Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Why all the crossword puzzles?

Even old people who hate crosswords work them.

A while back, the notion got traction that if you used your brain a lot, it would stave off gooey crud in there, Alzheimer's, etc.

Gooey crud—yes, that’s a term of art.

An NIH study done in 2009 showed that a third of people don’t experience cognitive decline as they age.

In fact, deductive reasoning, general knowledge and vocab tend to get better.

“Your brain doesn’t know how old you are,” one doctor says, “and doesn’t care.”

Some people do theorize that you can build op a cognitive reserve, extra brain networks, by a lifetime of stimulating experiences.

One way to do this is to not quit working.

It also helps to keep your heart functioning well. Eat fish, nuts, and poultry and watch the red meat and dairy.

Or the opposite. There is a study for everything.

Studying those studies might be good for you, though.

Scientists also recommend quieting the mind for part of the day and have a lot of friends.

Sounds OK. I am not big on the crosswords, though.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Keep hands in shape for shaking

The raggedy nails, scaly thing is so out these days when handing over a resume.

According to Mary Rose Almasi, Allure April 2009, your hands can also telegraph your age, which can be bad in this economy.

Of course, the big meanie is the sun. That’s what causes the dreaded liver spots.

Almasi recommends buffing the backs of hands every two weeks with microdermabrasion cream. Then, of course, you need to moisturize. (You don’t have a few crates of microdermabrasion cream around—and you call yourself a woman!)

Actually men can do this, too…in private. Don’t forget sunscreen on hands.

To build up collagen, use a retinol cream at night. This can remove wrinkles and cover up veininess.

For extreme “crepiness,” you may need a peel.

There are also “big guns” for veins. No, not actual guns..fillers.

Some people worry about their hands not being rounded enough. Get a real problem! There are plenty of them lying around these days.

By the way, if you have those acrylic nails, do you think the employer will think you are so rich you don't need to work?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Toreador Woman

Toreador Woman lives

My sister and I gimp around with our aches and pains and cackle at the magazine covers with the 20-something woman striding along in toreador pants. We call her—wait for it—Toreador Woman!

Yeah, yeah, everyone can be her with fewer carbs and more long walks.

Still, I read a study the other day from British Columbia Jan 25, 2010, Arch Int Med)—155 women from 65 to 75 either did strength training with weights or balancing and toning work. Both worked out twice a week.

A year later, the strength training gals had improved their performance on cognitive (thinking) tests by 10-12%. The balance and toning group went DOWN half a percent.

Older women can also benefit bone-wise from strength training but are the least likely to do it.

The Toreador pants? Waiting for you in the store, my babies.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Once again, boys and girls differ

Kids play sports. But sports can injure.

Isaac Arnsdorf, WSJ, June 22, 2010, says football is the most dangerous for kids—3.5 injuries per 1000.

Girls’ soccer is second, though—2.1. Boys soccer, 1.6.

Baseball is a piker… 0.8.

Girls who play soccer tend to get more head and face injuries than boys. 50% more!

Boys get more shoulder injuries. Girls more knee damage.

Strangely, girls are more likely to tear a ligament in their supporting left, whereas boys are more likely to injure a ligament in their dominant leg.

Protective equipment has not changed—sometimes shin guards are magazines held on with straps, although they now must be certified.

Both genders get hurt more in the second half, when they get tired.

Adolescent girls are six times more likely to tear the ACL at the back of the knee. Some think estrogen makes ligaments looser.

Girls also suffer more concussions (enter concussion in box above on this blog for more info).

To prevent injuries, this article said coaches should emphasize correct posture, minimal side-to-side movements, and soft landings on the balls of the feet.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

All this "spare time" not used exercising

The government (ours) has checked this out. In our third year of a crummy economy, we have more time on our hands but are “frittering” it away.

Justin Lahart and Emmeline Zhao wrote about this in the WSJ, June 23, 2010.

Bad us!

When you average it out, Americans over 15 worked three hours and 11 mins a day AVERAGE in 2009 and 17 mins less than that this year.

TV watching is up an average of 12 mins a day. I cancelled my movie channels, but miraculously still find plenty to watch. I think The Real Housewives of Spearfish, North Dakota starts soon.

Ooops—no increase in charity work, religion, exercise, or education.

Our skills are depreciating, one guy said sternly.

