Monday, December 31, 2007

When kiddies take the T-Bird away


…HA is in the sandwich generation big time, clamped between a still-at-home 20-something and half-responsibility for taking care of her mother (shared with her sister).

…HA’s mom never drove. And HA herself also does not drive. But she has many friends who are facing their parents’ scary driving years and wondering what will happen.

…Sooner or later, most of us need to extract head from sand and face the fact that people cannot drive safely into their 80s, 90s, and as one TV commercial ridiculously shows, 100-pluses.

…Recently, AARP took on these issues in its AARP Bulletin (Nov 2007) in a story by Reed Karaim. HA has written about this for WebMD, also.

…Reflexes slow as one ages, attention wanders, even the physical ability to hold onto the wheel can be compromised by arthritis and other ailments or meds. You need a flexible neck, strong arms and hands, and a sharp mind. Even decades of experience cannot compensate for the lack of these.

…Car design can help some—better mirror placement, driver seat positioning (at least 3 inches over the steering wheel, even if the person has shrunk), and reliable seatbelts are examples.

…If your parent has had some fender benders and is vague on them or you have noticed some other sign of faltering ability, AARP offers refresher driving courses (www.aarp.org/drive). Also check out CarFit at www.asaging.org/asav2/carfit.

….You also may be able to find a physical therapist specializing in driver fitness at www.aota.org/olderdriver.

…If you think your parent will freak out if the subject of turning over the car keys is raised, have their doctor broach it.

…Some states require retesting more frequently as people get older. See what help is available there.

….And do some research on Ride On buses, cabs, shuttles, drivers from health insurance plans, and other resources that could fill the gap for your parent.

…But recognize, that for people used to their independence, this is a huge transition. Expect a lot of discussion.

…Or more accurately, in some cases, shouting.

…And guess who is doing more chauffeuring.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Frozen Shoulder--brrr


…For some reason, ever since HA read about Frozen Shoulder in a story by Lauran Neergaard of the AP, she has been encountering people talking about their bum shoulders. HA’s mother also was warned at one point that she might have it.

…What is Frozen Shoulder?

…Neergaard calls it the Curse of Middle-Aged Women (like we don’t have enough of those).

…FS happens when the shoulder’s smooth lining becomes so inflamed it “resembles cherry Jell-O,” as Neergard puts it.

…Ewww.

…It’s really called adhesive capsulitis in doc-speak. Sooner or later (bet on later), 2-3% of the population will get it, the majority women. Diabetics are at 20% more risk, and underactive thyroid can also be a risk factor, as can a trauma.

…FS is not a rotator cuff injury—and the cure for that can make FS worse. Charming.

…Oine doctor says if sufferers come early enough (qithin 2-3 mos after it starts), she can inject some cortisone, give the shoulder a nice twist and if it lifts up over shoulder height, not only did they have FS, but it is now cured!

…And if it doesn’t lift up? HA shudders.

…If you wait too long, it can linger on for years. The early cortisone, apparently, prevents collagen buildup.

…Too aggressive physical therapy can also make it worse. PT is what HA’s Mom got for the rotator cuff. But she also got the cortisone shots.

…Go know.

…The bottomline, though, seems to be if you wake up and can’t lift your arm and it doesn’t ease out, consider the doctor for that nice twist.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Welcome to Ramen World


…For the sake of argument, let’s say you don’t want to eat Kraft Dinner at every meal (80 cents for four servings). Even HA tires of the Orange Stuff.

…That means meat, cheese, fruit and veggies.

….Writing in the NYT, Tara Parker-Pope says some Univ of Washington researchers checked out 370 foods in local supermarkets. (J of Am Dietetic Assn.)

…Higher calorie, energy-dense foods are a better bargain for the cash strapped. These foods cost $1.76 per 1000 cals. Low cal but nutritious foods, on the other and, cost $18.16 per 1000 calories.

…Tara isn’t having any of it, though. She points out that a pound of lentils costs about 60 cents and you can get 10-15 meals from it.

…Yeah--10 to 15 meals of LENTILS! Aren’t we more spoiled than that?

…And bulk foods like that require COOKING. Cooking requires culinary skill. (HA concedes some of you may possess that.)

…So then you are back to looking at the $10 packs of chicken breasts to liven things up.

…Remember when these were around $4.50? HA is geezin.’

…Eggs went from 89 cents to $1.35 in the last year. Gas prices to tote this stuff around aren’t helping. Bread is up 16%. Coffee—up 10%.

…Still an omelet is a pretty tasty bargain—coming in around HA’s standard of $2 or less per serving.

…Wonder if our lovable politicians ever have to contend with this—or if someone else steps up and pays the bill for the corndog they pretend to eat at the photo op.

…HA knows many dietitians will start sputtering and say it’s better to eat simple, nonprocessed foods.

…But those are the ones zipping up the price scale.

…Mac with no cheese, anyone? Hold the lettuce, which has to be shipped with high cost gas and picked by a dwindling force of cheap labor.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Yuk-tropical diseases moving north


…Writing in the NYT on Dec 23, 2007, Elisabeth Rosenthal talks about a little village of 2,000 in Italy suddenly beset by a disease featuring high fevers and excruciating bone pain. People thought they were dying. A hundred people got it.

…People were so sick they could not stand or feed themselves.

…Doctors were stumped and the people started blaming water pollution and immigrants.
(Seriously, we have to watch this immigrant blaming deal, it’s getting out of hand.)

…Finally, someone discovered this was a tropical disease called chikungunya.

…No—HA hadn’t either!

…And the “immigrants” had six legs. It’s a virus spread by mosquitoes.

…To be specific, the tiger mosquito seems to be finding Europe a warm, atttractive place.

…Now, the charming fountains in the city’s gardens have been replaced with mosquito traps.

…Some sufferers still have arthritis pain from the disease. And summer is coming again.

…What’s next—malaria in New York?

…Al Gore, call your service. Pronto.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Eat like a peasant


…HA once went on a press trip to Majorca and looked out on the satiny, grayish Mediterranean. The conference was on the benefits of olive oil—and for years, HA noshed on EVOO as much as possible, then sort of got away from it.

…She may return. Writing on the benefits of the Mediterranean diet in the Jan-Feb AARP Mag, Melissa Gotthardt cites a new NIH/AARP study that shows that sticking with Greek and Southern Italian eating patterns cuts the risk of death from all causes by 20%.

…You don’t have to die!

…Quite a recommendation.

…First, you have to eat plenty of fruits and veggies (is there an echo in here—that is what everyone says). Included in this are beans, peas, and other legumes. Do you think legume is a funny word—HA does.

…Nuts—chow down on nuts (remember, though—they are caloric.)

…Healthy fats (where olive oil comes in) is good.

…Red wine—you can drink it.

…Whole grains…bread, pasta, rice.

…HA remembers the speakers at her meeting saying meat and fish should be the side dish.

…Look for green stuff. It contains nutrients, such as B vitamins and folate, that cut cancer risk, according to reputable studies.

…Learn to like fish or eat more of it. This is good for your heart and may prevent Alz.

…Lay off excess salt and spice things more. Sage, organo…you won’t even miss the white stuff.

…Tomato sauce is also good…Try a little Italian, some fish, a nut or two…

…By little Italian, HA does not mean a cute Italian guy. But that is an idea, too, and gives new meaning to the term Mediterranean Diet.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Hospitalists...hmmm


…HA hopes you have no idea what a hospitalist is. That would mean you had not been hospitalized within the last few years and found out that your regular doctor will not take care of you or maybe even learn you are there.

…Uh-oh, HA is being mean to doctors again. Well, she has her reasons. She has run into hospitalists who barely speak English, want to prescribe things for her without even coming into the room, and who are not as accessible and hip to hospital routines as they are billed to be.

…This specialty is the fastest growing—and a recent study showed that hospitalists can reduce the average hospital stay 12% (let’s see, why do insurance companies love them again? And often insist on their use?).

…Tufts looked into this and found that a hospitalist managing your care can take half a day off the average stay.

…Despite their rep for hospital savvy, multitasking, and management skills, hospitalists in this study were shown not to save much money—it was speculated this was because they had to redo tests you might have had done at your doctor’s office (and of which they would know nothing).

…You as the patient are being handed, often abruptly, to a stranger, when you are sickest, then back to your doctor when you are discharged. What information has been sent back with you about your hospital stay? Sometimes only what you can convey yourself.

