Monday, July 31, 2006

Don't try this at home


…HA read the other day that DNA is being used to decide if illegal immigrants are really related to each other. Kinda spendy?

…The General Accountability Office (in HA’s Hill days, this was the General Accounting Office, which is much less preachy) and the Federal Trade Commish have issued reports on shaky-sounding DIY testing of DNA.

…The FTC was quite irked and urged consumers not to go it alone on the DNA thing.

…The GAO was trickier. It sent the DNA of a man and a woman to several websites offering analysis. The findings all came back different and some recommendations were ill-advised.

…One site was offering diet advice based on DNA, but jumped up and said it was really doing scientific research about cholesterol.

…These tests can cost between $100 and more than $1000.

…The diet tests are cleverly called nutrigenetic. “It is not flowing out the mainstream of medicine,” noted one nutrigenetic entrepreneur, a master of understatement no doubt.

…The GAO told the FDA to regulate this stuff better.

…From one alphabet joint to another: Look alive!

Choke no more, help's at the door

…Even the most unprofessional weekend athletes are hiring trainers or getting their gaits photographed—so why not a sports psychologist?

…Writing in the Chandler Republic section of the Arizona Republic, Cameron Eickmeyer quotes sports psychologist Jim Afremow of Tempe, AZ, as saying athletes hire him more to get an edge than to foil a losing streak.

…Apparently there is no stigma, real or imagined, to hiring a sports psychologist. “(Athletes) think it’s kind of cool,” he told Eickmeyer.

…Amateur golfers are big clients.

...A local coach also hires a sports shrink to visit her volleyball team a few times a year.

…Some coaches are put off, Afremow says. They think motivating and evaluating psychological readiness of the players is their job and that this indicates they are not doing it.

…Writing in the Wall Street Journal (July 29, 2006), Russell Adams recounts his sessions on a neurofeedback machine, moving images with his brainwaves. An interruption blew him out of the water and he had to refocus.

…Having a “quiet mind,” the ability to tune out distractions, is key to sports.

…Tiger Woods’ Dad used to jingle the change in his pocket and drop things to try to distract his son. Golfer Se Ri Pak’s dad used to try to toughen her up by taking her to pitbull fights and Korean cemeteries at night (Child Protective Services, please call your office).

…Some of these neurofeedback devices, however, have been known to pick up radio waves instead of brain waves, so the science is not completely there yet.

…Still, the message is plain. Don’t ignore the mental game.

…P.S. This is not limited to sports.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Should you stop your period?


…Time was, no menstrual period meant…panic! Or bliss!

…Now, it may mean you are using an oral contraceptive, such as Loestrin 24 Fe or Seasonique.

…Brides have known for awhile that they can fine-tune by dropping the placebo pills in the birth control pack around their wedding time and keeping on with the hormone pills.

…The American College of Obstetricians and Gynos found in 2003 that half of the female gynos were suppressing their own periods. Ninety-nine percent of them, in fact, were all for it.

…Loestrin 24 Fe shortens the period by three days by handing out 24 active pills.

…Seasonique limits the period to four times a year (84 active pills, followed by 7 placebos).

…The inventors of the pill, in fact, saw no reason for the monthly period, except they thought women would want it and considered it “natural.”

…Some women still feel that way.

…They should not take these, obviously—nor should women who smoke and are at risk for blood clots. (This applies to all BC pills, by the way.)

…Your doctor can advise.

… Personally, HA is a little afraid of Mother Nature and doesn’t throw down with her if she can avoid it.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Kids? Heck, fake out the grownups


…Kids won’t eat the veggies? Well, the plant stuff does contain indigestible fibers and some bitter chems to ward off insects.

…Even some grownups aren’t always wowed by the green foods. We know we should, we try.

… OK…here’s what happened, see…

…Yesterday, at lunch, HA nuked some frozen broc and cauliflower. Supposedly this had a gruel-like cheese sauce on it (HA never located that). About six chunks in, she got jaw lock. This is food?

…(HA had read that frozen or canned is OK for your daily 1,300 veggies or however many you are supposed to have.)

…Spencer, HA’s dog loved it! (That’s not him exactly, it’s a toy, better not to know.)

…From the author of The Let’s Eat Cake Diet, Dean Kapsalakis, come some tips for dolling up the rabbit food.

…Cook veggies in gravy! Use ordinary gravy packets. These are usually fat free. Add some seasoned rice. Grownups (er, kids) like it.

…Or hide veggies in “goodies.” Kapsalakis buys a chocolate cake mix, adds some wheat germ, then grates veggies, including sweet potato, into it. He also adds a balanced mineral powder.

…Check it out! Veggies disguised as cake! There are lab tests. www.cakediet.com.

New way to get stroke survivors back on their feet

…The Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation is having good luck with a new way of helping stroke victims learn to walk normally.

…”We are eight for eight,”says Karen McCain, a physical therapist at the facility in Dallas.

…The technique is treadmill training with partial body weight support. The patient wears a harness to support part of his or her body weight.

…Gradually more weight is left unsupported.

…Formerly, stroke patients were helped to get around in walkers, putting their full weight down. This resulted in a sort of back and forth gait that was unnatural and put them in danger of falling.

…One patient, 72, a former marathon runner, experienced a stroke in March of 2006, causing her to lose movement in the left side of her body. After spending less than two weeks on the treadmill, she was walking again with a cane and lower leg brace and talking about running again.

