Thursday, November 30, 2006

Big man (and woman) on campus


…They have Minority Studies. So how about Obesity Studies?

…Writing in the NYT (Nov 26, 2006), Abby Ellin interviewed Sheana Director (think her name is destiny?), founder of Size Matters, a fat acceptance group that recently held a seminar called “Fat and the Academy” to talk about "fat studies."

…They decry the cultural ideals that have been set, likening them to the ideals that marginalize gays and lesbians. Or try to.

…The Univ of Wisconsin Madison offers a course on the social construction of obesity.

…The New California School of Law teaches ways to deal with weightism.

…There is a list on Yahoo—called “fatstudies.”

…Some people say this is just a way to institutionalize victimhood.

…However, some “fat” scholars say the risks of obesity are overhyped and the science doesn’t support some of the ranting.

…Even if larger people are more apt to get medical conditions, how does this justify berating them or disparaging them?

…Just because they can?

…That’s what these people are studying, among other things.

Log on for test results

…You do know the phrase “no news is good news” does NOT apply to medical test results, right?

…HA has written many times about the way results can go astray, not be checked for weeks, or even in some cases, not be reported to you even if they are positive (meaning positive for some condition you need to know about).

…So always ask for the results or answer that recorded call.

…At Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, the doctors have an online reporting and conversing system.

…Called PatientSite, it allows people to log on and get results (except HIV and cancer, which must be relayed in person).

…Emailing your doctor also seems to be an option.

…How HA wishes every place would do this!

…Check it out at https://www.patientsite.org/.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Mushrooms magic for cluster headaches?


…Some docs at McLean Hosp in Boston have been playing with the psychedelic mushrooms again. Gotta watch those guys.

…The newest discovery is that these throwbacks to the 60s (the mushrooms, not the docs) seem to help violent cluster headaches.

…Suffered mostly by men, these are often called suicide headaches—the pain is that bad.

…Where did these people score the “srooms”? Well, some went into the streets—not all were in controlled studies.

…Of course, there is always the internet. Did HA type that out loud?

…Proceed at own risk. Maybe you can find a hippie to advise.

Hack Hack

Hack hack

…It’s that time again. Time to OD on cough syrup! Kidding.

…According to the November 2006 Consumer Reports on Health, the standard cough medicines—Robitussin, Vicks, Mucinex, and the gang--are largely ineffective for common coughs.

…Better to keep the room humid. Put a towel over your head and breathe over a sink of hot water a few times a day (also great for the complexion). If you use a humifier, clean and dry it in between sessions to prevent mold.

…Drink hot liquids. Chicken soup even kills some viruses.

…Stick with glycerin lozenges, maybe with honey.

…Don’t whack in the herbals such as slippery elm or marshmallow if you’re pregnant, but they can lubricate the throat.

…The older over-the-counters like Chlor-Trimeton or Sudafed may work better if you must get a decongestant…though you may have to sign for Sudafed, because the meth cookers got to it first. These also can cause sleepiness, but the non-sleepy ones don’t work as well.

…Some drugs are bad with diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure.

…Maybe better to stock up on hard candy and Kleenex.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

With family handy, bring up health


…Family reunion? Holiday gathering? Now is the time to question your relatives about their health issues.

…How well do you know your folks?

…To help you make this nosiness “official,” the Surgeon General has created a website called My Family Health Portrait.

…Check it out at http://familyhistory.hhs.gov.

…According to Lynda Shrager, writing in the Albany Times Union, you need to know things like a history of diabetes, migraines, breast and colon cancer and arthritis. Rarities like Huntington’s or Parkinson’s may be in your family but not often mentioned.

…Find out the ages at which family members were stricken. You may know Grandma died of cancer, but what kind? And how old was she?

…Even dementia and Alzheimers can have a genetic thread.

…HA has been having trouble with one of her eyes and remembered her father had had a detached retina repaired. Her sister said, “Really? I never knew that.”

…You might find out more than you bargained for, such as multiple miscarriages your mother never mentioned before or some other uncomfortable health fact, but it pays to ask.

…Then you can worry better.

…HA likes to worry. She is very good at it, if she does say so herself.

Women! Tell all to your doctor

…Ginny Graves writes in Shape magazine about things women don’t always tell their doctors.

…HA is like this—if the doctor doesn’t remember to ask or doesn’t figure it out, well, tough!

…Forty percent of women are like this, according to one survey.

…Tell the doctor whether you take herbals or weird supplements. These can interfere with prescriptions drugs or cause bleeding during procedures. Be esp careful with St John’s Wort. It can interfere with BC pills. You could be happy—but pregnant!

…Tell the doc if you want to get pregnant in the next year, Graves says. You may want to start on folic acid for those first few days of neural tube development in the baby. One doc reommends 400 micrograms of folic acid a day for 3 mos before trying to conceive.

…Social smoker! Own up. Even young women can get elevated blood pressure from smoking. Not to mention a million other problems.

…If sex is painful, mention it. There can be reasons for this—it is not normal. Most of those reasons are fixable.

…Do you use tanning beds? These are as bad as unblocked beachifying. Plan on regular checks by a dermatologist.

…Knees stiff? May seem like nothing to you, but it could be arthritis. The rhematoid kind can surface in the 30s and be characterized by tiredness and lack of appetite—or even a little temperature.

…Do you get an annoying cough for weeks at a time? Your airways could be overly reactive or you may have asthma. Don’t be worried that it’s lung cancer—the odds are on something less dire.

…Don’t worry—docs have heard it all. If you come up with something really weird,
you will even entertain them.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Potatoes getting mashed


…With a low-rent nickname like “spud” it may serve it right, but the potato has fallen on hard times, according to Michael Martinez, writing in the Chicago Tribune.

…The tater didn’t even make it onto the Idaho version of the commemorative quarter.

…They used the peregrine falcon. What did this vengeful fowl ever do for Idaho? That is just wrong.

