heart diseases, cancer and stroke went down, accounting for most of the decline.

…Well, yay for the docs!

…The life expectancy of a woman is now 80.4 years. For a man, 75.2.

…But don’t get cocky.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

"Lady" heart problems


…HA has a wonky ticker herself. When docs listen, they say the words “hippy hop,” which HA does not consider a term of art, by the way.

…But HA digresses.

…Everyone has heard by now that heart disease, not cancer, is the biggest killer of women.

…Clogged arteries are the leading cause of death in women over 25. Women are less likely than men to get those before age 60 but after that, if they do, they get worse cases.

…Women with chest pain, as a matter of fact, are more likely than men to have clear arteries, leading docs to wonder: Wha?

…When women do show blocked arteries, they not only have worse symptoms but have more co-problems such as high BP, cholesterol and diabetes that can make surgery riskier.

…Those balloon thingies used to crush blocks over to the sides of arteries don’t work as well in women, either. Maybe, docs say, their smaller vessels reclog easier.

…Some women with symptoms may have microvascular disease, a stiffening of tiny arteries so they don’t expand to carry blood. This could result in low blood flow but no detectable blockages.

…Yup, this problem leads to more heart attacks than women who don’t have it.

…Uh-oh, women likely to have an attack can also be detected using a hostility test. Now THAT makes HA hostile!

…What the heck is a hostility test? Huh? Huh? Answer me!

Flame out tableside

…Eating out should not be an extreme sport.

…It’s weird enough when crackling dishes are whisked by your table, cooking in the air on the fly.

…But who came up with the idea of eating food that was actually on fire?

…The French? Thus flambe?

…Here in Phoenixland, you need a permit to serve such dishes, called appropriately a flaming-food permit.

…There also are flaming-food regulations.

…Burns are rare but have happened here, putting one kid in the hospital, a victim of a flaming “onion volcano.”

…In this charming dish, diluted alcohol is used to set the onion on fire.

…Trouble is, one time it set two kids on fire in an “explosion of flames.”

…Is this really necessary? Have onion rings really sunk this low?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Very finny


…HA is a double Pisces. She is all about the fish. For years, she raised African cichlids and now she has gigantic goldfish in a pond out back.

…An early fish mentor told her: “Fish are pigs.”

…Before we linger too lovingly on what fish swim in, the March issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases talks about a drug-resistant strain of Salmonella sending kids and hobbyists to the hospital with blood diarrhea and a very bad feeling.

…So far the stuff is cropping up in Australia and parts of Canada and North America.

…Little turtles under 4 inches are already banned here because of regular old salmonella. A quarter of a million kids got the inside-churning disease before the critters were banned.

…Now this!

…No one is asking people to live without their fish, the lead researcher says. (She has some, she admits.)

…But we do need to wash hands thoroughly. Little kids, especially, tend to skip this step.

…Don’t wash aquariums or equipment in the kitchen or bathroom.

…Disinfect surfaces with four tablespoons of bleach in a liter of water (quartish).

…Apparently this salmonella got so mighty and resistant from being insufficiently dosed with antibiotics in giant fish farms in Southeast Asia.

…Well, darn! HA is already giving birds the hairy eyeball, and now her fish are also out to get her?

Darkness needs to stay fallen

…Richard Hansler at the Lighting Innovations Institute at John Carroll University in Cleveland writes HA that exposing the eyes to light at night can increase cancer risks.

…Seems flipping the switch during the midnight pit stops can cause the pineal gland to stop making melatonin, which some studies show fights cancer.

…The average person, Hansler says, is only exposed to darkness 7 hrs a night instead of the 12 experienced in the olden days.

…Blind people, he contends, have half the risk of cancer.

…Women who sleep 9+ hrs supposedly have a third the risk of breast cancer.

…In 2002, it was discovered that only the blue component of light was suppressing melatonin.

…This Lighting Innovations place makes lightbulbs and glasses that are said to be good for cancer survivors and people with a predisposition.

…Check out www.lowbluelights.com.

…What do you think, readers? Interesting?

