Friday, August 31, 2007

Oh, no, your kid is in the hospital


…Having your child in the hospital is a walking nervous breakdown.

…Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital of New York-Presbyterian invites parents on “family rounds” to learn about patient care as the docs walk around the rooms.

…Parents, the hospital says, are in integral part of the child’s health care. Nice of them to notice that—yeah, parents still want to be in the loop.

…Maybe even a little pushy!

…Some tips for being part of the your child’s support in the hospital—first, store the nurse’s station number in your wallet—you can call even from within the hospital.

…Make sure the nurses have your contact info.

…Ask the medical team about the plan for the day and write it down.

…Write down questions as you think of them—even in the middle of the night.

…Use your notes when talking to the doctors.

…Ask for as many explanations of a diagnosis, labs or test results as you need until you understand.

…Note changes in the child’s behavior, appetite or pain levels—anything you observe—you know best.

…If the child is in pain, get the nurse immediately. Take no excuses!

…HA would add to this: Your child may be taken care of by a hospitalist—a doctor who specializes in overseeing hospital care. You may not know this person. This person may not know your pediatrician. Your pediatrician may not come while the child is hospitalized.

….But most importantly, the hospitalist may be content to just look at the chart and not check or examine the child several times a day and talk to you at length. Insist on it!

…If you don’t like the treatment you or the child is given, contact your physician and the patient relations division of the hospital!

…This is your kid we are talking about.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

You can live well even while ill


…Eric Kingson, professor of social work and public administration at Syracuse, wrote Lessons from Joan: Living and Loving with Cancer—A Husband’s Story. HA talked to him on another matter, and he offered these tips for living with illness.

…Self-help is good, but don’t blame yourself. Some self-help approaches imply not only that you can “cure” yourself, but that if you don’t, it’s your fault you're worse or even sick in the first place. His wife greatly resented this message! His wife was clear when someone told her she had “failed chemo.” “Chemo failed me!” she said.

…You can control little things—and they matter. You can control your responses…look at the clouds, take time with your loved ones, play with your dog. (HA added ther last--dogs rule.)

…Learn to accept care from those you love. Letting them help is a gift to them. By adulthood, Kingson says, many of us give more than receive. His wife learned to accept help with grace—which brought her closer to her caregivers.

…Kindness matters. A nurse kissed his wife on the forehead before a feared procedure. Kingson and his wife never forgot that.

…Leave a videotape, letter or other message. Kingson lost his Dad when he was 13 and always wished he could find a letter or other message.

…Recognize special opportunites the illness may present. You can learn and love much once you recognize the limitations of life.

…Living in hope trumps fear. Yes, cancer is fearsome. But fearing too much can rob time from fun, even laughter. Kingson and his wife went from hope for remission to hope for a good death.

…From this, they received, he said, more life than they ever could have expected.

…Hmmm. Words to think about.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Don't let Junior sleep in the car seat



…Not to rev up any worried parents or anything, but the Aug/Sept Working Mother advises against letting kids sleep in their car seats.

…Infants may be at risk for suffocation.

…In a recent British Medical Journal piece, researchers studied 43 babies examined after turning blue and seeming not to be breathing.

…Nine of the 43 had been in car seats—and 8 had been carried indoors in the seats or placed in the seats indoors to nap.

…Babies’ heads tend to flop forward, said the coauthor of the study. This can cut off their air.

…Keep the baby in view when in the car (use a mirror for rear-facing tots).

…And never use the seat indoors as a bed or carry the sleeping baby in to continue sleeping in the seat.

…Some people drive their kids around to get them to sleep…Maybe this isn’t such a hot plan.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

If you have "bad guts," it might not be IBS


…Diarrhea. There! HA said it. Anyhow, some people more than hate to say it, they hate to have it after every meal.

…Ever watch "Mystery Diagnosis" on Discovery Health? The show where doctors end up telling the patients everything is all in their heads—then it’s “real”?

…The other night, HA was surfing and ran across a desperate gal who was sick after every meal. She lived in the john almost.

…She finally made an appointment with a gastroenterologist, but didn’t think she could drive two hours “without incident.”

…She found a doc nearer her home and he turned out to have discovered a syndrome in which bile can become too acidic and cause the charming “trottos” after eating.

…His name is Saad F. Habba, MD, and it’s called the Habba Syndrome.

