Friday, November 28, 2008

Just list the bad stuff, OK?

…Sam Roe, Chicago Trib, says manufacturers and regulators are letting mislabeled foods on shelves—and kids are dying or sick as a result.

…Let’s cut this out. What do ya say?

…Here’s what they do. They wait and see if something happens to some kid before they change the labeling.

…According to flaw, major allergens such as peanuts, milk, eggs, and wheat must be listed on the label—but surprise, often are present anyway!

…Ironically, this happens most with kid food such as Oreos, Pop-Tarts, Jell-O, and Spaghetteos. These have all been recalled for hidden allergens.

…The Trib created a database of 2,800 food recalls related to allergies over the past 10 yrs.

…Five products a week are pulled because they can make people with allergies sick.

…One little kid noted in the article had a severe gluten allergy and his Mom had checked on some nuggets—yup, "gluten free." In a second, he was coughing, his eyes swelled, and he could not breathe. His Mom jabbed him full of epinephrine and he recovered in the ER. Still—panic, ER, expense, fear, sleepless night…

…Just label, people! Come on, it’s your job.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

T-Day can kill

…Leave it to HA to find the bright side…bright with flames. Thanksgiving Day, according to the Red Cross, is the most dangerous day of the year for house fires.

…HA has experienced a house fire—and you don’t want to!

…Cooking is the culprit on T-Day.

…Some people use open propane flames to deep-fry turkeys. This is really recipe roulette. Check this out:

…Even if you use a closed oven, monitor your kitchen at all times. Never leave things and run to the store or anything.

…Keep potholders and paper wrappers away from burners.

…Wear tight sleeves that don’t flap toward hot surfaces.

…Set timers.

…Keep pan handles turned inward and away from catching on clothes or little toddler fingers.

….After everyone leaves, get someone to check all candles.

…Also…be sure your smoke alarms are working. If cooking makes them go off—don’t disable them. Open a window or fan the alarm.

…If you get a burn, put it under cool water and put on a sterile bandage.

…If someone chokes, remember: “Five and five can keep them alive.” This means five sharp whacks on the back between the shoulder blades, then if that doesn’t work, five upward thrusts from the back.

…Oh, by now even misanthropic HA has had enough gloom—have fun. You’re going to make it through. Be thankful for that.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Lung cancer sufferers don't "deserve" it

…HA has done this—heard about someone with lung cancer and thought, “Smoker.”

…What does that mean to do that? Does it mean, whew, I am safe because I don’t smoke. Does it mean, well, what does that person expect?

…Kathleen Bartzen writes in On Wisconsin, the alum mag of guess where, that the Tracey Weigel, MD, a chest surgeon and oncologist at the Univ of Wisc, says lung cancer kills 160,000 people a year.

…Almost 85% die within five years of being diagnosed.

…Lung cancer kills more women than breast, ovarian, uterine and cervical combined.

…But because it has been linked to smoking, it is considered a shameful or “dirty” disease and people put off treatment.

…Half the people who get it had long since stopped smoking.

..15% never lit up. Never smoked!

…If the disease is caught before it gets out of the lungs, prospects are way better. But only 16% of cases are caught early.

…Weigel’s mother died of it and her dying words were, “I killed myself.”

…No, a disease killed you.

…Weigel brings in a team of doctors and professionals to work on each case. Instead of feeling their life is collapsing, patients see a team ready to do battle.

…No one deserves this or any disease.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Cooking for junior

……Brooke Romney, writing in the Arizona Republic’s SE Valley Living, Nov 12, 2008, says she used to have to breathe through her mouth to avoid the weird odor of commercial baby food—not a good sign.

….Now, she makes the food for her tot—using such ingredients as bananas, lentils, ricotta, cranberry sauce, and other tasties.

…She started out at websites such as and

…Now she just throws things together. She buys produce and bakes, steams or boils it, and mashes it with a fork or in the blender. She makes batches on the weekends and freezes it.

