Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sea Panels are going to save lives


Those four youngsters recently rescued from 50 days on a raft, people in Haiti, pretty soon, just about all of us or our kids will need to drink the ocean.

By 2050, half the world’s population will face a water shortage.

An acquaintance of mine has invented a portable desalination system currently selling for $99—which he hopes to reduce in cost to ten bucks when it gets going.

But no one seems interested. Are you? This thing is perfect not only for third-world countries, but travelers, boat equipment, the military, emergency kits and anyone who wants a way to make sea water or contaminated water potable.

Conventional desalination is delicate—the dissolved crud like arsenic and chlorine can damage the membranes used.

Sea Panels are easy. They are impervious to fouling, have nothing to wear out or replace. The thing is 100% solar.

Plus Sea Panel water is up to 10 times purer than tap.

What’s not to like? Know anyone who is thirsty for a great idea—a life changer? A life saver?

Go to http://www.seapanel.com/.

Come on—you must know someone!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Better not to be guilty


Back when I had money, it was fun to think up fun gifts for people. I loved doing it. I almost never gave gift cards except for the record store for my daughter. Record store—is that even in existence anymore?

Anyhow, a psychologist at Duke named Dan Ariely wrote in the WSJ Nov 27-28, 2010, about how to give good gifts.

He asked people what a good gift was—and many said something the person wants but feels guilty buying for themselves. In other words, alleviating guilt was the gift.

If you have a great meal, he says, do you prefer to pay cash or a credit card? Credit card! It delays the negative, prolongs the positive.

What if a restaurateur charges you by the bite—but at a reduced rate. You have to gauge this with every bite. Would you like it?

My, we are a prissy little bunch of Calvinists.

He says this is why gift cards are good—they give the gift of delaying the pain or even eliminating it.

What do you think? I don’t think they are very imaginative. But this is another way to look at it.

By the way, I think those car commercials are so stupid...Wife blindfolds hubs and then shows him her "gift" to him--a new Lexus or something. Don't these people talk? If my mate did this to me, I would melt down--"HONEY, we don't need a gas guzzler. Are you insane?"

Friday, November 26, 2010

More operations being done in docs' offices


I had one eye sewed shut once in a doctor’s office. If this sounds like a torture, it was. It was to keep the eye moist because I had a bad infection from something else another doctor did.

Anyway, I was less than thrilled to see the grumpy office nurse suit up to hand the doctor needles to stick around my eye and a sewing kit.

I had had many eye surgeries before this in a sort of funky eye clinic and didn’t even have to take off my shoes—which I actually liked because I pretend nothing is wrong with me when I am in a medical setting.

On the bright side, not being in a hospital may prevent rampant hospital-based infections.

Connie Midey got into this in the Arizona Republic, Nov 7, 2010. The problem with this can be that it is not as safe in case something goes wrong. We have all seen stories about people getting plastic surgery and suddenly gorking out from the anesthetic.

Out-patient surgery is common these days and usually could be done in a doctor’s office since the patient is leaving afterward.

But only 25 states regulate this. Such regulations require the doctor to be present during both surgery and recovery and written emergency rules that must be followed. There is a group called Safety in Office-Based Surgery. Check out http://isobsurgery.org/.

Ask a lot of questions before agreeing to this. See if the office is licensed to administer anesthesia of any sort. Is the doctor accredited by the Accreditation Assn for Ambulatory Health Care—aaahc.org. Two other agencies also offer accreditation.

Ask the doctor why he is qualified to do the procedure. Did he or she just learn it in a short course? Ask how many times they have done it.

Above all, ask about the anesthetic—who is administering it. A board-certified anesthesiologist or a nurse-anesthetist is best.

It will probably involve that Versed stuff—it makes you forget what happened. I don’t like that, but we know how I am.

They offered to sew my eye shut permanently lest I get another infection. I declined, fun as it was.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Second opinion makes good sense


It’s your only body—ask two doctors for their take before something drastic happens to it!

