Friday, August 29, 2008

Many people unsure about what increases cancer risk


…HA has several closely beloved ideas that are probably completely wrong. Everyone does.

…A recent post on IrishHealth.com by Deborah Condon talks about mistaken beliefs about what increases risk of cancer.

…People around the world tend to think environmental factors have more of an impact than lifestyle.

…A survey of 30,000 people in 29 countries found that people in high income countries were least likely to think alcohol increased cancer risk, with 42% saying Demon Rum was not a factor. In middle-income places, only 26% exonerated alcohol. In low-income countries, only 15% let booze off the hook.

…Studies show as alcohol intake goes up, cancer risk increases.

…In high-income countries, not eating fruits and veggies was considered a bigger risk than excessive use of alcohol, although studies suggest the opposite.

…In high-income countries, stress and air pollution were seen as higher risks than alcohol. These are considered minor and stress doesn’t even register.

…In higher-income countries, people tended to think cancer treatment was more likely to work than people in lower-income areas. This feeling might keep people from seeking treatment—and is not supported by research.

…People tend to think that elements out of their control “cause” cancer, not things they could change.

…At very least, one doc said, we need some campaigns to educate people and show them a reason to change behavior.

…Even with reasons, losing weight, which has been shown to be quite problematical, and eating 11 growing things a day are challenges.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Do you know your GFR?


…The New York Times “Well” blog had a riproarer about how you should always call your doctor and get test results if you are not contacted. Many docs don’t even give out positive (meaning potentially bad) results.

…Apparently, according to some practitioners, they order the tests, then the results fly into a storm of paper that may or may not be nailed down and read.

…Mary Beth Fuller (AZ Republic, Aug 26, 2008) says one common test result is as important to know as your cholesterol readings.

…It’s called your GFR—glomerular filtration rate. It measures how well your kidneys are functioning.

…26 million Americans have some stage of chronic kidney disease and don’t know it. At most risk are people with diabetes, high blood pressure, and a family history. African Americans, Native Americans and Hispanics also have an increased risk.

…Kidneys are packed with half a million filter units called glomeruli. Blood flows in, waste is filtered out and then excreted as urine.

…The GFR is how much blood is being filtered per minute. Normally, this is 85 to 125 cubic centimeters. Around 100 is good.

…Under 60, and you might have anemia or bone disease. Under 20, bad news and you need treatment to slow the disease.

…If you are 50 to 60, you are nowhere near needed dialysis—with health care and lifestyle changes you may never get to the bad stage.

…The problem is—at 50 you could feel fine.

…By knowing your GFR you can get into a chronic kidney disease program and stave off the worst.

…Ask your doctor? Are you getting a GFR test? What does it mean?

…Hey, we all have to be half-vast docs now, right?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

How to tell boss-to-be about a disability


…We all know the disabled cannot be discriminated against in employment, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen..

…Suzanne Robitaille (WSJ, Aug 26, 2008) writes says it’s best to give management a heads-up.

…Before even applying, know the company culture. Some companies are known for their tolerance. Check out www.business-disability.com and www.nod.com for their membership lists.

…Do not mention your problem in your resume or cover letter unless it’s directly related to the job. Instead, talk about it with the hiring person on the second or third go-round.

…If you take the job and are trying to prove yourself before telling, start with someone in the company you trust. One woman got the job and didn’t talk about her MS until she had some symptoms.

…If you need accommodation, such as a wheelchair ramp, you need to disclose first.

…Network with other people with your disability.

…A physical problem is a reality. We like to think we live in a reality based world—don’t we? Sucks, doesn’t it? But you can do this!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Probiotics--what's the story there?


…Back in the day, HA’s Mom used to make some pretty odoriferous, potent yogurt in the oven—you knew it was full of little flora and fauna and wasn’t some uptown pudding deal.

…Supposedly these critters in yogurt help populate your innards with good elements that help you digest and absorb food and not get overgrown with yeast. (Antibiotics kill bad f&f.)