…All she avoids is citrus, tomatoes, berries, gluten, nuts, and eggs because of possible allergies—but this can be an individual decision.

…Are babies like dogs—don’t give them table food? Guess not.

...HA might add this this is probably TONS cheaper than those little jars.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Should we learn about side effects the hard way?

…Melinda Beck (WSJ, Nov 18, 2008) wonders if we should be looking up side effects or expecting the doctor to tell us about them when we start taking a new med.

…HA has never had a doctor say, “If you get an upset stomach, let me know.”

…This is the dark side of the placebo effect—called nocebo effect--meaning knowing a bad thing can make you feel it . Becks calls it the “evil twin.”

…One study showed that 90% of patients given a sugar pill and told it could make them sick actually vomited.

…True, people with vague side effects like fatigue or loss of memory may have those anyway, despite the med.

…HA thinks this is a crock—she looks everything up and you should, too.

…What about those folks who started driving around unconscious on Ambien?

…Yesterday, the NYT “Well” blog talked about the controversial idea that more healthy people should be taking statins and plenty of people reported leg and arm pains and memory problems on them—this was not suggested by any doctor.

…All drugs have side effects. A doc told HA that once—and added: “We try for the ‘side effect’ of curing the problem, but there can be others.”

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Docs who make computer calls

…Ever gotten up with what you know is a bladder infection, but the doc says please come over? But, you say, I have had this before. Come over.

…Maybe if you had a webcam and a doctor who also had a webcam and was part of a new movement toward electronic housecalls, you could clear up the pain sooner.

…Writing in the NYT (Nov 19, 2008), Claire Cain Miller says services like a new one called American Well, founded by two brothers, may soon take hold.

..BCBS of Hawaii is signing up for the beta test in 2009.

…You get a 10-minute consult via computer (extent of visual physical exam unknown, but thinking about it is amusing) and pay a copay just as you do with an office visit.

…Docs can pick up money logging on and waiting for sick people.

…There is even malpractice insurance.

…Of course, if you are having a blinding headache or chest pains, use the other device—the phone.

…Don’t just sit there staring into the camera and breathing your last thinking: Ain’t technology a blast?

…HA thinks this will catch on. She would use it!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Give to the caregiver

…HA’s mother lives a mile away in a group home, but HA and her sister see her three times a week. She suffers from dementia, knows them, but can’t remember who the woman is who owns the home or anything from even 10 seconds before.

…Hanging out with Mom is like being in a Broadway play—she says the same things, makes the same observations, the same complaints, and HA and sis say the same replies. It’s scripted!

…But she is not sick, not in a nursing home, not violent, or any of the other things that may be coming—or not. This has been going on for almost 15 years.

…54 million Americans are caregivers to someone old or chronically ill.

…Does that describe you? Did you know you have a “day”—Nov 25 is National Kiss a Caregiver Day.

…At very least, give yourself some credit. If you feel anger, frustration or depression, you may need a break. If no one offers to pitch in for a day, ask!

…And if you know someone doing all this and not saying much about it (HA’s sister and her tend to vocalize, but you knew that), bake a plate of cookies for them or take over for a day.

…Oh, and there are 364 other days in that caregiver’s year.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Back in the game after a heart attack

…Having a heart attack can really put a spoke in your wheel. Some people suffer a physiological depression, fearfulness, lack of libido, and other negs.

…Doctors recommend addressing your health first—changes in lifestyle. Eat carefully, exercise, and quit smoking if need be.

…You will need to exercise—it helps rather than hurts--though the doc may do a stress test first.

…Lose weight—they say that for ANYTHING.

…Control your blood pressure and cholesterol.

…Cut your alcohol consumption if it’s creeping up.

…Manage your blood sugar.

…If you feel more than blue—suicidal, for instance--get help with depression.

…Take all meds as prescribed—ask questions. Be proactive!

…Any dizziness, nausea, arm pain—get help immediately.

