Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Good deed--for your own body

…Did you know donating blood actually helps your health? This was sort of a new one on HA—which is rare, she said (modestly).

…Americans get more iron in their food than is good for them. Beyond a healthful point, iron creates those darn free radical cells that bash up other cells. This increases the risk of heart disease and cancer.

…Usually this hits men—women tend to get rid of the iron during their periods.

…Studies show men who donate blood have a lower risk of heart disease and liver, lung, colon, stomach and throat cancer.

…Also, when you go to donate, they check you out—you won’t be allowed to give if you are low on iron. They also check blood pressure and for other diseases.

…And you are doing a good and maybe saving a life at the same time! Can’t beat that with a … er, stick.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Dystonia--you may need to tell your doctor

…HA knows a beautiful young lawyer with dystonia—a movement disorder that causes muscles to clench or spasm of their own accord—over and over, all day, all night.

…The mechanism that makes muscles relax is not functioning properly.

…This is the third most-common muscle movement disorder after Parkinson’s and tremors.

…But often even doctors aren’t aware of it. HA’s friend says this is is very frustrating.

…Some days, she cannot type well because the hand and foot on one side are spasming.

…It is estimated 300,000 people have it in North America—men, women, children.

…HA's friend got it from a blood clot after surgery. There are many causes, though and many ways it shows up.

…So for more info go to www.dystonia-parkinson.org.

…Here is a first-hand account, too. http://mackthewriter.wordpress.com/2008/09/10/the-frustration-of-dystonia-and-my-attempt-to-help/

…And be glad—you probably don’t have it. But maybe someone you know has weird symptoms and is becoming less able to function. Remember this post.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Flu shot time again, people

…You will be seeing those lines in the grocery store any time.

…Officially, the Centers for Disease Control recommends shots for kids older than 6 months and up until their 19th birthday, pregnant women, people over 50, and people of any age with chronic medical conditions. If you work in a long-term care place or nursing home, get a shot.

…As for the nasal spray form, this is not for people over 50 or under 2 years of age.

…In case you teens and young adults though you were skating, this year there is enough vaccine for you, too.

…Each year, the scientists try to figure out which strains of flu are coming. This is kind of a highly educated crapshoot. This year, all three strains were changed—this means it’s a good match, they say. Last year, two of the three strains in the stuff did not match what showed up.

…This year, there is enough vaccine to shoot up the school-age kids, who bring this stuff home and spread it around.

…About 20% of the population gets the flu each winter. Don’t be in that number. The vaccine could help.

…Like most things in life…not a 100% certainty.

…Oh, and it costs about $30 if your insurance is being grumpy.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Buh-zang! Teens wake up

…HA has a young person around someplace who is, shall we say, less than animated much of the time. She may need more caffeine.

…But…seriously…scientists are clucking today over energy drinks—seems they impart too much goodness!

….They are up nights on Red Bulls at Johns Hopkins converting energy drinks into Coca-Cola equivalents. Some equal 14 cans of Coke!

…OK, that’s a ton, all snarkiness aside. But since it’s a $5.4 billion business, these are not going away.

…These docs wants better labels to scare people away from Caffeine Intoxication, which the last time HA looked is legal and it’s darn tricky to scare people away from legal intoxications (except prescription drugs).

…Still, abusers are still coming by the ER with “jolt and crash episodes.” Jolt and crash--like the sound of that? Check the fridge.

…When you add alcohol, it’s even worse.

…And, of course, we hear it leads to harder stuff. Even 14 Cokes in one glass can’t compete with little brother’s Ritalin, cadged from the medicine cabinet.

…Do you kids want to get old enough to think straight? Then try not to be too big an idiot now.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Glad we did all those bone scans

…There has been a change of plans. Or at least of recommendations.

…Sending women to get bone scans to check for incipient osteoporosis (osteopenia) or full-on brittle bones has become another medical staple. Over 50? Time for a DEXA.