…Go to www.pubmed.gov and enter “melatonin cancer light.”

…HA was previously aware that working the night shift correlated to increased breast cancer risk.

…Does HA’s “Star” nightlight count as light?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

You might be Hispanic, who knows


…An editorial in the Apr 14th WSJ, said there were 126 racial and ethnic categories in the 2000 census. In 1978, there were 5.

…Black or Hispanic in the 1990s could now be Cuban or “other.”

…This has adopted some counterintuitive spin. So-called white parents are getting their offspring DNA-tested so see if there lurks a few drops of affirmative-actionable blood in there.

…Most humans have so many genes in common, trying to titrate out some trace amount is ridiculous.

…The “one drop” rule is tossed around. One drop of something makes you that race or ethnicity.

…What if the government DNA-tested to determine this? We wouldn’t like it then, would we?

…It’s a rainbow, babies.

…Live with it—we sure have to live with each other, whatever we decide we “are.”

…If HA may add another note—re the immigration hassle now going on.

…She wonders if those so adamant about people being “illegal,” being deported, having their IDs checked all the time, or their kids denied health care did something special to be an American citizen.

….Aren’t we suddenly wielding a lucky accident of birth completely outside our control (and having nothing to do with our superiority or lack of it compared with another group) against those who are coming behind?

…At least they are making their kids citizens deliberately. Wouldn’t you do as much for your child?

Creaking with health

…Writing in the NYT (Apr 16), Bill Pennington says boomers are the first gen to grow up deliberately exercising and fully expect to keep doing it forever, or at least into their 70s.

…Now they are suffering from “boomeritis,” meaning knees, hips, ligaments, tendons, and other vital appurtenances to movement are wearing out.

…Evolution isn’t that fast, one doc sighed. You can’t do at 50 what you did at 25.

…This ought to be called “Generation Ouch,” remarked one sawbones.

…The only thing boomers go to the doc for more than bum parts is for the common cold.

…Between 1991 and 1998, athletic injuries seen in the ED are up by one-third.

…One doctor said the high divorce rate is forcing slowing types back into the gym in search of the (presumably) babe-magnet sixpack or mogul-magnet thighs of steel.

…Some boomers are making the rounds of docs trying to get a third or fourth rotator cuff surgery so they can keep playing tennis.

…One gal had nine knee surgeries. She finally gave up running—but jumped on a bike.

…The National Athletic Trainers Association, according to Pennington, encourages people to stay active, but with modifications.

…Skip days or alternate running with other sports. Stretch beforehand.

…The dark side of exercise?

…Nah—some is good, but exercise your judgment along with your triceps.

Monday, April 17, 2006

The love molecule


…HA is a pretty crappy romantic. She is in awe of “boy brains” for fixing things, but not for bossing her around.

…She KNEW it. This love deal is the result of a goo called nerve growth factor (NGF), according to some Italian scientists at Pavia Univ.

…Somehow these guys found 58 people who had just fallen in love and they were lousy with this NGF stuff.

…After one year, their levels had fallen to normal. Time for “someone” to take out the garbage, walk the dog, pick up his socks, and empty the dishwasher.

…This may be OK in the scheme of things. Apparently NGF makes you sigh a lot, forget things, spend a fortune on flowers and candy, eat out way more than you should, have a lot of sex, and create offspring.

…HA it tellin’ ya. It’s trouble.

OK to farm out your diagnosis to a distant land?

…Five hospitals here in the Valley of the Sun are using an overseas radiology service to read scans taken at night while our hometown docs are piling up the zzz’s.

…The company, Nighthawk Radiology, is an American company and its CEO says he won’t “let anything go wrong” letting radiologists in Australia take a peek at your x-rays.

…He insists the doctors in Australia are Americans who moved there. These doctors are also licensed in Arizona.

…They also point out that the docs Down Under are fresh and alert due to a 17-hour time difference.

…Also, the local Arizona docs supposedly take a look at the CT scans, MRIs, and x-rays taken during the night the second they roll into the office.

…The radiologists love not getting night calls. “It has changed our business,” crowed one.