…HA remembers her first hospitalist encounter. She was a pleasant young woman from Eastern Europe, good English, but HA had no idea who she was. HA kept asking for her doctor—and this woman had never heard of him. Finally HA called her doctor’s office—and the nurse said, “Your doctor does not come anymore. They will take care of you.”

…HA also remembers some hospitalist saying she needed blood plasma, which can be a little scary because of the diseases it can transmit, even though it is screened. The man had never even seen or talked to HA!

…She demanded he talk to her about it. Oh, he had left, but eventually his partner came in standing on one foot and the other, dying to leave.

…HA said, “I am not numbers in a chart or some case in the New Engliand Journal of Medicine! I am a person!”

…When she got out of the hospital, her regular doctor had no clue about any of this. When HA complained about being “abandoned,” he sent her a registered letter saying she was no longer his patient.

...She found a primary physician who says he still rounds in the hospital.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Eye yes or no


…Look good, feel good. That’s criminally sappy, but true.

…Especially now, with one eye gone dark (more or less) from a detached retina, HA is eye-conscious and at the same time, cannot lard on the goop.

…As we race around to parties (or YOU do), Real Simple magazine has some tips for dropping the eye luggage and looking rested.

…Those crow’s feet are caused by collagen under the skin decreasing with age and not fluffing up the wrinkles. Use an eye cream in the morning or at night. Use one that mentions collagen, not just an eye moisturizer. Be sure it contains a sun screen if you use concealer in the morning.

…If you do have lines and wrinkles, don’t use concealer—it can make the wrinkles stand out.

…For puffiness, watch the salty foods and apply a cold compress to your eyes for 10 minutes before going out in the evening. Put some teaspoons in the fridge and lay them over your eyes. Cold wet teabags can also be soothing, though they irritate some people.

…HA also gets a little camomile ointment stick from a cheap beauty catalog that comes every so often. It works. http://beautyboutique.com/cgi-bin/beauty/postkey_find.html?keywords=1169199

…If you are older, forget the metallic or shimmery eye shadow.

…If you are prone to dark circles under your eyes, plump the area away from the veins that are showing with an eye cream. If you use a concealer there, be careful. Find one with a yellow undertone to cancel out the purplish dark areas.

…You can make the whole area look better with mascara—and it can even substitute for garish eye shadows.

…HA doesn’t like the hairy lengthening kind with little fibers in it—do you?

…Better yet—and more economical—smile a lot and back away slowly from the glitter.

...By the way, don't automatically head to the dept store for this stuff. HA's ex- used to work on a cosmetic assembly line in NJ and said they made the same stuff for the big names as the drugstore brands. It just depended on which label they were using that day.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Desk reference for pets


…Aw, don’t get ‘em in a bunch—HA knows the difference between people and animals.

…Or at least she has heard there is one.

…But if your pets are members of your “primary social group,” you may want to buy the new Merck manual…Merck/Merial Manual for Pet Health: Home Edition.

…Writing in the NYT (Dec 18, 2007), Erica Goode says the new tome will do for our animal buds what the revered Merck health bible has done for people.

…And that would be provide useful information, as well as endless light reading for hypochondriacs.

…This thing is almost 1,400 pages long.

…In it you will learn about weird diseases that affect baby birds, what to do if your pet is shot with an arrow (uh-uh, don’t yank it out), causes of liver injuries in horses, and other arcana, in addition to tips for selecting a pet and providing a good home. (Sugar gliders chirp all night, so they might not be for you.)

…Let’s face it. We love our animals in this country. Almost 70 million households have at least one pet.

…This thing started out being for vets and it is written by vets. But it is for regular people—giving them much fodder for concern when fretting over their own health gets old.

…And you know that fretting. It’s bad for ya.

…Incidentally, although HA has a dog and three cats of the fur inclination, she recently hooked up with a two-dimensional dog, a purebred Clipart called Scribbles. Check this out: http://www.writerscatablog.com and http://scribblesthedog.wordpress.com.

…If Scribbles gets a paper cut, HA will whip out her Merck.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Old wives use their noodles


…According to the Mayo Clinic, sometimes it’s okay to use funky little home remedies instead of big flashies.

…Chicken soup, for instance. Ironically inclined docs have done some studies and found that it does contain anti-inflammatories, The miracle meal also flushes out nasal congestion an makes your whole chest feel warm and pleasant. Oh—and canned soups work just as well.

…HA had a bug last week and craved ramen—it had the same effect.

…If you have dry, itchy skin, grind up some oatmeal and sprinkle the fine power in the tub and turn on water full force. Soak as needed.

…If your drain plugs up, lose HA’s email.

…Milk of magnesia can cure a canker sore—dab on 3-4 times a day. This is also good for itchy seborrhea on your forehead.

…Duct tape—they recently found—can help remove warts. Put a piece on for 6 days, peel off and soak the little devil in water and use a pumice stone.

…Aloe—even from a split leaf from your houseplant or cactus in the yard (in HA’s case)--can help a minor burn. HA remembers her daughter getting a curling iron burn and running out in the back yard to get the cure.

…And just today, HA read that a teaspoon of honey can soothe a child’s cough as well or better than the commercial goo. (No honey for babies under age 1, though.)

…Got any others you like, guys?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Pitfalls of the white powders


…Nah, not cocaine. Something more insidious—artificial sweeteners. Every place you go, there they are—the pink, blue, and yellow packets.

…HA is suspicious of ersatz edibles.

…Writing a special story for the LA Times (Nov 19, 2007), Emily Sohn says many Americans are leery of these “almost too good to be true” substances. Researchers come up with links to cancer every so often, but follow-up studies always soothe us, saying not to worry.

…Meanwhile one hundred million Americans consume an average of four artifically sweetened products each day.

…The first to get the hairy eyeball was saccharine.

..Recently, Italian scientists said aspartame causes cancer in rats. Similar studies have raised fears about Splenda (sucralose).

…One scientist said, look what happened when scientists got in the food game—Kool-Aid and Velveeta.

…But the other end of the spectrum is also bogus—organic food is not coming out of pristine soil, with little Disney birds carrying banners overhead.

…Now, of course, they are trying to meld “natural” with artificial—this would be stevia, a sweetener from a plant, not yet FDA-approved for use in foods.

…All of these products trick the tongue into tasting sweetness by triggering certain molecules.

…One problem with this is that these chemicals may not add calories, but they up the craving for sweets so much that if you get your mitts on a real-sugar product, you may flip and gobble too much.

…Eating “diet” foods has not been shown to help much with weight loss.

…As ever, it’s your call. HA, personally, puts sugar in her java. Sugar has been around a few millennia.

...If that's not a test of time, what is?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Is your doctor wired?


…The other day, HA experienced a minor miracle. She faxed her doctor a note and he had someone call with an answer—all within the same day.

…Julie Deardorff wrote about this subject in her blog on the Chicago Tribune’s website. Check out Julie’s Health Club at http://featuresblogs.chicagotribune.com.

…Julie says only half the nation’s docs have interactive websites--the kind where you can schedule or cancel, refill a prescription, print out those tired clipboard forms and fill them out ahead of time, etc.

…Some physicians, however, experienced the lightbulb over the head and realized this is a good way for patients to check test results (one of HA’s docs says wait two weeks before calling) and ask non-urgent questions.

…(How can I make this bleeding stop, by the way, would not be a non-urgent question.)

…Some doctors are even blogging and creating educational podcasts.

…The latter is good—their post-op instructions are usually horrible—photocopied off websites or out of textbooks.

…One daring type even texts with patients—and makes housecalls. He also engages in video chats. Assuming everyone ponies up for a camera soon, this could catch on.

…One expert Deardorff quotes says the doctor’s willingness to learn this and do it shows how confdent they are. Does your doctor stand up to respectful criticism?

…Some patients worry that this will cut face time with the doc. But how much do you usually get anyway? Think about it.

…The International Association of Dental and Medical Doctors offers docs websites at a discount. They can even get a dot-MD designation.

…HA googles docs before she sees them. She also checks with the medical examining board online for lawsuits and to see where the doctor went to school.

…One doc has an online store. She is a dermie, so you can imagine—high-end beauty products. But a doctor’s “store” boggles the imagination,and with HA, that is not easy, that boggling thing.

…Now if her doctors would just call with those darn test results.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Food and clothing now an item?


…Leaving aside the edible panties, have we had a lot of clothing with food value?