…This has been accompanied by youngish, plucky, bloom-of-life type women downing their weekly or monthly bone pill. Even Norma Rae was firing one down.

…Call it fear of fractures.

…Susan Brink, writing in the LA Times (Sept 22, 2008), says half of women over 50 have osteopenia, as defined by the World Health Organization.

…Women stop laying down bone and start losing bone cells as they age. Studies show they lose no more than 7% of their bone density after menopause, These pills (biphosophonates) restore 8% within 5 yrs.

…Better to hold off on the screens until risk gets higher, say some docs.

…Even the ads are showing older gals.

…Waiting until you are 65 is probably fine. Healthy women may be popping these expensive pills to prevent something they are never getting.

…Like all drugs, these have side effects—they tell you to sit up for half an hour so it won’t eat into your esophagus. They can also cause bone pain or a rash. Dentists are also finding more jaw disease among the osteo pill takers.

…The FDA even warned Merck their ads were misleading.

…The National Osteoporosis Foundation, however, warns that half of all women and a quarter or men over 50 will have an osteo-related fracture in their lifetime.

…But these come later as a rule and may be caused as much by factors other than weak bones.

…You can go to www.shef.ac.uk/FRAX/, put in data (some in metric), and see what your risk is of a fracture if you are really freaking out. Another site, www.fore.org eliminates the metric aspect.

…So—break a leg.

…No, no, don’t.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Marriage still the thing

…Particularly in this political season, HA sees so many people trying to characterize people’s marriages—a business relationship, loveless, hypocritical, deceitful, etc.

…It took her a few decades, but HA has concluded that you can’t tell anything about someone’s relationship. But may think you know, but you don’t.

…Leslie Bennetts took this on in Parade (Sept 21, 2008). In point of fact, Bennetts says, marriage works really well for most people. In a recent poll, 88% said they were reasonably happy. Only 12% said they were miserable and wanted out.

…”Deep love” and “companionship,” were listed as reasons for staying.

…A third said they would describe their marriages as “peaceful coexistence.” Men, despite their jokes about balls and chains, are happier than women.

…Seventy percent of men said they never thought of leaving their wives. Half the women had considered leaving.

…When they do fight, almost half the time it’s about money. Chores and sex ranked next.

…About one-fourth were not happy with their sex lives.

…31% have sex less than once a month. If they don’t have sex more often, 48% of men said the woman was not interested. A third of women say they are too tired.

…Men admitted cheating more than women did. Nearly one-fourth said they had strayed or refused to answer. Only 11% of women had cheated, they said, and 4% would not answer. If they cheated, the men did it with more than one woman. Fifty-eight percent of tie wives only cheated with one.

….If they found their spouse was cheating, most Americans would stay and try to save the marriage.

…A quarter of the men in the survey kept secrets from their wives (debts, gambling hidden assets, weird sexual practices).

…Love still makes all this work. People got married for love (80%).

….Would you marry the same person again? All but 16% of the men said yes. Twenty-two percent of the women thought they could do better.

…Woman wanted to talk more. That’s no shocker.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Ah, vanity sizing

…After the first rush of getting into a smaller size, do you think, “Hmmm, this is sort of weird”?

…Erica Sagon, AZ Republic, Sept 13, 2008, says it is quite likely that it is the manufacturer, rather than your on-and-off diet, that is putting you a few sizes smaller.

…It’s called vanity sizing. They have gone so low now, there is a Size 00. Are we going to Minus Sizes, just like we did Plus Sizes (HA preferred "Queen" sizes anyhow).

…The reporter went shopping with a model who wears 6-8. She found dresses in 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12 that fit perfectly!

…Some makers cut things small, now, to maintain their skinny snob appeal.

…The moral: Always try on.

…There is a NY company called Fitlogic that is trying to standardize sizes. But many designers will be ignoring it.

…Checkout www.sizemeup.com. It is in beta but is designed to help you find out what size you are in what brand.