…Basically, no one tells the patients because “they think the ED doc is reading the x-ray anyway,” said one radiologist.

…One question here: HA wonders why fabulous, board-certified, malpractice-insured docs moved to Australia in such numbers.

…She is just askin’.

…Of course, HA is just bitter. She was once sent home from an ED with a paralyzed intestine, went back hours later and said this is still bad, they still said, no, you’re fine, go home, and then (sheepishly) came back in the little room and said: “Sorry, we were looking at yesterday’s x-ray, you have to be admitted.”

….WHO was looking at it, again, myte?

…Oh, that’s right, you’re an American.

Friday, April 14, 2006

More pyramids than Valley of the Kings


…How did the burial mounds of the pharoahs get crossed with the ideal diet?

…HA guesses the shape denoted more of somethings (bottom) and less of others (pointy part).

…Or used to. More of that later.

…Why was the bar chart slighted?

…HA figures the pie chart was dismissed because it made people too hungry and pie was in the pointy part.

…Anyway…the Department of Agriculture issued a new Food Pyramid two years ago (the first was in 1992).

…Apparently some ‘crat figured a two-dimensional pyramid was too simple and sliced each rung into sections to hold different foods.

…(This made HA think of Mr. Koerber, her high school geometry teacher—and thinking of geometry made her want to EAT something and PDQ.)

…Naturally, fats, oils, and sweets went at the teeny top, meaning frosted cupcakes were being phased out as a food.

…Below that were the protein things, milk, cheese, meat, fish, eggs, nuts. You could eat more of those than Twinkies.

…Next larger dose allowed was of fruit and veggies. Toga!

…And the most of all, below that, carbs, such as cereal, pasta, and bread. Sure, it may look like you can eat the most of this, but you better not.

…If the carb industry hadn’t intervened, those would have been at the no-no end.

…Oh, yes, lobbyists had an input during the “comment period” and probably at the Republican Club on the Hill after the comment period.

…Omigod, HA forgot you still might be reading! You don’t need to know any of this! Forget it immediately.

….This pyramid was replaced by one in 2005.

…This puppy suddenly became as complicated at a Knights of Templar handshake.

…It was turned on its side with swooping strips down from the top indicating portions . And there are 12 of the things! Different ones for different types of people with different levels of activity.

…Other groups did similar ones for children, old people, diabetics.

…At least the old pyramid, the one we knew from Health Class, was understandable.

…This darn thing might as well just tell you not to wolf a lot of frosted cupcakes and to walk some.

…So don’t—and do.

Is acetaminophen a killah?

…Taking too much Tylenol (or Excedrin, Midol, Theraflu and bunch of other OTCs) can stop your pain forever under some circumstances.

…Some docs tracked 662 consecutive patients who showed up in severe liver failure at 23 transplant centers between 1998 and 2003.

…Acetaminophen was to blame in nearly half these cases. In 1998, that was only 28%. Yes, some were from deliberate overdoses of the stuff.

…Sometimes the patients had only been taking it a few days, say for the aches and pains of flu, augmented by Theraflu. They also were not eating much. Combining or losing track, they often were taking 6 grams a day.

…You can’t pop these in like popcorn. A recommended daily dose for an adult is 4 grams a day. Each Extra Strength Tylenol is 500, each Arthritis Strength 650.

…Time to crank out the warning labels?

…Acetaminophen is supposedly so safe. Even liver patients are given a dose of 2 grams or less for aches and pains.

…But if you creep up to 6 or 8 grams, are stressed by a virus, taking other medication or drinking a few jolts of wine, the combo can turn deadly.

…Acetaminophen is also contained in opiates such as vicodin and Percocet.

…When taken over long periods in increasing doses, the acetaminophen can cause more problems than the opiates.

…The patient may be fine for awhile, then the body may say, “I don’t think so, bunky” later.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Psssh-psssh-psssh means it's too loud in there


…HA got her hearing loss the old-fashioned way: Sitting too close to speakers in clubs or live concerts.

