Friday, December 30, 2011

Hangovers, of course


Did you know that a fourth of people don’t get the classic “no loud noises” hangover? No headache, no spacey feeling into the afternoon, no vom.

Not fair, is it?

I am in the one-fourth, but don’t hate me.

Of course, this is where I tell you some neat hangover cures. I won’t even insult your intelligence by suggesting the best of all—don’t take the last six drinks.

Let’s see…well, some people take Tylenol before going to sleep—this is now considered bad because Tylenol and alcohol are some sort of lethal combo, sorta maybe.

So stick to ibuprofen.

Drink a lot of water is more advice—even while at the bar. Not sure on that one—ever done it?

Stick to clear drinks—the dark ones have cogeners, which just sound bad— you don’t want cogenors.

Eat food before toasting and drinking.

Some people swear by peanut butter sandwiches.

And of course, they say not to take the hair of the dog—but you know, I noticed over the years that people who had a Bloody Mary seemed fine in early afternoon.

Anecdotal, of course.

Sooo…cheers, my babies!

Oh--and that picture? My good-bye to 2011.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Save money, time, life itself


In 2012, as usual, we can ignore all medical advice and start following all old advice—or something like that. This stuff goes in and out of season.

But I read a story recently that had a few new wrinkles in it.

First, forget loading in the vitamins. Folic acid, magnesium and zinc, in one study, actually shortened women’s lives—statistically.

Liposuction—so sad, too bad, but it just moves fat someplace else—or rather, sucks it out and it re-establishes elsewhere. You know fat—very tricky.

Household appliances may make asthma worse—it’s the electromagnetic fields moms are exposed to in the form of microwaves, vacuum cleaners, and hair dryers that gets passed to the kids.

Staring at a screen before bed keeps the sleep hormone melatonin from secreting. Keep it dark at least an hour before trying to sleep.

Pick only winning teams—cheering for a losing team can bring on an ER visit.

Watch the commute—more than 45 mins for one person can make a couple 40% more likely to split.

The bigger the city you live in, the more stress. One doc even said if everyone were born in the country, there would be 30% fewer people with schizophrenia.

I have no idea if that’s true or what you should make of all this—just thought it was interesting.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The fat trap


Maybe we need to SHUT our fat trap.

That is the term NYT health reporter Tara Parker-Pope uses for the body’s built-in resistance to losing pounds permanently.

You can read the whole sad tale at: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/01/magazine/tara-parker-pope-fat-trap.html

This is all I heard at the holiday parties—“I shouldn’t..” “I am completely stuffed…” “I will regret this…” On and on.

This fat stuff has careened out of control, so to speak. Do this, don’t do that, this person is fat, that one is…you’re doomed, you’re weak, you’re stupid.

You know a book I loved—Candy & Me: A Love Story by Hilary Liftin. Buy a used copy on Amazon. It chronicles this gal’s love of candy. She goes into each of her favorites and when and where she first savored it.

Candy—the enemy. But it’s this woman’s reason for living.

Life is short, it’s funny, it’s horrible, it’s frightening…sometimes a cookie is not evil.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Music as pain reliever


I don’t know about you, but I don’t have money these days—and can’t afford doctor copays or a lot of medical nonsense. I am also not crazy about slamming in a bunch of drugs, even if they are cheap, which they seldom are.

So…I was interested in a December The Journal of Pain piece on how music can ease pain for some people.

This came from the Univ of Utah Pain Research Center. They think you can substitute a concentration on music for concentration on pain.

This takes er…concentration. The music pathways compete with the pain pathways.

At first the researchers thought those with lowest anxiety about pain would be able to switch concentration to music better—but it turned out to be the opposite. High anxiety people who could absorb themselves readily did the best.

Anxiety and absorption were linked—they may look at that more.

Do you find these science snippets interesting? I do.

Monday, December 26, 2011

No snow--just wait


Well, here in the desert, the wait is long. But elsewhere there is plenty of the white stuff and it needs some relocation.

Snow shoveling injuries started in October!

Thousands of people injure themselves every winter slinging the stuff around.

Heart attacks are the least of it—7%.

The lower back is usually the focus of the agony. Muscles are cold and tight, with less blood supply—they cramp, they spasm, ouch!

Andrew Peretz, MS, of Somers Orthopedic Surgery and Sports Medicine Group (www.somersortho.com), says warm up first—5 or 10 minutes. March in place. Run up and down stairs.

Use the right shovel—not the one invented 100 yrs ago with the short handle and big wide surface. Get one with a curved handle and made of lighter material.

Use your leg muscles not your back.

Push snow aside if you can—don’t lift.

Use kitty litter or sand under your feet to prevent slipping.

If your doc says shoveling is OK—it is good exercise.

And that cocoa sure tastes good after.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Jump for joy, why don'tcha?


When I was young, I clicked off the years from Christmas to Christmas—that was my high point. Now…the economy, the wear and tear of living…it’s sort of a job. But kids still have that sparkle.

It snows and they scream with happiness! When the radio says school is closed, they swoon! They play outside until their little hands are too cold to hold hot chocolate.

So… let’s look at it through the eyes of kids—that special excitement.

But…of course…playing outside also works off calories, Healthy Schools reminds us…to wit:

Dashing through the snow—half an hour—330 cals.

Jumping for joy…330 cals

Sledding—220 cals

Decking some halls – 120 cals

Reading stories – 30 cals

Building a snowman – 140 cals

And

Making snow angels—107 cals

Merry Christmas, all!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Someone in the hospital?