…To tag up with Baylor, go to www.baylorhealth.com or call (800) 4BAYLOR.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Designer ice


…Once as a destitute freelancer, HA sold countertop water filters to support her ungrateful pack and can regale you for hours with stories of trying to install these amidst spraying fountains while the male homeowner looked on, shaking his head.

…We can’t get more water. Whatever is on earth, that’s it. It evaporates, it rains back down. If we pollute it, there is less. Water is a zero sum game.

…Anyhow, as a result of her adventures in the water biz, HA is all about the water. She won’t drink it in restaurants and has recently installed a bottle-type water cooler, which she loves.

….But what about ice? She uses the countertop filter (which she installed on her lonesome, so there) to fill the trays.

…Not everyone has one, so someone hopped on the ice situation—ta-da! It’s Icerocks! Forty-eight cubes for four bucks!

…People buy ice all the time, but will consumers say: “I am not paying 10 cents a cube!”

…Strangely, they are marketing this as safer. HA thinks the flat nasty aftertaste of tap might be a better selling point.

…A couple of things HA learned in her short-lived water career? Filtered water does taste better. Also, most bottled waters are filtered reservoir water from big city holding areas, not darling little bubbly areas of France or the Andes.

…And New York City has the best-tasting water in the country. The company could not sell filters there.

…And we could sell filters to almost anyone who drank water. Like ice to Eskimos.

…Hmmmm, wonder if Icerocks has been to Alaska.

Don't be embarrassed if you're red-faced

…W.C. Fields had a red nose—and it wasn’t all from his elbow condition. This is a skin disorder called rosacea. Princess Diana had it, too. Rembrandt, too. And president Clinton.

…More than 14 million Americans suffer from this chronic condition.

…It can look sort of like a thickish sunburn laid over forehead, nose or cheeks or all of the above. Or it can manifest with acne-like pustules.

…HA can hardly type the word pustules. (She hates the word secretions, too.)

…Usually this stuff springs onto your face after age 30. Over time, the flushing can widen into visibly red blood vessels. Eyes can also be bloodshot (40% of cases).

…Sometimes the thickening and enlarged blood vessels can W.C. the nose area.

…If you start getting facial rashes or problems, check it out. It’s best to treat this early.

…Some things that can trigger it: sun exposure, emotional stress, hot weather, wind, heavy exercise, alcohol consumption, cold weather, spicy foods, medications…the list goes on.

…There is no link between rosacea and likelihood of getting skin cancer. It’s also not contagious, nor does it seem to be hereditary. It’s also different from eczema, which is an autoimmune thing related to arthritis and asthma.

…Basically? Rosacea? Plain as the red nose on your face--just another cool deal to test our character.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Tomboys Mom's creations


…This was such a “category” when HA was growing up. Boisterous girls who were physically bold and one of the boys.

…Researchers now say the mother’s level of testosterone during pregnancy can result in “masculine-gender-typical” role behavior.

…In one study, in Avon, England, about 14,000 pregnant women were studied during an 18-month period. Of the children born, 686 were tested. The mothers’ testosterone levels, as well as levels of a chemical that inhibits testosterone, were measured during each pregnancy.

…When the tots turned 3.5 years of age, they were given a behavior test. There was a link between testosterone levels in the mother and masculine type choice of toys and play.

…Of course, nature v nurture takes a huge turn when teachers and parents rip the trucks out of the girls’ hands and stick in a doll instead.

…Still, other research shows that the rough-and-tumble girls tend to be more confident and competitive academically as well as on the soccer field.

…In a way, tomboys have a wider choice of options…they can dress up or play street football.

Accent on the understandable

…HA was again searching for a primary doctor (who would return a call) and saw three-quarters of those on the provider list had a foreign surname, most of them Indian or Pakistani. (Nationwide, a quarter of doctors went to non-US med schools.)

…Karen Blum, writing in the Baltimore Sun (July 14, 2006), says some doctors are hiring speech pathologists to correct their extreme accents.

…Since 1998, licensing has required an English proficiency test. Actors portray patients and doctors must talk to them, take a medical history, answer questions.

…Foreign training can be excellent, but a language barrier can erode patient comfort.

…The speech therapists use videotaping and mirrors, so the doctors can see themselves. Some doctors even get a mold made of their palate, so they can wear a retainer-like device to collect contact data between tongue and top of the mouth in forming words.

…If the doctor is reluctant to speak--or the patients cannot understand instructions and comments—then all this is well justified.

…We need communication in this of all areas!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Stop! Don't take that pill


…Is HA looping? She has written about this before—medication errors.

…Bears repeating if you are into that survival thing.

…The Institute of Medicine back again like a faithful collie (“What, IOM, what?”) telling us that the average hospital patient is subject to one med error PER DAY in the hospital.

…By 2010, they think all ‘scripts should be written electronically. Trying to fix all these mistakes (meaning sicker or dead people) is costing $3.5 bill a year! A quarter of this is preventable (only a quarter?).

…A friend of HA’s went to a new pharmacy and her regular BP pills were a different color. Turns out it was a different generic…but she checked and you should, too!

…The IOM recommends asking the doctor to write down your medicine and how and when to take it and then match that to the bottle at the pharmacy. HA doesn’t know many docs who would jump at the chance.

…Do ask side effects. Many docs don’t go into these because they don’t want you to talk yourself into them.

…And while you are standing at the pharmacy counter, check the medicine! A friend of HA’s recently got her rescue asthma inhaler home and the pharmacist had substituted a medication she didn’t want. That can be bad when it’s for RESCUE, people.