…According to a story by Karina Bland in the Apr 10th Arizona Republic, half of all high school students have one or more of the following symptoms of hearing loss due to iPods and other MP3 players.

…Turning up the volume on the TV when everyone else can hear it.

…Saying “what” or “huh” a lot.

…Other times words may sound muffled (and that doesn’t count the inability of some teens to even hear the human voice if it emanates from a parent a la the trombone blatting on “Peanuts”).

…Probably this is from ear buds that direct the sounds into the ear canal. The earmuff type ‘phones are better.

…Sounds below 80 decibels are OK, but the racket from those earbuds can be 100 or more.

…This destroys those little hairs in the inner ear that transmit the signal to tbe brain for recognition.

…If you can hear the thing from the outside—it’s too damn loud.

…You can try setting kids’ top setting to 60% (HA has no idea how).

…Or limit them to an hour a day.

…Sitting by the speakers at a live Beatles concert—now that was worth it!

Yuh-um, watercress

…Back when HA had a real job, her boss had a yard with a stream in it and often talked about making a salad from watercress that grew there.

…HA always tried to picture Mr. Pinstripe Lobbyist grazing in his yard.

…But the cress is awesome healthwise, apparently. Low-cal, packed with vits and minerals, and if you wash it first, giardia-free.

…It’s peppery!

…You know those mutant veggies on the shelf ABOVE the boring stuff like lettuce? That’s cress country.

…There is a Watercress Alliance in England. Their motto is the rousing: “Not just the bit on the side.”

…(HA thought that was a mistress.)

…Store cress in a plastic bag or stems in water with plastic over it.

…You can put it on pizza, in soup, or on top of fresh butter or cream cheese in sandwiches.

…Being British is optional.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

If an employee starts to act postal, what do you do?


…Everyone seems to be a little cracked these days. HA is a psychiatrist’s kid (like you couldn’t tell), so she gets to use words like that.

…But what if an employee seems to be losing it? Really losing it?

…According to the National Mental Health Association (http://www.nmha.org/), it’s good to establish a mentally pleasant working environment This means removing the stigma of mental instability, educating people at all levels about what it is and isn’t.

…Avoid words like crazy or nuts (HA is sorry for saying “cracked”).

…Talking openly about mental problems is good—let employees talk about stress and family probs.

…Companies need to pay for mental health benefits and make sure people are comfortable getting help without stigma.

…Some signs of a problem: working slowly, missing deadlines, calling in sick a lot, staying home, irritability or anger, difficulty making decisions, appearing emotionless, overworking, forgetting—and to this HA would add drinking or drugging.

…Do not diagnose, though. Discuss changes in performance and maybe suggest the person go to the Employee Assistance Program.

…Be prepared for anger, disagreement or verbal attacks (“You’re no bargain yourself, with all due respect!”).

…Maintain your own control. Focus on work., not personal defects.

…Make reasonable accommodations to help the person perform the job. If they need to go to therapy, let them. (This is also required by the Americans with Disabilities Act.)

…The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) may be able to help. Go to http://www.janweb.wvu.edu/.

…If dealing with this person is making you, er, wacky, maybe the EAP can help you, too.

…Aw, just being facetious. Dealing with these delicate problems is not easy—emotionally or legally.

...And what if it's your boss? Let's hope his or her boss is holding it together.

Let's hear it for aphrodisiacs

…HA guesses Viagra and Levitra are aphrodisiacs, but the Medicine Hunter Chris Kilham, explorer in residence at the University of Mass (great title, huh?), is old school.

…He has trekked to furthest reaches of the world looking for botanicals that boost sexual performance.

…His book is “Hot Plants.” How could it not be?

…His jungle-finds enhance performance by ridding the body of stress compounds (HA thought that is what sex did). Others increase arousal and enhance circulation.

…If you don’t have time to scour the Back Forty, Kilham’s concoctions are available in pill form under the name of Hot Plants for Him and Hot Plants for Her. He claims they won’t hurt—and actually could be quite pleasant.