…He studied some Irritable Bowel Syndrome patients who hadn’t improved on antispasmodics or the high fiber they put you on for that. Also, they did not have cramping or pain—just urgency after meals. (For more differences between IBS and Habba, go to http://habbasyndrome.com/_wsn/page3.html.)

…He tested them and ruled out IBS. He prescribed low doses of cholestyramine, a cholesterol-lowering drug often prescribed if people get diarrhea after having their gallbladders removed.

…On the TV show, the woman was better the next day! The patients in his study experienced almost immediate relief, too.

…For more info, go to http://www.habbasyndrome.com/. HA noted that he does not treat for this immediately—and requires batteries of tests to rule out other conditions.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Practice safe grilling


…Tara Parker-Pope, writing in the WSJ (Aug 21, 2007), reminds us that studies show that meat charred on a grill might be linked to a higher risk of cancer.

…Four out of five Americans own a grill.

…Grilled meats used to be considered healthier because fat dropped onto the coals.

…However grilling also creates two chemical reactions, one forming carcinogenic hydrocarbons. This can be helped by scraping off the black stuff.

…Inside grilled meats, however, another reaction creates substances that can trigger breast, colon and prostate tumors in rats and mice (can you see them with their teeny grills on their little patios?).

…No safe dose of charred meats is known, probably a few servings a week would be borderline.

…To make grilled meat safer, microwave for a minute before tossing it on the grill. The chemical reactions do not take place because the ingredients come out in the juice.

…Eat a lot of grilled veggies—you get the grilled taste without the chemicals.

…Cruciferous veggies such as broccoli shortcircuit the bad chemicals.

…Marinated food also sets up a barrier against excessive heat. Flipping often also does this.

…Cook meat rare. Of course, other studies advise against this—for other reasons.

...Eat the burger already! Just don’t incinerate it first.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Plate control


…At least one study has shown that specially designed plates make dieters three times as likely to lose 5% of their weight than those who receive nutritional counseling alone.

…Everyone loves toys.

…HA does not know about you, but the advice to eat a piece of meat the size of a deck of cards or spaghetti that would fill a softball is too weird and mixed message-y.

…So how about a plate that says, in essense, your meat, must fit here. Or else.

…The Brits have come up with this one—www.thedietplate.com. The plates (there are cereal bowls, too) are for men and women. The women’s holds 650 cals, the men’s 800.

…They cost quite a bit…17 pounds, which is what, $35 or so? How about making your own—with a sectioned paper plate?

…The earthenware would be nicer, though. Is this lame? HA has always liked compartmented plates. You are supposed to outgrow that, right?

…Compartments keep weird items from touching. Did HA type that out loud?

…You know, like chicken and broccoli juice. Or spaghetti and baked beans.

…The last two probably would not be allowed on the same plate, but you get the drift.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Is your child safe at college?


…Daniel McGinn (Newsweek, August 20), harked back to the Virginia Tech tragedy and wondered how other colleges were handling the tricky task of spotting mental disorders in the student body.

…The perpetrator there had all the signs, violent writings, creepy approaches to women, lack of friends—but there was little college officials could do. Some had even flagged his behavior.

…More kids, according to the story, are coming to school with emotional issues. In a study done at Penn, 8.3% of undergrads reported taking psychiatric meds (such as Ritalin) before college. Twenty-three percent had had counseling. Four out of 10 college kids report being so depressed they cannot function (this is one in 10 in the population at large).

…At the same time, some colleges are cutting back on counseling and mental health services.

…”Brief treatment and stabilization,” said one doc, “then (over to) private counseling.” By private, he means paid by someone besides the school.

…Since students often don’t bother with counseling, an emphasis is now on getting other students to recognize trouble signs.

…MIT has developed an early warning system. Counselors there used to spend most of their time with faculty, staff, and their dependents, not students. That changed. Health educators go into the dorms and talk about such things as eating disorders and sleep habits and recommend counseling as a normal part of stressful college life.

…Intake forms at MIT contain 9 mental health questions. Students who check “yes” to any get emails reminding them of the counseling center. The suicide awareness program is called QPR—question, persuade, refer.

…A group called Active Minds (http://www.activemindsoncampus.org/) created by a student whose brother committed suicide, is on 69 campuses.

…Families of students with mental health issues should check on counseling facilities. Look around campus—do the kids seem like your kid? Do they seem talkative and smiling?

…Still, the University of Southern California holds weekly "student concerns meetings."
Security and counseling now talk.

…Check out the college of your choice at: ope.ed.gov/security/main.asp.