…Natasha Trenev has checked into 200 clinical trial studies on yogurt.

…First, she says, yogurt must be kept under refrigeration.

…If you see the terms Bifidus regularis and L. casei defensis—this is m.BS (major you know what). These terms mean nothing.

…The FDA does not check food for effectiveness, but at least be sure the yogurt maker runs the GMP label—this stands for Good Manufacturing Practices.

…CFUs are Colony Forming Units—see if any are listed.

…Trenev makes probiotic products in capsule form—containing billions of CFUs.

…Check out www.natren.com.

…Come of think of it that stuff in Mom’s oven might have been a little scary.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Labeling your own meds


…HA seems to be down to one eye and squints mightily at prescription bottles—is that the one with the long name, OK…that must be for…

…Now, a pharmacy manager here in AZ has applied for a patent for a plastic ring that fits around a prescription bottle allowing you to write a short note in large letters, such as “BLOOD PRESSURE.”

…Legally, pharmacists, he says, cannot write on the bottle what it’s for. The Medi-Ring lets you do that.

…One aging expert (expert in aging, not necessarily older) said the real problem is getting the elderly to take their medicines—this is what those compartmented boxes are for.

…The pharmacist’s idea is that pharmacies will distribute the rings—this is not some big thing you will need to—or even could—buy.

…Why not write on the label? Actually HA has tried that and your pen slips off the rounded surface and it looks like a monkey on ‘ludes did it.

…Would writing on the ring be easier?

Friday, August 22, 2008

What makes Sammy run?


…Stu Woo (great name), writing in the WSJ, Aug 22, 2008, says some dedicated exercisers have decided to commute to work not only on foot, but on running foot.

…One guy (SF, where else) leaves at 6 am to get to work by 10 am—23 miles.

…He does this twice a week—to save on gas. And to train.

…He is called an ultra—he runs in ultra-marathons of not 26, but 100 miles.

…One guy carries a baton to fend off dogs.

…Also if your office does not sport a shower, and you show up a sodden, heaving mass, then what? One woman showers first. Uh..oh, never mind.

…This woman cleans up with baby wipes—and an office mate asked, “Who changed a diaper?” She now uses scentless baby wipes and swear she does not offend.

…The San Francisco guy saves $18 a week on gas for his BMW.

…BMW? You mean he doesn’t drive a Prius?

…Which reminds HA. What about the deadly fumes he is happily sucking in now by the 23-mile load.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Peaceful, beautiful...and CHEMO?


…Laura Landro (WSJ, Aug 20, 2008) reminds us of those ratty, icky-smelling, often dim imaging rooms and chemo suites. HA has never had chemo but is no fan of the plasticy smelling x-ray rooms in most hospitals and imaging joints.

…Bad enough to have some giant hunk of junk looming over you and lying on a flat, rock-like slab.

…For chemo, patients sit in slicky La-Z-Boy type chairs in a cramped space for hours as poison runs into them. They even call these “corrals,” like the patients are livestock.

…A window, a waterfall, a sound system! Something!

…Many hospitals are wising up—curtaining off “corral” spaces, knocking out windows and skylights (even over X-ray machines) and making the spaces better for patients and staff. Better morale there, remember, can affect patient care and cut the grumpies.

…One facility, the new breast center at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland has an atrium with the sound of water and birds chirping. Light flows in. At another center in Seattle, patients watch seaplanes land and take off.

…This is a new field—evidence-based design—where studies measure the effects of surroundings and techniques on outcomes.

…Of course, some people say in this age of rising costs, these are expensive frills. But the studies show stress reduction, reduced use of meds, and better outcomes from these changes.

…It’s the machines that cost—the waterfalls are only a ...drop of that.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Allergic to life


…Stress and anxiety can make allergies worse, according to some Ohio State scientists.

…Is this common knowledge? HA can’t quite tell.

…They took some volunteers with a history of hay fever and seasonal allergies. Over three days, standard allergy tests were taken. Then all got tests to determine their stress level.

