Wednesday, March 31, 2010

You are what you touch


Fingerprints, as we know, vary person to person. But now, your germs could nail you.

The bacteria that live on people’s hands can be unique. According to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, forensic folk will soon be able to “type” your crud and trace it to you.

Researcher swabbed a computer mouse and compared the bacteria with that on the hands of the owner and 270 randomly chosen people. The owner’s collection matched the mouse.

This can also match a person to fabric he or she touched.

The average hand contains 150 kinds of bacteria—only 13% of which would be shared with any two people.

Ewww…and hmmm, interesting.

Ouch--take care with those mani-pedi's


Would you let a person who is not medically qualified jab at your feet with sharp tools?

Of course!

For many women manicures and pedicures are part of their beauty ritual—even in these rocky times.

Oliver Zong is NY cosmetic podiatrist (ever heard of that before?).

He says be cautious in selecting a salon.

The Centers for Disease Control has been investigating some bug people get from foot whirlpools since the year 2000.

As workers how the salon is maintained. See if the baths are disinfected with each customer.

The disinfectant must have 10 minutes to work in the baths.

Check your feet and legs for infection before going. Don’t get a manicure or pedicure if you are dinged up.

Don’t wax or shave for one day before going.

Don’t go if you have bug bites, scabs, poison ivy or any opening in the skin.

I know—I take all the fun out of everything. You are not the first person to say this.

Monday, March 29, 2010

OK, ladies, get out there and exercise


I love conventional wisdom—when it’s the same as what I want to do anyway.

Now, our friends the scientists have come up with a study that shows that to avoid gaining weight as they age, women must do “moderate” exercise an hour a day.

Or 30 minutes five days a week, anyhow.

Normal weight women with a normal diet will still gain as they age without this exercise.

Another study said people really need to do a hour seven days a week.

In the study, 134,000 women over 45 were tracked over 13 years. Those who did the stints of exercise stayed the same weight. Those who did less gained an average of 5.7 lbs.

If you are fat—all bets are off—you have to cut calories and increase exercise and even then….as many find…well….

I had a doctor tell me to walk an hour a day. I did it every morning in the National Zoo before opening time. Very peaceful, no one around, dew on the plants, beautiful. I once got to pet the dingoes out on a leash with their keeper. In retrospect, this was probably not a great idea, but I was pretty relaxed in those days.

I didn’t lose weight, as I once said in this blog, but I did stay about the same, I guess.

Then, one week, I got back from a trip and learned that a disturbed woman had jumped in the lion pen and the pair had killed her and consumed part of her leg.

I had stood for literally hours watching those two lions watch me… Kind of took the edge off, hearing that.

I also used to watch the tiger swim back and forth in his moat. He was pretty svelte, as tigers tend to be. His head was the size of a large bushel-basket, though.

And the panda? When I went, they were down to one. The keeper would lay out his breakfast on a tree stump, an orange, grapes, and an armful of cut bamboo beside him. He would sit with his back toward me and eat. No matter what I did--whisper, talk to him...He just munched away.

Talk about the best years of your life--and you didn't even know it at the time.

I mean me, not the dopey panda.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sugar, sugar, you little devil you


Meet the new bad guy—sugar. Sugar contributes to diabetes by signaling more insulin, which may or may not appear. It makes you cranky if you’re under 5 (why that stops, no one says, and some question if that’s even true in the younger set).

Sugar makes you fat—especially if combined with chocolate and nuts into a candy bar or a nice cookie.

Our caretakers over in Washington tell us we need no more than 25 grams of the stuff for women and 37.5 grams for men. Well, not actually NEED—we don’t NEED any—they just came up with a number for us.

OK—what is that in real numbers?

A 12-oz can of Coke—39 grams.

The problem is sugar is in everything—even in salt. It’s in lunch meat, bread, low-fat meals and Activia yogurt.

Bottom line (in every sense)—we eat about 88 grams a day.