…Now, a company called Tehama has clothes to “make you feel as good as you look.” They are selling shirts enriched with Vitamin C—that supposedly “infuse” the vitamin into the wearer’s skin.

…These duds are also UPF 30.

…I asked the rep how this would work. But got no answer.

…HA has heard varying reports on whether Vitamin C can be absorbed through the skin in makeup form. Some say no.

…Tehama is a fancy golf club in Carmel, CA. They have a high-end line of casual clothes.

…I know being on the golf course in the sun will cause your body to make Vitamin D,
but Vitamin C from your golf shirt?

…What do you think? What about washing the clothes? Does it cut the nutritional value?

…HA does see potential for clothes that provide energy and jammies that put you to sleep.

…Can you think of other adaptations?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

What if the anesthetic didn't work?


…HA had this happen—briefly—on one eye surgery. It was not numbed…She FELT it and was awake and talking so she could point that out immediately. Make that BEFORE immediately. They knocked her out again to restick the eye with needles.

…In all fairness, in all her other surgeries, it occurred to her that she might not go under, then blackness…out!

…But now there is a movie out called ‘Awake’ in which a guy feels a scalpel cut into his skin. (His doctors are trying to kill him, which may be a spoiler, so this was not a mistake.)

…But HA has seen stories on cable about the anesthetic not working sometimes. Although she tries not to freak you out or lead you astray, HA is mentioning this because the NYT dealt with the impact of the movie on medical practice.

…Melissa Lafsky wrote the story (Dec 11, 2007). This happens. It’s called anesthetic awareness—the patient is not far enough under.

…The American Society of Anesthesiologists warned their members to be aware of the movie. They didn’t like the line, “’Awake’ will do for surgery what ‘Jaws’ did for swimming in the ocean.”

…Yeah, good one.

…The problem is, when you are under full anesthesia, you may also be paralyzed with a breathing tube down your throat. You can’t show that something is awry. The number of people who experience this each year may be 20,000 to 40,000 of the 21 million patients who undergo anesthesia. Someone else changed this to 1,400. Quite a spread there.

…If this worries you, ask when the anesthesiogist comes around for that little “chat” before your surgery. Tell him or her about any other problems or incidents you have had. Spit it out—ask. HA believes there are ways the anesthsiologist can tell from your heart activity that you might be too lightly sedated.

…If this is freaking you out just reading this, HA says, don’t see the movie.

…Movies aren't the best way to learn about medical matters. Would you consult Hannibal Lecter for recipes?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Different day, same old slop


…When you serve your family, do you talk up the food?

…In the Wayback, people used to have “nights.” Monday was hot dogs, Tuesday was store-bought pizza, and so on. Do you still do that?

…Of course, that is not the point of this post. Moving on…

…Brian Wansink, director of the Cornell Univ Food and Brand Lab, in his column on msnbc.com, says glorifying food with tasty descriptions helps people try and appreciate new things.

…This sneaky practice has a name, of course—confirmation bias.

…Wansink, author of Mindless Eating, says we can preprogram people to think something tastes good.

…HA remembers traveling once to her aunt’s goat farm and worrying all the way that she would have to drink goat’s milk. Her parents blandly said, “Oh, it’s Louisville
Dairy milk.” Years later, HA discovered—it WAS nanny goat product.

…Oh, there are reasons HA is bitter. But again she digresses.

…This researcher did a study of sorts. Wansink and his colleagues offered six different foods to cafeteria diners. Instead of red beans and rice, they said, “Traditional Cajun Red Beans with Rice” and instead of “seafood fillet,” they said, “Succulent Italian Seafood Fillet.” Guess which was gobbled up faster?

…Wansink says this is especially effective with kids (see? SEE? HA was a kid on the ill-fated Louisville run). Preschoolers will eat broccoli if you call it a Dinosaur Tree or peas if they are called Power Peas.

…Even adults, though—look at your next restaurant menu. Does it say, “Mystery Meat”?
No, it says, “Meat Loaf, delicious comfort food like your mother used to make.”

…Or you will see things like, “Tasty melange of fresh veggies.”

…Not sucko-tash.

…Or “In a velvety, neon-orange sauce,” not Kraft Dinner.

…HA made that up. That seems to be the whole idea.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Bad humbug


…HA loves Christmas and Christmas trees.

…Yet, she has learned that some people are allergic to live trees.

…Not oaks or elms in the spring —but Christmas trees.

…Writing in the Baltimore Sun on Dec 6, 2007, Linda Shrieves says docs have long suspected Mr Tannenbaum over there for causing sniffles, sneezes, and sinus symptoms around the holidays.

…Allergists would tell people to take down their trees, but were greeted like latter day Grinches because they had no proof.

…Finally Connecticut allergist John Santilli placed a tree inside an intern’s apartment and took air samples for two weeks. For the first three days, Shrieves reports, mold counts were around 800 spores per cubic meter of air (normal is 500-700). By day 14, this had rocketed to 5,000.

…The longer the tree is up, the worse it gets.

…The mold is nature’s way of breaking down the dead tree.

…Canadian researchers also looked into this seasonal allergy and decided that as many as 7% of people with allergies may be allergic to their trees—though they blamed the resins.

…Nope, Santilli, says, mold.

…Well, the Christmas Tree Association has another take on it. Trees outside can collect allergens, they sniff, but so can artificial trees stored in basements.

…To HA’s knowledge no one has subjected an intern to artificial tree cooties. So the jury is out.

…Out here in Chandler, Arizona, the city makes a giant tree out of tumbleweeds. Sounds dorky, but it is actually sorta cool.

Friday, December 07, 2007

How to stick with the fitness thang


…This time of year, HA is wading through tons of stories on how to fill up on veggies before a party, only drink wine spritzers, etc.

…Every olive adds a pound or something. That can’t be right, but something like that. Certainly, a cup of eggnog will send you to the truck scales on the interstate.

…So this entry is not about that stuff—it’s about how to make yourself stay on your plan after the holidays—something to look forward to, you know.

…Rovenia M Brock, PhD, aka Dr Ro, has some ideas.

…First, buy cool gear. Look good, babies! The shoes, the outfit, ahhh.

…Make exercise a family activity—after dinner, on weekends.

…Start small. Ten minutes a day at first. If you get off the treadmill at the hols, start small again.

…Don’t wait for that first heart attack. Beat the rush.

…Notice small improvements and don’t peck away at them. Every pound is hard-won.

…Do it for three weeks. It takes three weeks to start a habit.

…If you slack, don’t beat yourself up. Just start again.

…For more rah-rah, go to www.everythingRo.com.

…Seriously, next year? HA is definitely standing up. Let’s see how that goes.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Makes shaking hands drafty


…Don’t get HA started on those horrible paper towel exam outfits doctors expect you to wear.

…Ooops, too late. She's started.

…Connie Midey, our intrepid medical reporter at the East Valley Tribune (Dec 4, 2007), took on the subject and got HA all riled up.

…First, Midey points out that even if you are lucky enough to get a cloth number, a crucial tie in back is always broken off or knotted into a Gordian horror.

…Doctors usually don’t bother with those cloth numbers anyway. Instead, the assistant, shivering herself in the frigid confines of “the little room,” hands you an assortment of paper towels to wear over your shame.

…These gowns are fine for the hospital—why goop up something you own and would have to replace? And it gives the staff a sense of power to be the only ones to figure out
the snap shoulder thingies allowing for removal over IVs.

…But how about that paper “vest” thing they hand women before a gyno exam? With a larger paper towel to go below. The paper is so stiff, the thing moves as a piece, up, down, in, out, gap, gap.

…All the while you are sitting there with your scars and cellulite hanging out while the fully clothed doc sits on a little stool below you staring upward into your stiff openings.

…God forbid you should have to walk next door or to a lab.

…One physician’s assistant said he kept his t-shirt and boxers on himself. Even though the gowns might have been laundered, he told Midey, he was put off that sick people had worn them. He may be in the wrong line of work—but also..HA had not thought of that! Oh, ick.

…Changes maybe coming…kimonos, drawstring pants, or ankle length gowns that at least cover your butt.

…Yeah, sure. Take a deep breath and hold it.

…Sometimes doctors don’t have you change until they talk to you and see what exams might be needed. Another doc HA had once always met with you fully clothed after the exam for the discussion period.