…Then—get this!--some butthead legislator tried to get “Famous Potatoes” taken off the license plate!

…What the patoot?

…Yes, taties have fallen so much in public and nutritional esteem that many farmers went out of business.

…Now they have formed sort of a cartel to keep prices up.

…This year, the crop rose 2.1%. Prices have gone from $2.50 per hundred lbs to $7-$9.

…Now people are getting worried about a little too much price “support,” if you will.

…Potatoes began to get bad press when they were declared higher on the glycemic index than a Danish. Meaning, the carbs in them sped into the bloodstream faster, then dropped out.

…Eating low on the glycemic index, by the way, is not really supported by research to be a good way to lose weight.

…Potatoes also contain a ton of vits and minerals.

…And if you don’t douse them in too much deep fat, butter, or sour cream, you can get away with them as a tasty side dish.

…Darn tasty.

…Try that with a stringy old falcon!

Fridge facials

…HA saw a face cream—a laughably expensive one, Crème de la Mer--advertised as a Christmas gift.

…“Here, honey, you have been looking like a shar pei lately.”

…HA’s ex used to work in a cosmetic factory in NJ and said the drugstore and dept store creams came out of the same vat, but got a different label. Basically, this may be true.

…You can moisten your skin and scrape off dry cells pretty cheaply using common items.

….Mix up an egg white, slap it on, let it dry until it “pulls,” then rinse off. Pat dry gently. Babies’ butts will envy your face.

…Glycerine and rosewater…another couple-buck combo…also is a good 15-minute soak.

…A little lemon juice and honey make another wonderful mask. Wash off after 15 to 30 minutes.

…You can mix a mashed banana into that honey—another good one.

…Beautiful! Natural! Cheap!

…And don’t forget the old Buff Puff. What happened to that anyhow?

Friday, November 24, 2006

Geezers sure are touchy


…3.3 million boomers are turning 60 this year, according to Susan Felt in the Arizona Republic (Nov 22, 2006).

…And they don’t feel old at all, babies. Crabby and cranky, but not old!

…According to some guy who calls himself a generationalist (nice gig if you can make it up), ad companies and the govt better watch what they call this group.

…At a recent meeting, this generationalist guy asked attendees if they would stop using or tune out anything called a “senior” center or “senior” services…half said yes!

…Other terms that suck are “retiree” (this bunch is not thinking of themselves as 7-day-a-week golfers and many cannot afford to retire), the “aged” (are you brain dead? No!), “elderly” (shut UP!), “golden years” (with this income—forget it), “silver years” (who says that?), “prime time” (too cute and also stupid), and…ta-da!

…The worst….Mature.

…Who says? HA is a self-professed “Ass.” Who you callin’ mature?

…What does that leave?

…Wise ones.

…Protestors.

…Agitators.

…Thinkers.

...If you totally MUST--Boomers.

…HA has always liked the image of the Boomers passing through the society like a dead cow through a python….so how about “Dead Cows”?

…Better yet, Sacred Cows.

Protect your eyes during the hols

…The American Academy of Ophthalmology says eye-ruining dangers lurk everywhere at the holidays.

…Some comedian used to have a line about the favorite cry of parents: “You will put your eye out!” He said, “We never got this. We knew kids who got broken arms, but never anyone whose eye got put out.”

…Yet, of the 210,000 toy-related injuries in 2005 (these toys must be stopped!), 6,000 were eye injuries to kids under 15.

…Just think of the rich bounty of possibility: BB guns, archery sets, dart games, other sports equipment.

…Sports are prime ground for disaster, eyewise. Always make sure kids wear proper eyewear.

…Also the Christmas tree can poke you in the eye, glass ornaments can break, kids can throw toys.

…Eyestrain from video games…another minefield. Parents need to enforce breaks.

…Stabs from mascara wands before that party!

…Playing with overexcited pets!

…Badly washed contacts hastily inserted on the way out the door!

…Forgetting the sunglasses on the slopes.

…You want to live to “see” another holiday, don’t you?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

College kid mentors for bullies


…Some profs at Texas A&M published a study (J of Consulting and Clin Psych) that showed positive improvement in the beahvior of aggressive or pain in the ass grade schoolers (HA’s term, not a term of art) who were mentored during lunch by various college students.

…Apparently the attention was well received.

…The docs didn’t expect this, saying that with the mentors changing and coming and going, the kids wouldn’t get much out of it.

…They decided, however, that the mentor was giving the students a certain cache amongst their peers, thus changing their behavior to less aggressive.

…More study is needed.

…In the meantime—Medals of Freedom all around for the college kids!

Silicone roulette

…The govt has ended the 14-yr ban on silicone gel boobs.

…Reportedly women are clamoring for these and if they are over 22 or need breast reconstruction, it’s OK with the FDA.

…Apparently, this clears up those thousand of anecdotal reports of silicone implants oozing or breaking and the silicone migrating around the body and destroying women’s immune systems.

…The FDA is requiring the makers to complete a 10-yr study of safety and start a new 10-yr study of 40,000 women (who will be testing these again on an unofficial basis).

…Oh, and--women who get these should get regular MRIs throughout their lives to see if the goo-filled bags are leaking, the so-called silent leaks.

…Sure, MRIs! Check! No problem there!

…HA is shaking her head as you can tell from the tone of this.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Calm down--it's T-day, not Food Network


…Why do you think they call it Turkey Day? It’s the cooking mistakes!

…Emily Seftel, writing in the AZ Republic (Nov 20, 2006), reminded HA of one year her mother was trying a low-heat turkey cooking technique—and after 8 hrs, the thing was still raw. Not THAT low.

…If you forget to defrost the Birdie, plunge it into cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes. Allow 30 minutes per lb.

…People are rushing the kitchen but you are not sure the turkey is done? Use a thermometer, Minimum allowable inside: 165 F. Stick into the thickest part of breast, wing, and thigh.