Sugar occurs naturally in fruit as fructose and in milk as lactose. That High Fructose Corn Syrup—good heavens, it’s just about a crazy act of self-destruction to eat or drink any of that stuff. Why not grab some hemlock and be done with it?

Look on labels for ingredients that end in "–lose."

Catsup—that’s the one that gets me. Full of sugar.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Yoga for the non-skinny enhanced


I loved yoga when I was younger. I belonged to an ashram in DC run by Swami Vishnudevananda in Canada. I took class almost every day. I could even stand on my head.

Now, many pounds later, I have looked into yoga glancingly at various places in AZ—they seem to do the kind with the heat on even in the AZ summer.

Also, sitting on the floor—I wonder if I would ever get up again or would crawl around like a wounded roach the rest of my life.

Abby Lentz, Austin TX, has developed a modified version of Kripalu yoga for people of size and those with limited flexibility.

Check out the DVDs on www.heavyweightyoga.com.

She is described as a “plus size dynamo.”

Dynamo, huh. Beats wounded roach.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Cervical cancer test--one or two?


Shari Simms, Good Housekeeping April 2010, writes about the HPV test. Since 70% of cervical cancer is caused by the HPV virus, a test for this is combined with the pap test to give nearly 100% certainty that a woman does not have cervical cancer.

The HPV test has been approved by the FDA and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, along with the American Cancer Society.

There are 100 strains of HPV, which cause various problems, such as warts. But some can cause abnormalities in the lining of the cervix that years later can become cancerous. Two of these strains—16 and 18—are thought to account for 70% of cervical cancers.

One study of 131K women in India showed that a single HPV test performed 15 to 20 years after becoming sexually active will detect precancers while not promoting overtreatment.

The pap test slashed cervical cancer rates 70%. But it has a lot of false positives and can miss pre-cancers. Tissue changes happen all the time and go away—but they can show up on the pap.

Most doctors don’t think you need a yearly pap if you’ve had three normal ones in a row. You can go every 2-3 years, they say, if you don’t smoke or have a family history.

If you get both the pap and HPV, going three yrs is fine.

What if you get a positive HPV? Well, it doesn’t mean you have cancer or pre-cancer. There is a test for the two “bad” strains of HPV, but it’s not widely available. Your doctor may want to wait and see before physically cutting out a sample—colposcopy.

Why don’t most doctors use this HPV test? It costs $100 and most states don’t require insurance to pay.

Still, there is now some evidence that the HPV can sort of re-emerge and give you an active infection after many years of sexual inactivity.

Oh, lovely. Always something isn’t it.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Try to limit those CT scans


Laura Landro, WSJ, Mar 2, 2010, says CT scans can save your life if they spot a brain tumor, blood clot, or burst appendix.

But many ERs are now seeing that sending everyone off for one might be exposing people to unnecessary radiation. I had a weird spell one summer, got a CT scan of my head. The next summer—same thing. Different doctor, but he, too, said, Go to the ER. Another scan. If the first people have picked up that it was an inner ear problem (vestibular disorder), I would have been spared the second scan, but no.

Should I have refused the second one? Worth thinking about.

In millirems of radiation, a dental x-ray is 2. A chest x-ray is 10. A mammo is 70. A CT of your spine is 600. And a pelvis scan is 1000 (multiple exposures).

CT combines radiation and computers to give sharp sectional views. But in the year 2000 alone, 29,000 additional cancers may result from CT scans.

The FDA is urging less use of this and is going to try to make it safer.

If you need it, you need it—but always ask…”Is this totally necessary, do you think?”

You don’t want it just because the doctor wants to be able to come back and say, “She was scanned—we didn’t see anything.” In my case,if the doctor had read the first ER report (which I had obtained), maybe he would not have insisted the second time and given me that "OK, die if you want to" look.

It’s a tough call—none of this is free, monetarily or otherwise.