Hospitals at Christmas can be sort of extra-sad. I once wanted to play with a security guard’s German shepherd when hospitalized at Easter—no one was around.

The Univ of Alabama-Birmingham has some tips if you have a relative or friend in the hospital at this giddy time of year.

This Alabama hospital system does try to cheer things up, by collecting toys and stockings for kids and maybe some music.

If the person is not in intensive care, you can bring some decorations. If the doc says OK, maybe a favorite treat or dish.

Ask if the patient can get a massage—that would be a good gift.

Or how about Skype—most hospitals have wifi.

If your friend is well provided for cheer-wise, then look for rooms with no visitors or signs of the season—maybe you can bring a little cheer there.

Under no conditions, though—The Little Drummer Boy. You have been warned.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Should you take up running?


My Dad ran—before the word “jogging” was invented. My sibs run—my sister, in fact, ran everyday for 20 years. Now—two hip replacements, a sore knee, bad back…and when people tell her they run, she cannot resist warning them that they are courting disaster.

I say let people find their own disaster—no wait, I do warn against bad eye surgeons and weird approaches to atrial fib. Never mind.

Chris Sebelski, asst prof of physical therapy at Saint Louis University, says running is the sport for everyman and everywoman.

But—YOU NEED A PLAN!

First, get an overall checkup. Talk about your exercise plans, Better to prevent injuries than deal with them later.

Set realistic goals. If you are a slug, start small—running and walking. Maybe even journal what you do.

If you can’t go one day or a few days—just get back to it ASAP.

You may be hungrier—but don’t start stuffing…Eat lean meat and whole grains.

Maybe consider cross-training—some yoga or resistance (weights).

Running can be boring—go with someone. Go to different places, maybe a nearby track.

Put your times on Facebook.

And I would add—take one day off a week. Those muscle fibers need to reknit. Also—if something hurts really badly, don’t just run through it.

You could be sorry when you get old.

But in the meantime--did I mention that you will get a huge rush? Why do you think people do it?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Moms of preemies need extra care, too


My niece was under two pounds—she’s now almost 40 with her own strapping son and my sister had no real problems after the birth.

But researchers at the Univ of Wisconsin-Madison says the stress of a low birth weight child can affect the mother’s health in a lot of cases.

To be low birth weight—the kid must be under 3.3 pounds. More than 63,000 such children are born each year.

The Wisconsin docs studied 297 mothers of babies under this limit (2003, 2004). Also—290 mothers of normal weight babies during the same time period.

Five years after the birth, the mothers of low birth weigh babies tended to have more physical problems.

The more time in the NICU, the more likely the mother was to have problems in five years.

The key to minimizing problems was a good social support network. Mothers need to tend to their own checkups and preventive steps.

So…mothers…the baby is not the only patient.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Seriously--220 lbs in 3 mos?


I don’t usually harp on the diet thing—and I find the title THE BIGGEST LOSER disgusting, but supposedly that winner lost 220 lbs in 3 mos?

This is way more than people who have their intestines short-circuited down to nothing so they absorb almost no food.

I saw reports of people in this program—was it Medifast—that stay on the treadmill 8 hrs a day. But even then...

Also, I saw comments that this guy was sort of a jerk—thanked his wife by getting her used car.

No—I am not tossing my TV—but am unable to see how this is really possible…I guess someone documented it, right?

Well-this confirms it—men lose weight more easily than women!

Is he going to need some skin surgically lopped off--anything? This defies logic!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Music to soothe the savage Santa


Feeling…um…freaked out? I’m not—life is simpler when you can’t afford gifts.

But remember—music—those beautiful carols—are healing.

The ancient Greeks and even those before them touted music as soothing—the savage beast and all that.

Low tones—stringed instruments—60 beats per minute—ah, bliss.

Of course, there are neurological reasons. They have done studies on surgical patients—hearing music through headphones resulted in better outcomes. Same for heart patients.

Music—they theorize, this is still mysterious—activates the powerful parts of the brain that respond to food, sex, and drugs.

They stuck people in a machine—yup—responding.

So…with the exception of The Little Dummer Boy—enjoy those carols. They could save your life.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

"Diet" fast food--sorta


Jessica Bartfield, MD, an internist specializing in nutrition and weight management (oh joy) at Loyola, says even the dreaded fast food can be OK to eat.

She favors sandwich shops that allow lots of veggie toppings and less dressing or mayo. Subway, cough Subway? (Their dressings gag me, but don’t mind me.)

A cup of soup or chili is OK No bread bowls—what were you thinking?

Always go for grilled, not fried. Hold off on cheese or dressing. I like hamburgers without cheese, which my kid thinks is positively warped.

Go for the smallest—that would be the Dollar One.

She also says save half for your next meal.

Yeah, am getting right on that one.

In DC, every place I lived had a Mickey D's in the same block. Sometimes kids would spill the shakes on the sidewalk and all day, in summer, they would not melt.

That was scary.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Followup for donors important


Yes, getting a kidney is a big deal—but the donor also undergoes a big surgery and is left with only one kidney. Sometimes this fact is lost.

Docs say complications are rare for donors, but according to a story by Laura Neergaard, AP, long-term consequences for people left with one kidney are often not tracked.

Really—one doctor was quoted as saying—no one is taking care of the donor.

The United Network for Organ Sharing is thinking up some fixes for this. A checklist better explaining the potential consequences is one idea. Plus—more monitoring of donors. For instance, can donors get insurance?