…Clothes that fit look best. Try to rise above the tyranny of sizes. HA is plus sizes. What is 2X. Two times what? Two Courtney Coxes?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Mind over madder

…Ever have days?

…Anger is a reaction to a threat, according to Jane Middleton-Mox, MS, and Peaco Todd, MS, authors of “Good and Mad: Transform Anger Using Mind, body, Soul and Humor.

…When blood rushes to your arms to punch, it runs away from your brain—they say.

…Boys more often express anger as aggression, the authors told HA once for a WebMD story.

…Can you get your Dad’s temper? The jury is out on this. This propensity may be duplicating how your Dad acted, not a genetic imperative.

…Anger usually comes in stages. First is passive-aggression—the silent the treatment, the teeth gritting, the sneaky foiling of the object of the anger.

….Then comes sarcasm.

…Then cold anger. Maybe the angry person leaves the room.

…The comees hostility. Someone in line starts tapping a toe. The angry person seems like a timebomb ready to blow.

…Then comes—BAM! The shouting, the pushing, grabbing, throwing things.

…The Five S’s, HA was told, affect anger. Sleep, stress, sustenance, substances and sickness.

….See which are affecting you.

…Then actively listen to the other person.

….Move your body…exercise.

…Write your anger on a sticky and put it on the sole of your shoe and stomp on it.

…As for that last, HA believes you will start laughing and lightening things up.

…So don't forget to buy Post-Its.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Disaster worse if you're disabled

…This is National Preparedness Month—aren’t you glad HA never tells you all these months? You’re welcome.

….Did you notice we just had another hurricane mess down Louisiana and Texas way? Those people are suffering, hot, wiped out.

…Anyhow, if you are housebound or wheelchair bound, blind, or not too nimble these days, you may want to see if there is a database in your area where you can sign up so emergency people know about your situation.

…A helpful website is www.jik.com. Also, FEMA recommends you lay in 72 hours of supplies—a gallon of water person per day, nonperishable food, radio, baby formula, diapers, you can make a list.

…Families of disabled people should also know what they are doing for the person in the event of a disaster. The site www.ready.gov has much of this info.

…You know your own abilities—and limitations. Can you get out of the house? Can you hear the TV? Can you phone? Is your respirator plugged into electricity that could go out?

…Hook up with someone 100 miles away—sometimes long distance calls go through better.

…Have a couple of nearby people in mind and talk it over in advance. One may not be home or able to help—you need more than one.

…Make a list of your meds and when you take them. Keep it with you.

…The key is plan and think ahead. Get anything done ahead that you can.

…HA likes to panic ahead, too—but has been advised that this is not a becoming trait.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

How to call in "well"

…Ah, Ferris Bueller, a role model of HA’s.

…Anyhow, back in the misties when HA had a self-respecting job, she used to take the odd sick day just to kick and be happy.

…Her philosophy was call the sort of scattered receptionist early enough and say, “I feel too good to come to work” and the woman would write it down as sick.

…The Arizona Republic (Sept 13, 2008), has some other tips for snagging a day off.

…Don’t email. If you can write one, the boss may make you work at home.

…Don’t go into details. No one gives good details.

…Food poisoning—winner. It lasts one day and no one wants you to come in.

…Don’t write about this on Facebook.

…Don’t return to the office sunburned.

…Take your mental health mid-week. Friday is a dead giveaway.

…Say, “I may need to go to the doctor.” Don’t commit yourself. This prevents later check-ins.

…Don’t go a movie near your office—there could be another “sickie” from the office in there.

…Have any other tips, readers?

…HA once started a really scary Stephen King book on a Sunday nite, kept the light on reading, fell asleep about 4—woke up at 7—called in sick. Then started reading and it was so scary even in the light, she went to work.

…Her assistant said, “I thought you were….”

…”Miracle," HA muttered and shut her office door.