MRIs and sonograms can often substitute—but are also expensive. At least kick it around with your physician.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Post-viral fatigue syndrome can flatten you


Ever had a virus that “hung on” and you felt so tired you could not lift your arms to brush your hair?

It could have been “post-viral syndrome.” This is now a recognized problem after viruses work their magic in you.

It refers to prolonged (months or years) or severe (the hair thing) tiredness following a viral illness. It can also be categorized as “chronic fatigue syndrome.”

Besides the draining, desperate tiredness and muscle pains, it can morph into cognitive problems, such as short-term memory loss and mood swings. Nausea, dizziness, loss of appetite can accompany this.

The docs have to rule out diabetes, anemia, and kidney/liver problems. This means blood tests.

There is no real cure. You can take over-the-counter pain killers if the muscle pains get bad. You can rest. Ask family members to help.

You will have good and bad days.

Does the severity of the initial viral infection influence whether you will be knocked out by this later? Some studies say yes, others no.

Patients often have a hard time getting a solid answer from the doctor, too.

Personally, I think whenever you get a virus, have an operation of any sort, or just mess with your body by reproducing or climbing Mt Everest or anything, on some level the body says, “Wait a hot second there.” You are never the same.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

New look at flea and tick products


Do you have 4-leggers around someplace? We have two cats and a pretty self-satisfied dog.

A few years ago, we had a terrible tick infestation—they get into the walls and crawl out at night. Did you know that? Yeah—me, either.

The vet prescribed Revolution, which you put on the skin and it soaks in making the whole animal into tick poison. Whole animal…into poison…does that sound iffy? I thought it did.

When we finally got rid of the ticks (by two expensive pest control company sprayings), I ran into a bureaucratic impasse trying to get the vet to approve a mail-order prescription, so the Revolution lapsed.

Always something, isn’t it?

Now, our EPA admits that thousands of dogs and cats may be dying from these products. Complaints are up 53%.

They say it’s the labels—people use too much. Seems that permethrin, made from marigolds (always sounds nice, doesn’t it?), can cause seizures, vomiting, and death, especially in cats.

Manufacturers need to get more specific about doses and pet body weight and the like. Dog and cat products also must have totally different names.

Nothing has been recalled. Oh—and there are cheapie counterfeits out there now, too.

Whole body turned into poison…I still don’t like the sound of that. Kind of like poisoning your pet.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Pill bottles that rat you out


Anna Wilde Mathews, WSJ Mar 2, 2010, says most of the medicine prescribed for chronic conditions doesn’t work—because people forget to take it.

Now, the pharmco biggie Express Scripts has a bottle that lets you know when to take your meds.

You plug the wireless transmitter into the wall and it makes the pill bottle blink and later emit a beep every five minutes with increasing annoyance.

After that, it really gets going—sending a telephone or text message to you.

THEN, it can also email the doctor—Star didn’t take her medicine.

OMG, I would smash the thing flat in a second.

Novartis takes a different approach—it puts a tiny chip on the pill that sends a message to the person and anywhere else designated. (Wouldn’t the patient already know?)Is filling up people's insides with transmitters a great idea? I wonder.

Another system, from Leap of Faith Technologies, issues phone reminders if the patient scans a bar code ordering these.

Still other companies scan pharmaceutical records to see if people are renewing their meds often enough.

I am so sure doctors want a bunch of emails or calls tattling on patients. They hardly pay attention to us now.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Run, run, run


Actually, my dad was a runner—long before the term jogging was even invented. He died fairly young and after a stroke that immobilized him for 10 yrs.

My sister ran—just had her second hip replaced.

My brothers, too—one with a hip and a second one coming up. The other needs knee surgery.

Yes, we need to move around. I get stiff sitting. A knee I had operated as a kid has come back to nail me.

As the “fat one” in our family, I ran for a year. Did not see the attraction. Then I walked an hour a day for many years—no distance, just an hour. I didn’t lose weight, but I guess it didn’t hurt me.