Orly Avitzur, MD, is a neurologist and adviser to Consumers Union. Writing in Consumer Reports on Health, Oct 2010, she says sometimes patients don’t seek a second opinion because they think the doctor will feel bad or get angry.

According to a 2005 Gallup poll, half of Americans don’t ask for a second look.

Often they will, though, if they don’t have confidence in their doctor.

If your doctor insists on one treatment and you’ve heard of others, this could be time to ask around.

If your doctor dismisses your concerns or writes them off to stress, ask someone else.

If you are not progressing, feeling better, getting better, maybe someone else would have an answer.

Especially if surgery is recommended, ask for another opinion. Doctors can’t put stuff back in!

If you have something rare, try a university setting. Sometimes a family practice doctor may not have the expertise.

Many health plans do pay for another opinion. Ask first, though.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Faint water


People send your poor old correspondent samples sometimes. Squeak, squeak, guinea pig (yes, the pix is a hamster—good rodent identification!).

And the people across the street had their foreclosure-homeless rabbit wards in the yard—must be the day for it. We have two foreclosure-homeless cats.

Anyhow, the first thing I tried was Wings of Nature bars. Mind you, I am not a bar person, meaning the granola type. These come in Cranberry Crunch, Almond Raisin, Espresso. I like java—the Espresso was pretty good, very chewy, chock full of health bits, vegan, dairy-free, low glycemic…all that.

My daughter tried the Cranberry Crunch and pronounced it very edible—“I like cranberries,” she remarked. Go to wings-of-nature.com for more info.

HINT is water—with a taste. No cals, no nothing in it. The Blackberry, the flavor I liked, is available at Starbucks.

HINT also comes in Watermelon, Honeydew, Hibiscus, Mango-Grapefruit, Pomegranate, Cucumber…and some others. Check out www.drinkHINT.com. Cucumber?

HINT was OK—but I have to say it was like I had put water in a glass that had had soda in it. Barely a flavor.

Thus the name, I gather.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Jeez, don't put your kid's eye out


Remember how parents used to say, “You will put your eye out!”

Comedian David Brenner says this confused kids—“We knew people with broken arms, but never an eye out,” he once joked.

Now, all you need to do is get the youngster a laser pointer.

Dan Vergano, USA TODAY, says says the new ones may seem like a neat gift, but can be dangerous.

For one thing, they can be 10,000 times brighter than looking at the sun.

They are sold as party toys—but some party! The New England Journal of Medicine reported a case of a 15-yr-old boy who scarred the retinas of both eyes by creating a light show bounced off a mirror.

The green ones are especially bad because the wavelength does not make you blink.

Good grief—buy something else.

By the way, on that eye out thing--One time when I was at the eye doc, a kid came in with a tree branch in his eye--it can happen.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Using insurance less, paying more


Gosh, one of those fun ironies! I love those, don’t you?

David Whelan, Forbes, Nov 8, 2010, says many patients are delaying surgery, ducking doctor appts, and filling fewer prescriptions.

United paid 80.1% of its reserves, down from 82.3% last year.

Humana—2% fewer claims. Also—they are losing 300,000 members.

(They keep the savings as profit.)

Yet, even with increased profits and having to pay fewer claims, these darling companies are jacking premiums 12% this year.

I had to switch from Medicare with a supplement to Medicare Advantage. Yes, I know the present admin is going to gut these plans, but I might get a couple of years out of it.

Reading the materials was like breaking a code. So complicated! Tier this, tier that, refer to Medicare Act, do this, do that…

Then try it with bad vision—or being old. Hmpf.

I told my broker I wanted a doctor who would just leave me alone, give me my pills, not do any harm to me, and not berate or lecture me.

Less work for the doctor, more money for the company, right?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Four Loko--"for crazy," get it?


If you want to go to a club, go into a frenzy, maybe hurt or kill someone, and vomit, what’s wrong with drugs? Why drink caffeinated hooch?

Just to be trendy?

I am kidding about the drugs—all of this stuff is bad for bodily functions and even for making your next birthday.

Four states have already banned Four Loko and some other “punch” drinks, although the companies have until Dec 12 to sell their inventory.