…And THEN...One day they had a low stress day—reading magazines.

…They day after that, they had to give a videotaped speech, solve math problems without a pen and paper, and watch their performances on tape.

…Stress! Suicide here! (Sorry—HA loses control sometimes.)

…In moderately stressed people, the wheals from the allergy test were 75% larger on stress day. Those who started off stressed doubled their wheal size! Much worse!

…The stressed people also had allergy syptoms persist longer.

…Eeek—HA thinks she is half-dead from stress now. No allergy tests!

…Naw, the message is: Try to de-stress.

…Yeah, try it! De-stressing is stressful.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Traveling with meds


…Consumer Reports on Health (Aug 2008) gives some tips on how to get your prescriptions through the airport.

…But first, do you ever watch the show "Locked Up Abroad"? As the on-the-nose title hints, it’s about deep thinkers who agree to take suitcases someone else packed through thirtd-world airports. Good show, very wages-of-sin.

…OK, back to real life. Apparently the TSA is inconsistent on what is allowed. Our government? Really? Inconsistent?

…Some guy named Scott T. Mueller, author of The Empty Carousel: A Consumer’s Guide to Checked and Carry-On Luggage,” is quoted.

…Apparently, other nations are stricter and even more whimsical. The United Arab Emirates forbids bringing in antidepressants, estrogen, and over-the-counter cough syrup.

…Always bring enough medication to cover an extended stay. Bring copies of your prescriptions, too (does your drugstore give these back, HA’s doesn’t).

…Also bring the doctor’s phone and fax.

…If you are going through an airport, keep the substances in the original packaging. The bottle should match the ticket name.

…Bring most of it in your carry-on bags in case your checked bags wander.

…Liquid medication, like all other liquids, must be 3 oz or less.

…If you are going through time zones, and especially if you are on insulin, work out a schedule with your doctor.

…And if some swarthy customer comes up to you in a bar and asks if you would like to try out a new hotel in Caracas or take an all-expense paid vacay to Peru, just say, "I don't think so."

Monday, August 18, 2008

So you think you want to work at home


…Sue Shellenbarger writes about how Big Bro cannot leave home workers well enough alone (WSJ, July 30, 2008).

…Companies are hiring independent contractors, then stripping them of their independence by spying on them with webcams and keystroke counters.

…They take screen shots at random times (better not be the horoscope onscreen), count mouse clicks, and snap photos of the workers to see if they look alert.

…As gas gets more expensive, more poor fools will find themselves on an electronic leash.

…Can’t go to the john without fear and guilt, how much coffee are you drinking?, why do you look pale, were you out late? This stuff is not healthful, either.

…A big culprit in the spy biz is oDesk, a bidding company in which freelancers are invited to ax each other and race to the bottom of the pay scale—only to be spied on.

…Supposedly oDesk workers put up with this because the company pays promptly. Freelancers are such a wretched lot—sell out for this!

…Other companies ask workers to schedule bathroom breaks—unpaid, of course—ahead of time.

…And if you are a customer service rep working from home, heaven forbid the boss tunes in and your dog barks.

..The dog is fired immediately.

…One woman’s little pet knows that and clams up when she starts talking on the phone.

…It’s a bitch.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Does your child have "good kid" DNA?


…Assuming we define “good” as pleasant and law-abiding (and HA is not sure she does, completely), new research may indicate that some kids who never seem to learn from their mistakes may have a glitch in their DNA coils.

…Sharon Begley wrote about this in Newsweek (Aug 18, 2008). Kids who always seem to make poor choices may be lacking in dopamine receptors—molecules that receive thoughts and emotions. This in turn, some say, can lead to the inability to resist drugs or learn from past bad experiences.

…The lessons just don’t sink in.

…Weirdly, the sweetest kids are the least likely to emulate their parents and their lessons. The fussy, ornery ones are more likely to absorb the lessons.