Now, as we creak along, the big push is move, run, Pilates, spin, move, move.

If you are fit at 50, supposedly you are twice as likely to live to 85. They, of course, did a big study that showed this. It’s even more important to be “fit” than quitting smoking in terms of long life.

You need to sweat, double your heartbeat.

Still, we tend to do less every year after year 30.

Regular exercise had been shown to lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol and may prevent some cancers.

I sometimes joke that we only get so many heartbeats and I am not using them up running on a treadmill.

I was willing to use a few walking in the National Zoo before opening time, but I no longer have that option. Trudging through the AZ desert at 115 degrees…well, it does not attract me.

I like swimming—no pool.

I am doomed. Oh, well… Maybe I won’t outlive my brain. Oh, that’s right, exercise helps you not outlive your brain, too.

They say, anyway.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Like a fanny pack for hot-cool people with diabetes


Small, sleek, discreet, it’s the SPIBelt—Small Personal Item Belt…

Cumbersome items like insulin pumps. asthma inhalers, and epipens need not get in the way of all that hiking, marathon-running, and rugby.

Did you know there is also a Triabetes—a triathalon for people with the big D.Check out triabetes.org.

To see the belt on pretty er, athletic, gals, go to www.spibelt.com.

The inventor is Kim Overton, who released the “Love your Legs” DVD.

Apparently some people with diabetes are hot, hot, hot.

This is making me tired.

I am not, not, not. Not today anyhow.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Study: Older people may get bad meds in ER


My 92-year-old mother dislocated her shoulder and after hours of dithering, the ER docs finally slowly pulled it into place and gave her a Darvon prescription. I had read that Darvon was on the FDA hit list for some reason—I called the ER back…and got the usual: “Doctor (not THE doctor) would never prescribe anything bad.”

Well, I guess sometimes they do, folks. A Univ of Michigan study in Academic Emergency Medicine, says it is “common” for older people (over 65) to get potentially inappropriate medicine in the ER setting.

Of 19.5 million such patients, 2000-2006, 16.8% got such medicines or prescriptions for them. (I don't know if 17% would be common, but it is significant.)

Ten meds accounted for the bulk of these questionable administrations. Promethazine and (phenergran—cough, pain) ketorolac (Toradol—pain) accounted for almost half.

Interestingly, younger doctors tended not to give these. (Darvon is an oldie, too.)

The researchers said to make sure you talk to your primary after the ER visit—don’t just take a wad of stuff.

Make sure the doctors and nurses at the ER know what else you are taking.

Ask how the meds will affect you.

If you leave the ER and have a reaction, go right back or call your doctor.

Ask the pharmacist about whatever you have been prescribed.

One ER also snowed our mother on Ativan…she kept calling them and I guess was being a nuisance. We had left after midnight assured she would get a bed. She didn’t and was nuts on Ativan when we got back early in the morning.

ERs are weird places. Proceed with caution.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Fewer facelifts--don't be sad


Second year in a row—plastic surgery is down. There were 2% fewer operations than in 2008. This from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

Breast augmentation still beats out lipo, though.

Non-surgeries like Botox and hyaluronic acid were flat (pun intended).

Buttock lifts—up (er) 25%!

Buttock augmentations (people wanting more back porch) up a rousing 37%.. Having a huge you-know-what, this one I don’t get AT ALL.

The economy has to get better (yeah, sure) for the boomers to do too much remodeling.

Don’t you think people who get a lot of work (I don’t even mean that Lion Woman) look sort of weird? Sandra Bullock could hardly move her mouth at the Oscars. On the “Real Housewives of Orange County,” one of the “ladies” made her mom get surgery and she went from a smiley, Katherine Hepburnish freckleface to a stiff woman who looked like she was standing in a high wind.

Oh, don’t mind me—I can’t afford to go to the dentist—what do I know? I do know, though, that two of my doctors have started beauty practices—cash business, you know. Pay attention to us sick people!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Work is making you nuts--so get help there


Did you know that under a new law, work health plans will need to cover mental health services the same as physical health?