…Ooops, nowhere near 165 F? Carve it and nuke the pieces. Use a microwavable dish covered loosely with paper.

…Always let a turkey “rest” for 20 minutes so the juices can redistribute.

…Extras show up? Relax, you will just have fewer leftovers. In the case of late-arriving vegans, you will have much less sweet potato casserole left.

…Hey, it’s BYOT. Bring your own tofu.

…Just laugh and pour.

Ooof, umpf

…According to the New York Times (Nov 18, 2006), in a story by Anahad O’Connor, a guy in Wappingers Falls, NY, got thrown out of his gym for … how to put this…grunting.

…The man had 500 lbs on his shoulders at the time.

…He said he was not grunting, just breathing heavily.

…Oooo, she didn’t like that—and tossed him! Or tried to.

…When he continued lifting, she called the cops.

…He is a corrections officer and now his colleagues call him anonymously and grunt. He is suing.

…OK, pretty funny, unless it’s you in a petty confrontation with someone who fancies they are the boss of you.

…But this is Planet Fitness, the story explains. They are strict!

…You also can get your card torn up for wearing a bandana or dropping weights.

…These offenses trigger an earsplitting “lunk alarm.”

…A physical therapist was quoted as saying grunting increases force 2% to 5%.

…The real story, one authority said, was that the club was trying to weed out people who were too serious because they made the others feel bad.

…Plus, HA suspects he rubbed the bossy cow manager the wrong way and probably made Tim the Tool Man noises at her.

…HA made that last part up.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Maybe Lady MacBeth was on to something


…If people wash their hands a lot, do they have a guilty conscience or have they watched the Health Channel too much?

…Scientists have found that people who washed their hands after contemplating an unethical act were less troubled by their scroungy thoughts than those who didn’t.

…There is an association between moral and physical purity, according to a doc in an article in the NYT (Sept 12, 2006) by Benedict Carey.

…Using Northwestern undergrads, the researchers had one group remember an unethical act from their past like betraying a friend and had another reflect on something nice they did like returning lost money. Both then had a choice of a nice gift or an antiseptic wipe. Those who had reflected on the unethical act took the wipe twice as often.

…It is common to want to do something to compensate when one has done wrong. It’s an attempt to repair moral identity, scientists say.

…Those who contemplated the unethical act were more likely to volunteer for a project—unless they had washed their hands. That cut the altruism in half.

…This doesn’t work forever, this cleansing thing. In “MacBeth,” everyone went way beyond a washbasin’s ability to repair.

…You mean there are limits to the moral power of a HandiWipe? Good to know.

Medicine just for you

…Have you ever compared notes with a friend…”It cured you? That stuff is like Tic-Tacs to me!”

…Could it be your genetic makeup is different and this affects how a medication will affect you?

…Scientists dream of fine-tuning this better. It’s called personalized medicine.

…Jon Van reported on this in the Baltimore Sun on Aug 25, 2006.

…The most prominent example is Herceptin, a breast cancer treatment that blocks cancer-enhancing proteins--the catch is that only 20% to 30% of women with breast cancer have tumors that produce high levels of these proteins. The medicine would do nothing for those who don’t have the proteins.

…Doctors can tell which ones with genetic testing. The test, in fact, was approved alongside the medicine by the FDA, which was a first.

…Eventually one-size-fits-all prescriptions will be a thing of the past.

…Theoretically.

…Bringing diagnostics and therapeutics together is a tough sell. For one thing, usually, they are produced by different (and competing) companies.

…The profit thing makes some observers gloomy about the future of this.

…So, now, it seems, the univ researchers are not only ferreting out these genetic indicators, but marketing the approaches to physicians and thus to the public. They got sick of companies reading their research then not acting to produce a medicine.

…Lots of the time, the things they can pin down to a genetic marker are rare (read: unprofitable).

…One doc said they took a big block of medication users, say people with eye ailments, and “Balkanized” them into small markets. Zip—drug companies lose interest.

…As one doc said, “It is going to take creativity to make this work.”

…Work for cures. Work for patients. Work, meaning not taking things that work
as well as Tic-Tacs if we don’t have to.

…Well, get to work, people!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Smarten up kids with breakfast


…HA lives in AZ, where the frost rarely is on the cacti, but rumor has it that the cold winds are beginning to blow elsewhere.

…So how do we send the little ones off to school primed for their best day?

…According to School Reform News (Nov 1, 2006), a healthy breakfast can make kids learn better by stabilizing blood sugar and feeding those brain cells.

…They say the writers at HealthKidsCatalog, recommend turning off the TV at breakfast. Staring at the tube makes kids fork in too many cals.

…Feed them skim milk instead of whole, whole wheat instead of gummywonder, and eggs whites versus whole eggs.

…HA wonders if this is how to put kids on a reducting diet or charge them up…?

…Let us continue. Parents, these people say, could put their own choice of candy in the cereal box as a prize. Adding dry fruit—they say—also makes kid like the cardboardy kind better.

…HA added the cardboardy…She hates that stuff with all the gravel and stuff in it. Silage! That’s it!

…Start a fruit of the week plan. Kids love fruit (they say).

…In a pinch, dole out the cereal bars. Look for whole grain and less than 10 grams of sugar.

…HA thought they might recommend fun, different things, such as peanut butter toast with a couple of M&Ms for a face, pancakes with a teddybear on them, homemade biscuit sandwiches, and so on.

…It’s also cold out, so hot items might be a good start. Oatmeal, Postum, and so on.

…Yes, they still make Postum, smartie. And Ovaltine.

Is your doctor's office fit for a sick person?

…The Medical Group Management Assn, Institute for Safe Medication Practices, and Health Research and Educational Trust (whew, these names) have developed a web-based Physician Practice Safety Assessment to make docs more aware of how they run their offices.

…Laura Landro took this in the WSJ on Nov 15, 2006.

…164 offices have taken the test and almost a third did not know about safety procedures for medications. A fifth has no programs for patient education.