Did people, presumably many out of work, do things like yard work and cooking that they paid others to do before? Nope.

The researchers say losing your job can be depressing and unmotivating. That’s one for The Big Book of Duh.

In fact, people feel just as ashamed being unemployed as they ever did.

Work-at-homes are up to 23% from 19% in 2007.

Men still did less housework.

Another one for The Big Book.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Hot weather makes asthma worse

Rick Swearingen, MD, medical director of a local urgent care here in the Chandler area—Catholic Healthcare West’s Urgent Care—says the hot weather makes asthma worse for kids.

Ninety percent of kids with asthma have allergies, he says. As the weather heats up, pollen proliferates.

If you or your child suffers from asthma, try to avoid being outside at dawn and dusk—pollen levels are highest then.

Shower before bed to wash off allergens.

Keep windows closed at night—and AC on.

Eliminate dust catchers in the bedroom—stuffed animals, pillows.

Vacuum carpets twice a week—empty the bag.

Wash drapes and dust ruffles frequently.

Take off shoes when you come in to keep from tracking in pollen.

Change air filters a lot.

I would say to also make sure all medications are well balanced and effective and be sure they make it to camp along with proper instructions.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Hospital delirium

Several times I have had relatives in the hospital and their thinking became paranoid, skewed, or combative. Very!

Mom even ended up trussed up in restraints until we could get her cut loose.

Turns out this is not unknown and is even a little common for older people, especially.

Check this out:

Hospital delirium. It has a name.

The don’t know if it’s the drugs, the drug interactions, the jumbled noisy schedule round the clock, or fear or the disease or a combo…but people can get pretty turned around.

Usually, going home helps it a lot.

Another study I saw links poor vision with an increased likelihood of Alzheimer’s.

So get older people eye care!

I can’t see for crap anymore from my bad eye surgeries. If I begin to think dragons are after me (see above), you will know why.

By the way, dragons don’t exist, do they?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Sudden cardiac death in a young athlete

Every year, it seems, there are a few high school or college athletes that fall over dead on the field.

According to statistics this happens 24-30 times a year.

That’s more than a few.

Half experience some symptoms beforehand. Often these are overlooked or not recognized.

One condition that can be present is ARVD, arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia (you know how docs talk). This results in irregular heartbeat from excess fatty tissue in the right ventricle (compartment). The youngster may experience palpitations, dizziness or fainting.

ARVD can be detected early and repaired by use of an implanted defibrillator. Sometimes drugs are used as well. An MRI will probably be used to diagnose this.

Some programs, such as the Save an Athlete program, provides screening the locker room, including an electrocardiogram. Last year, the program screened 2,500 athletes. More than 100 had a family history of sudden death. More than 200 of the youngsters had high blood pressure and 650 had an abnormal EKG.

Other problems besides ARVD were discovered.

Unfortunately a beta blocker drug or defibrillator may end an athletic career. It’s a tradeoff—stay alive and enjoy sports from the sideline or chance it.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Would you believe a TV doctor?

What if they were licensed doctors AND played one on TV (and in magazines, tweets, interview shows, ad infinitum)? Marni Jameson writes about this in the LA Times, June 14, 2010.

Dr. Oz, Dr Weil, Surgeon General Koop, Dr Ruth—all take care of millions of patients—second-hand.

Fame alone, Jameson says, makes people think they are smart. If they are on TV, the reasoning goes, they must be good.

Their main claim to fame, though—being good-looking and articulate, maybe even funny. (Well, not Dr Koop.)

They also concentrate of helping people look and feel better. Who hates that?

But keep in mind—these people may be pretty ordinary physicians, if they even practice medicine.

My favorite is Dr Robert Rey on Dr 90210. He is pretty adorable practicing his martial arts in the hall outside the operating room (although as a hubs I think he’s kind of Type A-DHD).

I like how he looks at a woman’s breasts before performing augmentation and says, “So beee-you—tiful…why would you want to do anything?”

There is something endearing about that. But I heard he is not board-certified.

Dr Oz--wasn't he helping Oprah get it off and keep it off with a lifetime change of habits? Last time I looked (admittedly almost never), Oprah was not at her skinniest.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

2nd time: Don't let kids play after head bumps

I think I posted on this before—but many doctors are trying to sound the alarm on sending kids back into play (or even back to school or camp) after a bump on the head.