…You do remember how to take a pill, don’t you?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Wash hands or go blind


…HA is a good hand washer, especially after mucking around in her fish pond or cleaning up after the animals.

…Unfortunately, HA also seems to see the inside of a hospital pretty often and has noticed that not all the staff are as swishy-washy as she is. They put on gloves, but an unwashed hand has touched those!

…Infections in hospitals cause 90,000 deaths a year, yet compliance with handwashing edicts is 50%.

…A Harvard prof even said that computer chip makers wash their hands more than doctors, nurses and aides.

…Some hospitals harboring that horrible crap called MRSA tightened up and got to an 85% compliance level and beat back the crud.

…Other hospitals used “compliance monitors” to watch for slipups—but these people were regarded as spies.

…For one thing hospitals want people to wash after removing gloves, too.

…Alcohol cleanser dispensers need to be refilled. Mayo let the staffers test the various brands and find the least drying one. Compliance improved.

…Speaking of creeping crud, contact lens wearers need to stay on top of handwashing, too. A horrible fungus called fusarium is leaping about.

…If you get it, it made one wearer say it felt like the skin had been pulled off her eye. Antibiotic treatment takes months.

…If untreated, this stuff can blind you.

…This morning, the CDC announced that Bausch & Lomb’s ReNu with Moisture-Loc might be implicated. Toss it!

…Yes, that’s HA—your personal ray of sunshine for Tuesday.

If people don't know they are large, someone will clue them in

….Study in the news this morning: Overweight people don’t define themselves as “obese,” even though experts have decided they are.

…OK, for one thing—“obese” is a crappy word. It pretends to be neutral and clinical and is still freighted with disdain and discrimination, even from doctors.

…“Obesity is the terror within,” shrilled our Surgeon General. Here HA thought “stupidity” was our terror within.

…These same experts tsked-tsked over this apparent lack of realism on the part of these people because it meant that larger people weren’t recognizing themselves in the endless public health stories and what HA calls U&D articles (Ugly and Doomed).

…And, gosh, if you don’t see yourself in those public health warnings, you won’t take advantage of the fabulous, lasting ways to lose weight that are all around you.

…A Gallup Poll shows that 56% of American say they want to lose weight, including 18% who want to lose “a lot.”

…People tend to want to exercise more, rather than eat less. If they only want to lose “a little,” they are split between exercise and caloric restriction as the method.

…If they want to lose “a lot,” they prefer exercise to dieting two to one. Yet, even those who wanted to lose “a lot,” more than half did less than three hours of strenuous exercise a week.

…As for the surgery, only 1% of those who want to lose “a lot” would definitely consider it.

…62% say they would never have it.

…36% say it might be a last resort.

…As people grow older, the desire to lose diminishes.

…(HA guesses everyone knew if they were “obese” or not.)

…Personally, she thinks the declining desire as one ages is the result of experience. Lose/regain, lose/regain, oops/back where you started or worse. Sounds familiar?

…Now that’s realism.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Non-stink paint that won't croak ya



…Writing in the WSJ on Apr 7th, Christina S.N. Lewis talks about eco-friendly paint.

…See how HA manages to incorporate trees, remodeling, and her other interests (such as product naming—wait for it) into health issues?

…Sherwin-Williams, Lewis says, has Duration Home interior latex paint, with 1,400 colors.

…Yolo Colorhouse already has an “environmentally responsible” line. (Is that the coolest company name ever?)

…Robert Redford even sells Prairie Line paint in his Sundance catalog, Lewis reports.

…In these paints, noxious solvents that keep paint spreadable are replaced by non-stinky binders.

…Apparently, these hues can have a few drawbacks. They dry too fast to apply smoothly, according to some painting pros. One painting company welcomed a $16,000 do-over, tho—good for business.

…This stuff also costs a few bucks more a gallon. Some users don’t love the range of colors, either. One is called “Air.” Your guess is as good as HA’s.

…Plus--some painters may add a surcharge, not so much for the difficulty of putting on the paint, but against the contingency that people who seek out this stuff are going to be picky, picky, picky.

…”Oh, Mr. Painter, I think we are going to need two coats of Air.”