…Your heart needs to heal and you need to trust your body again. Both can take a while, but you will get there.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Don't mash the potato

…Ah, the lowly spud. It’s back! After being reviled as a dangerous carb and blamed for everything from obesity to low McDonalds stock prices, it has now been redeemed by the Mayo Clinic Health Letter.

…Sure those high fat toppings (yuh-ummm!) like butter, sour cream and bacon add fat, but otherwise the tatie is pretty much a solid health food.

…A medium-sized russet is about 160 cals.

…True a potato has 37 grams of carbs, but it is also jammed with vitamin C, potassium (more than spinach or a banana), and even has 40 grams of protein (equal to half a cup of milk). In addition—iron!

…Avoid peeling—most of the nutrients are right under the skin, not in the skin, but can easily be discarded.

…Don’t forget—those peels are loaded with fiber.

…Come on, just a little butter? Teeny-tiny?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Ah...Sun-dried sheets

…We are all going back to basics (broke), so how about air-dried laundry?

…United Feature Syndicate’s Mary Jane Butters says outdoor laundry drying is reaching “religious” proportions in some circles. She is editor of “Mary Jane’s Farm Magazine,” so sounds little old-timey.

…Still, remember how good those sheets smelled? Remember sleeping porches open to the air, those sheets on the bed, maybe even ironed? They used to iron sheets!

…Mary Jane likes the whole niner—the lifting of the wet clothes, the snapping them flat, the pinning. Renewal—clean again.

…She also decries caustic, chemically cleaning agents.

…Of course, 60 million Americans are forbade the pleasure of outdoor drying—it’s illegal for them.

…Yet think of all the energy dryers use.

…If you aren’t afraid of the clothesline cops, get good sturdy clothespins. might be a place.

…Get a good laundry basket—not warpy plastic.

…Get a wooden dry rack for inside on rainy days. HA might use the dryer on those days.

…For more info, check out

….HA doesn't know about religious, but those sheets did smell good in olden times.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cinnamon does not come from a can tree

…We have established that HA is no cook, right? Maybe a heater-upper or telephoner.

…So when she saw this article in the AZ Republic (Nov 12, 2008) by Karen Fernau, she learned we are entering the Realm of the Spices—the hols. Fernau warns that spices in the cabinet can go stale—check yours. Toss those with faded color or aroma. One year should be the limit.

…Cloves are the unopened buds of the myrtle flower, strong sweet, penetrating (also has medicinal powers--can numb toothaches).

…Nutmeg is the seed of the nutmeg tree, a tropical evergreen in the West Indies. HA’s ex- had a little grater deal to scrape the nut—said it tasted better than from the can.

…Sage is the leaves of an evergreen shrub grown in the Mediterranean area. She said it is pinelike—do you think of sage as piny?

…Allspice tastes like cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg glommed.

…Ginger is from a knobby root.

…Cinnamon is tree bark rolled into sticks.

….Pepper is the berries of the pepper plant.

…Poultry seasoning includes sage, thyme, marjoram, pepper, and celery seed.

…So now you know. Now, call the cooking school—time’s awastin’!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Hey, worry wart

…Yipes, political weirdness, no money, no prospects, a fresh hell (as Dorothy Parker would say) everyday, who isn’t worried?

…Well, we always have the Who Me Worry set, but I mean, REALLY, who isn’t worried?

…Sonia Haller (Arizona Republic, Nov 11, 2008) quotes Robert Leahy, author of The Worry Cure.

…He says knowing what you can control and what you can’t is key. (Yeah—and then…?)

…He cites different kinds of worriers. The first is The Fortune Teller. You believe you are foretelling the future. Shift from worry to something that brings calm and joy.

…The Ruminator keeps going over the past, This only brings regret. Try to focus on each even, ask what did I learn, and let it go.

…The Global Warrior worries about the fate of the planet. Worrying does not help the extinct animals or starving children.

…The Control Freak believes thoughts can control events. This is delusion. Calm your chattering mind!

…The Generalist. You worry about everything—and nothing. The traffic, your IRA, try to turn your mind toward one thing at a time.