In 2009, the Univ of Minnesota looked at 3,700 people who had donated a kidney---they found normal lifespans.

Now, though, donors are older, may be overweight. More African-Americans are donating. The game is changing.

Now, one study showed that a year after the surgery, the centers only know if 2/3 of the donors are alive or dead—much less more detail.

Comments are open on the new proposals through late December.

Some info here: http://optn.transplant.hrsa.gov/ContentDocuments/Guidance_Post_Donation_Donor_FollowUp.pdf

Being a donor is giving the gift of life--you deserve some TLC yourself.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What if a holiday also marks a death?


What if someone you loved dies at holiday time? Is the holiday forever changed—or even ruined?

Debra Gelbart writes about this in the AZ Republic, Dec 7, 2011.

The holiday—with the emphasis, the gathering of people—can intensify the loss.

You may want to change traditions—substitute new ones. Or, some people like to hang on to the old ways.

It’s important not to set things in stone—you may do it the old way for a couple of years, then maybe go away at holiday time, do something new.

The person who is not there will always be in your heart. If the customary celebrations make the loss for painful, try changing it up.

The first year, when the pain is new, try not to overdo, though.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas care for caregivers


The University of Medicine and Dentistry of NJ says 70% of the five million people with dementia are cared for at home.

Big job! Stress, anxiety, burnout are never far.

The holiday season can really amp this up.

Some caregivers don’t want help—they don’t want to bother people or appear to wimp out.

So what can you do?

Well, first, call before coming over. If the caregiver always refuses—then show up for a SHORT visit—bring a treat.

Don’t ask what you can do—be specific. “I am headed for the store—what can I bring back?” “Want me to pop in the laundry?”

Be a good listener. Encourage the person to call.

Offer to spend the night.

Do the research for them—services in the neighborhood, including respite services.

If you ARE the caregiver, accept some help!

You are not Superman or Superwoman! Everyone needs a hand sometime.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Would you buy medicine from this guy?


Connie Midey, AZ Republic, and HealthDay recently come forth on “thyroid support” supplements to “fight fatigue” and “lose weight.”

These contain the hormones T3 and T4, from chopped up animal glands.

These two hormones are supposed to be only in prescription drugs. They actually do something to ya!

Also risky are the herbs guggul, which can screw up your prescription thyroid medicine, and ashwagandha, which has not been tested much.

Also in this stuff: selenium. This can increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes.

The prescription thyroid meds or bio-identical stuff mixed by a compounding pharmacist are better if you have deficiencies.

As for losing weight, you would have to take a dangerous level of thyroid hormone.

Especially of some crap mixed in a basement in Mexico or someplace.

Come on—people—wise up.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Ranch--get out the ranch


Anybody who reads this rag knows I am not the hugest fan of veggies. I eat broccoli everyday just about, but if pressed, will eat iceberg, which is like eating water…er, ice…nutritionally.

Veggies do contain bitter antioxidants—good for you, bad for bugs…Arugula, gack! Field greens—stay in the pasture.

Jennifer Orlet Fisher, director of the Family Eating Lab at Temple, has found that 70% of children have a hypersensitivity to bitterness.

Adding a small amount of dip, she says, helped these kids eat more of the good stuff. (Journal of American Dietetic Assn, December).

She looked at 152 preschoolers in Head Start who were served broccoli at snack time for 7 weeks. Adding 2.5 ounces of ranch dressing increased consumption by 80%. Low fat ranch worked, too.

I once wrote an article for WebMD that said that putting a little real butter on veggies made adults eat more. I bet ranch would work, too.

Maybe this sounds obvious, but sometimes the urge to cut out things like dressing is self-defeating and people do it anyhow.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Don't let kids play with gasoline


It’s that time of year again—time to give advice on children’s toys that kill and maim. This is from the docs at Cincinnati Children’s.

First, read warning labels. These are so over the top now that they will mention every conceivable thing that could go wrong.

Buy age-appropriate—obvious.

Look for sturdy toys—ditto.

If there are little ones around under age 3—even if they are not the recipient-- make sure no little parts come off that could get in their mouths. One inch around,, three inches long minimum.

No cheesy jewelry that contains cadmium.

Under age 10? No plug-ins. Batteries only. Watch those teeny button batteries—they can get caught in the throat.

No strings more than a foot long.

Throw away plastic wrap immediately—the kid may run over and asphyxiate.

Now—how do adults get in those blister packs—besides holding a butcher knife and slashing while yelling eee, eee, die!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Are you careful with your contacts?


According to a study in the Nov issue of Optometry and Vision Science (Am Acad of Optometry), a significant proportion of contact wearers are not following all the recommended steps for safe use.

Yet, more than 80% say they are.

Most of those studied in the Dallas-Ft Worth area and at a university eye clinic could name complications. 58% in D-FtW, and 91% in the clinic.

Risk factors for complications include: “topping off” rather than replacing solution, exposing lenses to tap water, and poor hygiene.

In actuality, only 2% were doing everything they should! Only ONE patient was perfect.

Hey, I lost vision in an eye—you don’t want to. Time to rethink.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Running clubs for kids


Time was, kids ran around.

Now they are in clubs to run around. Still, it’s probably good for them. Here in Chandler AZ, they run as many laps as they can in 30 minutes. This is as much about boosting brain power as cutting obesity.

Some clubs as 450 runners!

This started a decade ago. First I heard of it.

They are told to drink plenty of water, stretch, not run in the worst heat, and relax.