…In the hospital ask what you are being given and why. If you are drowsy or very sick (hospital—what are the odds?), you may be out of luck.

…You do have the right to ask for someone to be present when you get a drug.

…The last time she was in the hospital, HA noticed they don’t ask allergies anymore and write them down. They just put a bracelet on that indicates you have them—and then ask before giving a drug.

…Again, what if you can’t answer?

Sick people need friends

…Writing in the Wall Street Journal (July 20, 2006), Jeffrey Zaslow talks about a ninth grader who lost his leg to bone cancer—and along with it, his friends.

…People averted their eyes as he limped by. No one sat with him at lunch.

…If you know someone who gets sick, the boy says, assume you are that person’s only friend.

…For their part, his friends would like another chance, but he left school when his cancer returned.

…Nevertheless, he got invited to some parties, people reached out. Apparently, he was acting pretty POed and hostile by then, but eventually he warmed up.

…Another lesson: People with illnesses are human and express their feelings various ways, just like anyone else. Not too many people are forgiving saints.

…The boy died at age 18, but his rekindled friends continue to visit his mother. Another friend organized a memorial service at a camp both he and the boy had attended.

…Some volunteered for cancer work.

…It came a little too late, but it did come. Better right when he got sick.

Friday, July 21, 2006

That's your problem--large plates!


…Writing for the Health Behavior News Service, Taunya English explores a Cornell University professor’s theory that eating off small dishes will make reasonable portions look larger and thus help people lose the adipose.

…This guy had no problems finding volunteers to come to his ice-cream party. He served the dessert in either 17-ounce or 34-ounce bowls. The scoops were either 2-ounce or 3-ounce.

…The large bowls made people take 31% more.

…Four ounces in a small bowl may look like a good afternoon snack, researchers said, but nestled in a large bowl, looked skimpy.

…These were nutritionists, remember. They were pretty good on how many calories they had eaten, but added to the large bowl anyway.

…Every little step helps, the docs said. Don’t use a giant dinner plate.

…But they allowed that obesity was such a complex problem with so many factors that a simple step like plate size cannot address the full scope.

…Maybe if you wanted seconds, the trip to the kitchen could count as exercise?

…Did HA type that? It was meant as a snarky thought.

Bearded ladies

…There are a couple of wars in progress now, so HA decided to focus on something really crucial—unwanted facial hair. Why do you think she’s Health’s Ass?

…A Yankelovich poll of 15,000 women came up with the shattering news that 45% of us gals considered excess or unwanted facial hair our “most distressing pet beauty peeve.” Pet? Never mind—HA is not going there.

…A third of women apparently find having a big ole mustache makes them feel unattractive.

…If this isn’t TMI, HA can’t stand those stiff little chin hairs and is constantly after those bad boys with a tweezers. Her chin looks like she skidded down a road on it.

…More than 41 million American women of all ages and ethnicities have removed unwanted facial hair in the past 6 mos.

…Eighty percent do it at home and not the electrolysis office. But half of all women are not satisfied with the results and think the hair grows back too fast.

…This deathless info comes to us courtesy of the makers of VANIQA, a prescription remover product.

…If you are not hyped about this now, girls, just wait. Menopause can make the problem worse.

…It’s the male hormones, androgens, outbalancing the estrogen that causes us to increase our….hirsute quotient.

…Always something, right? Beats being in a war, HA guesses, reaching for her desk tweezers. She has them in every room.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Sprained ankle not funny


…Remember when you were a kid? Kids got broken arms and sprained ankles. It seemed kind of normal.

…According to a story by Deborah Franklin in the New York Times (July 18, 2006), a bunch of adults still get sprained ankles (23,000). It’s not as retro as it sounds.

…A broken bone, Franklin points out, takes weeks to heal—a sprained ankle up to three months.

…Plus turning your ankle and stretching and tearing the innards of the joint can set you up for osteoporosis.

…The advice now is NOT to walk it off.

…Ice it or alternate heat and ice to encourage healing blood to flood in. Keep it elevated.

…Women tend to sprain ankles because their balance is thrown off by opposing muscle groups being of different strengths.

…Men tend to have problems because of range of motion in the joint.

…Women athletes might do isometric exercises that strengthen the muscles rolling the foot in and out.

…For men, traditional stretching exercises for calves and Achilles tendons might be better.

…A laceup ankle brace might help, too. Ask your doctor.

…One thing has not changed since you were a kid. A sprained ankle is still considered sort of a joke injury, like sunburn.

…HA once had a broken toe and it hurt like fire but no one took it seriously. Sprained ankles hurt, too!

Attention fireballs...er, cooks

…HA read about a gal who was making pot roast in a white wine sauce made of four cups of wine, no water. She popped it into a 400-degree oven and after 15 minutes, went to check and a bright flash of light followed by a loud BANG made her jump back.

…Dinner had exploded.

…Her arm hair was covered by gray powder that used to be her arm hair.

…The pure wine, no water, filled the oven with vapors.

…The vapor can ignite at 125 degrees—this oven was 400 degrees.

…Distilled alcohol can ignite at 80 degrees.

…In this case, the whole mess got hot enough to explode, too.

…Simmer the wine on top of the stove in water first to leach off the alcohol, or use less wine, or keep temps lower.

…Heating 4 cups of wine to 400 degrees in a small space—not a plan.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Road grub


…Ever been on a car trip where you are on the road for ten minutes and everyone is suddenly starving?