…Midey even suggests bring your own gown. Personally, HA does not plan to see the doctor that often.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Brrap--skinny on heartburn


…Everybody thinks they have GERD these days. Writing in the NYT on Nov 8, 2007, Peter Jaret talks about the huge wave of gastroesophageal reflux disease people are being talked into.

…Millions of people now think they have an incurable disease that leads to even more…stern voice on TV commercial…”serious conditions” like cancer.

…Hold up a minute.

…Heartburn occurs when the valve between the esophagus and stomach relaxes without your permission and acid spills upward. Almost everyone experiences it sometimes.

…Over the years, doctors thought, the acid would erode the lining of the esophagus, leading to a precancerous condition called Barrett’s esophagus.

…Of course, the truth was slipperier. Some people with horrible heartburn have no damage. Some people with damage have no heartburn.

…Only 10 to 15% of heartburn cases have GERD with signs of damage. Even when there is damage, it usually doesn’t get worse and worse.

…For occasional heartburn, antacids like Tums and Maalox are fine. Drugs called H2 blockers are prescribed for mild, recurring episodes. For more severe cases, proton pump inhibitors may be suggested.

…People with documented damage (tube down the throat to assess) may need daily meds. Other stay on meds because the TV ads scare them.

…Proton pump inhbitors have been linked to increased chance of hip fractures.

…It isn’t prudent to take stuff you don’t need. Auntie HA said so.

…Incidentally, giving up certain foods like coffee, chocolate and spices has not been shown to help much. Raising the head of the bed can help a little.

…Of course, the doctor will also say to lose weight. When don’t they say that?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Well, there's fun and then there's fun


…John Morley, MD, is a prof at St Louis Univ and author The Science of Staying Young.

…HA wonders if you have to actually BE young to work at being young this much.

…Aw, kidding.

…He says feeling young does not have to be a chore. You can eat dark chocolate and drink wine and maybe do other things.

…OK, HA is listening.

…Things like fidget in your office chair. Oh.

…Work in your garden (sorry, HA’s is a desert death pie).

…Go dancing. HA prefers the Tucker Carlson approach—chair dancing.

…Take the stairs….

…Oh, these park far from the store and take the stairs deals have been around, what else..?

…Eat a nutritious, balanced diet. What else?

…Do Sudoku. HA does not know what that is and probably won’t be finding out.

…Screen for cancer…OK, not as much fun as promised…

…Stay on your feet. Probably good advice—HA is turning into the Tin Woman.

…Schedule a checkup.

…With a doctor? HA avoids that and anyway, they found out too many people are glowing in the dark from CT scans.

…OK, a mammogram. Weirdly, HA’s health plan gave a $15 Target gift certificate to any member who got her mammogram. She likes this new bribery angle. Health plans should do more of it.

…But let’s get back to the chocolate part.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Dirty job


…Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigators at Stanford are studying…er,
infant droppings.

…You thought your job blew at times.

…Lucky volunteer parents in Silicon Valley (nannies more likely) collect the “evidence.”

…They call it the poop project, so we might as well use the P-word.

…The idea is to see what bacteria newborns have onboard. They collect samples for a year.

…Families got little freezers in case they didn’t want the science stuff near the ice cream.

…Researchers and parents actually bonded and decided thhis was fun. Oh, heck, why not?

…Mom’s also supplied samples of internal secretions prior to labor to see what baby might be picking up on the way out.

…Babies apparently are born with a sterile intestinal tract. But the bacteria swarm in in short order. A normal adult has 10 times as many bacterial cells as human cells.

…Each baby was different, but fraternal twins showed the most similarity. Could genetics and the environment work together to establish these colonies?

…In the end, certain bacteria live well inside us and tend to get established.

…The 14 families did this for a year. HA once estimated that each kid messes up 5,000 diapers.

…At least this was for the cause of science.

Friday, November 30, 2007

You might not be a hothead


…Do you think 98.6 Fahrenheit is a normal temperature?

…Silly puppy.

…In 1851, Carl Rienhold August Wunderlich started using a thermometer in his office.

...Earlier, two French doctors had stuck a needle into a guy’s muscle to show that when he sawed wood, his muscle was hotter than the rest of him. Those same French guys said normal body temp (they figured) was 98.5.

…Wunderlich got curious and took 25,000 people’s temperatures with a foot-long thermometer (under their arms, in case your mind was wandering over there).

…That was 10,000 days of temp taking. This was one curious guy.

…Then he averaged them (no computer) and got 98.6. See!? Not .5, but .6! Take that, French guys!

…Now, some observant docs have noticed that temperature varies throughout the day.

…Someone in Baltimore took the temps of 148 men and women over 3 days (slackers!) and it came to an average of 98.2.

…Still, they added that women were hotter than men (98.4 to 98.1) and blacks were hotter than whites (98.2 to 98.1).

…Children are warmer than adults. Seniors are cool (heh)—97.8 on average just before bed, at night, the hottest time in the old human body.

…Finally someone dug out Wunderlich’s thermometer. Wouldn’t ya know—too high.

…HA has known for years that her normal is lower than 98.6. How about you?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Let's not give the gift of death this Christmas


…Deadly toys. With everything cool being manufactured in foreign lands
these days (cough, China, cough), parents have to be careful.

…Can we depend on the govt to police this? Apparently not, with little toy dots turning into date rape drugs when mixed with toddler saliva. And toy trains coated with lead paint.

…According to the Wall Street Journal (Nov. 26, 2007), Toys R Us now requires suppliers to identify the name of the factory in China and to certify items have been tested. What real good does either do? HA heas read that suppliers are told not to use dangerous materials, but do anyway to save money.

…J C Penney is retesting toys itself—going back 2 yrs.

…Wal-Mart has been sending 200 toys a day to labs for testing.

…Still last week alone, 19 toys examined by an environmental group came up with lead levels.

…Bills are in state legislatures to increase fines and apply stricter testing.

…Everyone seems to think the Consumer Product Safety Commission needs beefing up.

…Toy comnpanies fear lost sales. Insurance companies fear lawsuits. (Yet companies are also buying recall insurance, so is this a new market?)

…Here’s an idea. Let’s reopen toy factories in the US, with strict standards and nearby inspections and scrutiny.

…Maybe instead of a Rust Belt, we could have a Fun Belt.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Be real about plastic surgery


…Christopher J Saunders, MD, is a board certified plastic surgeon who has performed more than 10,000 operations.

…But he says when it comes to cosmetic surgery, be smart.

…He has written a booked titled a Woman’s Guide to the “Real-Reality” of Cosmetic Surgery. Real-reality? Anyhow—you get the idea.

…At the outset, HA has to say that if you look at his fuzzy black and white “before and afters” you may feel pretty good about your body, as is. There is no sugar-coating here.

…First, forget the TV shows. Those docs are all media hounds. One, Jan Adams, was the surgeon operating when Kanye West’s mother died. Turns out he allegedly is not board-certifiied and has DUIs. That mouthy one who does the karate on Dr 90210--can’t remember his name, the one with the model wife--is also not board-certified.

…Less is NOT more, Saunders says about 25 different ways (this guy has never met a point he could not make a dozen times). Lesser treatments gain you less.

…There will be pain. And with few exceptions (minimal resurfacing) healing time is weeks, not hours. You can’t rush the body.

…There will be scars in some cases. Doctors can usually hide them in hair or creases.

…He warns against “the pull.” Pulling skin back wth your hands. The surgeries do not achieve this end result.

…Lipo makes a smaller you but you are still you. If you had stretchmarks, they will still be there, and so on.

…Those full body lifts mean getting cut all the way around—you will have a scar that shows you were cut in half, basically.

…You can get details on all the options by buying the book.

…Saunders even has a section on how to afford him. Helpfully, he suggests dropping the towing on your auto insurance, not overwitholding your taxes, avoiding late fees, not paying ATM charges, having yard sales and selling on eBay.

…Is it HA or this being a little too helpful? Get going with that scrimping and saving and we will warm up the operating room for ya.

…Now, that’s real-reality!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Plastic or decomp?


…Kerry Fehr-Snyder, writing in the Arizona Republic (Nov 23, 2007), says some caterers out here in the good old Valley of the Sun are starting to use biodegradable plates and utensils.

…The cups are made of polylactic acid from corn. The paper plates from bamboo or recycled fiber. The utensils are from potato or cornstarch.

…Several area restaurants are also hauling out the new china.

…They say demand was never there until Al Gore came (back) on the scene.