A concussion is a mild brain injury.

The NFL has finally tightened up on clearing players for return to the field.

Parent, coaches, and schools need to follow suit. Two-thirds of parents of young athletes worry about concussion, but half don’t know if the school has a concussion policy or not.

Find out!

Kids are more likely to get a concussion than adults and if they get one, more likely to get another one—this is cumulative.

Parents know many times players return to school or play too soon. They know coaches pressure and feel pressure to get the kid back into play.

Some symptoms—confusion, loss of memory of events earlier in the day, dizziness, imbalance, nausea, vomiting-some or all.

Doctors recommend that a physician or certified professional decide when a kid can return to play, school, or even texting or the computer.

The brain needs to rest and heal.

For more information and to create your own policy, go to:

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I am growing very slee...I mean, energetic

Self-hypnosis can help reduce anxiety, stop stuttering, relieve pain, lower BP, and help people be more effective—according to Michel Ellner, a New York-based health educator.

Practicing internal relaxation can bring better coping skills. Go to and

I also learned about a wacky site to encourage you to breathe better. It’s called The Dolly Lammy—check it out at

A stuffed er, “lammy” is the reminder…it’s a stuffed toy you can buy.

I laughed, and thus breathed better!

Now, back to my energy trance…

Maybe I will discover how Tibetan sheepism fits into this.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Statins--yes or no

Anna Wilde Mathews (WSJ, June 15, 2010) writes that some docs are taking a broader view of who should take a statin.

As it is, they hand this stuff out like Tic Tacs. I even interviewed several cardiologists who thought this stuff was so smokin’ it should be put in the water supply.

My sister, for one, had bad leg pains. I would never take it myself. But you know how I am.

Now, some doctors are calculating a patient’s overall danger of stroke or heart disease instead of trying to hit a number for “good” cholesterol or “bad” cholesterol using the drugs.

They factor in family history, diabetes, hypertension, weight, age, etc. More people would end up taking a statins, and some would be those who would not have taken it before.

Many doctors think this is a bad idea. Far from mainstream.

For high risk patients, LDL should be less than 100, with closer to 70 being ideal for really high riskers. For moderately high risk, 130. For patients with limited risk, LDL of under 160 would be recommended, with a statin justified if it stays at 190 or more.

Using this approach, 53 million people would be taking a statin, about 13% of which might not get such aggressive treatment under today’s standards.

The docs say 86,000 fewer heart attacks, too.

I don’t know. I still don’t like the sound of these things. Brain fog, pains… Don’t go by me, though—talk to your doctor.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Exerciser--heal thyself

Good grief, who could afford a doctor these days?

Say, for argument’s sake, you do decide to exercise—you know, to feel less
depressed or more healthy. What if you get “stove in,” as my sister likes to describe her aches in rural-speak.

Harvard Men’s Health Watch says you can take care of many exercise-related injuries from the privacy of your own couch.

Usually these injuries come from tough, competitive exercise, such as suddenly using creaky muscles to slide into first base at the company picnic. Or going out for that marathon—finally.

Sprains are injuries to ligaments. They come in three types. First degree is stretched (and hurting). Second degree is torn ligament fibers. Third degree is most fibers of the ligament torn.

Tendinits is inflammation of a tendon. Besides pain, you might have warmth, swelling and redness,

On both of these, use PRICE.

P is for protection—wraps or simple splints.

R is for rest. You can’t use that tennis elbow, but you could jog.

I is for ice. For best results apply ice 10 to 15 minutes after. Repeat each hour for four hours. Then four times a day for 2-3 days.

C is for compression—a snug bandage, cuts swelling.

E is for elevation—try to keep it above your heart.

For heaven’s sakes, chill for awhile. The body does want to move toward health, but help it along.

One exception--shin splints. If your shins hurt after running, a little more running can take away the pain.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Nurses your best bet if hospitalized

Every time I have been hospitalized, the nurses were the saving grace. Oh, sure, we have run into a few Rachits, but usually they at least know who you are, answer questions, speak to you in English, and eventually come when you call.

In our local paper, the Arizona Republic, William Hermann interviewed Marilynn Blankenship a nurse at Baywood Banner Hosp since 1984.

Some tidbits:

Blankenship's first job 43 years ago was in Maine. Thirty-five beds. To give people their meds, she would walk over to a duck pond where the patients sat out in lawn chairs.