Monday, September 15, 2008

How to dial back to part-time

…Some of us are part-time because of the bad economy. Sucko. But others need a shorter schedule.

…Karen Springen, writing in Newsweek (May 12, 2008) says some women, especially, like to work part-time. Employers, too, can be talked into it, because it may save them on benefits.

…If you are tired of the rat race and would prefer to race around with the rugrats, consider cutting back hours. Thirty-six percent of employers now allow this. Another healthy chunk allows job sharing.

…First, you have to make yourself invaluable. Some people go part-time from full-=time. Others call a service such as Ten til 2 (tentiltwo.com) or Mom Corps (momcorps.com).

…Ask how many hours are expected. If the full-timers are working 60 hrs, do you need to commit to 30, rather than the old-time 20?

…Will the company pay for your laptop and DSL? If you don’t want to work during school vacations, you need to set that up in advance.

…Get an hourly wage—then if the hours creep up, you are paid for them.

…Ask if being part-ime means never getting promoted. Sometimes it does mean that.

…Make sure your family understands you are working (and your dog, HA adds).

…It’s harder for some professions to go part-time. Think about it,

…To avoid ending up working almost full-time for part-time money, ask for your full-time job to go to four days or find some way to make it more flexible but still full-time. (Some part-time jobs also come with benefits, though.)

…Watch out for yourself. Some of your work may be at home—employers can tend to give short shrift to people they don't see much.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Lowering cholesterol without "big" drugs

…HA once interviewed three top cardiologists (Johns Hopkins, etc) who were so in love with statin cholesterol-lowering drugs, they would try another one themselves when one hurt their legs or affected their memory.

…We are in a big, informal national trial on this medication—and problems are arising. Yes, high cholesterol (or low ”good” cholesterol) has been linked to heart disease and stroke. Linked—not causative, necessarily. Yes, you can imagine white crummy stuff plugging an artery, but is this what is happening?

…No, HA did not just tell you to lose the statins. Do your own research. If your doctor will talk to you, talk to your doctor. If you had a stent installed or a heart attack, you may well need to stay on these.

…But some docs are now looking into Omega 3 fatty acids and red yeast rice to reduce that nasty LDL

…Muscle pain, liver damage and possibly, memory issues are the possible side effects of statins—that and expense.

…Less commonly, these pills—which you should take for the rest of your life—can cause diarrhea, and swallowing and breathing problems.

...Red yeast rice, Omega 3, niacin (vit B), exercise, and certain dietary changes like eating oatmeal are good—but not all at once and you need a plan.

…The good news? Most plans include olive oil, nuts, fresh produce, and non- or low-fat dairy.

…Yum and you can chew and savor instead of throwing it down with water.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Little bursts of exercise

…A study came out the other day saying if you had a certain gene thing going on, you needed to “move” four hours a day to lose weight.

…”Move” is the new word for exercise. Less icky, you know.

…Consumer Reports on Health *Sept 2008) contains a story about ways to “move” a lot during the day without some full-on gym outing.

…Scientists at Mayo Clinic, according to this, have found that some people just fidget and jump around like a cricket on Red Bull all day (don’t believe they mentioned the RB, but you get the idea). These “movementy” types roll over more in bed, pace, go outside after dinner and toss the ball, that sort of thing.

…Doing a lot of that can burn 350 cals a day! For the average person, this is like walking an hour and a half.

…Walk or bike at least partway to work. Park far from the door (that’s an oldie-goldie), use the stairs…

…Stand at your desk. Walk to other offices, don’t call. Keep elastic bands and tug on them at your desk.

…At home, use a manual can opener. Rake leaves (don’t call the kid).

…Walk the dog (get one if you don’t already have one—HA). Go dancing.

…They also said change the channel without the remote. That went a step too far.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Kickin' in AZ

…For some reason, the Brits did a study at Univ of Cambridge that said Arizonans lead less stressful lives and are more likely to value self-discipline than other Americans.

…HA has no idea why Brits would do this—but they didn’t check in with her!