…You will see more property crimes and rapes than roving murderers. But heads up!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Butching back up


…According to Catherine Skipp and Arian Campo-Flores, Newsweek, Aug 20, 2007, some men are forking over the dough to have hair planted on their chest, face, and belly to make them look more masculine.

…Yes, that guy is wearing a raccoon hat. That was not mentioned in the article as a way of masculinizing one’s image. But Davey Crockett did kill him a bar when he was only 2.

…No shoulders? Back hair is always so attractive!

…Yes, we now have retrosexuals. The more “refined” metrosexuals are giving way to those seeking a more rugged look.

…Can you see Larry the Cable guy getting surgery to get hairier?

…One gentleman in the story got a nose job, then got another one to get his then too small proboscis made bigger.

…Retros are also asking for square, manly chins.

…HA is old school—if you are being rehaped by surgery, this is not the height of manliness.

…Why not get punched?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Let's see what Mr Sun did to you


…Once a dermatologist asked HA, “Do you want me to examine all your skin?” She said, “Ewww. No.”

…Of course, you are supposed to say, “Yes, please.” There is even a new wave that says you should be photographed naked front and back every year.

…Caught early, melanoma can be cared for and death averted in 99% of cases.

…Perry Robins, MD, president of the Skin Cancer Foundation says end of summer is the best time to see if anything untoward has appeared on your body.

…In addition, to the yearly total bod look-see, he recommends monthly self-exams. Paients spot melanomas twice as often as doctors do.

…Use mirrors to check head and face. Part your hair with a blow dryer to see the scalp.

…Check hands including nails. Check elbows, arms, and underarms.

…Women, check under breasts.

…Put your back to a mirror and use a hand mirror to do the back parts.

…Checks legs and feet while sitting in a chair, including soles, heels, and toenails.

…What are you looking for? A skin growth that increases in size and is pearly, translucent, tan, brown, black, or muilticolored.

…Watch out for birthmarks or any brown spot that changes color, increases in size or thickness, changes in texture, is irregular in outline, or bigger than ¼ inch—the size of a pencil eraser.

..Also bad: Sores that continue to itch, crust, erode, or bleed or an open area that does not heal within 3 weeks.

…Yick. HA feels crawly now…But this could be a good thing…You know, good crawly.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Sometimes the cool kids "bring"


…Depends on the drop-dead school culture (ah, the memories) but in many cases sending your kid with a bagged lunch won’t ruin him or her for life and can be more healthful.

…Especially these days, with some kids packing a few extra el-bees, parents can control the intake a little (not counting trading).

…The best way to make this happen, says Elena Serrano, a nutrition specialist for the Virginia Cooperative Extension at Virgina Tech, is to have the child pick out the food and even help package it in the evening.

…One expert suggests you take your children to the farmer’s market, if you have one nearby. Turn food into an adventure.

…Make lunch food easy to eat, bite size, finger food…grapes, salads in little margarine
tubs, They sell little cans of fruit, too.

…Serrano says to include a small dessert. Sweets are part of life. How about a few animal crackers, a low-fat pudding? HA’s mom used to wrap pastel-colored, sugar-coverd Jordan almonds in a twist of Saran Wrap. It was love in a bundle!

…Some other ideas? Celery with peanut butter, pita breads with fillings, bagels, a whole grain tortilla wrapped around a salad.

…For little kids, be sure the size of the pieces aren’t choking size.

…Please, no Lunchables! If the kids like crackers and cheese, add wheat crackers and string cheese or cut slices.

…For a drink, who wants to have hot sluggish soda? A juice box is the classic. So squirty! So hard to open! Very entertaining.

…And fruit leather. What’s up with that—HA’s kid used to plead for it.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Would you smooch a pit bull?


…Several years ago, HA’s beautiful daughter came out of her room one morning with her face swollen like a cantaloupe.

…OMG, what happened? Turns out she leaned over to give a friend’s pit bull a kiss and it had tried to rip off her upper lip—19 stitches.

…Yes, as we have learned from recent stories on the charming “sport” of dogfighting, those darned pits like to rip off dog lips, too. Soft, easy target, quickly disabling.

…A year or so before that, my sister had been walking her greyhound and a pit zipped out from between two houses and slashed into Jack. Six hundred dollars worth of surgery, with drains the size of garden hoses sticking out.