Kids under 13 run more more than three miles.

Kids—like horses—like to run.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Energy drinks + sports could equal danger


Robyn Norwood, USA Today, says some athletes are turning not to ‘roids or blood doping, but the legal booster Red Bull.

Meaning caffeine. Lots of caffeine.

I remember a big debate on coffee when I was in HS—when could kids drink it.

Now, docs have to write in PEDIATRICS that caffeine is bad for kids and adolescents and should not be chugged during sports or physical activity.

This stuff can whack our your heart. Or even cause seizures. Trips to the ER because a kid feels "funny" also cost.

Red Bull isn’t the only one, of course. There are dozens, some containing mysterious herbs, too.

Yes, they contain less caff than a cup of ‘Bucks.

The problem is cold drinks go down faster and kids drink more than one.

Come on, parents—look into this. It also doesn’t help that some athletes and NASCAR people endorse this stuff.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

HIV patients not getting best care


David Brown, Wash Post, Nov 29, 2011, says only 28% of Americans with the HIV virus are getting tiptop care.

The goal is to suppress the virus so it’s no longer detectable—only a little more than a quarter have achieved that. This is according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The problem is people who don’t know they have HIV—for those in treatment, 77% have suppressed the virus.

More than 75% of those who find they have it get into care within 4 mos—but only half of those stay in care.

People drop out because they don’t like taking all the pills, the side efx, expenses and just plain denial.

The average person with HIV lives 11 yrs if not treated.

So…this is an ongoing problem.

When we lived in DC, I lost three friends to this and I can still cry my eyes out over it if I let myself.

That was in the Bad Old Days—but those could come again.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Single parents with cancer get help


Even if you have no helpmate, you can get sick. Then what—what about the income, the kids, the treatments, the phone trees?

Out here in Scottsdale, we have a group called Singleton Moms to help out.

This was started in 2006 by two women who watched a 32-yr-old friend succumb.

More than 100 single parents (some men) have been helped.

They bring in maids to clean, they bring meals, they negotiate with the bureaucrats.

Each year they have a fundraising ball.

Maybe you could start something like this?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

"Customized" knee replacement


There are already “male” and “female” knee assemblages. Now, docs have invented the Signature Knee.

The Signature Knee is still a metal-on-metal replacement joint, but one crafted to the patient’s individual knee structure.

Before, docs did not know what they would find inside the knee, so they had to have several sizes available.

Now, the doctor and an engineer look over the patient’s MRI or CT scan and calculate the best places to drill into the femur. These plans then go to a manufacturer in Belgium where a model of the knee is built with a laser.

It takes the doc less time, and the savings offset the cost.

Some patients walk the same day.

I do think much of medicine will be more individualized—genetic tests to see which drugs will be most effective and so on. This sounds like a step in that direction.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The shampoo wars


Americans sent billions down the drain last yr. In the form of shampoo.

Did you know of the cheap stuff is just as good as the pricey? You don’t have to buy at the salon.

And buying at Walmart is even cheaper.

Suave or White Rain is about a buck at W’s--$1.25 in the grocery store.

To really save money, use less. For long hair—a nickel-size amount, less for short hair.

This is especially true for salon stuff—it’s very concentrated.

Generally speaking, the lower cost ones work as well as the premiums. It might be worth more, though, to get a color-preserving shampoo.

We go to the Dollar Store and get that coconut stuff, which leaves my hair very shiny, along with some cheap conditioner.

I never rinse and repeat…that uses twice as much. Where did that get started anyhow? Someone had a genius marketing idea there. Where else do you do things twice?

Always give the dog seconds? Brush your teeth, then load up the brush again? Wash your clothes--OK, once more?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Give us this day our glucomannan


Certain noodles can help you lose the el-bees. They come from the Asian konjac plant. It’s a water-soluble fiber, also called glucomannan.

Besides noodles you can get a powder to throw on your food or in a shake.

This stuff may help you lower cholesterol, keep glucose under control, and exert a MILD effect on weight. Maybe.

At very least, it’s not harmful.

Look for shirataki or yam noodles. They may be refrigerated and packed in water.

With veggies, they may also be tasty, who knows. Have you tried them?

I am a ramen gal--probably doing nothing for me but adding too much salt.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Honey is money


Yes, it comes from a bee’s bee-hind, so to speak, but it’s delish and has many good properties and uses.

First, it has antiseptic properties—you can make a bandage with honey inside for infections. They even recommended it when my kid had MRSA. Try to get Manuka UMF honey for this.

It’s pure energy—yes, a carb, but one spoonful can help you run faster and endure. It’s absorbed fast!

Put it on toast or in tea for a morning jumpstart.

It’s full of antioxidants—put some in water with lemon and drink each day. It may also have anti-cancer properties.

Hangover? Combine honey, orange juice and yogurt to chase the yuks.

It’s also good for sore throats.

Honey and vinegar are good for arthritis.

Honey and cinnamon—can stop hair loss and bad breath.

You can also make a moisturizing facial mask with it.

Sticky but good for ya.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Does a patient know best?


Laura Landro, WSJ, Nov 7, 2011, says come next fall, hospitals can lose 1% of their Medicare payment if they miss quality care goals or patients give them a bad rap.

Thus—hospitals are putting personnel through customer-service training.

Patients like cleanliness, quiet and someone who listens.

The hospitals are therefore adding massage, reflexology and concerts.

Some hospitals are also instituting a program I heard about decades ago—HEART. This stands for hear the concern, empathize, apologize, respond and thank.