…Grumps say even these new products aren’t that biodegradable. Even lawn clippings, they argue, don’t compost without light and water—lacking in tightly packed landfills.

…Commercial composting is not available here.

…Still, the anti-grumps say this stuff does not use oil and does not emit greenhouse gases.

…The new products are also expensive, as much as 25% more than regular products.

…HA is not a demon recycler. In fact, she got in a hiss with the city nosey-nells looking in her can and correcting her garbage judgment. Why can’t you recycle paper towels?

…But sooner or later, we are going to have to let this start creeping in. It’s a pretty small blue ball.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Expensive little red berry


…Joseph Pereira and Betsy McKay write in the WSJ, Nov 21, 2007, that poor weather and rising demand for fresh cranberries may lead to shortages by Christmas.

…Canned will be available, though spendy. (HA is quite partial to the kind with can marks on the side that quivers when plopped on a plate.)

…Apparently the Ocean Spray folks and others have been a lit-tul too good at convincing people that cranberries are healthy (they are), and now demand is chasing supply.

…Cranberries are now included in 2,200 products from muffin mix to soap, the two write.

…The swampy bushes like cold weather—last winter was too warm. They also like rain, and last winter was dry.

…So prices are up—on the concentrate, on the berries. Ocean Spray and the gang cannot get enough berries to start supplying new markets like Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the Phillippines.

…People down the juice year-round now to prevent urinary trct infections. There is also some evidence that cranberries deter dental plaque and tooth decay.

…Now Ocean Spray touts the thing as its “wonderberry.”

…Of course, the term fruitaceutical came next.

…Then they found out the leftover cranberry seeds had Omega-3 oil—so now they make concotions out of them.

…And don’t forget the unfortunately named craisins.

…OK, forget them. It’s OK with HA. She prefers her cranberries in Sea Breeze or Cosmo form.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Your doc may have a hidden agenda


…Writing in the WSJ, November 20, 2007, David Armstrong reports on how doctors are being asked or required to reveal their “side jobs” as they apply to medical devices or medications.

…In the Wayback, HA subcontracted to a continuing medical education firm that set up conferences for a big drug company. Each conference featured an ailment addressed by the company’s products—and of course, the products were prominently mentioned and explained.

…Funny--HA can’t remember other companies’ competing projects getting any play at all.

…The doctors who tested these products for the company were the speakers and were paid beaucoup bucks. Shocker, what?

…Armstrong uses the example of a doctor installing artificial shoulders—he helped invent the shoulder, but does not get a royalty on those he does himself. Still, he told patients about his connection with the company.

…Two states—Minnesota and Vermont—have laws requiring pharmcos to report payments to doctors.

…There also is a bill in Congress requiring companies to list doctors who get more than $25.

…The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons will require, starting in January, that surgeons tell patients about financial ties.

…You can already see if they have ties to the top orthopedic equipment companies by going to those companies’websites.

…One patient advocate isn’t sure patients should brace their docs about these arrangments (the word “kickback” was used in the story).

…Patients should not have to question these physicians! The professional associations and the physicians themselves should make these relationships clear—then patients can decide if they are getting the best drug or device.

...Or just the one the physician is pushing, for whatever reason.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Hitting the baby bottle


…Remember Roseanne? HA means, remember her when she was really funny? She had a line yrs ago about her husband coming home after work and asking how the kids were. She drawled, “I figure it they are alive, I have done my job.”

…Well, danger lurks everywhere, as parents know. Newsweek (Nov 19, 2007) takes on the popular baby bottle.

…Seems that some of these—which are next to or IN the baby’s mouth, contain bisphenol A or BPA, which has been shown to cause a bunch of health problems.
Oh, the usual, behavioral problems, obesity, decreased fertility and cancer.

…Neato torpedo.

…If you bottle-feed, don’t heat the bottles with liquid in them or put warm liquid in. Huh? What’s the kid supposed to drink, a Manhattan?

…Get rid of scratched or cloudy bottles.

…Buy bottles made of glass or polypropylene or polyethylene.

…Or look for the label: BPA-free. This applies to sippy cups, too!

…Check out www.buybuybaby.com. For more info, go to www.ewg.org.

…For Pete’s sake, kids are sucking on these things. Could they at least be crud-free?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Could feng shui save the family dinner?


…The holidays are coming. The cooking, the cleaning, the spending, all of these can create more stress than harmony.

…The other night, Paula Deen of the Food Channel said her family wad-ups were focused on gambling. They all convene at a relative’s to cook, eat, drink and gamble—with “real money,” she added delightedly.

….Then the relative whose house it is, come Saturday or so, would say. “Tail lights, I want to see tail lights.”

…Time to go!

…According to Feng Shui practitioner (Chinese geomancy or the art of arrangement to promote positive forces) Carol M Olmstead, your stress could be lightened by arranging your house differently at the holidays.

…First, she says, use the dining room. This is not the time to sit in front of the TV to eat.

…Bring out the good stuff—the china, the crystal. Nice things make people behave better.

…To promote conversation, place orange flowers in the centerpiece. To bring about good health and longevity, make a centerpiece of fruit and veggies.

…Try to use an oval table if you can—no sharp corners. If you use a table with corners, soften it with a cloth.

…Place bowls of snacks and trays of drinks where people gather to represent prosperity.

…Yin is the dark heavy side. Yang energy is lighter, airier. Winter is yin. So you need yang foods—cooked foods, spicy foods, using ginger or garlic.

…If your family is prone to arguments, invite an even number of guests and keep the lights low and lighting soft. Decorate with earth tones like gold, brown, and green.

…Keep shiny surfaces and sharp corners to a minimum. When the meat is carved, remove the knife (for feng shui, not public safey reasons, at least HA hopes so, although she doesn’t know your family personally).

…Often, whoever is next to the door is the first to leave. If you have annoying relatives, Olmstead suggests you remember that when doing the seating plan. Ooo—she is good!

…You can get a free ezine about feng shui by going to www.fengshuiforreallife.com.

…The picture today? The turkey pictures were all shiny, brown, and predictable. HA thought serving your family a whole lemon was kind of kickass. She gets on tangents like that.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Frolicking in the Alps


…Feeling a little provincial, bunky? Life a little on the drab side?

…Ever feel like everyone is having fun but you?

…They are!

…A new catering business has opened at ski resorts in the French, Austrian, and Swiss Alps (oh, stop, wouldn’t one be enough to make us feel like 2 Euros?).

…As HA stares at a cactus, with her recently tick-ridden dog barking his fool head off, she must share some copy with you: “After shushing through crisp mountain air to a clearing offering a majestic mountain view, you break for a buffet of hot soup, foie gras, and aged cheeses, with Champagne chilling in a snowbank nearby.”

…After that—no, HA will not spare you--you can hop onto a ultralight plane (assuming you did not eat too much force-fed goose organ).

…This is Picnic on the Piste. For beginners on easy slopes for caterers to reach (HA assumes they are spry European types), it’s 15 Euros. If they have to haul the vittles over to a tricky area, it’s 69.

…Want to eat your heart out—go to www.picnicsonthepiste.com.

…What’s a piste? Oh, don’t tell her. HA couldn’t take it.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Rare, medium, or gassed?


…Ah, God, does this never end? In 2004, the Ag Dept said it was OK to use carbon monoxide (the suicide gas) to keep older meat looking fresh.

…Gassing yourself in your garage makes your skin turn cherry red (HA discourages this behavior most vehemently, by the way).

…Guess it might have the same effect on cutup meat in the store.

…Yes, they ran tests first. But even the companies that ran the tests—Cargill and Hormel—said they wondered about the favorable results. The gassed meat spoiled, though it still looked red, but the microbial counts went down. They called it “funny data.”

…The Ag Dept thought the data looked OK and gave the go-ahead. Earlier they had opposed the gassing idea, but based on this data, they reversed themselves.

…Along in here, in this little drama, it became time for a Congressional hearing. Cargill and Hormel showed up and offered to put on a warning label. “Color is not an accurate indicator of freshness.”

…Guess not. They had some ground beef at the hearing that looked red and fresh. It was 2 years old.

…Giant, Stop & Shop, and Safeway are pulling gassed meat. Tyson is going to stop gassing.

…Target wants to use a label, but keep the meat on the shelves.

…The Ag Dept is mulling. Is it finally time to go veggie?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Lateness. Ack!


…Jared Sandberg writes about punctuality in the WSJ, Nov 13, 2007.