…Oh, say pit lovers, it’s not the doggie, it’s the owner. The dog was probably not properly socialized. Plenty of pits are nice, family dogs. But with these, more so than other breeds, maybe, who knows what is going on in their brains?

…Some dogs, HA thinks, are not properly placed in society. They seem to have a streak.
She feels like she is profiling, saying this. She doesn’t want to see any animal branded with a bad name, much less euthanized.

…As many as 30% of the dogs in shelters are pits. Fifteen years ago, that figure was 3%. These can't all be fighting dogs.

…Writing in the NYT, July 23, 2007, Ian Urbina says one state, Virginia, has created a Dangerous Dog Registry, similar to the Sex Offenders Registry.

…33 states hold the owner liable if the dog kills or maims.

…In 2006, Ohio enacted a breed ban—though it was overturned. A hundred other cities are trying it, though.

…Texas can slap dog owners in jail for up to 10 years if the animal hurts someone while off its leash. Other states make owners of so-called “bully breeds” carry expensive liability insurance.

…Chandler, AZ, where HA lives, made it crime for a dog to bite not only a human, but another dog.

…Her sister tried to get the bitch who bit her greyhound declared dangerous. We learned this was her third offense. But when they went to pick the animal up, the family had scampered out of the country.

… The dog that bit HA’s daughter, turns out, also had priors.

…The dog in the pix? Part rottie. Another "bully breed," according to some.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Inflammation, that's bad, right?


…Our bodies are out to get us, according to the Harvard HEALTHbeat for August 14.

…Apparently our Stone Age genes, accustomed to the occasional berry and charred hunk of sabertooth, can’t hack the tobacco, sluggishness, high fat meals, and processed food.

…So our body just lets go with low grade inflammation in our arteries and brains. Oh, who asked ya to?

…To combat this slow simmer, eat lots of unsaturated oils like olive, canola, walnut, and so on. Omega-3 from juicy type fish is the best!

…Forget the whites, like sugar, white bread, fries, etc.) These get the cytokines, inflammatory messengers, all excited.

….Eat…oh, here it comes...fruits and veggies. They are crammed with anti-inflammatories and things that kill free radicals, which get inflammation roused up.

…Eat nuts. They ease inflammation.

…A drink of alcohol a day lowers C-reactive protein, a signal of inflammation. That can’t be bad. Drink too much, well, CRP goes up.

…Hit the spices. Turneric, ginger, garlic, basil, peppers and many others have anti-inflammatory properties.

…Don’t expect to feel much different if you do all this. But you will be benefiting.

…Harvard sez.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Shimmy and screech


…Rachel Zimmerman, WSJ, August 4, 2007, says bellydancing has come to the delivery room. Inevitable, HA supposes, what with the pole dancing, underwater deliveries (some in the ocean itself), and sipping of camomile instead of begging for drugs.

…Laboring women clutch their stomachs in a Columbia, Missouri, birthing center and swivel their hips and rotate their pelvi.

…”I danced my way through labor,” grinned one mother of three.

…Oh, please. To those of us who sweated, groaned, and indulged in not one Middle Eastern dance step, this seems a little …too trendy.

…HA did walk the corridors trying to get her kid to drop down. She seems to remember being trailed by two med students who asked her things like, “Did you have any food cravings?”

…What happened to the big sloppy bathtub a la Ricki Lake? Not that HA wanted to wallow in that puppy either.

…True that bellydancing requires a little more heft on the front porch—and a baby belly would seem to be perfect—but still…

…During active labor, in one account, the woman stands and shimmys violently back and forth.

…One woman had to crawl to the car to go to the birthing center, but was still trying to do her camel rolls.

…Another instructor said she called it birth-dancing. The word “belly,” she said, made people freak out.

…The word belly? You are crawling to the hospital, doing camel rolls (whatever they are), maybe even have your jingly belt on, and the word belly makes you freak out?

…What about “human coming out of your insides!” Now that’s freaky.

……Oh, heck, if you feel better or laugh over it, do it...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Yucko planes


…Darren Everson, writing in the WSJ (August 8, 2007), says the plane with the sewage running in the aisles was admittedly pretty bad, but that all planes are pretty disgusting sanitation-wise.

…Often they sit on the ground (some brainiac has decided not to let people off when long delays are expected).

…One source says after a flight, planes look like a bad outtake from Animal House.

…Touch the armrest—sticky? How about the hidden surface of the turned-up tray table? Those aren't cleaned between flights.