Some hospitals also issue “Lavender Alerts”—for families that are stressed out.

All this is to the good. People with good English skills would also be a plus. And I am not a huge fan of the hospitalist system under which your care is turned over to a strange doctor, sometimes with limited social and language skills, for the duration of your stay.

I know this is supposed to be a plus—but it has never been one for me. I had to get a hospitalist almost physically shanghaied to my room and told him, “You have to talk to me!”

Another time, a hospitalist put our mother in restraints because she was inconvenient.

Still, many experts and some doctors say patients don’t really know what is great and what isn’t. I guess there are exceptions from what you think would be best—I know many big city trauma centers in the worst parts of town and oldest buildings are the best places to be taken.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Shaking hands with food


People are always wringing their hands over what to eat or not eat, what is “bad” and what isn’t.

Food is body fuel. But it is also a social ritual—and one of life’s great pleasures.

If you second guess it every second, feel guilty, hang your head, confess to people, you are leaving a lot of pleasure on the table, so to speak.

I am a big woman, always have been…I eat what I like now, don’t do the scale deal, and am trying to enjoy life. I worry, too, though—that my low income and ramen lunch EVERYDAY is wasting my time on earth with crappy, boring food.

Also I don’t cook. And my stove is on its last legs anyway…well, burners.

A columnist in our paper wrote that even though she is a perpetual dieter, she is going to eat some holiday goodies. So there!

This does not mean a whole ham or batch of cookies—but some tasty stuff.

Preferably free—at someone else’s house.

And maybe a beverage—same terms.

Join me?

Cheers!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Presents for poor old folks


We are on a, ahem, limited budget, and I needed kitchen sponges for months before springing for them—kept putting them in the dishwasher to no visible effect.

My daughter was ribbing me—“I heard you in your room saying sponges, sponges.”

Banner Hospitals in this area has some ideas for us broke oldies for the hols.

First, if you know someone older who may not get to the store much or is snacking on crackers and so on for meals, look into what hot meal programs are available—just finding out for someone can be a gift!

Do they need help paying monthly bills—sit down with them and go through the mess.

What about a computer and a couple of lessons?

A booklet of coupons for rides places?

Toothpaste, floss, shampoo, that sort of thing. It may sound weird to offer that, but it might be welcomed.

Canned food? Make those shelves look loaded! (No--not cat food--unless the person has cats.)

Also a new sweater for turned-down thermostats.

And don’t forget to throw out the hook—invite them to parties and holiday meals.

Sometimes just calls are nice—if you are “wealth challenged” yourself.

Once, when I was WAY younger, someone gave me a huge carton of oranges…It seemed like a weird gift, but we ate them all! It was memorable—and yes, a little weird.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Be realistic--the blues may sneak up


First, get this straight. If your family is more Jerry Springer than Rebecca at Sunnybrook Farm, you are not alone.

The holidays are tough, because family members are thrown in a room together sometimes. The big wad-up, as one woman I know calls it. Alcohol may be served. Uh-oh.

Also, you are supposed to be cheery and thrilled. You must be! What is wrong with you?

Uh, no money to buy presents, age-old gripes, perversity, who knows.

Too much sugar, food tox from rich delicious stuff, too little sleep, stomping around malls…it adds up.

Then when it’s formally over, you feel let down. Drat—not even irritation and exhaustion to look forward to.

Some tips from Banner Hospitals in Phoenix:

Remember, it’s about a birth, a great past moment.

Don’t expect much to change from last year.

Invite people who will pitch in and help. Let the slugs go to their own party (Banner did not say that, I did).

Go look at lights other people put up if you don’t feel like doing it.

Yes—it’s the end of the year, a natural time to sort of sum up and if the sum isn’t what you want, well, regroup.

You get another try.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Exercising for two


We get a supplement from a local hospital in our paper, and today it quoted Tiffany Weathers, MD, an OB-GYN with Banner Ironwood Physicians on exercising while preggers.

Generally, she says, if you are healthy, you can continue to exercise. It strengthens muscles for pushing and is especially helpful if you develop diabetes during gestation.

I walked a lot—I COULD walk a lot then, well, waddle… The hip ligaments open up and soften, so you sort of roll along.

If you have been exercising all along, you can continue—maybe not the marathon like that gal of a couple of weeks ago. Walking, yoga, light aerobics.

If you have any of these problems, ask the doctor:

Preterm labor in the past.

Vaginal bleeding.

Cervical problems.

Leaking of fluid.

Shortness of breath.

Dizziness or fainting.

Slowdown of baby movement.

High blood pressure.

Do not ride horses, waterski, scuba dive, ski at high altitudes, lie on your back a lot, work out hard in hot weather.

I have already heard hot tubs are not a good idea—you don’t want to cook the little guy or gal.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Fat banking


Finally, some good use for fat.

Hope you didn’t just eat, but Wendy Schmid, Harper’s Bazaar, says the new hot happening, darlings, is banking your fat. Or more accurately, freezing it and paying someone to hang onto it.

Not fat—think of it as “cosmetic filler.” You can get someone to spackle into into your wrinks at a distant time.

A place called BioLife Cell Bank in Dallas will do the honors.

While they don’t exactly recommend “banking” the gunk in your 20s just for later use, they do say stem cells are less potent if you suck it later.

No, you don’t get liposuction—it damages the cells.

They use other techniques—a, pardon the expression, soda can’s worth can last a lifetime.

It costs $2500 for “removal.” Then count on $1700 for the first year of storage and $200 a year after.