…Good grief, HA is all these! Now she has that to worry about! Too many kinds of worrier!

…Let it go, calm and joy, learn something—easier said than done. HA worries about that.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Don't get on Mystery ER

…There are several cable shows in which people have weird symptoms and go back to their doctor again and again and finally get sent to a psychiatrist. HA is addicted to these. They suit her usual negative frame of mind.

…Last evening, HA saw an episode in which a woman in her 20s could not walk up a flight of stairs she was so out of breath. It took two visits to even get a chest x-ray. Then two more years passed. She went back 8 times. The same doc was stumped, just out of ideas.

…Finally, this gal sat down in another’s doc’s office and would not leave. She had a much belated second x-ray—tumor the size of a football in one lung.

..You probably heard HA yelling all the way to your house: “Catch a clue—get another doctor!”

…If you are frustrated by your doctor’s seeming lack of interest in your problems or are not getting any better, get a second opinion.

…So what if the doctor is ticked off—he or she works for you. and you would have to say—this is NOT working if the above is true.

….Obviously not all outcomes are good and so on, but you deserve a fair hearing and a diagnosis of some sort.

…If you don’t seem to have a treatment plan or a diagnosis—time for a second opinion. Other times to get one: When surgery is recommended, or a huge medical test, or you have been diagnosed with a bad illness, or if the doctor is recommending risky or experimental treatment.

…Just say, “I think you’re great, but I would like a second opinion just so I can be more informed.”

…If the two docs disagree, find out why.

…This is your only body. Don’t be so afraid of stepping on toes that you don’t do it justice.

…If you can’t breathe—don’t wait two years and put up with a bunch of nonsense before finding out what’s wrong. You might not have two years to waste.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Bad for the image

…HA has written that she thinks MRIs are being prescribed like little liver pills. But she is not sure how she feels about the recent WSJ story that more insurance companies are reviewing them, thus foiling docs, increasing office paperwork, and perhaps shortchanging patients.

…Under HA’s plan, her copay for an MRI is a thou. She is pretty likely to be half-dead or braindead before opting for one. But some people can’t wait to jump in the tube.

…Anna Wilde Mathews wrote the story (Nov 6, 2008), in which the biggies—Aetna, Wellpoint and Cigna--were nailed for hiring radiology-benefit managers to review requests. Their justification apparently is that docs don’t really know how to use this new technology.

…One woman had backing from her surgeon, oncologist and radiologist—but was turned down for an MRI to see if her cancer had returned. The reason was American Society of Clinical Oncology guidelines for women “under surveillance.”

…Another patient cited was supposed to have a PET scan every three months for two years, but the approvals delayed them a month or more and eventually a new tumor developed to a large stage.

…If you need a scan, see if you can find out what the professional society involved says. American Cancer Society is one, American College of Radiology is another.

…You can appeal. But a recent story about Arizona, at least, said that 95% of appeals to the state insurance board by doctors were nixed with almost no investigation.

…Yipes, people. We are out here trying to stay alive.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Purification rituals

…Ack, who can afford bottled water anymore? Plus the huggers are all over us for pitching the long-lived bottles everyplace.

…Now, if you make an initial investment, you can tote around clean, pathogen–free water without worry.

…The WSJ lists the Aquamira Water Bottle for $26.95—230 refills per filter. It’s stiff-though—you may need to build up your muscles to squeeze out the water (according to the WSJ).

…The LivPure Filtered water bottle is $12.99 at Target and the K-place. It’s sleek, thin, trendy—and removes half of the yucky-tasting chlorine. Don’t count on it killing cooties, though.

…The Watergeeks laboratory sports bottle (gotta love the name), is $17.99 for street use (tap) and $17.99 for outdoors (streams, ponds, limited). Replace filter every 90 days or 200 uses.

...HA had giardia once and recommends not drinking from streams, by the way (or eating in tiny, cheap restaurants).