…Some people are always late, some aren’t. The latter would be the ones waiting and slowly declining into a gibbering mass of protoplasm.

…HA gibbers. She hates waiting.

…She has tried every zen-like philosophy, she tries to be in the moment, to intensify her observations, to talk with others (OK, last resort), and still…the jaw begins to tighten, then grind, the breath becomes more shallow, the mind darts ahead to what must be done, the toe taps…

…Sandberg calls late people dawdlers, diddlers and piddlers, thus demonstrating that he stands on the ultimately sensible side that HA has staked out.

…One venture capitalist does not want to do business with late people…his desire “goes down” he says.

…Arrogance! snaps a professor who does not love waiting for students to appear.

…In a recent poll cited by Sandberg, 54% of those questioned said other people’s poor time management “drove them nuts.” Even late people can’t stand other late people!

…Late people engage in magical thinking, one expert said. Maybe 10 yrs ago, they made it to work in seven minutes, so seven minutes is now their standard.

…It’s not just anxiety—they are late to fun events, too.

…A huge problem is that late people tend to make other people become late people, not the other way around.

...HA was in one doc's office that had s ign that said, "If you are more than 15 minutes late, you may be charged for your visit." That was pretty funny, since this doctor was never on time.

…One woman said being late gave her a rush—everyone had to wait for her, making her more important.

…Now, what is the doctors’ excuse? Pretty much the same, HA thinks.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Baby inbed


…HA freely admits it. Her kid slept in the parents’ bed until she was about five.

…Sort of like they do in third-world countries. The family bed. HA knows of another family who all slept in the same bed—two kids that time.

…Some people don’t like to sleep alone. HA now sleeps with a dog. It’s cozy.

…Tara Parker-Pope, the former health maven at the WSJ, now has a wide-ranging portfolio to do a health blog at the NYT and took this subject on.

…Her kid sleeps in her bed.

…Ann Landers used to get in a swivet about this. But HA could never get that excited.

…In fact, in the affluent US, with lots of bedrooms in every house, 13% of parents bunk with the kids, up from 5.5% 15 years ago.

…There may be more. People often deny it—Pope calls them “closet co-sleepers.”

…They don’t want people sniffing like Ann and calling their babies “needy.” Pediatricians, it seems, are down on this. They say it may cause “sudden infant death syndrome,” though the data are not there.

…When HA’s kid was tiny, HA sort of ringed her with pillows.

…Some data does show more wakings at night. (Yes, they can wet the bed—bummer.)

…When the kid’s in your bed—you know about the wakings. If the kid is in another room, you don’t. Some wakings may be normal for that child.

…If your kid is there because you can’t get him or her to sleep any other way—if it’s stressful—you are more likely to think it’s an issue.

…Pope was encouraged to take her kid at night because her daughter was waking the other babies. She got used to it.

…Now, her daughter sleeps at friends’, but still crawls in with Mom sometimes.

…What about conjugal relations, you may ask?

…Preschool comes pretty fast—and nooners still rock.

...Ever heard the cliche: Where's there's a will, etc.

Monday, November 12, 2007

All I want for Christmas is an MRI


…The health care system is now officially broken—you can buy health gift cards. Add this to the bake sales and car washes needed to treat young cancer patients, and this is over!

…Give granny a transfusion or a colonoscopy.

…Health insurer Highmark is selling Visa healthcare gift cards in denominations between $25 and $5,000 to cover elective surgeries, gym memberships, and eyeglasses—fun things like that.

…Visa decides which offices are health-related and the card only works there. (Gosh, that should be no problem, what could go wrong?)

…Also, in the case of college students, they could not waste it on non-health items (like food and iPods).

…You can only get these online or by calling.

…This is a present, not charity, ventured the spokesperson.

…Highmark expects to sell several hundred thousand of these, in the under $100 range.

…So far, these are only available in Pennyslvania.

…What do you think? Is this an adult version of getting socks for Christmas? Like getting a boob job instead of a fur coat from your Sugar Daddy?

…Which, by the way, HA sorely needs. The latter, not the former.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Your knees will love these shoes


…The American College of Rheumatology met this week—arthritis docs—and one subject was footwear.

…Grinding or sore knees caused by osteoarthritis means a breakdown of cartilage in the knee. Being overweight, old, injured or stressing the joint can make it worse.

…Researchers studied the effects of various types of footwear on 13 women and 3 men with OA.

…The four types of shoe were: clog, a stability shoe (limiting foot movement), flat flexible shoe (lots of foot movement) and flip-flops.

…First, subjects walked barefoot and researchers calculated the load on the knee.

…Clogs and stability shoes were associated with higher loading (stress) on the knee. Flat flexible shoes and flip-flops resulted in lower knee loads.

…This should be considered in designing shoes, one doctor said.

….Apparently shoes are designed more with foot comfort in mind than knee comfort.

…Flat, flexible shoes help knees.

…Barefoot walking provides the least stress.

…HA also read a study the other day that said inserts in shoes did not do much for back trouble.

…Also, flip-flops hurt the toesies sometimes. Pain is pain.

…Conventional wisdom—always there for the refuting. Thank goodness. Or HA would be out of a job.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Late fees on your dog?


…Everyone knows that the outside of a dog is good for the inside of a person.

…But not everyone can have a full-time dog because of travel or lifestyle.

….So how about a rental?

…Behavioral therapist Marlena Cervantes has started a pet rental service called FlexPetz.

…Business is great in San Diego and San Francisco.

…These dogs, which are cute as the dickens, are kinda spendy—There is a signup fee of $299.90 ($99 of which will be charged again the next year). You also pay $49.95 a month and $25.95 per 24-hour visit ($39.95 on weekends).

…By the way, please don’t do that .95 crap when you have a lot of fees! It isn’t really woofing anyone. Ooo, it isn't really a hundred bucks...

…Almost half the clients are empty-nesters.

…And maybe people a little loose in the attachment department, although still animal lovers?

…Cervantes seems like a kind soul—she is so worried about the pets of those caught in the wildfires she started Operation Stopgap.

…Her members are taking pets who can’t move in with people’s relatives or stay in motels—no charge to the pet owner. Wonder if they head out on the job.

…Want a dog who works part-time, go to www.flexpetz.com.

…HA hopes these pooches don’t get snooty and demand overtime.

…She also wonders if they love it or get confused.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Cough, barf!


…Jeanne Whalen, writing in the WSJ on Nov 5, 2007, talks about Novartis’s new cough syrup, Buckley’s Cough Mixture. When this revered Canadian product comes to the US this week, the emphasis will be on how gross it is.

…Remember how your mother used to tell you that if it stings, it means it’s working (this stuff comes out of the standard Mom handbook, which is hardly ever updated).

…Well, this is a variation on that theme. It’s horrible-tasting, but it works!

…Buckley’s is made from camphor, pine needle oil, menthol and Balsam gum.

…We are pretty much talking Pine Sol here, it looks like to HA. But you can’t even BEGIN to insult this stuff—keep reading.

…The ads compare it to "used mouthwash” and “public restroom puddle.”

…The cough syrup biz is in a tizz because they are being asked not to market to kids. Maybe this restroom puddle stuff will give it a boost.

…In another stab, the ad agency said Buckley’s was for "adults seeking tough love.”

…Some cough syrups are like a variation of candy, sniffed one ad exec.

…Well, HA thinks Buckley’s has the opposite locked down. On its answering machine, the company also describes the mixture as “state fair porta-potty,” “monkey sweat,” and “used denture soak.”

…Personally? HA will be coughing, thank you.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Drugstore finally sucking up


…Women need more sucking up. HA approves--but has some suggestions.

…CVS Caremark has set out to be a one-stop destination for tired, stressed-out women.

…Four million females shop there every day. Women are 80% of the chain’s shoppers. “Everything falls to women,” mourns the pharmacy’s mid-Atlantic manager. (HA loves this guy!)

…Focus groups of women told the store they want an easier store to navigate, shorter wait times for prescriptions, and more beauty products. What—they forgot latte, free babysitting and foot massages, and wi-fi internet access?

…So far, 20% of the stores have been remodeled to fulfill the focus groups’ ideas, not HA’s.

…Of course, CVS is in a little throwdown with Walgreen’s and the stakes are high.

...Because CVS merged with Caremark, a benefits management co, they will be offering smoking cessation, obesity prevention, and other programs.

…CVS has more stores than Wal-Mart, which can be a convenience issue when Mom is dragging out of the doctor’s with sick toddlers in tow.