Now, she says, it’s more diverse, more languages involved.

Most patients are on meds—40 yrs ago, no.

Nurses now are more empowered to interact with doctors (I remember my dad having a fit when a nurse dared say anything.) Nurses no longer have to stand when a doctor approaches the nurses station.

Banner is very good about advancement, she says. There are leadership classes galore.

Training of nurses is now more complex, too. But nurses had more clinical training in the past. Now they come to the hospital with more book learning and must be watched over by older nurses for at least six months.

Computer learning also takes a lot of continuing education.

I remember my Cherry Ames books. Makes me nostalgic. Then I never became a nurse or doctor. Go know.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Give blood, don't get it if you can avoid it

Laura Landro (WSJ, May 25, 2010) says donated blood is checked for more things than HIV and Hep C these days. Try West Nile and Chagas (parasitic disease), for two.

Many things that have killed people cannot even be tested for.

There is also impetus to kill more things in blood after it is donated, using chemicals and ultraviolet.

Last year, researchers came up with 68 things that people could get from donated blood.

The FDA regulates blood operations, which in the US, are handled by the American Red Cross and a number of private blood banks.

Donors now answer 50 questions as a way to root out those who might give contaminated blood. Donors cannot have taken pituitary growth hormone or Tegison for psoriasis. Those are just two.

If you spent more than three months in the United Kingdom from 1980-1996, forget donating.

If you have been a country with a lot of malaria—nope.

But even trying to kill the bad things has a downside—the methods can hurt the recipient in some cases.

Best to not need blood. But if you do, you will know plenty of people are trying to keep that blood as safe as possible.

Everything is a crap shoot.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Reasons to have more se-x

Over at the larky NYT, they are talking about Moon, June and the picket fence—why people can find love even in middle age.

I hardly ruminate on this—my 20s wore me out sex-wise and having a kid in my late 30s finished me off.

But Redbook fearlessly takes this on, too—with a story called “7 reasons to have more sex.”

They start out saying it’s fun, a way to get close, and a good way to get more sleep.

More sleep?

Isn’t that one for fuddy-duddies?

They also add that having lots of you-know-what makes you live longer.

Have a healthier heart.

Lower blood pressure.

Less risk of breast and prostate cancer.

Less pain.

A slimmer body (I think that comes before…)

Fewer menopause symptoms.

It is kind of fun, if memory serves. Oh, well…

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Is the Recession making you angry?

Or are you doing well—and embarrassed because you don’t have the money woes of some people you know?

There are disparities even in the houses on the same block. Personally, I am in dire straits and many people I know are, too, but I do know some with jobs and a healthy income throughout this mess.

One of them is a guy in DC who calls every so often to cheerily announce, "No economic problems here!"

Beth Kobliner wrote about this in the June 2010 Working Mother.

The other day, my sister, whose husband makes a great income, picked up two glasses in the store just because she liked them. She has 50 tumblers at home. I finally said, “Do you really need those?” She said, “Oh, I will find some use for them.”

I can’t help it—this makes be upset. I know it shouldn’t, but it does.

But it can get tense between differently situated friends and relatives. When this happens, Kobliner says the poorer party should avoid costly situations like dinners out. Send your regrets.

Set family money rules. You maybe can’t get a new car or go to the beach. Don’t worry about it. Even kids have to learn you don’t get to do everything that crosses your mind.

If you have a friend who’s a great saver, call her before you buy something. Talk it through.

Look at what you do have—that cute dog from the shelter, a pretty garden, healthy trees (my thang), a few laughs.

Is it really going to be improved with a new water glass?

Yes, I could have gone with glass half full or half empty, but then the writer's union would have taken me out and shot me.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Don't let your kid throw out his or her arm

Kevin D. Plancer, MD, is a leading orthopedic and sports med guy. He says kids’ muscles are still growing so they can’t take as much stress as an adult’s.

Some schools, coaches and parents thus enforce pitch counts—how many pitches a child can throw in a game or practice session.

Kids don’t know what something is supposed to feel like and may be reluctant to stop when it hurts, especially if coaches arnd parents are…er, forceful.

Research shows pitch counts minimize injury.

Check out Moore Youth Baseball Association’s website at:

Remember—games are supposed to be fun.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Is that CT scan really, really necessary?