…The Katadyn Micro Water Bottle Microfilter is old-school, for mucky water. Again, see foregoing. Hard to squeeze. www, or at REI stores.

…But hey, if you’re gazelling around some mountain, you can get water out of a balky bottle, right? And the stream might be the only thing around.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Virus scan

…Did you ever have a doc tell you you have a virus and let’s find out which one? Did all of you know they can test for viruses? HA has never had a doc do it.

…According to Laura Johannes (WSJ, Nov 4, 2008), doctors can try to find out which winter bug you have by testing. Most tests only test for one or two viruses and are not reliable.

…One study showed that only 17% of 3,000 kids under 3 with the flu were properly diagnosed.

…Sometimes these got antibiotics (which don’t work on viruses but do make bacteria stronger as they cycle through a lot of people’s systems).

…The FDA has approved a better test now…xTAG. It’s a virus panel. It tests for several types of flu, two types of RSV (kids), three types of parainfluenza, adenoviruses, and even the common cold virus.

…Usually this is run in the ER, but it can be done by a doctor in private practice.

…Problem is, it costs $300-$400 and takes 6-7 hours to do.

…Are you going to want to wait in the ER or go home and eat chicken soup?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Leaving the country?

…Was it the election? Something HA said? Anyhow, if you are decamping, even if for a vacay, do you ever check the State Dept website (www. for tips on staying alive?

….This does more than warn about the water—you can find out—maybe—whether you will get kidnapped or caught in a crossfire. Good to know.

…According to a story by Carol Pucci, in the Seattle Times, though, other govt websites such as Australia, UK, or Canada have better info.

…Often, critics say, the US govt doesn’t review warnings very often or bases them on feuds with other governments or feuds with allies of other governments.

…Thailand, for example, has been a trouble spot since Sept, according to Pucci. There was a state of emergency in Bangkok, though the problems were limited to the prime minister’s compound and nearby areas. Airports were closed for awhile, though.

…Other governments urged against all travel or advised extreme caution.

…The US did not add Thailand under any of its levels of alerts. Concerned travelers would have had to go to its catchall section—Country Specific Information—and then click on embassy notices for info on the violence.

…Even then, this was not changed when the situation changed.

…You might want to check out: or For UK advisories, go to

…Strolling into the middle of war could bum out your whole vacation.

…At minimum.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Moms band together

…According to Lisa Nicita, Arizona Republic, Sept 15, 2008, some women are forming Momtourages—little support groups of women with kids the same ages to take up the slack for each other.

…For Moms who work, these loose support groups can consist of nice doctor office nurses or teachers in addition to other mothers.

…There are some Momtourage blogs (the term comes, of course, from the HBO show Entourage about a movie star’s group of peers).

…There is power in numbers. They give every member a “date nite,” thus saving on babysitting. They take turns chaperoning hikes and bike rides.

…Sometimes this starts with carpooling, sometimes with a chat with a neighbor.

…See what you need first—rides, days off, think about it.

…Find one Mom who has the same needs. Meet with her. She may know someone else. You may know someone. Someone may approach you.

…These things take off. HA used to have a support system back in DC. Even now, she gets groceries delivered sometimes. Safeway could be in your Momtourage.

Monday, November 03, 2008

More to love and love

…LiveScience reports that overweight and obese women have more sex than the skinny-minnies.

…In fact, 92% of the 7,000 women surveyed in 2002 reported a history of hetero relations, compared with 87% of those with “normal” BMI.

…Well, catch up! Orally oriented, something to grab onto, luscious—what’s not to love?

…Otherwise, it’s two coat hangers tangling. That’s how you get more little coat hangers, not how you have a good time.

…The Univ of Hawaii researchers says overweight people need just as much information on STDs and sexual techniques as their thinner counterparts.

…Because of society’s attitudes, though, studies have also shown overweight people are more likely to have problems with image and desire.

…The researchers suggested the women, especially, read trashy romances for 20 minutes three times a week.

…Heyyy, is this a joke? Apparently not. Well, get right on it, scientists.