…Kids who go with the flow are more like Teflon, Begley says. Even the good lessons flow off them.

…This gene conformation also determines whether breastfeeding gives the kid a leg up or not. The ones lacking the receptors can even dodge bad parenting and not over react to abuse.

…Of course, the scientists on both sides are now squaring off at each other.

…But HA is thinking, “Hmmmm.”

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Ah, sweet java


…Jerry Seinfeld used to have a routine about how everyone always offered him coffee and he didn’t like coffee. Poor baby.

…Anyone can offer HA coffee. She loves it! And she has never believed coffee doesn’t count as fluid for hydration because it’s a diuretic or that it raises BP.

…But is it really a health drink? Jane E. Brody tackles this in the NYT, Aug 5, 2008.

…She agrees it’s a myth that coffee does not count as a fluid to hydrate you. They did a study—people drinking 550 mg of caffeine produced no more urine than when drinking caffeine-free fluids. (A Starbucks Grande is 330 mgs.)

…Coffee also does not produce heart disease, according to another study. “Little or no evidence it causes heart disease or even weird heart rhythms." The big Iowa Women’s Health Study showed three cups a day reduced cardiovascular disease by 24%.

…Caff can cause a small temporary rise in BP, but a nurse study showed those who drank it were no more likely over the long haul to develop high blood pressure.

…Despite a scare about this, other studies have shown coffee probably does not cause pancreatic or kidney cancer.

…There is only a slightly increased chance of bone loss or decreased calcium absorption.

…Alas, however, although coffee speeds up metabolism, it probably does not increase weight loss.

…But it sure does increase alertness and enhance mood!

…And drinking the caffeine kind may even cut the risk of Parkinson’s by almost a third and Type 2 diabetes by 28%.

…So, who's pouring?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Maggots with a job


…Usually HA reserves the term maggot for select members of the commercial community, but this is about real little wigglers. You know, baby flies.

…According to Newsday, Aug 7, 2008, British scientists have found that maggots may help to create an antibiotic that will attack the MRSA killer bug.

…The works is taking place at Swansea Univ in South Wales and the antibiotic comes from secretions (HA hates that word, by the way) of the green bottle fly larva. The secretion, if you care, is saliva.

…It takes 20 maggots to make one drop (Caution: Maggots at work).

…Some docs (and not even from the Middle Ages) use maggots to clean wounds.

…”Maggots are great little multitaskers,” enthused one researcher.

…The new stuff cleans up diabetic foot ulcers with MRSA in 3 weeks versus 28 for other approaches.

…File under great new uses for gross stuff.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Hamster luv


…Seventy yrs ago, America fell in love with a caramel-colored rodent. Awww.

…OK, some are other colors.

…Writing about the adorable vermin (Az Republic, Aug 11, 2008) Karina Bland reveals that this pet originally hailed from Syria. A researcher at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem smuggled some of the lab animals into England in 1931 by stuffing them in his pockets.

…From there a highway engineer won a pair in a poker game and started breeding them. All hamsters were descendents of the pocket pets until a grad student from MIT caught some wild hammies in Syria and started a rival business.

…During World War II hamsters made great pets—they were small and cheap to feed.

…If this isn’t tacky to say, they are a good starter pet—they only live about two years.

…Some hamsters leap around like circus performers and are very entertaining. JFK had hamsters named Debbie and Billie at the White House.. Hamsters have had cameos on The Simpsons, Cosby, Calvin and Hobbes, and Lilo & Stitch.

…They can get a little stinky, HA recalls, thus the cedar chip thing. When they get away and get in the heating ducts and die, parents use forbidden language, but you can learn new words that way.

…They also must be pretty clean—hamsters were first used in leprosy research, but didn’t catch the disease and thus became pets.

…HA also remembers that finding the teeny, peanut-sized pink babies in a Kleenex nest was pretty thrilling.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Let the kids cook--they'll eat better


…Writing in the Arizona Republic (July 30, 2008), Srianthi Perera interviews registered dietitian Michelle Dudash, who offers a cooking class for children 7-12.