…What is that? The pamphlets in the holder in the waiting room?

…Kaiser also wants to make sure patients understand their part of the bargain, to listen, understand, ask questions, and follow instructions.

…Docs can download the test at www.physiciansafetytool.org, along with a workbook to help them figure out the results. That Medical Group Management Assn also will help docs interpret results and see how they compare with other docs.

…The stats are bad. Of 1,000 patients taking a prescription drug, 90 will seek medical attention for a complication. Of 1,000 prescriptions written, 40 will be wrong. Of 1,000 women with a marginally abnormal mammo, 360 will not get proper followup.

…Just getting this test, Landro says, can give some docs a clue about what they should be doing—or could do.

…It’s a start.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Fertility fun runs


…Nothing is more irritating to people trying to conceive than someone saying, “Relax, you’re just too tense.”

…Still, some entrepreneurs have come up with “Procreation Vacations,” and the would-be reproducers seem pretty happy about it.

…Writing about this for the AP, Kelli Kennedy says these places offer weird potions and herbs, relaxing massages, and even actual sex doctors.

…Some obstetricians even recommend this.

…Think of it as getting pregnant in style, said one proponent.

…The Westin Grand Bahama, for one, provides these getaways. They serve wishful couples sea moss, a sort of tropical Viagra, mixed with evaporated milk, sugar and spices.

…One couple thought they were learning sex secrets to be used at home—but she conceived the day she got back.

…The Birds and Bees Package at Five Gables Inn & Spa on the Chesapeake Bay comes with oysters and heart-printed boxer shorts. In the CD player—Barry White.

…I guess you could get knocked up if you stopped laughing long enough. Or who knows—the laughing might be the key.

Thankful when it's over?

…Are you as grumpy as HA about the coming holiday hoo-hah? Probably not. But try as she might, everything seems onerous to her.

…It’s been a sorta tough year, half empty glasses, this and that…Last week, the house next door burned, and a year before, HA’s house sustained a fire.

…Thankful to be alive, sure, but feeling the slog a little.

…We must look past this, says Nina Amir (namir@purespiritcreations.com). Check out that website name…This is going to be positive, right?

…We can always find something to be grateful for. Amir says a prayer of gratitude is much favored by the Prayer Receiver (this is a non-sectarian website).

…She suggests going around the table, each person saying something he or she is grateful for.

…She also suggests saying something that hasn’t happened that you are grateful for…in advance. This is a form of visualization, which many people think is a powerful force that can make things happen…er, manifest.

...HA imagines Uncle Harry saying, "Thank you for the BMW I am getting this year" and his wife snapping her head up and saying, "What?"

…Attract good things, Amir says.

…Guess HA better not complain that the taties got cold while everyone was manifesting, huh?

…Just ignore the little blonde grump at the end of the table.

…It’s better that way.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Link between shyness and cancer?


…When HA saw a headline about this, she wondered, “If you were too shy to say no to cancer, you might get it?” But no, that is not what they meant.

…It’s all part of a weird lashup called psychoimmunology, meaning how temperament may affect illness.

…HA is extremely leery of generalizations that make it seem like someone is “responsible” for getting something because of some mindset or characteristic.

…Univ of Chicago researchers (Hormones and Behavior) says they think there is a relationship between shyness and cancer, but cannot say why that is—for sure.

…A long-held theory that stress may lead to a compromised immune system and cancer makes sense on one level—stress hormones flooding the body and affecting the growth of cells.

…But do shy people have more of these because they are always being thrust into unfamiliar situations?

…Ah, the research was done on rats, some of them timid and lacking in social skills. The timid ones developed tumors sooner.

…As it the stress hormones? Strangely, the shy rats had fewer, not more.

…Isn’t it fun to be a scientist?

…Sadly, it’s too soon to conclude that your reclusive neighbor is doomed or that dancing on the bar at a kegger will save you.

Want to look hot?

…Everything you read about makeup and facial care says to stay away from petroleum products, such as Vaseline.

…Good. Do that. More for HA.

…She has covered up whatever fancy face stuff she can scrounge with a layer of Vaseline since her twenties…and is pretty smooth now in her cough, sixt…cough.

…According to a story by Ginger Murphy in “Yes,” the beauty rag of the Arizona Republic, Milla Jovovich, some starlet and spokesgal for L’Oreal, says mineral oil is like other petroleum products—“You can burn it!” she cries.

…(You can make Molotov cocktails out of toner, so what?)

…Oh, it’s ON, babies! Tyra Banks says the opposite. She uses Vaseline on her lips and around her eyes (ditto for HA).

…HA read once that novelist Joan Collins (or is she the star?) also uses it.

…Some doctor was also quoted saying keep it off your face.

…A dermatologist, HA is supposed to believe some dermatologist?

…True if you have “problem” skin, zits, acne, etc., probably a thick layer of anything is cloggy.

…But if you don’t have “issues,” this nice, cheap, inert stuff holds moisture in and fluffs out wrinks.

…Listen to HA, now.

…She hardly ever catches on fire.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Magic little exercise to prevent heel pain


…HA had it—plantar’s fasciitis, a sharp pain on the bottom of your foot at the heel that comes with each step.

…Now, according to Janet Cromley (LA Times, Nov 13, 2006), there is an exercise to heal this.

…HA bought expensive rubber thingies to put in her shoes, but they only partially helped.

…You can get this from pretty mild and innocuous stuff—like walking on cement.

…And, babies, it HURTS!

…The advice used to be to stretch the Achilles tendon up the back of the ankle.

…Then came the new technique—curling the toes backward while flexing the ankle.

…Sufferers also turn to icing and a splint to keep the foot at 90 degrees while sleeping. Shockwaves are used. Surgery.

…Pain is worse in the morning when the body has tried to heal the little tears, but then is shocked when walking rips them apart again.

…The new stretch should be done first thing after getting out of bed or after any long period of inactivity.

…Other advice: Wear good, quality, properly fitted shoes and avoid hard surfaces.