…Still you can sleep in the painted room the same day and live to brag about it.

Friday, April 07, 2006

The big yellow sky fire can hurt


…When the sun comes out in Arizona, it comes way out! (And it’s not dry heat in summer, either, but they don’t tell you that until you close on your house.)

…In the East Valley Trib (Apr 6th), Marija Potkonjak takes on the subject of UV-protective duds.

…When she was a tot, HA thought a t-shirt kept the sun out. Au contraire! A cotton t-shirt is only rated a 7 (and you do wear 15 or higher block, don’t you?). Wetting fabric cuts protection in half, too.

…Sunblock, the docs say, is not enough. Most people don’t lard on the shot-glasses-worth they recommend or wait 15 minutes for it to “take.”

…Some protective clothes carry a rating of 50 and retain their effectiveness through 20 washes.

…Instead of ugly rack trash, decent designers are cranking out cute protective styles.

…Check out http://www.sunprecautions.com/.

…And if you’re really into it, the EPA charts the UVs daily. http://www.epa.gov/.

…No matter how trendy the sun-fighting threads, tho, you still need the blockster!

…Some people won’t walk to the mailbox without these clothes on, one designer noted.

…Those would be the melanoma survivors

Let's not let Washington kill us

…The other nite as HA communed with the talking heads on cable, one of them asked why the admin was not getting credit for the “good” economy.

…The other TH said, “Because they don’t see it as good from their personal viewpoint. They see pension plans tossed, jobs going overseas, wages going down, prices going up, overrpiced houses sitting on the market, and companies like GM tanking.”

…In a story in the WashPost (Apr 4), Jennifer Huget reports on a 16-year survey done at the Univ of Michigan. One finding was that fear of losing one’s job was more directly linked to bad health or depression than actually losing it or actually having a brush with a life-threatening illness.

…It’s the dread, the unremitting stress. Get fired, you can do something. Afraid of getting fired, constantly respond and tear your body up.

…According to Huget’s sources, this dread changes body chemistry.

…The researchers suggested that Washington should plan for the ill health of the worried still-employed.

…Like it plans.

…HA recommends action to counter dread. Keep your ear to the ground at work. Try extra hard. Suck in the spending. Fine-tune your resume. Network. Be confident you have something to offer even in a buyer’s economy.

…And think about a second career you might like if your field is narrowing.

…We can always move to India and get our jobs back.
.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Some parents take the longer view

…HA doesn’t know if it’s hard-wired or not, but parents have a tendency to try to stop their spawn from marring their permanent record—no matter what the relative ages of the two parties.

…The Wall Street Journal has had a couple of pieces about “helicopter” parents who hover over grown children, coaching them for job interviews and then intervening about raises and working conditions after the kids get the job.

…Not to mention providing tutoring or actually helping kids write collitch apps.

…And don’t forget letting them live at home until they are 30-something. Almost a third of supposedly grown kids live at the old homestead.

…This isn’t because they are lazy bums but because it’s too expensive to live these days. Prices up, wages level or down.

…HA is guilty of some of this, if guilty is the word for not wanting an arbitrary, sometimes unfair, and irritating world to mark her kid for life. Her kid won’t care or notice, but HA will.

…Now comes a study that shows that parents who base their self-worth on their children’s accomplishments and answer positively to such statements as, “My son’s failure can make me feel ashamed,” report more crying, sadness, and less enjoyment of life.

…I don’t know about basing our worth on them, but pardon us for caring!

…HA constantly reminds herself that her daughter has skills and interests she cannot even fathom (interior design, following professional basketball and the hiphop scene).

…And what if parents just don’t want their kid to get on the radar and be sucked into the system?

…This tough love thing? Sounds great, but can leave a kid in our Nanny State with a life-long paper trail and bad credit. All this before they smarten up and learn the ropes.

…HA has too much disdain for authority to do that.

…She knows of PARENTS who learned this the hard way.

…Mess with her kid and hear her roar.

Zits--what's the adult term?