…Because of delays, planes can miss their regular cleanings. They get a “maximum deep clean” once a month.

…Each night, supposedly, the pillows are swapped out and soiled blankets laundered. Between flights, they remove the big chunks—stuff in the seatback pouches.

…Also they don’t like to turn on the a/c while on the ground because it uses a funky little motor that can break.

…Also the toities…they don’t always work on the ground. Something about suction.

…HA is now officially grossed out.

…And that ain’t easy.

…Pack industrial-size drums of sanitizer and hope the joys of air travel will provide your family more antibodies.

…What can ya do?

Monday, August 13, 2007

What do all these studies really mean?


…Increased chance of this side effect…more incidence of that…every day some study comes out pushing or debunking a drug or procedure (angioplasties are no longer the thing, did you know?).

…Like people rushing from one side of a boat to the other, patients and the “worried well” caper to and fro like the puzzled puppets that we have become..

…Now there is a new book by environmental scientists Erik Rifkin and Edward Bouwer trying to cut through the BS and help people decide if these authoritative-sounding edicts from on high are worth a flip.

…The book is called Illusion of Certainty: Health Benefits and Risks.

…The uncertainty, says Rifkin, president of an environmental firm in Baltimore, has been lost in the health area—the numbers have taken on a life of their own.

…The two are used to looking at environmental data and saw that the "don’t know" factor was not being communicated.

…Hang in with HA now…this gets tricky. One measure is called absolute risk reduction. This looks at the difference between two groups, such as a group that got a drug and a group that didn’t. If one person died among the 100 who took the drug, the death rate would be 1%. If two died among those who didn’t take it, the death rate for that group would be 2%. Absolute risk reduction because of the drug—1%.

..BUT, and this is the kicker, some drug companies and yes, journalists, go by relative risk reduction, rather than absolute. This compares raw numbers of people who died. Because twice as many people (2 versus 1) died without the drug, the drug is said to cut the risk of dying 50%.

…That sounds good until you realize it was only a 1% risk anyway.

…Absolute risk is a better measure for patients.

…And, of course, patients should realize a study does not predict an individual result.

…HA remembers the statistic that one in three women will be raped in her lifetime? Three women in a row may look from side to side and wonder who is getting it. Chances are—none!

…Some other women someplace will make up the statistic.

…Studies don’t predict individuals. HA wagers hat people do a better study of the odds on roulette before going to Vegas than the odds on their skipping or getting a test or therapy.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Asthma action plan?


…About 9 million US children under 18 have been diagnosed with asthma. About 5% have had an attack in the last year.

…By the end of 2008, countries must phase out albuterol chlorofluorocarbon inhalers.

…If you or your child has asthma, you need to find out about this.

…The new inhalers, which do not deplete the ozone, are called HFA inhalers. The FDA has approved Xopenex HFA (levalbuterol tartrate) and three other short-acting beta agonist inhalers (no generics). The press release on this came from the makers of Xopenex.

…The HFA inhalers put out a softer mist—they “feel” different. They are less medicine-tasting, too.

…Parents, especially, need to file a plan for handling of their child’s asthma with school authorities. You also need to talk to your child’s doctor about the HFA inhaler.

…For kids 4-11, about 2% of those taking Xopenex HFA experienced vomiting, accidental injury, pharyngitis, and bronchitis.

…For kids over 12, asthma, pharyngitis, rhinitis, pain and dizziness afflected about 2% of users.

..Studies show that hospitalizations for asthma are lowest in July, but spike in September, soaring to five times the July rate. October can be worse.

…Schools contain indoor air polluion, which can be a trigger. Only 13% of schools have a nebulizer available. Less than a thuird have a peak flow meter. And less than 70% allow kids to use a self-administed inhaler.

…The time to talk this over with your kid’s school is now! A sample plan can be found at: http://www.schoolasthmaallergy.com/html/toolkit/
tools_students/index.html.

…Sorry HA had to use the word “vomiting.” She tries not to. Pharyngitis is no winner, either.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

What it's oil about


…Jolene Ketzenberger (Indianapolis Star) says EVOO is now OH (Old Hat).

…Even corn oil and canola are so over with.

…New kid in town—grapeseed oil. Healthy as heck! Use it to fry or dress salads.

…It’s crammed with Vit E and antioxidants. It has a light neutral flavor.

…To add more flavor, how about walnut, hazelnut, or almond oil? Pecan oil is not far off, either.