…The classes are under the auspices of the Child Obesity Center in Chandler.

…The idea is that the tendency to be overweight can pass from generation to generation (the genetic link), and teaching kids about food and how to prepare it can break the cycle.

…In Arizona, 30% of kids are overweight or obese. Hardest hit are low income kids

…She won’t say the kids are losing weight, but she does say they are learning new lifelong skills.

…At the end of each class, the participants have a family-style meal. Then they take home the recipes.

…HA has pretty good memories of home ec in junior high. She made a muffin with a sugar cube soaked on orange juice in it—memorable. Also meatloaf in muffin tins. HA and her friends enjoyed aggravating the teacher, Mrs Cox by calling these creations Mutt Muffins.

…Ah, school. How exquisite! Let’s hope these little tots learn 50 ways to make kale and stay healthy all their lives.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Break the mold


…Daniel Stone (Newsweek, Aug 11, 2008) writes about all the crud in our houses that’s trying to off us.

…HA’s niece moved into a rental and thought she had black (stachybotrys) mold, the kind that can supposedly make people sick. The stench turned out to be a toilet without a seal, but it was not a good moment.

…Many people just can’t stand much more asbestos, paint fumes, dust mite poop or other pollutants 27/7 where they live and sleep.

…Having an eco firm go over your digs is not cheap and can cost $1000 or more. Most horrible is asbestos, which is linked to cancer. Mold is second—there are 200,000 species, with stachy being the most notorious for causing harm.

…Animal dander is next. HA has friends who walk in, sneeze, and mumble, “Cats.”

…There is not much certification or oversight of inspection or eradication firms. Is a visual inspection (stinky black slime behind a wall) better than air testing? Not known.

…It takes as much to be a mold expert, one source said, as to print a business card.

…HA has written about this—bleach mixed with water.

...For more info: www.epa.gov/iaq/pubs/moldresources.html.

...It's always something, isn't it?

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Brand X for dinner?


…The Associated Press’s Dan Sewell says store brands are getting more attention, what with the economy tanking and all.

…Is he joking? You have never heard of the brands on HA’s shelf? They say VALUE or FOOD (in case she was doubtful).

…When HA sees bread on sale, she gets four loaves and freezes. Who needs Costco?

…HA also found out long ago that Kroger canned spaghetti sauce tastes way better than the jar brands.

…The store brands don’t look as pathetic as they used to, either. They aren’t dented cans or seconds. They also aren’t drab. Despite HA’s feeble jokes, store brands are called “Private Selection” or “Naturally Preferred.”

…Some store spokesfolk told Sewell these brands represented them, were their signature, and were not some creepy little secret.

…Try that Kroger spaghetti sauce. Garlic & Herbs is the best.

…Value saltines also taste better than Zesta.

…If you see the words, “Peanut Butter Cookies,” do you really need a mouthy little elf next to them?

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

See what it's like?


…Was it Paul Newman who said, “Growing old ain’t for sissies”?

…Even HA takes her time clumping around to go to the door, singing out, “Coming, coming….”

…John Leland, writing in the NYT, Aug 3, 2008, talks about a program called Xtreme Aging designed to show young’ns what it’s like to be old'ns.

…Xtreme Agers put sharp kernels of corn in their shoes to experience sore feet. They wear weird glasses to distort their vision. Cotton balls in the ears blur hearing, and up the nose, screw up smelling. They also wear latex gloves with knuckle bands to simulate clumsy hands.

…This program is used at hospitals and in nursing homes, but also in some businesses that deal with older people. (Reportedly AARP was in too much denial to try it.)

…Apparently, participants put on all this gear and then try to button a shirt or find a number in the book.

…There is also a program in which young people list their most cherished freedoms and possessions and then are told they must give them up.

…Some this seemed pretty extreme, she means Xtreme, to HA. Sure, you have to give up things, like driving or doing your own clothes shopping. But we aren’t exactly talking Sophie’s Choice every day of the year.