…This is where the cooler comes in.

…Pack favorites, don’t experiment with the offbeat jungle fruits.

…Stick with finger food—apples, plums, pears, peaches, bananas, carrot sticks.

…Stick with water as a drink—the spills dry without leaving sticky scum on the car for the rest of the trip. You can also clean hands with it. Ever try that with soda?

…String cheese or precut sticks of cheese are good.

…Low sugar cereals can be doled out by the handful. What are Cheerios? Baby soul food!

…Throw in seeds, nuts, dried fruit, rice cakes, fruit leather, pudding tubes, and energy bars.

…One thing that will break the bank? Those 100-calorie packs. Tara Parker-Pope, writing in the Wall Street Journal on July 18, said these cost a fortune. And might HA add--You have to eat so many!

…Fruit leather? Ewww. That stuff is so nasty. HA’s daughter used to turn blue in the aisles begging for it. She’s 24 now, but HA still whisks her past the leather, just in case.

Makes a good-for-you dessert

…NuVim is a premixed smoothie-like drink crammed with “micronutrients,” according to the manufacturer.

…It promotes immunity, they say.

…Well, HA is from Missouri, The Show Me State, so she tried it.

…Remember, HA is not a drink-your-meals type person. She found this concoction a little different-tasting, even the strawberry.

…But HA’s daughter loved it. And she came up with the idea of freezing it into a slushy or sherbert. Yum! Now we’re talkin”.

…The micronutrients are harvested from the milk of special cows in New Zealand. This stuff is lactose-free.

…The claims for it are that it helps with asthma, heartburn, and increases vitality and energy. Oh, and fends off disease.

…You might want to try it…check out http://nuvim.com.

…They say if you don’t feel better in 45 days by drinking 12 oz a day, they will give you your money back.

…Try it slushified

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Chemobrain is real


…Many people who have undergone chemotherapy complain of a “can’t think” haze that rolls over their brains like a fog and then sits there, sometimes for years.

…Docs used to attribute this frustrating and scary phenom to stress of cancer treatment.

…But up to 30% of chemo patients get it. And sometimes it starts before the treatments, so may be a byproduct of some cancers.

…Docs can now prescribe meds for this (though they don’t always work) or cognitive exercises like memory and concentration games or putting everything on paper.

…On a postie. Where you can see it.

…This could be partly shock, HA thinks. She experienced a similar thing, a blank blue shiny surface behind her eyes instead of thoughts, after experiencing a house fire. It lingered for several months.

…Could be another thing entirely, who knows.

Dr Gourmet says chilies, si si

…First, Dr Gourmet is a groovin’ medical gentleman. His real name is Timothy S. Harlan, MD.

…Check his site at www.drgourmet.com. Recipes, you cooks!

…According to a recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 36 selfless volunteers agreed to eat hot chilies for the sake of science, Dr G writes.

…Over two 4-week periods, they ate either a bland meal or a chili meal. The latter contained 30 grams a day of freshly chopped hot ones!

..At set times, blood was tested for glucose, insulin and energy expenditure.

…Not much difference was found between the two groups, except the amount of insulin needed to control blood sugar after a meal was reduced in those who spent a month eating chili meals. This worked even better with those with a higher BMI.

…Probably this isn’t earthshaking, but you could eat more veggies (chilies) this way and lower calorie foods, such as redfish, clams, and shrimp. Those are kickin’ when made with chilies.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Stalking is a public health issue


…In the Aug issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Kathleen Basile, PhD, studied 10,000 adults. Of this number, 4.5% reported having been stalked.

…This amounts to 7 million women and 2 million men in the U.S.

…Although it makes a better movie or TV show if the stalker is some creepy ne’er-do-well who takes a shine to an attractive woman who doesn’t know he’s alive, most stalkers and victims are acquainted.

…Most stalkees are young, just as most victims of violence are young.

…African-Americans are much less likely to be stalked than Caucasians.

…Former spouses or partners are the most likely to stalk.

…If your ex- or partner tended to be violent or abusive, look out for stalking. Stalking, one doc said, is another tool in the abusive armamentarium of the (abusive partner).”

…Stalkers vary. A celebrity stalker is different, the study says, “from a socially unskilled, awkward, poorly put-together individual who thinks a neighbor who says ‘Hi’ in the hallway is romantically interested in them,” one researcher said. (Different how, HA wonders.)

…Most stalking does not result in bloody mayhem. The stalker may be arrested, hospitalized, move away, or get tired of it.

…Some people find it flattering if someone is possessive. But there is a line, the researchers said. When you are uncomfortable, stressed, or afraid, seek a restraining order.

…Policing of this is sketchy, at best, although it is a crime in many states. You have to persist.

Quite a stretch

…You should see HA in the morning or getting up from her desk. She looks like a dopey robot!

…Stretching can be the answer, docs say.

…Men carry stress locked in their glutes (rear), while women clench their necks and shoulders.

…You can stretch yourself out, but another person can also help.

…Stretching enthusiasts says a balanced body also balances the mind. (HA says, “OK, dude!”)

…Try having a partner gently pull your arms, then legs, and rotate your head.

…Gently. We are not talking The Exorcist here!

…Check out http://www.timeleft.info/. You can have your computer buzz you every hour for a walkabout or stretch session.