…Or how about argan oil? Whaaa, you say? Argan is an ancient fruit grown in Morocco. Argan oil is great on couscous, natch.

…Like the others, we are not talking Wesson prices—argan is $34 for 8 oz.

…Truffle oil can top that! It can run $100 an ounce—but you only need a drop or two.

…Making that olive oil look pretty good?

…You’re so smart. It’s darn good!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

All doctors not equal


…HA has seen a lot of doctors in the last 9 months since her right retina fell off (well, four, but two of them almost weekly) and was beginning to feel like a citizen of Sick World.

…No more! Mind over matter. HA has decided to be a dim-visioned Well Person.

…This got to her thinking about doctors. Today half the people who apply to medical school get in. This used to be 10%. HA is just sayin’.

…Just because someone is a doctor, does not mean that person is not human. They might have been in the bottom third of the class, you don’t know.

…HA has had the fleeting feeling that she knows more about the people she used to have a drink with in DC than her doctors.

…When you check your state’s database for past lawsuits, that person might have come from another state or have violations more than five years old.

…Sometimes, too, the doctor really does not have good options to offer you. Some options come next in the rotation, but are iffy—even the doctor knows that. HA calls these the “worth a tries.”
…A recent New York Times story said a majority of cancer patients did not get the evidence-based, best sequence of treatments.

...Another study said heart attack patients often do not get the most lifesaving treatments as a matter of course.

…You don’t have to do anything the doctor recommends. Certainly, not everything. Of course, then you have no one to blame but yourself. How confident are you of your decisions?

…But—you may say—medicine is an art, not a science. Someone suggested to HA that it might be a craft rather than those two. This is not to denigrate—doctors have a long educational period and much hands-on apprenticeship.

…But like all craftsman, some have better skills than others. Writing in the WSJ on July 11th, Laura Landro talks about proceduralists. This is an emerging set of doctors who practice over and over to do tricky procedures, such as draining fluid from vital areas of the body or tunneling a catheter into a vein.

…Instead of watching another doctor do the procedure, trying it, and then teaching it, as of old, proceduralists practice long hours on specially constructed dummies.

…This is the person you want if you need a spinal tap. Not a resident who has done it once before.

…But you need to speak up. You need to ask how many has the doctor done. You need
to insert yourself into the equation, even if you are uncertain.

…It’s your body. You want the superb craftsman, not necessarily a scientist or artist..You know—like Norm Abrams on The Old House. HA would almost trust him to take out her appendix.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Time not on side of boomers


…Food! That’s the answer. (Yes, no matter what the question…)

…A nutrition scientist at Tufts says fortifying foods can slow the onset of disease 5-15 years.

…For one thing, antioxidants, zinc and copper can slow macular degeneration and could prevent 300,000 cases of blindness.

…Upping Vitamin D, this guy says, could combat arthritis, multiple sclerosis, gastro problems and immunse response.

…Boomers need to be made part of the process in creating these foods. They are seeking adventure through food, maintains one expert.

…Today, though, HA read again that adding folic acid to everything may be preventing birth defects, but increasing colon cancer.

…According to one study, boomers say they avoid transfat, high fructose corn syrup, fatty foods, and white stuff made with refined flour, but still guzzle their pomegranate martinis, wine, and chocolate.

...Well, duh!

…HA sometimes wonders: Maybe antioxidants aren't all good—aren’t there bad things that need to be oxidized?

…Tinkering with these variables sometimes seems like pulling the bottom can out of a pyramid. Pretty chancy.

…Maybe it’s the best adventure left to us…Nutrient roulette.

Monday, August 06, 2007

When to actually call your doctor


…That’s all you ever hear: Ask your doctor. Call your doctor. See your doctor first.

…Has anyone tried calling a doctor? Some of them keep their machines on during the workday! Leave a message, stay home to wait for the word, etc. (HA needed to get that out of her system—and don’t forget the Lunch Two Hour—the time almost all offices go dead. And, if course, the Weekend—which HA and her family call The Black Hole of Healthcare.)

…Anyhow, The Prepared Patient (http://cfah.org/hbns/preparedpatient/current.cfm, points out that most Americans with chronic conditions (diabetes, high BP, allergies) pretty much soldier on alone on a day to day basis.

…So how do you know when you could actually…call your doctor?

…The doctor should tell you, for one thing—give you a list of things to look out for. Have you noticed that most don’t even tell you side effects of meds anymore—they are afraid you will talk yourself into them, HA guesses. She goes home and looks up the downsides on the internet.