…The point, actually, was that personalities vary by state.

…North Dakotans, they claimed, are more sociable and affable than most.

…New Yorkers—high strung and creative.

…The national “stress belt,” they said, divides anxious and impulsive Easterners from the relaxed West.

…Which comes first, the personality or the place, which then shapes the personality? Apparently, the traits—which then form the overall ambiance.

…If the people are imaginative and creative, museums and universities abound, which in turn makes people more imaginative and creative.

..HA once wrote an essay on how people on the East Coast were grownups and drink martinis and dressed like Stone Phillips. People in the Midwest were young adults, energetic and hard-working. People in the Southwest were the teens, tearing around in t-shirts, and on the West Coast, they were little kids, in tiny shirts and vroom-vroom cars. Something like that.

….Anyhow, HA was more relaxed then.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Do you get a 'script and pop it in your mouth?

…Whoa, whoa. Think first. In the 1960s, there were 600 drugs—now there are more than5,000. Even docs can’t keep up.

…Writing for the Associated Press, Ricardo Alonso-Zalvidar talks about a list of drugs the FDA has posted as having possible very bad side effects. The list is barebones, no statistics, just the name of the drug, what it’s for, and what it might do.

…So don’t stop taking this stuff—ask the doctor, as they say. (Of course, expect to be patronized, or maybe not, aren’t docs getting better about this?)

…R-Gene 10, a growth hormone, problems with packaging leading to overdose (kids).

…Syprane, anesthetic, could cause cardiac arrest.

…Cymbalta, for depression (and pain), can cause urinary retention (also sexual side effects).

…Intelence. For HIV, linked to bleeding into joints.

…Carac or Kuric, creams for skin rashes and fungal infections, can get switched due to confusion over their names.

….Heparin, blood thinner, serious allergic reactions.

…Extraneal, used in kidney dialysis, can cause low blood sugar.

…Humulin R (U-500), insulin, dosing confusion has occurred.

…Stromectol and Warfarin, an antiparasite drug and blood thinner, can interact badly.

…Revlimid. For multiple melanoma, severe skin blistering.

..Tysabri for MS—link to melanoma.

…Sandostatin LAR for abnormal bone growth, linked to bowel obstruction.

…OxyContin, painkiller, widely abused.

…Definity. Used in heart imaging, linked to bad cardiac reactions.

…Dilantin injection for epilepsy, linked to serious skin problems.

…Seroquel for bipolar disoerder, overdose due to bad sample pack design.

…Tyseka for chronic Hep B. Nerve damage possible.

…Tumor Necrosis Factor for juvenile arthritis, now linked to cancer.

…HA hates the blood thinner warfarin, which probably complicated her retina problem leading to loss of sight in her right eye.

…This stuff isn’t Tic Tacs, people!

Monday, September 08, 2008

The little dread schoolhouse

…Pat Kossan, AZ Republic, Aug 31, 2008, says take a gander at the school the next time you are over there.

…How about exterior lighting? Most buildings are used at night sometimes. Sufficiently bright? What about the parking areas? Bike racks? Wall-mounted fixtures are better than big poles. Maybe motion detectors would be good in dark corners.

…Put the office by the front door—no one will have an excuse to wander around looking for it. Make sure the receptionist can see the door, the parking lots, and side corridors.

…Make sure administrators can see common areas from door-length windows beside their doors.

…Curved entrances rather than doors to the bathrooms can make mischief inside more audible.

…Sinks can be placed in the hall so kids are under supervision.

…Small chain link fences are harder to climb, though it can be done.

…There should be a telephone in each classroom. Again, door-length windows provide a view into the hall.

…Check out 2st Century Schools at www.azfb.gov.

…AZ has folks saying teachers should carry guns. HA takes a dim view. That’s nutty schools, not safe schools.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Darn the difference!

…At a time when women are the “focus,” shall we say, the Society for Women’s Health research puts out an interesting list of health diffs between men and women.