…Seriously, when the Tin Man comes to see if he can be of help, you need to do something.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Eat 3--every time


…HA is not a fan of diets, but recently came across an Orlando nutritionist’s idea of organized eating.

…Karen Beerbower, RD, says every time you eat, you must eat three items, and one must be a protein.

…No exceptions, every time.

…Want cookies? OK, you also must have milk and fruit.

…Mac ‘n’ cheese? No problem, but you must also eat beans and fruit salad.

…You can’t grab vending machine goodies, because you need the other two items. By then, you may decide you aren’t even that hungry and it isn’t worth the effort.

…Snap! HA knew it. This involves planning and cooking, so it cuts eating! Oh, very clever.

…The protein doesn’t hurt, either. It makes you feel full and builds muscle mass, which burns fat better.

…Errant thought? Those 3-item combos…did those used to be called meals?

What a pain

…Writing in the Arizona Republic (June 12, 2006), Connie Midey quotes Carmen Green, MD, an associate professor of anesthesiology and director of the Pain Research Division at the Univ of Michigan, who says that if you are old, a woman, or a person of color, you will get worse pain control than a middle-aged white man.

…Bone pain is bone pain, she said, there should be no difference.

…Men with metastasized prostate cancer got better pain management than women with metastasized breast cancer.

…Hispanics with fractures were less likely to leave the Emergency Department with a pain killer than non-Hispanics.

…There is a tendency to think pain is more psychological in women, another expert said.

…Sometimes older people are vague about their discomfort…They might say, “Oh, I just ache,” Midey writes.

…Sometimes minorities can’t get the painkillers at a nearby pharmacy (studies show these are often understocked in the pain pill department).

…One in six Americans suffers from chronic pain (lasting more than 6 mos).

…For them, pain becomes another condition to be managed. Yet, many docs are afraid to prescribe efficient control and others pass the pills like M&Ms.

…Doctors, said one expert, are not mean or evil, they just need educating.

…HA suggests they get to know their patients, too. See what’s what.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Nature-deficit disorder


…HA considers camping to be a misguided form of entertainment, but she does love to putter in her half-dead desert garden and muck about in her koi pond.

…Best Friends is a wonderful animal shelter organization in Utah. Its magazine is worth a donation. It’s a riot. www.bestfriends.org.

…In the July/August issue, Richard Louv, a futurist, talks about children and nature.
The same applies to post-children.

…When children are under “house arrest,” he says, they miss an important element of life—being outside in nature.

…For tens of thousands of years, children have played outside. Now, kids will become adults with no yen for, or understanding, of the natural world.

…Some young people were asked to just go outside and look at the sky. One said, it had motivated him. Another said it relieved stress.

…Louv spent his childhood in a woods behind his house with his collie looking for turtles and snakes. He said he had an intense sense of ownership of those woods. Yet, he knew nothing about the Amazon rain forest.

…Now, he says, kids know about the Amazon rain forest, but not about any real woods near them.

…Parents can’t or don’t want to let them out alone because of abductions. No treehouses—what about lawsuits?

…His own kids don’t even have the freedom he had.

…He suggests that hyperactivity may partially result from separation from nature.

…Children should at least have pets.

…Yet, kids yearn for that which they never had. They can hardly bear to think about global warming and the destruction of certain species. It’s too painful. They tell you that, Louv remarks.

…Get involved in scouting, he urges. Take the kids into the woods. Make your own backyard a wildlife refuge—water, food, and shelter.

…HA saw a dragonfly on her pond the other morning. Gorgeous. Shimmery.

Let's get high and eat

…Feel like inviting 21 of your friends for a banquet in the sky?

…If you live in Europe, you can call Dinner in the Sky, which will rent a crane and hoist you to a most memorable feast.

…The specially built table is surrounded by rollercoaster type chairs with four-point restraints.

…You go 164 feet in the air.

…The whole experience costs 7,900 Euros, which is a lot but HA does not know how much.

…What if someone forgets the napkins?

...(HA could not load the pix, but it's worth a trip to the site. www.dinnerinthesky.com.)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Sounds fishy


…This little guy obviously is not packing his pocket Seafood Selector. Keep reading.

…Everyone says eating fatty fish full of Omega-3 oils is good for your heart and now, according to an Australian study, it can protect against Age-Related Maculopathy (a serious eye and vision threat).

…But, you ask, isn’t fish full of chemicals and heavy metals from sucking down our increasingly polluted ocean water?

…A group called Environmental Defense has a Seafood Selector (www.oceansalive.org),which helps us know which fish to eat or not eat. (May I say, this is almost the coolest website EVER? I love the SCUBA noises.)

…White fish is low in fat, which is good on a calorie-reducing diet, but oily fish, such as salmon or mackerel, contains the most Omega-3.

…To choose healthy seafood, you need to know where the fish was caught (80% is imported). Supermarkets are required to post this and some smaller stores do, too.

…The problem is, fish can contain all kinds of nonsense you don’t want to eat. Heavy metals, industrial chemicals, pesticides, hormones. Eating these can cause them to build up in your body over time.

…Large predators (swordfish, shark, marlin, and tuna) and long-lived fish (orange roughy, grouper, Pacific rockfish) usually have the most contaminants.

…In preparing fish, you need to remove the parts of the fish where toxins build up. Peel off the skin, and toss the internal organs (including lobster tomalley and crab mustard, sorry, people).

…Grill—allow fat to drain away. Avoid frying—it seals in the toxins.

…Follow local advisories for eating sport fish. Go to http://map1.epa.gov.