…So the doctor tells you what “doctor-worthy” signs might appear.

…You also must listen to your body. Is something weird, hurting more, different? “The feeling something has changed,” one doc said.

…Newsweek recently had a story about an athlete with Type I diabetes and she was all over the map preparing for a marathon. Her sugar was up, down, she was taking insulin, ooops, too much, yipes, etc.

…One patient in the story said she didn’t have “blind faith,” she had “educated faith” in her meds. She refused some.

…Some patients monitor at home—even buying peak flow meters in the case of asthma.

…Some consult triage nurses at their doctors’ offices, rather than making an appointment. Pharmacists can also answer questions.

…It’s your body—ask the doctor what to expect and then stay on top of it. It may not mean a trip to the office.

…Incidentally, when you call your doctor, does he or she call back? Or does an associate call and tell you to make an appointment?

…Does your doctor respond to a fax?

…Yes, HA lives in a dreamworld—look, there’s a unicorn!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Peppermint dreams


…Who sez Harvard is all serious and all? In the July 31st Harvard HEALTHbeat newsletter, Celeste Robb-Nicholson, editor-in-chief of Harvard Women’s Health Watch, riffs off on peppermint.

…No, really, peppermint is medicinal. A fourth of people have gastro disturbances so serious they interfere with life.

…For centuries, peppermint has been used to treat ailments from flatulence to stomach cancer to gallbladder disease.

…Peppermint oil is pretty helpful for irritable bowel sydrome, too. A study in Italy showed that patients with IBS who took peppermint capsules fared twice as well as those on placebo.

…The most active ingredient is menthol, which cools by stimulating the nerves that experience “cool.” Menthol also inhibits the nerves that respond to painful stimuli.

…In the intestine, menthol blocks calcium channels, which relaxes the smooth muscle in the walls of the intestine.

…However, peppermint can also relax the muscle that keeps acid from backing into the esophagus—thus peppermint can make acid reflux worse. So for stomach purposes, the peppermint is often wrapped in a coating so it doesn’t dissolve too soon.

…According to a website of the Univ of Maryland Medical School, peppermint can also help ease menstrual cramps and dissolve gallstones.

…But be careful, pregnant or nursing mothers! If you have a history of miscarriage, do not drink or take peppermint.

…Like anything else, don’t overdo. Some people are allergic to peppermint. Wouldn’t you just know.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Yee-ow! Meet the Ghost Chile


…Apparently, it has been the stuff of rumors in chile circles…described as a cocktail of battery acid and chopped glass or “blood-red morsels of pain.”

…It’s the bhut jolokia, or ghost chile According to Tim Sullivan (AP), anyone who tries it may slowly shimmer a little and become an apparition.

…”It’s so hot you can’t imagine,” opines one Indian farmer. “When you eat it, it’s like dying.”

…Carlos Casteneda, call your service.

…Outsiders are not encouraged to sample this delight…It could be too much for their inexperienced outsider systems.

…Yes, this little devil is already in Guinness—the hottest chile in the world.

…So, of course, people now want to try it. Exporters are lining up.

…Coming soon to a Kroger’s near you? Or should that be a Croakers?

…Oh, if you can stomach a sliver of this thing, it helps stomach trouble and, weirdly, like all chiles, makes you feel cooler in summer.

…This is how salsa got started in the first place.

…Will HA be chancing it?

...Of course. Right after she gets back from Mount Everest and her scheduled shark swim.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Easier for men to lose weight?



…Connie Midey tackles the men vs women thing as it applies to weight loss (Arizona Republic, July 31, 2007).


…She talked to a woman named Karen Miller-Kovach, author of She Loses, He Loses: The Truth About Men, Women, and Weight Loss.

…Men tend to say they are big, not fat or flabby (that would be women). Their synonyms for overweight denote strength and positivity.

…A weight loss doc said men bring in charts and backup material to show they are motivated.

…Older men talk about health, younger men about appearance.

…And they get quicker results than women once committed. Twenty-five percent to 50% faster!

…The more muscle, the more power plants to burn up fat.

…Men fidget and pace more. Women should try to do this.

…Men also tend to undertake a diet like a battle! Women are used to periodic squirmishes over and over.

…Couples do better undertaking changes together—keeping the caloric foods out of the house.

…But the wife can get crotchety as he loses faster.

…And maybe if he tries to act like a general? Because guess who the private would be.