Then, some doc has to squeeze it back in at some point.

Does it hurt? Only the walletectomy.

Still, I have found that just having a fat face smooths those wrinkles amazingly well.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The wasted bucks REALLY stinks


According to Loyola, the US is winning against the evil smoking habit. Fewer people are starting, and 3 million quit a year. Still, a fifth of adults smoke. My kid is among them. She apparently started when she was 12—love those parochial schools chockful of naughty peers .

Anyhow, now that we are struggling economically (she is still at home), I took note of the fact that a pack a day runs $3,300 a year!

And it’s bad for ya, you might have heard--cancer, heart disease, blah blah.

A year after quitting, the excess risk of heart disease is half that of a smoker’s.

Twenty minutes after quitting, Loyola said, your heart rate and blood pressure drop. Twenty minutes? That makes no sense…

Moving on…

Eighty percent of lung cancer is thought to be from smoking. Quitting even 25 years before does not help ya.

That Chantix stuff can really cause you problems… Don't you love the commercial that says this stuff is great, you can still smoke for a week?

This is a mixed picture. It’s best to try to quit, I guess…think of the money if nothing else.

But I also get irritated by the national nannies who won’t let you work for them if you smoke at home and otherwise try to mind your business.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Can be many causes of knee pain


Ralph Wilson, an orthopedic surgeon in Gilbert, AZ, wrote in the Chandler Republic, Nov 9, 2011, that even a finding of “bone on bone” meaning cartilage is all worn away in the knee may not be the cause of knee pain. People with bone on bone can have no pain.

Other causes of pain could be psoriasis, sciatica, or an arthritic hip. Gout can also cause it.

A Novocaine shot in the hip can help the knee in some cases.

This may mean back x-rays in addition to knee x-rays, as well as blood tests. Maybe even an MRI. That is the one I never want to get!

So I limp on.

Psoriasis? I have that. Let me check that out.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Mother's little helpers


ABC News had a story on how moms are too freaked out these days to sleep without a pill.

How to make the mortgage, will the kids have a better life than the parents, why aren’t the schools teaching them anything…you can get in a hamster wheel of thoughts at night.

Especially in this disgusting economic calamity or whatever it is.

A 2007 study by the National Sleep Foundation found that three in 10 women use some sleep aid a few nights a week. This is twice as common as men doing it.

I sometimes take a melatonin. But others are taking the Big Boys—Ambien, Lunesta, Klonopin.

One woman said she was “always plugged in”—could not turn it off. She wakes in the middle of the night—and it’s all over for that night.

Some things to try instead of meds…If necessary learn to leave dishes in the sink and just go to bed.

Give yourself a half hour to unwind.

An hour before bed, make a to-do list for the next day. Then you won’t do that in your head in bed.

Put away the devices.

Get out of bed if you can’t sleep.

Even warm milk is worth a try.

I listen to my audiobooks…on an MP4 player—only the screen is lit. Turning on lights reboots you. Not good.

Monday, November 07, 2011

I used to think this was dumb


I used to hear older people say all their friends were dead. I thought, wow, bummer. Now, some of mine are. And others have drifted off.

It didn’t help that I moved away from my home of 35 yrs to help take care of my own aging mother. It’s hard to keep up. Oddly, some friends from college are more in touch than people I knew in Washington more recently.

Of course, they have done studies—if you have friends, you are more connected to life and live longer. Something like that.

Recently, the Arizona Republic did a story on friending people as you grow older. They had some suggestions for getting friends.

First, you can join a career group, such as the local chamber of commerce.

You could volunteer—get out, meet people.

Go to community events.

Take a class. In DC, we had a thing called First Class—short classes in this and that.

You could maybe find friends on a social site. A couple of people called me from Facebook, asked me to lunch, then never really did it.

The best thing of all is to smile when you are out—it’s a friend magnet.

Also—don’t expect to much. Just do it to do it.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Doctors--lie down till the thought passes


I can’t see well (thanks to medical care I opted to succumb to), and never could drive, so even a routine doctor visit means getting a ride from my sister, who is willing, but I don’t want to wear out the option.

Then comes the paperwork—I don’t want to put my Social…that is discussed. Then the scale—yes, all ills, every one, stem from excessive size—so this is a big issue. I will not get weighed. Blah blah…that is not pleasant.

Then the long wait in the “little room.” Cold in there.

Then the doctor comes, eager to write a script, diddle with the computer, turf me to an expensive specialist—I don’t even have the $35 copay, people, but do the referral in case my ship ever comes in.

Say I get my hands on $35, then another ride…then the specialist…first the scale…nope—blah blah... Then probably an x-ray or test, meaning a ride, waits, etc.

Then try to get the results—no news does not mean you are OK, it may mean the test was done in the wrong name, it’s on someone’s desk, etc.

They want you to come back for another copay to hear the results—no, just tell me on the phone.

THEN, a recommended approach. But what if that is something I have tried that failed me (warfarin, for instance). Try physical therapy before anything more drastic? Good idea, but rides…I would need many rides.

Surgery? Lose weight first? We have discussed already.

Ack. I hate this. Why do they want us to live so long anyhow—they can’t afford us anyway.

Just writing this makes me feel like Jabba the Noncompliant Hut!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Dutch psychologist fudged


Eat this—no wait, that will kill you. Take this supplement…or wait a sec, maybe…

Who knows what to do anymore.