…Try to eat fish from a variety of waters.

…Environmental Defense also advises asking your server was the fish farmed or wild, raised in a tank or netpen, where was it caught and using what equipment, and is the fish really the type listed.

…HA predicts this would not yield much info at IHOP, or even The Palm, not that she would know what to make of what she heard.

…You can go to the first site mentioned and print a pocket-sized fish guide.

…At that point, congratulations, you have officially made fish-eating your full-time job.

Temper, temper

…HA got in a minor smackdown with the owner of another website and tried to be fair (don’t laugh).

…Knight-Ridder reporter Doug Wourgul helps us keep our cool with some tips.

…Hold your tongue. When you are angry, you might say anything. Don’t.

…Ask for more information. Many arguments are the result of poor communication.

…Don’t curse or insult.

…Take the high road. Apologize if you were wrong.

…Get a second opinion. Maybe you are being creepy.

…Know thyself. Be aware of the issues, which lead you to respond with anger. (One of these is being unjustly accused, HA can report.)

…Are your temporary expressions of anger worth what you could lose?

…Work it out. Go for a walk or bike ride. (HA prefers her high horse.)

…Good advice. We are all struggling out here. Some people are just so darn humorless about it.

…Enough, HA! Remember your blood pressure

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Aw, shut up


…HA’s mother would never let her say, “Shut up.” Quaint, isn’t it? More genteel times.

…Now, some experts are prescribing a little silence for what ails us.

…Janet Luhrs, pioneer of the Simplicity Movement, recommends starting each day with silence. Twelve minutes! When you first wake up.

…Hormone levels are highest in the morning. When you dump caffeine and CNN on them, you are rockin’ and rollin’.

…Eat breakfast without reading.

…Drive to work with the radio off.

…Create a silent retreat at home. Set aside an evening where no one will talk. Turn off the phone, the TV.

…Exercise silently. Your body will be able to get through to you and tell you to go faster or slower.

…The old robber barons used to “sit the silence” each morning. They claimed ideas for making more money dropped into their heads like letters through a letterslot.

…For more ideas, go to www.simpleliving.com.

…Of course, you may be seeking enlightenment, not cash. Be like that.

Forget cancer blame game

…You didn’t eat enough blueberries, smoked, were overweight, ate cheeseburgers, didn’t get regular screenings, ignored a bump, wasn’t a “positive” person, blah blah.

…Kathy LaTour, writing in CURE (Summer 2006), says many cancer patients are asked “why” they got it.

…Yes, there are some nutrients, environmental factors, and behaviors that seem to have a link or causal association with some forms of cancer—statistically. But no one is a statistic. Another way to put that is, what is true statistically does not inexorably apply to any one person.

…As LaTour put it, if fried foods, alone, caused cancer, everyone in East Texas would have it!

…Nevertheless, people want cancer sufferers to wear those labels—so they can think, “I didn’t do that, so I am OK.”

…Blaming yourself and the what-ifs can lead to stress, just when you are already subject to a big stressor—having cancer.

…Don’t look back, advise the docs. You didn’t always wear sunscreen? You will from now on.

…Ignore people who say, “I guess all those years in the sun finally caught up with you.” Either they are mean, afraid, at a loss for words, or braindead.

…People with lung cancer feel stigmatized—we told you not to smoke and you did! But plenty of people get lung cancer who have never smoked. (This doesn’t mean stopping smoking isn’t a good idea, but the issue is too often over simplified.)

…If you need help to get past this guilt, get it.

…CURE is a great magazine and it’s free. Go to www.curetoday.org.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Pucker up!


…Greg Morago in the Hartford Courant riffs off on lipstick.

…Why use it just to color your lips? How about modifying your behavior, wouldn’t that be fun?

…The Spazztick Caffeinated Lip Balm contains caffeine (isn’t that just about the best name EVER?). The peppy product was supposedly developed by a cop (presumably female) who needed to look great and stay awake on stakeouts.

…Joey NY is one company cranking these babies out. Joey NY Lipfit has an appetite suppressant, Lipnix reduces the urge to smoke, and CinnaMEN attracts men (close enough to smell your lips).

…Personally, HA likes cream eye shadows and uses certain shades of lipstick on her eyelids. Great way to apply it!

…Cosmetic multitasking!

…But one observation: If products do double-duty, do you sell half as many products?

Men and women differ in symptoms

…Viva la difference and all that jazz. Researchers are finding life-and-death differences in how men and women present with various dangerous conditions.

…Writing in the Arizona Republic (July 4, 2006), Connie Midey tackles not only the different heart attack symptoms women can get (fatigue, jaw pain, or upset stomach rather than crushing chest pain), but vital differences in other disorders.

…Heart disease, of course, kills way more women than breast cancer, and women are more likely to have a second heart attack within a year of the first. Women’s cholesterol tends to be higher, but they are less likely to be offered statins for it.

…Lung cancer among women is up 150% in the last 20 years. Cig smoke is more harmful to women than men, though the docs aren’t sure why. After the same number of ”pack years,” women are twice as likely to develop lung cancer. Yet, men are more likely to die of lung cancer than women. Go know.

…Sexually transmitted diseases hit women twice as often as men. But in as many as 90% of cases of some STDs, women have no symptoms. Women with AIDS are more likely to waste, or lose weight.

…Men can transmit the bacteria that causes vaginitis but have no symptoms themselves. About a quarter of men with chlamydia also have no idea they have it. HIV is more likely to be transmitted from men to women than the reverse.