…The doc who did the study played golf one day, then stepped on the floor the next morning. "Oh my goodness I’ve got it,” he exclaimed.

…Here is how to do the exercise. Sit upright in a chair barefoot. Place the ankle of the affected foot on the opposite knee.

…Using the hand on the same side as the affected foot, reach across and grab the toes.

…Flex the ankle forward and pull the toes toward the shin.

…You should be able to feel the cord-like tendon running the length of the foot.

…Hold for count of 10, then relax. Repeat 10 times. Do this at least three times a day.

…Then you won’t find yourself going “Ooo, ah, ooo, ah,” as you walk.

Dancing out of our graves

…Guilty pleasure: Dancing with the Stars.

…HA has not taken it as far as some in her family, but it’s fun to peek now and again.

…Now, some Italian docs (Lancisi Heart Institute, Ancona, Italy) have decided that heart attack patients might benefit from some of the old ballroom.

…Waltzing, turns out, is quite aerobic and every bit as good as the stationary bike or treadmill—and way less boring.

…Studying 110 cardiac patients, the researchers also found a slight improvement in their mood, sleep, interest in hobbies, and ability to do housework and have sex (presumably not at the same time).

…As many as 70% of heart attack patients drop out of their exercise programs.

…Part of the effectiveness of the waltzing, the docs speculated, might be the fact that it was social, done with a partner.

…Do the women wear those hootchy outfits like on DWTS? That could cut either way.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The eyes don't have it


…A doctor once told a friend of HA’s that he could sit in a restaurant and by how far out people held the menu, could tell how many months before they needed reading glasses.

…As Paul Newman said, “Growing old ain’t pretty.”

…Mary Beth Fuller, writing in the AZ Republic (Nov 7, 2006), talks about how annoying it is to be blinged and surgically revised, but still half-blind.

…For one thing, smoking makes the eye fall apart quicker.

…You also need to wear shades and not expose eyes to ultraviolet and eat a lot of spinach, which contains lutein.

…That over-40 vision whackout is called presbyopia. Instead of adjusting like a camera lens on autofocus, the eye becomes stiffer, fixing your vision to the far distance. This requires glasses to read…either those drugstore magnifier beauties or prescription “monovision” ones that correct one eye for distance, the other for near.

…Floaters are globs of the vitreous fluid inside the eyeball. The fibers in the fluid become thicker as we age and start to move around in the field of vision. These are usually harmless and tend to be tuned out by the brain or sink down after a time.

…Glaucoma begins with blurriness in the peripheral vision (to the side), but it can progress to blindness. Glaucoma is 3-4 times more prevalent in black people, who are also more likely to suffer blindness. It’s treated with eyedrops or surgery.

…Macular degeneration results when cells on the cornea begin to deteriorate. Loss of central vision is the result. In the “dry” form, the most common, desposits dim vision. There is no treatment for this. In the ‘wet” form, blood vessels, grow, leak and scar, Fuller writes. New drugs can partially reverse the wet form.

…Smoking is especially bad for macular degeneration. It’s less common in blacks and more common in whites.

…Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of new blindness in adults. There is no cure. Early diagnosis can lead to laser surgery, which can prevent blindness if the diabetes is controlled.

…Cataracts are big in aging people. Everyone gets these if they live long enough. Sometimes these need to be removed if they interfere with vision.

…Dry eyes can result when aging tear ducts don’t quirt enough lubricant. More women than men are affected (hormones). Eating Omega-3 (salmon, flaxseed) can help. Sometimes the tearducts can be plugged to keep tears in the eyes.

…Older people also need more light to see. A 60-year-old needs 15 times more than a 10-year-old. Older people also react to glare and may need glasses with side shields (now there is a look!).

…Contrast can also be a problem as we age. It becomes hard to tell a difference between black and navy or you may trip on a curb that is in shadow. Yellow or amber-tinted glasses can help.

…Man! HA is going back to bed and pull up the kivvers! If she can spot them.

No more "Irish twins"?

…A while back, Emory Univ did a study on contraception for new mothers.

…Nearly half of 502 new and expectant mothers surveyed said they currently use a new form of birth control or plan to after the birth.

…Many did not want to become pregnant again right away and wanted to adjust to the new baby first.

…57% said the frequency of relations decreased after the first kid.

…Women who were dissatisfied with their form of birth control were more than twice as likely to be dissatisfied with their sex lives after the birth. (This is one for the Big Book of Duh.)

…Of this group, a third had had unplanned pregnancies (half of all pregnancies in the US are unplanned). More than half of those unplanned events came in the group not satisfied with their form of contraception.

…Ideally, researchers found, birth control should be highly effective, allow for spontaneity, be hassle-free, and not requirre frequent thought.

…Interestingly 43% percent were more interested in long-term measures after having gotten pregnant.

…At very least, diaphragm users should be refitted after a birth. The geography in there changes.

...As for breast-feeding, it may lessen fertility but is not birth control.

Friday, November 10, 2006

OK. let's not eat this year


…Kathleen Clary Miller had a fun essay in the LA Times (Nov 6, 2006). Thanksgiving is a responsibility-heavy holiday for her, she says, because she’s the chef.

…She is concerned about killing her family.

…She can never remember how long to cook the turkey. So she opens the booklet that comes with the turkey—and it’s all about food poisoning and bacteria.

…Is it safe to … stuff…you know, inside? To be on the safe side, she gets boxed stuffing…but what to add, butter, olive oil?

…Tofu turkey…She thinks not, except for her niece who is a vegetarian and will also appreciate being saved from Alzheimer’s by the green veggies on the table.

…Spinach…must be pulled, along with gravy, which might cause everyone to “sink like stones in a sea of cellulite.”

…Yams are PC (potato correct). White taties, highly glycemic.

…No marshmallows, of course.

…A glass of cranberry juice is OK, for the urinary tract.