The FDA told companies to take out the caffeine. The alsohol is equal to four beers per can.

For heaven’s sakes, people, I need all the readers I can get. Don’t drink stupid stuff that could kill you or make you kill someone.

Wise up! I remember being young. I also remember getting temporary brain damage from some weird pill when I was young.

So not worth it!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Early orthodonture--don't even remind me!


When my daughter was about 9, a dentist suggested we see an orthodontist. Little idiot that I am, I thought that was for teenagers. Oh, noooo.

The woman said starting early meant avoiding it during the HS years—that if she got braces now it would have a 95% chance of not getting them later. A mere $75 a mo for yrs—which is a chunk in single Momland.

But we did it—the headgear (extra), the retainer, the lost retainer, the pain, endless visits, etc, etc. At the end of the time, oh dear, she would still need another round as a teen.

I said—you said 95% chance. The ortho said, “You misunderstood—I said 5% chance.” Well, trust me, as a pennypincher, I would have kicked it down the road if it had been 5%! Lie, lie, lie.

Now, Nancy Keates writes in the WSJ (Nov 16, 2010) about this early stuff. Treating under 17s is up 50% in the last 10 yrs.

Seems, though, that early treatment before the adult teeth is no guarantee against later need. Well, well, who’da thunk?

Seems this early idea started in 1990—my daughter would have been 8. Sounds about right.

Early treatment, this story said, might be good if the problem is an underbite or narrow upper arch—while the jaw is growing.

The famous malocclusion or overbite—there is no evidence early treatment helps or even makes the needed later treatment easier.

Some of this may be unnecessary, one doctor said. Yeah, tell me about it.

When it came time for the “second round,” I saw my kid was never wearing her retainer. I didn’t go for it.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ooops--your sex partner makes you wheeze


I don’t mean being “allergic” to someone’s cologne, although that could be a factor, I guess.

The usual allergies made worse in some cases by sex are to foods and medications. Say, your girlfriend has just eaten a PB&J and you are allergic to peanuts.

The American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology says this is not unusual.

It came up at their latest meeting, in fact.

Even brushing teeth and rinsing one’s mouth before kissing can’t prevent the passing of some allergens.

These allergens can cause hives, itching, swelling of the lips or throat, and wheezing.

The docs say plan ahead. If you know your partner has an issue, don’t eat the item and brush and rinse 16-24 hours before smooching.

Some women can be allergic to certain sperm, too. People get shots for this one.

See, now some of the fun is going out of it.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Daydream believer


According to a study in Science, people spend almost half their waking hours thinking about something besides what they are doing.

Ya think?

I sort of question this, though, because the researchers said sex was the only time people paid attention—are they joking, you can think of lots of stuff during sex.

The mind wandered no less than 30% of the time. The average was 46%.

Supposedly happiness comes from being in the “now,” focusing on what is at hand.

Yet, people apparently don’t. Interestingly, the scientists said it was not the unhappiness that made minds wander—it was the wandering of attention that created unhappiness.

Apparently this was all concluded from calling people on their Apple iPhones and asking was their mind wandering at that moment and were they happy.

Sorry….mind wandered there. Uh, why are people who can afford iPhones unhappy?

I should have been a scientist!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Stop--don't waste money by taking drugs stupidly


As many as 75% of the elderly, of which I am one, take their medicines incorrectly sometimes.

The key, according to the National Council on Patient Information (NCPIE.org) is to look at each medication and see if you are clear on when and how to take it.

What is the name—brand name and generic? Do you know?

What is it for?

How, when, and for how long should you be taking it?

When will it start working? How will I know?

Are there side effects, what are they, and what should I do if they occur.

Is this medicine OK with the others I take? This includes non-prescription supplements and even stuff like grapefruit juice.

Should this med be in the fridge, by the stove, in a steam bathroom?

So many people I know have gotten leg pains from statins—but keep taking them or switch to another brand? Is that what you should do?

If you are cutting pills in half to make them last longer, this may mean you don’t get enough. If you cut them to save money by getting a bigger dose at the same price, then taking half, this may be OK.