…HA helps take care of her mother, who suffers from dementia. In the last two weeks, she has taken her mother through a hospitalization and change of residence and physician.

….Friends, family, and professionals can help shield older people from some of the more wrenching aspects.

…Just don’t call older people “Q-tip heads” as someone did in the story. It’s stupid and could stand to be funnier, too.

…You are never too old to edit.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Big Brother's eyes getting bigger


…Ellen Nakashima, Washington Post (Aug 4, 2008), writes that the behemoth insurance companies no longer wait for you to reveal your medical history or give them permission to access it—now they just go to a free “health report” on you from commercial databases.

…No muss, no fuss, and for you, probably no health insurance.

…They see what you get from the pharmacy, how much and how often. They check all the labs you have had done.

…No more waiting for inefficient doc’s offices to rat you out—they just push a button.

…They can decide if you get insurance in a day.

…Of course, this is also an example of data being used for an unintended purpose. The ever-humorous HIPAA does not apply to them.

…Pharmacy benefit managers for health insurance companies update pharm records daily. They can find out you just picked up that expensive cancer drug yesterday.

…You may be using a drug for one purpose and be denied because they think it’s for another purpose.

…Buying high dose cholesterol pills? You are a horrible risk. No way.

…As HA loves to say, we are just pawns on the board.

Monday, August 04, 2008

A doctor was nice to HA


…Stop the presses! At the NYT health blog, discussions go on for weeks with doctors and patients sniping and accusing each other…You are a snippy idiot who almost killed me, well, you broke appts without calling and I have student loans to pay, etc.

…This has become a war, people.

…Check out http://thehappyhospitalist.blogspot.com -- this whippersnapper spews daily on how fat and irritating and what con artists patients are trying to get drugs and with their tiresome, boring diabetes.

…HA has had an almost comical number of horrible medical encounters. Every hospitalization she has encountered, every bit of damage to her body, has come from a medication or operation.

…So imagine her surprise to actually have a decent medical appointment—and it was at Urgent Care. HA had violent abdominal pains for a day and a half and could not bear to call “her” doctor because his office often had the machine on during business hours, did not have same-day appts, and the doctor had not helped intervene during her eye crisis and now does not take care of patients in the hospital.

…So Urgent Care it was. The doctor there, a young woman in her 30s, actually talked to HA for 10 whole minutes. She asked what happened to HA’s eye. She asked about her medications. She laughed at HA’s jokes (smiled anyway, instead of making a hurry-up motion with her hands). She even asked HA’s opinion of what antibiotic she wanted—and HA, in turn, took her advice on the medicine.

…When HA asked could they call ahead to the pharmacy, someone picked up the phone and did it without a giant stream of excuses.

…Then, when HA got home, she looked at the printout they had given her and not only did it contain her test results, but the line: “I hope you feel better soon.”

…HA has never had a doctor say or write that. It meant a lot!

…If only doctors knew how we long for what one person wrote on the NYT rant: “A balance between being considered intelligent and capable of understanding our condition and a feeling of trust for the doctor.”

…”I hope you feel better soon.”

…Far out.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

By a nose


…According to the Harvard HEALTHbeat, we detect less disgusting stuff as we get older. This also applies to apple blossoms and perfume, though.

…Food becomes less flavorful. This, in turn, takes away your appetite.

…You can not detect smoke—your house could be on fire.

…Common meds like beta blockers can rob smell. Over 90% of Alzheimers patients have some loss of smell—and the loss can be an early symptom.

…Half of those over 60 can’t smell the way they used to.

…In some cases, docs can prescribe antihistamines. Leukotriene inhibitors can reduce nasal polyps. A short course of steroids can reduce nasal blocks, too.

…If you lose your sense of taste over a cold and it doesn’t come back, asking the doc can also be advisable.

…We all know how easy it is to do that!

…HA can still wrinkle at the cat box—she is holding her own.