…White wine is good with white meat, but red has more antioxidants. Two glasses help hearts but can increase risk of breast cancer 30%.

…Ah, dessert. Pecans are good—but only six per person. Cinnnamon lowers blood sugar.
Too much, naturally, kills.

…Coffee leaches calcium from our bones and decaf must be Swiss water-processed only.

…Kathleen is sticking to veggies. Her previous lack of them mixed, with tryptophan from the turkey, may be why she can’t tell the lethal from the healthful.

…If she eats turkey, she says, her vegan niece will be the only one left alive to talk to the paramedics.

…And do the dishes.

…HA is laughing. She thinks. Thanks for that, Kathleen.

Yes! You are getting a shot

…Who doesn’t love an injection?

…The solemnity, the dread, the cold alcohol, the promised little “pinch” that hurts like a MF.

…A recent study done in Nova Scotia looked at how kids could be jollied into this better.

…Two thousand kids and teens were studied (The Cochrane Library).

…Techniques included cognitive methods such as having a child repeat, “I can do it, I can do it,” to distraction. Hypnosis was tried with older children, but had to be done ahead of time.

…Distraction proved pretty effective. Children listened to a story or music. Even blowing soap bubbles helped with younger kids.

…Other distractions include video games.

….Anesthesiologists could do magic tricks. Really? They can? Darn, didn’t know that.

…Other docs sang to kids as they went to sleep.

…Each time a kid gets a shot, it can make them more fearful for next time.

…It’s a long life, kid, filled with needles.

...Suck it up. It won't hurt a bit.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Some dieters indulge--in magical thinking


…AP medical writer Marilyn Marchione says a survey by GlaxoSmithKline shows that 70% of dieters tend to do it on their own and have no interest in a doctor’s help.

…A doctor of HA’s (short) acquaintance said HA could stand to eat less and exercise more. Since HA had never heard this, she was eager for the rest of his nutritional advice.

…According to this survey, a third of dieters have tried those stupid fat-burner things on TV. HA loves how they always show bikini-clad babes with the words “RESULTS NOT TYPICAL” in teeny type under their tense, ravenous bods.

…Another favorite is that woman with the honking laugh, who keeps saying, “Who wouldn’t want to be a size 2 in their 30s?” Bray, bray…

…There is no safe way to lose more than 2 lbs a week, docs say.

…This includes Xenical, made by (ta da) GlaxoSmithKline and soon to be on drugstore shelves where no doctor need be consulted.

…Please note that the survey picked people who had made a serious attempt to lose weight for at least three days.

…Three whats? That’s serious? This stuff takes years! Actually, truth be told, you need to be hungry for, well, EVER!

…And don’t try it if you have an unattractive laugh.

…Just because HA could not stand it, that’s why.

Stand out (er, up) on your holiday flight

…If you are priming yourself for the pleasure of air travel this season, listen to Debi Lander, M.Ed., director of fitness for Trimtalk.com.

…Do flexes and isometrics in your seat. (If people look at you like you are having a seizure, just smile.)

…Do read-end crunches, holding for 10 seconds.

…Since you probably can’t move much, exercise your hands. Squeeze a rag or even bring a hand squeezer.

…Take a walk. Hit the aisles, and breathe deeply. (As you race toward the bathroom, this could be misconstrued.)

…Stretch arms upward. There is usually room there.

…Meditate. Let the thoughts flow across your brain, but don’t leap on them and expand them or let them make you anxious.

…HA’s mantra: Don’t think, don’t think. (No jokes, pls.)

…As for plane grub, you may have to bring your own these days. Trimtalk’s director of nutrition, Jennifer Baumann, MD, RD, LDN, recommends prewashed fruit, airpopped popcorn sprinkled with butter buds and parmesan, pretzel sticks, nuts, string cheese, cereal bars, dried fruit, or baked chips.

…She also recommends water. Is that OK these days?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Creativity in babysitting


…Sitters in the City (www.sittersinthecity.com) is a neat concept. Artists and thespians--vetted, police records checked--babysit hip kids.

…They bring a bag of tricks—costumes, supplies. The kids know they are in for a treat.

…This also benefits the artists and thesps and beats waiting tables. Or could be in addition to.

…Your artistic high schoolers could try this in your city.

…Or how about an Athletic Sitter, someone to play in the yard with your kid while you’re out--and burn off some cals.

…Or a Cooking Sitter…they could make dinner with your kids.

…Or an Organizing Sitter…help the kids straighten up their room and the rest of the house.

…Speaking of sitters…Do they even have kids who will come over and watch the lilttle ones for money anymore? HA knows teens who weedeat for $15 are an extinct species.

…HA is only being partially serious, although these activities would be more fun than watching the sitter neck with her boyfriend.

…For one thing, the banister always gets in the way.

Getting a nurse when you need one

…The American Nurses Association has filed suit against HHS, saying the agency has not enforced Medicare’s nurse per patient regulations.

…The ANA alleges that the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO-"Jayco," always a mouthful) has lower standards than Medicare when it comes to staffing of nurses.

…Medicare says there must be “immediate availability.” Talk to anyone who has been in the hospital—that is stretching it. Maybe, theoretical availability.

…The suit was brought in Washington State. HHS says they have not yet received it.

…There is also a rumor going around that JCAHO is changing its name to just “Joint Commission” (pronounced “juk”?). It’s all about generics these days.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Do you speak medical?


…According to Nancy Paull, president of Health Literacy Solutions in Fort Lauderdale, recent testing showed 191 million Americans cannot do the following.

…Calculate an employee’s share of health insurance costs for a year, using a table that shows how the employee’s monthly cost varies depending on income and family size.

…Evaluate information to determine which legal document is applicable to a specific health care situation.

…OK, this skunks HA already.

..Then Paull notes (this is not pretty): Almost half (47%) of adults cannot determine a healthy weight range for a person of a specified height, based on a graph that relates height and weight to body mass index (BMI).