Companies are reacting by putting short-term counseling in place, according to Shirley S. Wang, WSJ, Dec 15, 2009.

These would be the EAPs—Employee Assistance Programs. You may be able to get more free sessions.

A problem can be that by asking people to go to the EAP first, before outside help, companies may keep people who need more help from seeking it.

Plus—those same people will have one therapist, then need to adjust to another one.

Often EAPs offer a few—3-8 sessions, and these may be telephone sessions.

Now this may be more with adoption counseling, elder care, and other services added.

If you are in a company with more than 50 people, watch for changes—though for once, they may work in your favor.

Crazy-making, right?

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Color up for cheap therapy


I know, it’s raining or snowing, the sky is gray, you’re chilly, your feet are cold, you feel gray, tired.

Well, this won’t be a shocker, but a study has shown that depressed people feel more “gray.” They made up a color chart to test out emotions—such as green with envy and
“the blues.”

They asked patients which colors they liked. They actually had lots of shades of gray on the chart. They asked which color people felt “drawn to” and which depicted their “current mood.”

So-called “healthier” people liked yellow or as the overall favorite color of healthy people—blue.

I love blue. My house is blue-themed. I have blue tiles in front.

Am I healthy mentally—well, you are reading this, what do you think? My friends and fam think I am negative.

I have heard that orange is the favored color of the insane. I like orange.

Like many blonds, I can wear almost any color and do. Except gray. Yick.

How about you—when you get dressed, do you think, “This is a power day” and put on red? Or “I am feeling calm and centered” and put on blue?

Maybe we could all buy a red or yellow shirt and make it happen, what do you think?

Monday, March 08, 2010

Our daily ramen--not a health food exactly


That picture? Ramen cake! Yuh-um!

The other nite on HGTV, a young couple said they would eat ramen three meals a day to afford a certain house they wanted.

I do eat it for lunch everyday—here in the new America.

I went to a site called Ramenlicious.com. In truth, there are MANY ramen recipe sites. You could eat ramen three meals a day and three courses a meal!

It’s pretty full of sodium if you use the packets, but hey, who needs to use those when you have recipes. (Well, I do—but I only heat and not cook.)

Did I mention ramen is 10 cents a serving? Yup—way under our Recession Budget of $1 a meal.

Although noodles got going in China 4000 years ago as a great host for sauce and a stomach filler, Japan did not dub them “lamen” (from the Chinese “la” for pulling and stretching and “mian” for noodles) until the 19th century. And you know that Japanese “L” and “R” similarity, so they became ramen.

In 1958, Nissin invented the instant noodles that we love today. My kid still prefers Nissin.

I add chopped frozen broccoli to mine and maybe leftover pasta dabs or if we have baked chicken, I put in a few chunks.

Chopsticks optional. If you do use them you have to shove the noodles over to your mouth Chinese style. Soup and chopsticks—not an obvious match.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Finding love--even if you have a disease or disability


Do they have an online dating thing for old, crabby, negative people with one eye?

No? Well, drat!

Michael Slenske, livinghealth.com, writes about specialized dating sites for people with herpes or other “differences” that might freak out people on match.com or eHarmony. (To me, the married people cruising, guys who wanted women 20 years younger, and everyone who specified “fit and thin” were more of a turnoff, but we all know I am weird.)

One woman said he wanted to hook up with people with her same diagnosis to avoid awkward conversations. Well, I guess it would do that.

Prescription4love.com, NoLongerLonely.com and CustomCupid.com are three sites for special situations. DateAble.com is another. Supposedly 1000 marriages have come out of that last one.

No Longer Lonely caters to those with mental illnesses, which can be particularly stigmatized on more conventional sites.

People with mental illnesses often wonder if two such sufferers in one house will work well—but at least with these services, they can find each other to discuss this.