…Heart disease kills more women than men. Half a million a year. Women are also more likely to have a second heart attack after a first one. Their heart trouble shows up on average 10 years later than in men, though.

…Women are 2-3 times more likely than men to suffer from depression.

…Women account for 80% of the osteoporosis.

…Smoking affects women more drastically, and women also are less able to quit and have more severe withdrawal.

…Women are twice as likely to get an STD.

…Women wake up more quickly from anesthesia—hopefully, not during.

…Three-fourths of people with autoimmune disease such as MS, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus are women.

…Women have less of the enzymes that break down alcohol and thus get a higher blood content level faster.

…Some opiates are more effective in women.

…Well, as HA so often observes, everyone is lucky we are alive to do all the work!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

As economy worsens, health sort of doesn’t

…Susan Brink, writing in the New York Times, says yes, people are worried as they watch their retirement funds dwindle and lie awake fearing losing their jobs. While poverty worsens obesity, asthma, kidney and heart disease, the picture is not all bad.

…Death goes down as unemployment goes up, says a prof at the Univ of NC.

…He did a spreadsheet—sure enough, deaths dropped as the economy dipped.

…Traffic accidents go down (who can afford to go anywhere?).

…Industrial accidents drop (fewer people in the workplace). Also there is less pollution in the air.

…Alcohol and smoking decreased (again $$$).

…Heavy drinkers cut back the most. Moderate drinkers even drank a few more cocktails.

…Mental health, however, suffered, but people did not die from it.

…One doctor said only the mental health declining thing was true.

…Oh…and those who still had jobs started fighting less at work and taking fewer risks.

…Good way to stay employed.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Water with little surprises?

…Anjali Athasvaley, writing in the WSJ, talks about good old haitch-2-oh. Seems people are going back to tap and are shocked to find some of the crud that’s in it, despite municipal testing and purification.

…Of course, engineers say US water is among the world’s best (people also say this about the health care system, remember).

…Yet, utilities, with better methods of testing everyday, are finding some weird-ass stuff in there.

…For one thing, there are trace amounts of pharmaceuticals—birth control pill hormones, mood stabilizers, and other drugs. Wildlife is being affected. These are small amounts, but some experts are demanding more study. What if small people, say infants, drink a lot of it mixed with formula powder or straight?

…One study found that water in 42 states had more than 140 regulated chemicals in it.

…Some states also use chloramine to disinfect water because chlorine was considered too toxic—but the chloramine byproducts can be worse. The EPA says, no way, drink up.

…Is bottled water the answer? Nah—most of it comes from taps.

…HA says mix water liberally with alcohol and hope for the best.

…Kidding, kinda.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Is your brain your best friend?

…HA’s brain can even be her enemy. You intend to do something, but a temptation intervenes and you jump into the moment and succumb.

…You intend to cook, but you are so hungry you call Pizza Hut, even though that takes 45 minutes and a sandwich would take five minutes.

…Ever happen to you? Please say yes.

…Gary Marcus wrote about this in the LA Times May 4, 2008. He cited a 1960 study at Stanford in which preschoolers were offered one marshmallow now and two when the researcher came back. The kicker was the scientists left the one marshmallow on the counter.

….The kids tried to wait. And tried. They covered their eyes, they jumped up and down, they sat on their hands---but half the kids didn’t make it through 20 minutes—they ate it!

…People drive fast, have unsafe sex, eat everything in sight. They know they shouldn’t but they do!

…Seems evolution never starts over—it just keeps building on what’s there. Evolution doesn’t give you different kinds of memory for different occasions. You remember lions eat you so you run. You don’t remember the date on which you last ran from a lion—what difference does it make? That is abstract.

…Remembering what to do next is like remembering what you had for breakfast—lots of breakfasts back there. What’s the point.

…So we can forget long-term goals like losing weight. We can work against ourselves.

…Another one for the Big Book of Duh.