…Or find the age range during which children should receive a particular vaccine, using a chart that shows all the childhood vaccines and the ages children should receive them. (OK, HA could do this one, whew!)

…Determine what time a person can take a prescription medication, based on information on the prescription drug label that relates the timing of medication to eating.

… (HA also wonders, do people think 3 times a day means every eight hours, or 3 times during waking hours—please comment and tell her.)

…Identify three substances that may interact with an over-the-counter drug to cause a side effect, using information on the over-the-counter drug label.

..Health Literacy is part of patient safety planning for hospitals and docs, according to Paull—or should be anyway.

…Does your doctor speak your language and do you speak his or hers? Can you make sense of these insurance plans and clipboards?

…Everyone can be speaking English—and still not communicate. And plenty of people are not even speaking English. This can be life or death.

.. For results of the recent NCES health literacy study, go to http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2006483.

…To reach Nancy Paull, go to http://healthlit.blogspot.com.

…HA thinks we all could do better. She takes care of her aged mother and still cannot communicate well with some medical personnel or memorize the benefits of her plan, her daughter's plan, and her mother's plan.

…They aren’t even Greek or written in Greek. But it’s all Greek to her sometimes.

Fear itself

…Michael Schulman, writing in The New Yorker (Oct 30, 2006), says a theatre director put up haunted houses in the five boroughs of NY, each appealing to the particular fears of that populace.

…Ever get the feeling someone could use a new hobby?

…First, he polled people in these areas about their worse nightmares. (He’s afraid of getting stuck in a cave and his partner in this project is afraid of being eaten alive.)

…People from the Bronx and Queens feared things that might happen, such as being mugged (harpaxophobia).

…Manhattanites were afraid of unlikely occurrences such as flying sharks and an elevator that rockets through the roof of a building. Where do they FIND these people?

…Some fear the homeless. More practical types feared becoming homeless.

…One house was based on fear of eating…bad sour smells of rotting food…a woman pretending her eat her own insides.

…They translated a fear of Howdy Doody into a fear of dummies that can think.

…For fear of insects, they glued thousands of dead roaches to a wall.

…Fear of heights? A picture of someone falling, sound efx of Splat.

…Nobody said they were afraid of death. HA guesses they were more afraid of this guy!

…Seriously? The new hobby deal? Think about it.

Monday, November 06, 2006

School nurses on the run


…School nurses, remember them? They had a little cot in there, they took your temperature, they maybe even called Mom.

…According to Jeffrey Zaslow (WSJ, Nov 2, 2006), nurses usually aren’t stationed all day in any one school and they often have heavy-duty responsibilities, such as monitoring blood sugar and dispensing meds to kids.

…One parent in this story clocked how long it would take for the nurse to get between her two assigned schools should this woman’s grandson have lapsed into a diabetic coma.

…Her grandson would be brain dead before the nurse got there, she said.

…Federal guidelines require that each school nurse cover only 750 kids, but some care for as many as 2,000.

…Nowadays nurses work out of their cars and don’t sit in a nice little office waiting for some kid to hurl.

…They insert feeding tubes for kids and tamp down asthma attacks in addition to checking out the scrape.

…A fifth of kids need the nurse each day for a medical visit.

…Some nurses even have to create a terrorism plan or pack necessities in case of violence in school that would cause people to flee.

…”Selectively abandoning” some chores, as they put it, nurses may no longer check for tooth decay, vision, or hearing.

…Before a recent field trip, a nurse was besieged by kids asking for the epi-pens and inhalers.

…Their budgets are being slashed right and left, while some schools still have money for football and sports.

…The grandmother mentioned above? She likes the school nurse and knows she would run a red if she had to in order to save her grandson.

…Uh, is it just HA, or is this strictly the school’s responsibility?

Lolly folly--drug, not candy


…Usually HA is sorta take-it-or-leave-it with this health news, but a story by John Carreyou in the WSJ (Nov 3, 2006), torqued her big time!

…A heavy-duty narcotic called fentanyl is incorporated into a lollipop called Actiq. Make no mistake—we're talking big drugs here.

…Some doc prescribed this stuff to a pregnant woman with migraines and pretty soon she was slobbering down five a day and her baby was born addicted.

…She said she was pain-free and happy and euphoric. No kidding, honey!

…Beside passing through the placenta, this stuff can kill ya. 127 peeps have died, including two kids who thought it was a real lollipop.

…It’s for cancer pain. Yet, only 1% of the prescriptions are coming from oncologists.

…We all know it is being misused and abused, said one health plan exec.

…Yet the maker, Cephalon, sends its reps into the offices of all sorts of docs, not just cancer specialists.

…Apparently this company is pretty notorious for off-label marketing.

…One doc says the Cephalon rep visits once a month and gives him 60 to 70 gift certificates worth six lollipops each to dole out to patients.

…The woman who gobbled these while pregnant—she was later arrested for forging a prescription for them. She says her son has shed the effects, though, although she needed to go on methadone and then to a detox center.

…Her doctor now thinks maybe it was not quite the thing to prescribe.

…Listen to HA now. Don’t be a sucker!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Cinnamon and other "good" foods


…People with type 2 diabetes, it turns out, might benefit from taking a cinnamon extract capsule a few times a day.

…A study of 79 people with diabetes who took the cinnamon in addition to their usual medications, saw a 10% reduction in blood sugar levels vs 3% for those on the placebo.

…Oh, by the way, red hots and gooey cinnamon buns—those probably aren’t the greatest way for diabetics to get their daily dose.

…Other food items climbing the health charts include pomegranate juice. A small study in Israel showed that drinking 6 oz every day for 6 mos cut the risk of clogged arteries in people with diabetes. The sugars in the juice may be attached to super-antioxidants that help prevent clogging.

….Lemonade is also good to prevent kidney stones, according to some docs. But HA recently wrote about this and other doctors pooh-poohed this.