…You wanted to feel younger, right? Good news. Apparently you are never too old to get teenage skin. Not the smooth kind, the red bumpy kind.

…Not a great look next to the wrinks.

…In fact, adult acne can scar you even worse, because skin is less able to heal.

…Over half of women and 40% of men over 25 have some sort of acne.

…Bum up!

…Apparently afflicted adults run to the dermie immediately and demand, “Fix this!”

…Blah, blah, stress, hormones (thus the periodic breakouts for women), the stuff is still there.

…Something called blue-light treatments can help in some cases.

…Antibiotics can be applied to the skin.

…Even Clearasil (flash from the past) is still a staple.

…Otherwise, use a mild soap for washing, don’t scrub, quit picking, avoid oily cosmetics and sunscreen, and…this is good…

…Cut stress.

…Who wouldn’t be stressed with an adult pizza face?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Blah, blah, click, click


…Did you see the piece on “60 Minutes” on April 2nd? How the 40-hour workweek is almost a vacation now?

…The people interviewed were jabbing away at their CrackBerries side by side on the couch halfway into the night.

…Some were in Internet cafes, slugging in the double speedos (or whatever), eyeing their ‘Berries for incoming, networking on the big screen, talking on their cells, and doing everything but push a foot treadle to watch TV.

…HA says feh to that! And she has been guilty herself of flipping on the computer first thing on both Saturday and Sunday.

…Bad, bad HA.

…In the April 4th WSJ, Teresa Rivas wrote a story on the growth of off-hours work. Two out of five Americans work weird hours.

…Only 30% have a conventional 9-5er.

…The eggheads attribute it to more demand for services from rich Boomers or clamoring from countries in other time zones.

…Chronic sleep deprivation can result if people stay awake when their uncooperative inner clock is saying, “Crash!”

…Depression.

…Irritability.

…Stupidity and fog.

…More unhappiness and divorce if one half of a couple works nights.

…Almost all think weird hours are a youthful phenomenon and they will chill later.

…That couple on “60 Minutes”? Here’s the thing, see. Not that young.

These admin clowns need to manage THEIR own health care

…The WSJ had a profile of Allan Hubbard, the government’s new health policymaker.

…He’s a buddy of you know who from Harvard Biz and now the pitchman for the “pay it yourself so you will appreciate it more” crowd.

…He got in some smackdown with a guy from Tenet Healthcare because Tenet didn’t want to publish its prices, saying the figures are meaningless because insurance companies have contracts with the hospitals to pay only a small percentage of sticker.

…Do these guys even know what insurance they have? Or do their wives hand them a card in case they get a papercut or a heart attack?

…If this guy’s kid got hurt and was bleeding, would he whip out his hospital cost-comparison? “Let’s see, it’s $150 a stitch here, $130 here, Timmy. Calm down, pal, Daddy just wants to shop for health care so market forces can help regulate cost inflation.”

…No! He would go to the hospital on his health card—the one his insurance has approved for his use!

…As for Health Savings Accounts (their little pets, the HSAs), the high-deductible policy is not that much cheaper, some companies won’t sell it to people with pre-existings, you can’t spend the account after a certain age on anything you want (just certain things), and most of the people who are going this route have the high-deductible account, but no savings in there to pay up until the policy cuts in.

…These guys should spend an hour on the phone with their health plan trying to figure out why a deductible was suddenly applied to things where it didn’t apply before.

…No, make that six hours, over several days. Here is the sequence you are waiting for: “Deet, deet, deet, if you’d like to make a call…”

…Sure, you have to work, but so does everyone else.

…We can read those sheets the insurance company sends—we know the whole cost. We don’t really think a trip to the doctor costs $20. What are we, idiots?

…We just can’t afford our part, much less the whole ride.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Trees breathe—and keep you healthy


…HA’s family does not understand her obsession with trees, especially in Arizona where the thorny-hurties are more the norm.

…Suffice it to say, trees are wise and have souls. So think of that on April 28, Arbor Day. Trees even got a day, people! Live with that.