In the July 10, 2010, Good Housekeeping, Melody Peterson takes on the subject of CT scans—yes, they can detect things an x-ray misses, but are often ordered almost routinely.

I personally have had two weird dizzy spells and each time was given a CT scan. These puppies can cause cancer, you know…it’s a lot of radiation. Sometimes as much as 100 times a chest x-ray.

Each time, my brain was described as “unremarkable,” which I tried to think of as a good thing.

70 million CT scans are done each year—double that of 10 yrs ago.

CT scans can detect tiny things—grain of rice size. Their use has cut unnecessary appendectomies from 42% to 7% in one study (Duke).

One-third to one half of all scans are not needed, though. Often one is done and then an MRI (no radiation) is also ordered.

Radiation accumulates and can manifest as cancer 20 years later. You can’t undo it.

CT scans can also find cysts, lesions and other things that aren’t a problems—doctors call these “incidentalomas.” Treatment may be prescribed, though, or further tests.

Even physicians, in one study, didn’t seem aware of the huge amt of radiation involved.

The article also brings up the possibility that doctors who have invested in this equipment like to use it. You can get the mag and decide on that.

You probably need a CT scan if you can’t breathe, have a huge pain in a limb or your head (clot), and so on. But those full-body scans or routinely when going to the ER for something…try to ask about it.

At very least, check out the facility.

Keep track of how many you have had. And get a digital version to give to another doctor. This is one test you don’t want done over…just because.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Waiting for Dr Godot

Back in days of yore, I published an op-ed in the Washington Post saying don’t wait more than 15 minutes for your doctor—he or she is selling you a high ticket service and if you don’t like how you’re treated, find another vendor.

There ensued an enormous food fight—one day a whole newspaper page of letters from doctors saying I better never come to them or they would kick me to the curb, that if my father (I had mentioned he was a doctor) was alive, he probably wished he was dead with a kid like me….on and on. Then the next week, the Post printed a whole page from doctors offices and patients saying doctors routinely overbooked, often putting two people at the exact same time.

Two of my doctors fired me—never darken our worthy doors again!

First, when there is a long wait, they say it was an emergency and wouldn’t I want the same care if I were the emergency? I say put some slack in there!

One of my eye doctors was so awful about this he scheduled patients for 8 am and walked in at 9 am. Everyone knew it. There was a minimum of 3-4 hours’ wait. They even passed among the doomed and passed out crackers to the diabetics.

An ad here in Arizona for an ER shows a skeleton in clothes waiting. This was supposed to show their waits were short in that ER. It creeped me out!

There is now a web-based tool doctors can subscribe to—patients check in on their schmancy phones to see how long the wait is.

Of course, the office staff has to keep posting the waits. And the doctor has to pay. I see no problems there, do you? (

And just when you are about to get seen or at least taken to “the little room” for another wait, in come the drug company detail people who breeze right in.


Of course, all this will get worse under the impending doom of Obamacare—fewer doctors, more people trying to see them.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

How come so many kids can't swim?

USA Swimming estimates that 70% of African-American children and 58% of Hispanic kids cannot swim. This compares with 80% of Caucasian children who can.

Is it the culture? Who has pools and who doesn’t?

Sure, lots of inner city schools have been closed or hours curtailed by budget cuts.

Seems, though, there is also a fear of water on the part of minority or low-income parents.

Some would not give their kids lessons if the lessons were free, one professor remarked.

There was also a crazy rumor going around a few decades ago that black kids were not genetically suited to swimming. So lots of kids didn’t learn and now they are parents and have passed this fear along.

Kids of all colors, hues, and patterns need to be able to swim. It’s a life and death matter.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Pediatricians: Are you checking kids' mental health?

The American Academy of Pediatrics has added another duty to doctors’ lists. Checking kids for attention deficit, autism, anxiety and the like.

Pediatricians, the AAP says, should also research local resources and doctors for dealing with these disorders.

It’s estimated that 21% of children and adolescents have a disorder, but only a fifth of those get treatment.

You see kids coming in with depression, one source says.

Docs should ask parents and kids how the child is getting along with others and whether they are happy.

I can’t recall if this was ever done when my child was small. I know we had an old-school German pediatrician in her 70s.

I never thought she liked me. My daughter adored her, though. I think she would have questioned MY sanity.