…CVS is also offering special beauty testing areas for Mom. There are bath salts for “me time.”

…If HA is going to park, walk in, and spend (when food has to be a separate trip), she expects a red carpet, people waving ostrich feather fans (in summer), elves to carry her basket (those are heavy, drug store people), a thick tablet of coupons, a cabana boy named Thor, and a demerol IV!

…She might try one of those in-store clinics sometime, though. Will CVS have those?

...HA might give up Thor for fast health care.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Tough times for pill people?


…According to a piece on Bloomberg by Shannon Pettypiece, in 2008 US pharmco sales will increase at the slowest rate in 44 years.

…This means sales will only move up 4-5%, amounting to a paltry $305 billion next year. This according to health research firm IMS Health.

…Part of this decline will come from popular drugs like Fosamax and Risperdal coming off patent, meaning lower-cost generics will be offered.

…Some docs are also turning down the yummy-smelling free lunches the drug detailers bring into almost every office HA visits, and unfortunately there are several.

…Sales also will be slowed by increased FDA scrutiny and warnings about new drugs.

…Standard & Poors pharmco stock sales went up less than 4% this year, compared with 18% a year earlier.

…Companies are now plying their wares overseas, having saturated us.

…HA would like to think American sick people and worried well people are becoming a little more sensible about taking a handful of pills everday.

…Apparently, those almost daily stories about some drugs causing more heart attacks or cancer in addition to their beneficial results are sinking in.

…Maybe too many conditions have been made to seem like a disease needing curing—like twitchy legs and menopause.

…And maybe these drugs are just too damn expensive. HA knows it costs a lot to find some leaf in the rain forest and make it into a medicine that millions can take.

…But could the $305 billion hold these companies for awhile?

…I suppose if you have cancer and need a $40,000 drug, your POV would be drastically different. If you are in this position, speak up now.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Is dating dead?


…HA’s kid, now 25, says she has never been on a date. Yet, she has friends hanging out all the time.

…Emphasis on hanging out.

…Duddy, old-fashioned dad Jeffrey Zaslow, who HA suspects is not alone, was writing in the WSJ Nov 1, 2007, about how a boy asked his 16-year-old daughter to the Homecoming Dance. She bought a dress and the fixings, then learned the boys weren’t even taking their dates to the dance but instead were going to dress up, go to dinner and go to a friend’s to “hang.”

…The girls—and Dad—were not amused.

…The parents took pix of the couples, but it wasn’t the same.

…This was suburban Detroit—it does not seem to be much different in Phoenix.

…What about courting? The biggest issue here seems to be will Dad be around when the baby is born.

…According to Zaslow—school dances are falling out of favor. HA’s kid never went to one—HA always did, although sometimes (pathetic alert!) as president of the debate club, she was checking coats to pay for debate club outings.

…According to a study at Mich State, 60% of students studied have had a “friends with benefits” relationship. By benefits, they don’t mean candlelit dins.

…Girls regret this more than boys (duh, we are the mooshy ones).

…Remember The Rules? Boys had to call by Wed to even get a date by Sat. Now—these boys text a girl at 3 am: R U BUSY?

…In her incredibly obtuse way, HA told her daughter early on, when her kid was pre-teen, not to “waste her feminine essence.” Once given or tossed away, this sense of mystery or control is gone for good.

…The other day, her daughter said, “You were kind of right on that essence thing.”

…And these boys aren’t helping ditching the dances. Come on, parents of boys, can you talk to the lads?

…After all, they did ask the girls to the dance. At least keep your word! That’s a character issue. As in: Will Dad hang around after the baby is born.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Black is the new green


…Janet Helm, Chicago Tribune, says even AFTER Halloween, we will be eating black food.

…Licorice? (This is bad for those on blood thinners, did you know?)

…No, not just licorice. Black foods are er, hot in Asia and comin’ over! This according to a global market research firm.

…Japan is agog over a cocoa drink spiked with black soybeans. There is also a black soybean tea.

…Black vinegar drinks also are said to lower cholesterol and BP.

…In traditional Chinese medicine, black foods are thought to help the kidneys.

…Actually, some of this is probably true—the dark pigments contain power antioxidants. Look at the press blueberries get these days!

…Anthocyanins (black stuff) have been shown to slow colon cancer when contained in blue corn.

…Black carrots also slowed cancer cell growth 80%.

…Black carrots?

…Some other good ones: Black beans, black rice (more nutrients and fiber), black soybeans (protein, antioxidants), Black vinegar (check the Asian markets), Nigella seeds (black onion seeds), and black mushrooms (shiitake, wood ear, black trumpet).

…HA thought of blackberries, black cherries (not black), caviar (not always), black grapes, black currants, black coffee…this is fun…

…That pix? Caviar roll. This brings up, pardon the expression, another point.

...Is black an appetizing color?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Women get creative about breast cancer


…Is good or a burden? To see something wrong and try to fix it? HA has that affliction.

…Marcy Alboher, NYT, Oct 25, 2007), says many breast cancer survivors are feeling better and then attacking things that went wrong with their treatment experience.

…Rachel Roixell and Kristin Dudley started a company called Lymphedivas to make a better looking compression sleeve for the swelling that overflowing lymph glands can sometimes cause after b/c surgery.

…Banu Ozden started a company called Smart Medical Consumer to help others manage the paperwork that dogged her during two bouts with cancer.

…One provider of microloans, Count Me In for Women’s Economic Independence, said that six of the 100 businesses that got a million bucks from her company were founded by b/c survivors.

…There are now 23 million such survivors in the US.

…HA knows people with lymphedema and it can be a very annoying problem. The sleeves women must wear are, as one said, invented by middle-aged white guys who weren’t even the customer.

…Now Lymphedivas offers a better looking alternative. Go to www.lymphedivas.com.

…The woman who started the medical records company was told twice she had cancer, the second time, it had spread.

…Leigh Hurst started a company to help women get serious about self-exams. She told everyone she met, she says, “to feel your boobies.” Now she sells T’s that advise the same.

…Another woman, Kim Carlos, used to meet at Nordstrom’s with other relatively young women with b/c. The result was a book—"Nordie’s At Noon,” which led to a career as a motivational speaker.

…Life-enhancing…emphasis on life. And on enhancing.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

What if you knew a drug would probably work?


…HA has a hate on for big pharmaceuticals docs pass out—which then half-kill people.
There is way too much of this going around.

…She keeps thinking we are at a very primitive point with this “one size fits all” stuff.

…Several years ago, HA wrote about the Hercept Test—this was a test, marketed with the breast cancer drug Herceptin, that gave docs an idea whether the patient would benefit from Herceptin.

…Writing in the Arizona Republic (Oct 18, 2007), Ken Alltucker talks about the future of tailored medicine.

…The Virgina G Piper Center for Peronalized Diagnostics, headed by a Nobel laureate, is starting here in Phoenix.

…If you use a medicine likely to be effective, it saves money.

…Get this: The past eight big cancer drugs approved in the US cost $40,000 to $100,000 per cycle of treatment and helped only 20-30% of those who got them.

…The new center will develop blood tests to see if a drug is appropriate for a given patient.

…You might want to ask your doctor if there is a personal diagnostic test for a drug he or she prescribes.

…HA saw a recent study that showed that many women did not get the Hercept Test before getting Herceptin, which then had a good chance of not working on their breast cancer.

…If we get tests, we need to get docs to use them. And insurers to pay.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Superstition or caution?


…According to Alan Fram and Trevor Tompson, Associated Press, a third of people believe in ghosts.

…OK, granted, ghosts are real. Moving on…

…Half believe in ESP.

…Almost one quarter say they have been in the presence of a ghost—or as HA kid’s said in one apartment, “the person who moves things around.”

…Almost a third say they have awoken with the sense of a strange presence in the room. HA has not, and thanks a mill for putting this thought out there!

…HA did decide not to wrap her house in CAUTION TAPE this Halloween—a little too CSI for comfort.

…The percentages of people who believe in ghosts are about the same as those who believe Bush is aces.

…In other words, they could be wrong.

…People in HA’s family have been out in the desert and watched UFOs chase for hours. (There were some lights in Phoenix no one can explain to this day.)

…If you drill into the study, single men are more superstitious than single women—almost twice as.

…Mentioned as no-nos are walking under a ladder, black cats, breaking mirrors, opening umbrellas indoors, and Friday the 13 or the Number 13 in general.