…Noni juice is some high-powered weirdie from the tropics, which is said to lower cholesterol and triglycerides in smokers, and even retard tumors. Ixnay on it if you have kidney problems—it’s loaded with potassium. Ixnay on it also if you have financial problems—it’s spendy!

Ow, your achin'

…The National Athletic Trainers’ Association recommends 10 steps to prevent back pain.

…HA woke up with this a few years ago and called the doctor. They said not even to come in, that is was normal when you got old.

…Well, that advice got old!

…To prevent back pain, realize that your body may be out of alignment, with powerful muscle groups tensing up and pulling more in one direction than another. Are you stressed, sitting all crabbed over?

…Make yourself mobile. Stretch, walk, do yoga, swim, try tai chi or Pilates.

…Increase your strength, especially in the core muscles in the stomach, back, hips, and pelvis.

…Add aerobic exercise 20 mins a day 3 times a week—get your heart rate up.

…Watch that posture! Get up every 15-30 mnutes. Buy a new chair.

…Stand up straight—uncoil your neck and shoulders. Make a conscious effort.

…When lifting something heavy off the floor, bend your legs, keep your back straight, hold the item as close to you as possible and flex the big thigh muscles to do the work.

…Sleep on a decent mattress.

…Warm up before doing anything physical. Increase muscle temperature.

…Of course, lose weight and stop smoking. That’s a given, though it’s hard gettin’ it.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Keeping patients safe--maybe


…According to Laura Landro (WSJ, Nov 1, 2006), a coalition of health care purchasers (companies), quality groups and govt agencies have endorsed a list of 30 safe practices for hospitals to use.

…This list replaces one done in 2003 and includes the requirement that hosps disclose medical errors, adopt some tested programs to prevent errors when a patient is handed over to the next nursing shift, and implement a program of evaluating non-nursing personnel.

…The list also reminds docs and staff of previous recommendations, such as marking the limb to be operated or writing “not this one” on the limb to be left intact. Apparently not everyone was doing this.

…There are no excuses (for hospitals) anymore, one expert said.

…You can check out the list at www.qualityforum.org.

…Already, according to this story, administrators and govt types are worrying that they are asking hosps to do too much at one time.

…Most hosps may end up implementing the recommendations that will bring the biggest improvements.

…Or at least that is the hope.

…HA always feels like she is in a hotel with needles and if she died, no one would take it any more personally or even know her name any more than a hotel maid would.

...How's that for warm fuzzies about hospitals?

Look good, feel good, cash or credit

…The docs are going in the spa biz, according to Gary Haber, writing in the Wilmington, Delaware News Journal.

…Smoothing brows and filling cracks are looking good to physicians, compared with crummy reimbursements for some medical procedures.

…For one thing, most of it is cash business from rich women.

…These medical spas offer Botox and laser face sanding in addition to massages and facials.

…One family doctor (not a plastic surgeon or dermatologist) opened a spa next to her regular doctor’s office.

…No paperwork, no HMOS, they love it!

…There may already be 2,500 of these hybrid places out there.

…The people who leave are happy instead of worried and upset. One doc said this was a plus.

…But once our doctors have been through the golden door, will they want to treat our cancer and colds and go to the mat with our insurers?

…HA guesses it’s harmless enough if they don’t start cutting people open over the shampoo sink.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Killer beauty products


…Every morning, many women, including HA, are happy to slap wads of chemicals onto their skin.

…Happy! Grateful! Empowered!

…But, alas, some chemicals don’t know whether they are in a liquid makeup or a pesticide. It’s all the same to them.

…One in every 125 kids is allergic to peanuts, yet according to the National Toxic Encephalopathy Foundation, Clarins Ultra Protection Sun Control Stick is loaded with hydrogenated peanut oil.

….These brain doctors hate Clarins for “deceptive labeling” and are especially ticked by Angel Perfume by Theirry Mugler.

…Angel Perfume, they fume, has not been tested for safety. This particular scent, the docs claim, has the potential to cause damage to mucus membranes, irritation to the eyes, and even brain or kidney damage. Lung and skin damage are not out of the question, either.

…The culprit would be benzophenone-2, which is also used as a pesticide. Another ingredient in Angel Perfume is diethyl phthalate, which attacks the brain and lungs.

…Every spritz, the docs say, adds more to your supply, which is stored in the body.
Then one fine day—arg.

…Can Clarins be the worst?. Can the others be much better?

…HA is stricken. She loves her cosmetics and scents and will probably still slather and spray.

…But she promises to worry.

Medical traffic controllers?

…Kate Murphy, writing in the NYT (Oct 31, 2006), says some ERs are consulting with pilots about how to run their ERs more efficiently and safely.

…They are interested in how the aviation industry has worked to prevent accidents.

…Communication protocols, checklists, and briefings—all can be borrowed from the airport.

…Almost 100,000 people die each year from preventable medical errors. Others get the wrong limb removed or some other pathetic screwup.

…Such mistakes are a failure of communication and leadership, not of a shortage of money.

…In the operating room, the surgeon is often the boss and people defer. In the cockpit, the crew confers rather than defers.

…Aviation people are taught to recognize human factors such as fatigue, they listen, they resolve conflicts.

…Pilots also practice in simulators and have annual competency and fitness reviews.

…Then after all this, they are getting their salaries and benefits cut and must make money consulting with hospitals.

…Still, that can’t be a bad thing overall.

…Pilots and physicians tend to be skilled and Type A. They rely on technology.

…As one dean at Stanford pointed out, “Both (jobs) involve hours of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror.”

…Still, some docs think the two professions differ in important ways. Aviation errors, they say, are easier to attribute to someone. The doctors fear for their licenses and standing, which causes them to downplay events.

…Trying to equate the two in terms of changing ER procedures can result in bad training, one doctor said.

…Or rather, he said, “Appallingly bad.”

…Checklists and debriefings seem to hold promise, though.

…One surgeon dissed the lists in this article as “lame and weak,” but an anesthesiologist said checklists were catching problems everyday.