…Having one STD makes you more likely to get another, including HIV. Sexually active people of both genders need to be checked periodically.

…Depression and anxiety problems are three times more common in women than men. Women have lower levels of serotonin, and other hormones are washing through them. Men, though, have more and more danger of depression as they get older.

…In men, depression can show up as anger, sexual dysfunction, and substance abuse. Women may feel tired, helpless, and unable to make decisions.

…Women are also prone to drug interactions. And men may need different doses or even different classes of medication due to their brain chemistry.

…Brain chemistry, so that’s what the kids are calling it these days.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Frozen baby food--well, why not?


…Man, babies are big luckies!

…HA is trying to digest a broccoli misadventure and this Plum Organics stuff looks so tummy-friendly and delish.

…Almost too good for the little carpet crawlers.

…It’s the new frozen gourmet baby treats from Plum Organics. HA makes note of descriptions of organic supergreens, chicken with whole-grain grain pasta, banana peach rice pudding, red lentils—yuh-um!

…All perfectly cooked and then frozen.

…Seems almost a shame not to scrape it off the walls and try again when it goes flying.

…And when you can get it. Check the website…www.plumorganics.com. Coming “soon” to a high-end retailer near you.

…A final note: Docs usually recommend introducing one or two “solid” food items at a time to prevent allergies. Couldn’t hurt to ask.

Basing cancer decisions on your "gut"

…Writing in the New York Times (July 4, 2006), Nicholas Bakalar says many men diagnosed with prostate cancer decide on a treatment option quickly and often base that decision on sketchy, anecdotal “evidence.”

…Treatment options include surgery to remove the gland, radiation from the outside, an internal seeding of the gland with radioactive material, or cryotherapy, which freezes the prostate.

…According to interviews with 20 patients, published in the August 1, 2006, issue of Cancer, 19 of the 20 had made the treatment decision based on a friend or relative’s experience.

…This can be very misleading, doctors say. Another person may have a different situation from yours.

…Although all 20 realized prostate cancer was slow-growing and they all had negative bone scans and CT scans, 12 of the 20 wanted to be treated immediately. Eight wanted their prostate removed surgically. They thought if the cancer was confined to the prostate and it was removed, problem over.

…However, even if the tumor seems confined, little metastases maybe sprinkled around and the cancer can recur even if the prostate is removed.

…Plus, you should not count radiation out. It sometimes has an even better 5-year outlook than surgery.

…Those who wanted surgery wanted it, period. The others looked at other options.

…Brachytherapy—insertion of radioactive seeds—was preferred to radiation from the outside of the body.

…These men thought it seemed more “direct,” aiming right at the prostate. Yet, the doctors know external radiation is just as targeted.

…If they thought they could dodge possible impotence from surgery by picking radiation, these men were also mistaken. External radiation and surgery carry a similar risk of impotence.

…The biggest thing to remember is, don’t rush in. For some men, a “wait and see” approach is perfectly acceptable medically, if your doctor mentions it.

...No, this does not mean you never need to be checked. Good try.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Buzz off!


…Bugs are, er, repellent.

…The little brats make you itch or infect you with dreaded crap like West Nile Fever, Lyme’s Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and St. Louis Encephalitis.

…Each year, more than 20,000 people in the United States come down with a bug-related disease. With Lyme’s, people trail an IV pole behind them for months.

…Some communities try to get bugs before they can get us. These folks through the streets or with planes spraying everything in sight and bathing people in insecticide.

…HA prefers to bathe herself—or not—her choice.

….One insecticide is called permethrin (Permanone). This is so mighty, the Centers for Disease Control recommends putting it on clothing, not skin.

…The most popular skin potion, DEET, also should be used with caution. An experiment at Duke showed that when applied to rats, it sort of fried their little rat brains. There is even a suspicion that Gulf War syndrome might be due, in part, to DEET.

…If you must use it (and it’s the gold standard), use concentrations of 30% or less for adults, 10% or less for kids. Labels, people, labels!

…Never use DEET on kids under age 2.

…Apply it by hand, don’t hose it all over the person, especially a tot. Wash hands afterward.

…Don’t apply to eyes, lips or wounds.

…If you are taking a heavy-duty med, check with the doctor first. Some don’t get along with DEET.

…There is a new kid on the block, though. Picaridin, which works as well as DEET and is also endorsed by the CDC. It’s called Cutter Advanced Sport, and it won’t melt plastic, such as watch faces and camera buttons. It only lasts 4 hours, though, so if you’re going to be out for a spell, DEET is probably best.

…Other tips: Stay away from areas known to be full of ticks or skeeters (dusk to dawn is their favorite time to chew on you).

…Avoid strong cologne.

…Wear a hat and light-colored clothes. No red, they like red.

…Tuck pants into boots, wear long sleeves.

…Check for ticks when you come out of the woods.

…And if you’re trying to sit outside and can’t stomach a bucket of burning citronella, try a fan. Mosquitoes are weak sisters when it comes to flying. A stiff breeze will waft them away from you.

…Incidentally, recent studies show that it’s not your imagination—skeeters may like you better than your spouse. Your “hidden attractants” are genetic. Bugs just naturally love you because you are exhaling a lot of carbon dioxide and for some reason, excrete cholesterol onto your skin.

...No, it doesn't mean your cholesterol is too high. It just means you're tasty. Bug-wise.