Now, if I could just find that one where middle-aged men like middle-aged women who at least have heard of The Beatles and Vietnam.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Race walking--funny and good for you


Everyone old I know is getting new joints installed. Not fun.

Many boomers, I hear, are taking up race walking…that funny-waddly way of working up a good aerobic sweat with one foot on the ground at all times.

The knee stays straight from the time the forward foot hits the ground until it passes underneath the body. You have to stand up and wiggle around to get that one.

Running pounds the knees and hips. Race walking less so.

One woman who does it out here is 93. It’s a lifetime sport that may give you longer life.

Try it—good for some laughs, anyway. Are laughs aerobic?

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Are men or women more stoic about pain?


Rachel Dowd, managing editor of Pain Solutions Magazine, writes about how men and women experience pain differently.

Anyone who has been around the opposite sex knows there is a difference.

For one thing, Dowd writes, women tend to feel more types of pain—fibromyalgia, migraines, irritable bowel, everything.

Women also have wider fluctuations in hormones, which may account for more pain, although this is not clear.

Women may have more mood disorders—and these correlate to feelings of pain.

When men get anxious, it may be because they have pain. In other words, they don’t know how to deal with it and fall apart.

It’s also more socially acceptable for the “weaker sex” to talk about pain. OK, complain about it.

Women have social structure to fall back on when in pain and vocalize about it.

But they also just cope. They vocalize about that, too.

What choice do we have, ladies? Someone has to run the place.

Check out this new magazine…I like it. http://painsolutionsmagazine.com.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Are you using too much tooth whitener?


Especially these days, with job interviews looming, consumers have been using a lot of tooth whiteners.

According to www.Consumerreportshealth.com (Feb 2010), we drop millions on bleaching the choppers.

Too much of a good thing? The American Dental Association says these can damage gums and teeth if you don’t use them right.

Getting teeth too white can also mask diseases (such as celiac disease) that make teeth dingy.

European regulators said the products should contain no more than 6% hydrogen peroxide.

None of the American products lists a percentage.

To be safe, maybe use them no more than twice a year. And don’t use them at all if your front teeth have veneers, caps, crowns, dentures or white fillings—the whitening only works on real teeth.

Brush after meals and stay away from coffee, tea, red wine, smoking and soft drinks—yes, even the clear ones can contribute to staining.

I read in Entertainment Weekly that some starlet said whiteners can hurt your gums. See? Movie stars know this stuff.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Bad teeth require flexible dentists


This appeared in the New York Times: As a dentist in practice for 21 years, I’ve seen these economic cycles before. My policy is this: Any patient who tells me they are losing insurance coverage and has been in my practice for more than a year I give this same response - Do not omit regular visits because you do not have the money for them. Let me or my staff know you will be paying monthly. Delaying visits allows something small to grow into a large, expensive problem. In my years in practice I’ve never declined necessary treatment to anyone due to an inability to clear their balance on the day of services. I believe most of my colleagues do the same. My advice is to be honest with your dentist and ask if he/she would accept monthly payments. We’re all in this together.

The dentist brings up an important point: YOU CAN ASK ANYBODY ANYTHING. The worst they can say is no. (Usually, they do not add anything, as in “No, you idiot.”)

One caveat on dentists—they are really, really into doing these long wish lists they call “treatment plans,” containing every single little thing they can think of. I had one listing eight cavities—turns out these were “rough spots” that might become cavities.

As for payments, I also read that some doctors are demanding your deductible in cash, upfront. If you come in with a serious condition and you are starting your 2010 deductible of say, $500, the doctor can say, give us the whole $500 today.

To me, that would be my last visit. This is not a welcome ploy, docs. See above—the part about us all being in this together.

So, if you need care--ask, try, anyway.

My sister is looking into a dental school--and I know people who get their teeth fixed in Mexico.

Any other ideas? I have even asked dentists if they need brochure copy, though I must report that they seemed surprised that someone thought her life's work was equal to a dentist's life's work.