Are all generics the same as the brands? Supposedly yes, but many doctors think brands are superior for some drugs—namely, synthroid for thyroid trouble.

Time of day can also make a difference. I hear you should take BP pills at night. Have never tried it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Yuh-um! Silverfin!


It’s all in the marketing.

According to a UPI report, a Louisiana chef and some civic types in Grafton, MO, have come up with a solution to the problem of the Asian carp cramming the waterways of the Midwest.

The carp now make up 80% of the weight of the biological material in some rivers.

Their solution? Change the name to Silverfin.

The chef, Philippe Parola, likens the PR brainstorm to the Chilean sea bass, which used to be called the Patagonian toothfish.

The mass-marketed silverfin will me microwavable in pecan crusted, Cajun Treat, and lemon butter versions.

It’s probably good for you, too.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The carrot and the CD


Trevor Hunnicutt, AP, writes that our beloved National Bossy-Cows are now after the happiest food on earth—the Happy Meal.

The San Francisco nannies have already passed an ordinance taking the toys of out of meals with more than 650 mg of sodium, 600 cals, or more than 35% of their cals from fat.

Fruit or a veggie would have to be included to make the thing toy-eligible.

The fast food industry is described as “predatory.” I am surprised “murderous” is not in there someplace.

The industry is already self-regulating, although activists scoff at this.

My sister gets the Happy Meal because the burger is small. Might I add that the toy is crummy? Bah! A CD sometimes.

I lived in two apts near McDonalds over the years. You know what was really weird? Someone could spill a shake and it would sit in the hot sun all day and not melt.

Some gal in England took a Happy Meal and put it out in her kitchen, no refigeration, for 6 mos (see pix). It hardened but did not rot. Think about that.

Maybe we could eat the CD.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Flash on this!


Art Carey, Philadelphia Inquirer, Oct 27, 2010, says a therapist named Nancy Dreyfus has developed a system of flash cards couples can use while fighting. She now has a book on this called Talk to Me Like I’m Someone You Love.

The title comes from an interchange two patients were having. Dreyfus wrote the phrase on a piece of paper and asked the man to hold it up to his wife. Reportedly, it changed everything.

The book contains 101 messages. “You are being a bully” or “I am in knots.”

Dreyfus says most couples have a warmth and connection, even if fighting,

The flash cards, she says, are without toxins such as insincerity, sarcasm and exasperation.

What do you think? This would not be my style. I just had a fight with my daughter. I don’t feel like flashing, “You have no idea how sorry I am about the direction I took this in.”

I want to write something else completely.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Are we hurting our eyes?


I am all about the eyes, since losing sight in one of them.

In the last 30 years, nearsightedness has increased 66%.

We spend $31.7 billion a yr on vision, with $21 billion of that being for glasses and contacts.

What amount of this increase is from better diagnosis? What part is from staring at screens, peering at tiny phones and keys, and just generally overstimulating our eyes?

You really need to go to the eye doctor once in a while. Some people go every year.

If you lose even one, that spare is really no substitute on its own.

Trust your Auntie Star on this.

If your eyes feel scratchy, get some drops. Try to look at things near, then things far, alternate.

And if you see any flashes of light or globs of floaters or heaven forbid, maroon blood, in there, get thee to a doc!

Friday, November 05, 2010

What if your doctor asks you to be in a study


My mother had a doctor who conducted studies for drug companies, in his office, using his patients—not just referred people to university studies.

I thought, hmmmm, say you have some serious disorder…If you like your doctor and enter the study, you will be informed that you may not get treatment, that you might get a fake pill. So your doctor, with your interests supposedly at heart, thinks it’s OK for you not to get treatment. (Sure, people are suggestible and placebos sometimes work, but that is not the point here.)

What do you think of this?

Apparently, a professor named Paul Litton, University of Missouri School of Law, thought this might be an ethics conflict—even a violation of the Hippocratic Oath.

The loyalty to a patient’s best interest may clash with the moral obligations to research participants. The interest in the case of research subjects, is not to further their best interests, but produce valid results.