… According to a Newhouse News Service story by Bruce Taylor Seeman, Univ of Michigan researchers say exposure to trees helps people get better faster, reduces irritability, and combats “mental fatigue.”

…For trees to improve air and water quality, you need a cover of 40% of land mass. That amounts to 15% coverage in the city, 25% in the burbs, and 60% farther out.

…Not happening.

…Fire and disease take some, bulldozers the rest.

…Trees absorb rain, thus cutting drainage costs. They shade buildings, ditto electricity for air conditioning.

…In Charlotte, NC, 27% of the canopy vanished between 1984 and 2003. It used to absorb 22 million pounds of air pollutants and now sucks up only 16 million pounds.

…Atlanta is 10-12 degrees hotter because of its loss of those giant Southern shade trees.

…Many studies have shown that nature, trees, plants, verdant views, hiking, sitting and other activities outdoors help AIDS patients, recovering breast cancer patients, and even public housing residents. The latter felt safer and more hopeful with their giant green friends around.

…Some studies show that parents might let their well-upholstered kids walk to school if everything were greener and more park-like.

…After all, did you ever hear a poem that went: “I think that I shall never see/A thing so lovely as a…

… freeway”?

Love, betrayal, and learning

…According to an AP release by Sue Major Holmes, a University of New Mexico clinic in Albuquerque produced some telenovelas with health themes.

…The popular Mexican soap opera-format was tweaked by writers asked to bring in pitches. Some subjects worth addressing, they decided: prenatal care, diabetes, domestic violence, drug/alcohol abuse, and nutrition.

…Students are doing the shooting.

…In one, a man is beaten up by his girlfriend and comes to the ED, where they also offer to help him lose weight when they discover he has diabetes. After that, the couple gets counseling for domestic violence.

…The waits at some clinics are more than an hour—enough to get people hooked.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Thanks for the memories, what were they again?


…HA and her sister take care of their memory-challenged mother. They are her memory bank and she asks for withdrawals constantly. The same ones!

…So it’s disturbing when she says, “You girls will be just like this.”

…HA thinks many Boomers may fear the “duh” moment.

…Lawrence W. Katz, PhD, and Manning Rubin wrote a book called “Keep Your Brain Alive.” Katz is a neurologist at Duke.

…Their gameplan is to use all the senses to produce neurotrophins, a chemical that has been shown to produce dendrites, those hairy things that connect brain cells.

…They think a lost or broken dendrite can be regrown, even in adults.

…Unlike the crossword puzzle, neurobics uses all the senses to introduce unexpected activities into everyday life, thus making your brain sit up and take notice.

…Some neurobic things you can do: Close your eyes during your shower.

…Stand on one foot to brush your teeth.

…Listen to music with a certain room freshener in the air.

…Have a family meal in silence, using hand gestures.

…Basically, change up your routines.

…In another approach, Nintendo has gotten into the act with its “Brain Training” programs. They are described as a “treadmill for the mind.”

…Uh—could that slogan use work? Maybe “Grand Theft Auto for Nice People”?

…HA checked out of the game thing with Pong and isn’t even sure what manga is. But she is glad no innocent prostitutes or gang members were shot in the making of these “grooving with the oldies” tapes.

…She also wishes Rubik Cubes came in all one color.

Kids not off the hook on disease spread

…HA used to look at the preschool class and think, “Big petrie dish.”

…Kids have long been blamed for bringing home all the latest poxes, secreted in their hot, damp, young, delicious germ-loving flesh.

…Now some docs at National Institutes of Health and UPenn, studied 30 years of flu data. The regular old flu took 5.2 weeks to spread across the U.S.

…The long-distance spread patterns seemed to correlate more with people going to their workplaces or moving.

…This is not to say, the scientists added, that kids weren’t the culprits when it came to spread within a family or a city.

…This makes sense in that most children do not waltz off to distant cities—especially when they are feeling poorly.

…HA wonders who paid for this study? What do you say, folks? One for The Big Book of Duh?

…Of course, if people start wanting to travel distances to workplaces when human-to-human Bird Flu is afoot, these findings may lead to cordoning.