…The other day, HA’s kid said take your purse off the floor, it’s bad luck. HA said she had never heard that. “It’s Mexican,” HA’s daughter replied.

…Hey, we can’t be logical and shrewd all the time. Where’re the shivers and fun in that?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Hiking is supposed to be fun


…HA lives in a special, seared, thousand-degree hell circle, where people go bounding up mountains with their dog and come back without their dog, which has expired on the slopes.

…Common sense, shall we say, is not commonplace.

…Now that it’s cooling and getting downright crisp in some places, time to hit the trails again.

…Writing for the Cronkite News Service, Sonu Munshi has some tips for those venturing into the woods.

…First, you may think you are some orienteering genius and a practiced woodsman, but trees look similar to each other and you can get lost. Sign in, do whatever you are supposed to to give searchers a starting point.

…Even if it’s a day trip, take food and plenty of water (even if you are not in the desert—have you ever had giardia—well, HA has and here’s a tip, don’t drink creek water).

…Lug one gallon, per person, per day.

…Take a map—or make one as you go along.

…Wear proper shoes…you may be on those feet 24 hrs, not three.

…Take a fully charged cellphone. You may not get a signal, but you could.

…Take a whistle and signal mirror.

…Take a jacket—even the desert gets cold at night.

…Take some bandage pads and antiseptic.

…Take a knife or multitool.

…Take matches or a firestarter.

…That Survivorman guy Les Stroud (HA loves him because he bitches about the out-of-doors while making his living off it) never seems to think of looking for berries or food for about four days.

…But some trail mix or granola bars might be nice.

…Stroud once ate a fish an eagle dropped. You don’t want to count on eagles for your sustenance. They are flighty.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Car safety for preggos


…Lauren Fix is host of an automotive program called The Car Coach.

…Pregnant women, she says, are often worried that their belly is too close to the steering wheel or that the airbag will hurt or not protect the baby.

…Even though seatbelts are uncomfy in later stages of pregnancy, they are necessary!Keep the lap belt low, under the tummy. Keep at least 12 inches between your belly and the airbag area. Position the chest belt so it doesn't cut your neck.

….Don’t use a pillow in front—move the seat back.

…If your vehicle is high—say a pickup—you may need a stepstool to get in. But be very careful!

…After the baby is born, you will also need space—for all the junk! Make sure it is higher for loading, sich as a Crossover or SUV.

…Minivans are easiest for installing the carseat.

…Always look for a five-star crash test rating on both the driver and passenger seat and both sides. Airbags front and side are ideal.

…Infants and small children should be in carseats. But kids up to 4’9” need a booster.

…Belted in, of course!

…HA is shocked to see little kids even in the beds of pickups! Where is a cop when you need one?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Beware soccer toe


…Foot and ankle surgeon Matthew Dairman, DPM, says he sees a lot of children with ingrown toenails during soccer season.

…Apparently, the youngsters wear hand-me-down cleats that pinch and roll toes over.

…They even like a tighter feel, helping them to control the ball.

…Add to that the blows from kicking—and yeowch!

…When you kick with an ingrown toenail, you won’t soon forget the pain!

…This doctor knows—he had one.

…It can take a 10-minute surgery to remove the ingrown part of the nail. This also allows removal of the nail root so that part does not grow back.

…Most kids are fine the next day.

…Dairman recommends cutting tonails straight across and not too short.

…Parents should keep checking cleats for size—a growing kid can change sizes mid-season.

…If an ingrown toenail burts, hot soaks and gentle massage can help.

…HA can honestly say she is not playing any soccer and promises to never even put that picture in your mind again—but if you are, heed!

…For more info, go to http://footphysicians.com.

...Goal!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Spritzing for health


…NutraMist is an oral spray, with variations for things that ail or affect ya.

…It comes in four types…Energy Surge for er, more energy. Crave Control (hoodia)to prevent scarfing. Sleep Now (melatonin and valerian) and Immune Boost (C, Zinc, echinacea)—well, you get the pix.

…You squirt 6 shots into your mouth and …wait…

…The manufacturer says half of Americans have trouble swallowing pills. Thus the squirting.

…HA has a deeply held belief that trying these things out for you readers is above and beyond the call, but she did try the energy boost one five mins ago.

…Is she typing faster?

…Has she become an optimist?

…This stuff is caffeine free (think B12, ginseng, green tea).

…”Replace the blahs with the ahs,” it says. HA wishes she had written that.

…Maybe with more squirts, she could.

…Uh-oh, in her new energized state, HA reread the B12 amts—25,000% of recommended daily dose of B12. Isn’t that a lot of thousands of percents?

…That made HA tired…

…Honestly, she cannot feel much of a difference, which is probably good. She didn’t want to feel heart-poundy and relentlessly creative.

…Check out NutraMist Oral Sprays at Wal-Mart, Walgreens, CVS, GNC, and the like.
It’s about eight bucks for 180 zaps.

…Or go to www.nutramistproducts.com. HA could not get it to open, so she sprayed it.

…Irrational exuberance? Could it be the B12 finally?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Don't hurt the little goblins


…More than 3 million kids have food allergies—and what activity is bad for that?

…Why, pulling random items out of a paper sack and eating them, of course.

…You may like to call this Trick or Treat, but for many parents, it’s Threat or Treat.

…Remember when we used to be afraid of some perv putting razor blades into apples (like who would give an apple as a treat?)

…Most common food allergens are found in candy, says Anne Munoz-Furlong, founder and CEO of the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN).

…Eight foods account for 90% of allergies—milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish. Shrimp candy, ewwww.

…Food allergies have doubled in the last 10 yrs and scientists are not sure why. There is no known cure—you have to find out what is in your food and avoid the bad things.

…Ironically, there are so many warning labels now that people are tuning them out. Often, too, they are written in legalese, warning that one allergen may have been in the same machine before another…weird stuff.

…Naturally, FAAN has a solution—hand over money instead of death-laden candy so that research on allergies can continue.

…Maybe those apples aren’t such a bad idea.

…HA also favors hard candy—sugar, water, and the usual complement of unpronounceable, yummy chemicals. No nuts, no soy.

…Horseman, pass by.

…For more info, go to www.foodallergy.org.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Strive to be a medium loser


…Elizabeth Weil, NYT, Oct 18, 2007, says some people on a diet are being discouraged and intimidated by NBC’s “The Biggest Loser.”

…HA always considered the name of this program to be problematical, but she digresses.

...These contestants are isolated, they work out with trainers 5 hours a day, and scamper around in between doing challenges. Their food is also controlled.

…Still, sometimes when they step on the scale, they have lost a mind-bending 30 lbs in a week or something.

…Two pounds is considered realistic--and even that slows down over time.

…This sends some dieters in the real world lunging for the ice cream!

…Losing too fast can lead to gallstones, heart arrhythmias, and problems with your electrolytes---especially if you get into colonics or something to pace the contestants on the show.

…Ironically, the heavier you are, and the lower you pitch your calorie count, the harder it is to lose.

…People on the show also have nothing else to do or think about except weight. They spend an hour or two a day with weights and up to three hours on the treadmill or elliptical.

…They eat rice and salmon that someone else fixes, so no nibbles allowed.

…Dull, dull—the show edits this out.

…Even on the outside, experts warn us not to compare progress with others. Didn’t Weight Watchers trademark this approach, though?

…Everyone has a different metabolism, remember. Some are better than others. Way better.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Time for your annual checkup---not


...Remember the annual physical? Oh, you still get one?

…Did you know the major medical groups now say it may not be necessary?

…If you have no symptoms, this workup may not be helping you much.

…Trotting over for those blood tests and the rubber glove costs $7.8 bill a year!

…Docs have been questioning this since the 1970s.

…It may be useful for the doc to “intervene” and lecture you on weight, cholesterol or smoking, the critics allow.

…But the physicians—say some—should be deciding who needs periodic testing.

…HA can never get her test results when she does go.

…What are we to make of doctors who will not extend your prescriptions unless you caome every three months, six months or a year? How do we know if this is justified or just a revenue issue?

….It’s your decision—ask the doctor about it. It’s all part of the crapshoot we now call medical care.

…Your call.

…But first, let’s review, shall we? This does not apply to pregnant women, women in childbearing years, or people with symptoms!

…If something is wrong, call the doctor. I don’t want you saying HA said I didn’t have-ta.