All we have is the faint hope that some smart scientist is spending countless lonely hours and shepherding swarms of assistants to gather data and trying to find out what works, what’s what, and what we should do.

Then—inevitably—we chip at it—did a corporation pay this researcher to nudge results its direction? Were there enough people in the study? Was it designed well? Does it mean squat? Was the study even done or was it pure fiction?

Benedict Carey, NYT, Nov 2, 2011, writes about some dude named Diederik Stapel, Tillburg University in Holland, who is being questioned about studies he did on hypocrisy, racial stereotyping and advertisements.

He, of course, hopped on a website immediately and beat his sorry little chest…”I have failed as a scientist and researcher… yick yack.”

He published more than 150 papers with “sexy” results that got publicity. He was “lord of the data,” never let any other researchers examine it (two-thirds of Dutch researchers say they don’t).

Two thousand American researchers studied by the Harvard Business School found that 70% said—anonymously—that they had cut some corners.

Statistical errors were another widespread problem. Math, people, math!

Maybe saying most people are foaming racists is “softer” than saying everyone should be piling in the vitamins, but both are sloppy!

You are wasting my time, people, and dragging down big salaries while doing it. I don’t like it.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Growing pains are real


Gremlyn Bradley-Waddell, AZ Republic, Nov 2, 2011, writes that 25-40% of kids experience “growing pains.”

Usually these aches and cramps come in the night and are below the knee.

Often these arise after a very physical day. About all that can be done to prevent them is good quality, supportive shoes.

If these pains continue or extend into the morning or pop up during exercise—you might want to tell the doctor.

In the meantime, some attention, massaging the area, or some ibuprofen can help.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Smelly house


Remember those house-a-tosis ads? I always think of that when I walk in—is it EW or EAU?

There is such a thing as occupancy odor—I wrote about this once for WebMD. It’s BO, PO (pet odor), fresheners, cooking, products, etc.

Febreze did a study—people don’t clean 75% of their porous surfaces—couches, rugs, pillows—regularly. These soak up stinks and hold them.

Smell is directly linked to emotion. Smell a perfume—WHAM, you think of the guy you were with or the woman who wore it.

Now, EPA people can grab some air and analyze it. They found people could not describe a smell but could tell you how it made them FEEL.

Experts say add a pleasant smell—no smell at all is described as unpleasant.

The smell you add can affect you. Peppermint lowers the error rate on boring tasks.

Osmanthus, a new, made-up scent from Asia—fruit and floral—is hot now—most people like it.

Sooo…when you come home today, see how your house makes you feel. I often feel I need more cat boxes.

Jeez, Star--don't you ever give up on the disgusting.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Toxic bosses can make us sick


A mean person with no boundaries and power over us. Ah—what a dream. Madeline Vann, MPH, Everyday Health, says bosses who throw things, screamers, people who crave chaos in order to excel, all can hurt those under them.

Bullies—a lot of them—bullies with no playground. They can “correct” you in front of others, steal your ideas, talk behind your back, the possibilities are endless.

Lynn Taylor, author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant, is quoted as saying people spend 19 hrs a week worrying about the boss. Six of those hours are on weekends.

This can cause depression, heart problems, overeating, asthma attacks, insomnia, and the consumption of tons of sick leave.

What can you do? First see the problem for what it is—them, not you. Write everything down.

Think of the boss as a toddler—is he or she hungry, tired, overwhelmed…Maybe a juice box?

I added the juice box.

Find a trusted sounding board-OK, person who isn’t sick of hearing about this.

Or—look for a job.

The juice box sounds easier. My advice? Take it one tantrum at a time.

Actually some bosses also wrote in on this--employees who malinger, who steal, who miss deadlines, who don't shower...they had their own beefs.

Friday, October 28, 2011

You are officially off the hook for...


Do you like that Suze Orman person—who screeches "DENIED" at people when they want to spend a buck? I am not a fan. But I do think we need someone to say yes or no on things. Just not her, with her orange canvas outfits.

I saw a story in Working Mother (Nov 2011) about things you can take off your To Do List. What a great idea to cut stress!

The magazine says you can remove:

Zumba Class
Scrapbooking
Learning to knit
Hosting a dinner party

These come from The Happiest Mom by Meagan Francis.

Now, I have some…

Learning to make scratch piecrust
Cooking all meals on Sunday and freezing
Dog obedience school
Weedeating

And that’s just for starters! Got some more, readers? Let’s go easy on ourselves.

By the way, Working Mother is such a good mag I still get it and my kid is almost 30. I am dropping it, though, because they went to a new design that yellow-highlights things for me in the stories. That is so dumb.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Breathe, people


In the 1970s, I had a job, but also went to a yoga ashram for class every evening—we learned yogic breathing, in which your stomach comes out instead of being sucked in. The way babies breathe, their tummies going up and down.

Since women don’t like to stick their stomachs out, and since people get more stiff and armored, we gradually forget how to breathe.

Sometimes I find myself barely taking in any air—just now, for example.

We need oxygen and that mysterious prana energy stuff that suffuses us from air—this comes from pranic breathing.

A LA board-certified urologist and surgeon named Eric Robins, MD, hooked up with Master Stephen Co to emphasize therapeutic breathing.

This is called the Nine Energizing Breaths—and the book is called The Power of Prana. Robins credits this for helping his own Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

For more info on how to breathe this way, go to www.thepowerofprana.com.

Basically it amounts to relaxing, sitting or lying, positioning your tongue on the roof of your mouth and making sure your stomach is coming out on the inhale, meaning the diaphragm is coming down. Think of your lungs filling from the top down.