Maybe in some cases, being in a study is the only way a patient can try an experimental drug (maybe). But this may also involve invasive testing or other things the patient may not need.

The paper was published in the J of the Am Med Assn, under the title “What Physician-Investigators Owe Patients who Participate in Research.”

I am pretty not onboard with this. If your doctor asks you to do it, think hard.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Caution on cortisone


Everyone I know with painy joints has tried cortisone shots. A first try before the expensive hyaluronic acid or partial or total joint tinkering.

Cortisone can provide short-term relief, for sure. But the British journal The Lancet recently looked at a bunch of studies involving 2,672 patients, who had cortisone or placebo or other non-surgical treatments, and found the cortisone to be short-lived.

In one—tennis elbow--the cortisone was good for up to eight weeks, but the pain was worse months or years after than in people who did nothing.

No one is sure why—and these different studies were apples and oranges—but the researchers think maybe corticosteroids weaken the cell structure of tendons.

I had one doctor describe cortisone as poison—we can only give you so much poison.

All drugs have side effects—what we are shooting for are the GOOD side effects—but the word poison stuck with me.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

New way to chill


I mean, old. Old way to calm down. The labyrinth. Some hospitals are even putting them in as a place where family members and patients can slowly, contemplatively wander.

Rachel Gouk, Philadelphia Inquirer (Nov 3, 2010) says churches and municipalities are also featuring these in open spaces. The practice of walking in a labyrinth is more than 5,000 years old coming from early Christian and Celtic, or even Wiccan, origins.

A maze—bushes—is made to confuse or challenge. A labyrinth is made to lead gently to the center, then back out, re-entering the world.

Walking prayer or mediation, the anti-Twitter, are other terms used.

Some people mow them into their lawns. That would seem to involve a week whacker.

Talk about the opposite of calming. That would be weed whacking.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Beauty no-nos


Justine van der Leun, AOL, writes about beauty treatments that seem like a good idea at the time, but can go wrong.

First, skin lightening creams, containing hydroquinone. People use these for years, when they were prescribed for 2-8 weeks. Bad! The stuff potentially causes cancer and is banned overseas for causing a rare condition where skin turns dark blue or black.

That Latisse eyelash grower stuff can darken or redden eyelids and stimulate hair growth in places you might not want it.

Acrylic nails can result in all kinds of problems—fungus, nail lift, pain—people have even ended up in the hospital.

Hair weaves, too can weaken follicles—hair can fall out. Also people can be allergic to the glue.

And keep the false eyelashes for special occasions. The glue, you know.

Keep the beauty you have. Intelligence is gorgeous!

Monday, November 01, 2010

Dreaded clipboard


That’s what we call it—one word—dreadedclipboard.

That half-baked mess they hand you at the doctor’s office—you know, the one the doctor never looks at even for a second?

My gripe is not that it is basically make-work, patronizing, and CYA, and not that it will not be replaced by the electronic chart, or if it is, that the feds will read it, my gripe is that it’s so random.

They list enough diseases that you immediately feel queasy, but often not things like shingles, polio, gallstones, atrial fib, Lyme disease, PCOS, and other things that people get or have had.

Instead, malaria… Yes, my days in the Congo, remember them well.

They also ask for hospitals and dates—are they calling? Who can remember this? Hmmm, I guess I was about 40…

Do you drink alcohol? How many drinks a week? I have two wines a week now, but I used to drink tons…does that matter?

Smoke. Never. Does anyone believe that. It happens to be true—and mostly true even for wacky-backy.

But what about amphetamines? Hell, yes—was given them as a child to lose the ever unpopular adipose tissue. Mmm, speed. Me love.

OK, you get where I am going. I don’t want a national committee to pry meaningful info out of us. Or something they can deny treatment for or something.

How about a history. Ask questions. No…not practical.

At least they now let you fill out the form at home before you go. This helps me because I can use my magnifying glass.

Detached retina! Another thing that is never listed. Or Macular Degeneration. Or a macular hole.

Can you think of other horrors they forget?