Older people need food

…Sounds pretty obvious, doesn’t it? But how do you think Meals on Wheels got started? Appetite lessens as one ages and sometimes older people don’t eat enough. Sometimes certain meds can also kill appetite or instill a faint queasiness.

…The Health Behavior News Service (they’re great—go to www.cfah.org) recently treated this topic, ticking off the barriers that can keep older people from eating.

…Such barriers include difficulty in buying food. The store could be close, but the person might not be able to get to it. They may no longer be reliable drivers, for one thing.

…Older people may have sensitive teeth or trouble chewing.

…They may have no one to cook for or eat with, which can dampen enthusiasm.

…A doctor may notice a weight loss in the person, but not follow up. A nutritional questionnaire is not a bad idea for anyone over 65.

…Many older adults are still fighting fat and may not be making healthy food choices.

…They also get less thirsty than younger people and may be dehydrated.

…Having nice, juicy fruit on hand is a start.

…Yogurt, packages of sliced cheese, whole wheat crackers, peanut butter, nuts, juice milk, even some chocolate …these are good because many older people like to nibble and snack.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Cheat the heat


…Out here in Arizona, some people carry potholders to open their car doors. The first year is the worst. Then your body is resigned to the incredible heat of summer (OK, fall and spring, too). Or so they say.

…HA can report that a certain contempt toward the elements does set in. “I can walk”—or “I can jog next to a roadway spewing exhaust.”

…Then, wouldn’t you know? Someone gets heat sickness.

…This sickness has degrees. First, there can be lightheadedness or fainting. (We seem to notice extreme, dragging, hideous tiredness that comes out of the blue, you can hardly speak.)

…Heat exhaustion results if you don’t have enough fluids onboard to cool your body. You get sick, vomit, get a crushing headache, or start to see things or ramble. The body temp can shoot up to 105 F.

…The brain, which is gooey protein much like an egg, begins to cook.

….You can be outside talking to someone and they will go over. People with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, excess weight, a hyperthyroid condition, or alcoholism tend to be more susceptible.

…But seemingly young spry people can also succumb.

…You can acclimate somewhat. Workers in hot factories or bakeries who have been away awhile should start half-days.

…Wear loose clothing.

…Drink water all day, even if you are not thirsty. A construction foreman reports drinking 9 lbs of water a day (a gallon is 8 lbs) and still losing 4 lbs a day being outside.

…Work or exercise early.

…If someone keels, drag them out of the hot area. If they can drink, give them room temp water. If they can’t drink, dial 911.

…This is not a joke! They could be minutes from checking out.

…Heat can be one of those “time’s up” situations.

Diet soda can be tipsy mixer

…Diet soda and booze may get too happy together. Toga, toga!

…Some Australian researchers (why does that not surprise HA?) had eight guys drink. Specifically, they each drank a 478-cal vodka drink on day one. The second day, they drank the same with a diet mixer—225 cals.

…Their stomachs emptied in 15 minutes with the diet drink, compared with 21 minutes with the full-octane drink.

…Blood alcohol peaked higher with the diet drink, too.

…With diet sweeteners, a researcher explained, the brain expects sugar and releases insulin. The result? Fewer calories absorbed but faster absorption of alcohol.

…Advice? If you are planning on using diet tonic water, say, eat a light snack first. Better yet, switch to a wine spritzer, which is mostly water.

…Er, spritz

Monday, July 03, 2006

The Sipahh


…HA once wrote about a company (FLAVORx) that makes a ton of flavorings for medicines (adults demand them, too). The other night on the news came word of spray flavorings that would allow finnicky youngsters to spray broccoli with a bubblegum taste or somesuch.

…And, now, The Sipahh! It’s a straw with flavorings inside to improve on good old moo-juice.

…Didn’t they used to have these—with a chunk of chalky-tasting faux-chocolate inside? Or did HA dream that?

…The twist is that the company is now developing energy straws for athletes, vitamin straws for the puny, and medicinal delivery straws for those who can’t take a pill.

…How about “roofie” straws for reluctant pickups in bars or beer straws for drinkers relegated to water?

…OK, now HA is paranoid and is never using any straw again! Don’t go by her.

…For more info, check out www.sipahh.com/ or www.unistraw.com.

….Slurrrup!

…Or as the company says, “Insert in cold milk. Sip, and say, “Ahhh!”

...OK, we get it.

No brainer--or no brains?

…Years ago, HA wrote about how they can test for human papillomavirus DNA to see if a woman was susceptible to cervical cancer. There was that close an association.

…HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease. Oooo-sex.

…So now there is a vaccine (Gardasil) against the virus, and thus against the cancer it can cause, and everyone is hand-wringing over whether to start giving it to young girls. Yet, the earlier it can be given, the better.

…Girls as young as 9 could start on their way to being immune to a deadly form of cancer.

…So what’s the problem?

…It’s expensive ($360 for three, spaced shots) and it’s hard to round up older kids for multiple vaccinations.

…But the main big woo is that it prevents a sexually transmitted disease—wouldn’t want 9-year-olds to think it’s now OK to have sex.

…Instead, let’s tell kids to be abstinent, came the cry. This was described as a “public health method of cervical cancer prevention.”

…Gardasil does not prevent all cervical cancers…But it prevents one in your kid, say 20 years down the line, you might think this was a darn good decision.

…She will probably have had sex by then, and that argument will have faded.

…And she and most of the more than 3,000 women who would have died of cervical cancer that year would still be alive and raising their own families.