Try it up to 10 times, then repeat unless you are dizzy. Also—pregnant women should not do everything in the book—ask your doctor about it. This also applies to people with high blood pressure, or heart or lung ailments.

Still—breathing is free. Might be worth a shot.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Do not reuse needles--got that?


Every time I read about infections, someone says a hospital or clinic has reused needles. Can we just agree that is really, really dumb and stupid?

Laura Landro, WSJ, Oct 25, 2011, says the Centers for Disease Control is launching a new website for cancer patients and caregivers. Prevent infections! Cancer patients are vulnerable. For one thing, chemo can lower the number of protective white cells.

And, I might add— cancer patients ENOUGH PROBLEMS ALREADY!

But patients also need to do a part to prevent infections. They need to wash their hands regularly.

Get someone else to empty the litter boxes and deal with poop.

Of COURSE—no reuse of needles. But also watch for uncapped needles lying around the treatment center.

Get a flu shot. (Read today it’s 59% effective—but better than nothing.)

Staffers are asked to get flu shots, too.

How about common sense? If your nephew is sick, don’t have him come over. Don’t go out in crowds of coughing people.

In other words, wise up.

Check out the CDC stuff at https://www.preventcancerinfections.org/

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Old-age commune--with pool guy


My sister and I oversee our mother’s care in assisted care—and have for 17 yrs. She cannot manage on her own.

She can pay $3000 a mo—we will never be able to when it comes our turn. And our turn is sort of here, we are both quakier that she is.

So….My friends and I jokingly talk about banding together and taking care of each other—maybe with a cute employee to fetch our prescriptions, cook, clean the pool (a must), and mix the Cosmos at twilight.

Could this happen, though? I guess it’s sort of a Golden Girls scenario with diseases and disabilities.

Could we swing it on SS? We need to do a budget.

It would have to be someplace warm…

Monday, October 24, 2011

Breast cancer followup--ask your doctor?


Anahad O’Connor, NYT, Oct 24, 2011, reports on a decent-sounding study that suggests that letrozole (Femara) improves the odds of survival to a greater degree that the gold-standard followup medicine tamoxifen.

I am not a doctor, I do not play one on TV, but this may be worth talking to your doctor about.

Sixty percent of breast cancers are sensitive to estrogen or estrogen-receptor positive. This study in The Lancet Oncology, financed in part by the National Cancer Institute and yes—by the maker of letrozole—looked at 8,010 women

They followed these women for about eight years. After surgery, letrozole and tamoxifen were given some of the women alone for five years, or in sequence, first one, then the other.

The women who took letrozole five years after surgery had a 20% lower chance of recurrence and were 21% less likely to die over those who got tamoxifen alone. The combo did not lower the likelihood of recurrence or death over letrozole alone.

So…while each individual person is not a statistic—this might be worth asking about.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Secret plan to kill us


I am trying to decide on a new Medicare plan—or maybe I will keep the old one. I am increasingly convinced, however, that this process is a nefarious plan to frustrate seniors and raise their BP to fatal levels.

First, I made the decision to get an HMO—a so-called Advantage plan—when my supplemental went up and up in price. I loved that supplemental—I wanted to marry it. But it was too expensive.

So…I decided to ride the Advantage plans down—the admin has vowed to gut them for being just too darn nice to us.

The Advantage plan I had in 2011 was OK—I could not afford to see a specialist ($35), but that was probably OK since they just make you feel sicker or more fat and decrepit.

But—I had a grievance against the one specialist I did see—and this plan did not give a fig. Hmmm.

Also they chirped around about how they would send a doctor to my HOUSE to assess me—thanks but no thanks.

So…I called my broker. Brokers are good, by the way, they can cut through a lot of BS.

Before he came, I called one of the plans I was considering. They had sent me a “Tool Kit.” This tool kit consisted of an alphabetical list of docs—does not help me in finding another eye doctor. Also the tool is a blank piece of paper you can write your doc’s name on and your meds—then apparently you take this to some meeting in a nearby motel—then what, I have no idea.

There was also a blank page in there for “Doodles,” it said. I like a health plan that focuses on creativity.

In the fullness of time, the broker came over and went compared apples, oranges, kiwis and bananas on several plans—bottom line, I am sticking with the one I have.

Whew. Over with and I lived.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Candy you hate? Seriously?


Yup—the Loyola Center for Fitness is so worried you will bolt down the Halloween candy, it advises only buy the kind you hate.

Also, delay buying it—less time for it to call to you from the garage or wherever.

Don’t get chocolate—people eat that. That means YOU!

Eat a healthy meal so you won’t be hungry, Loyola says.

Chew sugarless gum.

Oh—and I love this one—keep the wrappers so you can see how much you ate.

Also, confiscate the candy. Dole it out for desserts.

Mom used to do that last—we found it months later, all nasty and chalky.

Loyola also says give out Halloween pencils instead of comestibles. How about stickers instead of Snickers? Raisins? Packages of microwave popcorn?

Oh, stop, stop, stop.

Fun is officially dead. RIP, fun.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Disabled can get slighted on tests, treatments


David Song, writing in the Harvard Crimson, tells of a paraplegic woman who could not weigh herself to get the proper amount of chemo.

Another woman with cerebral palsy was duct taped to keep her still—they did not have Velcro straps.

OK, you already have a problem—but what if you get another one that requires treatment. Will you get it?

What if you can’t get in a scanner or MRI, or even onto a table?

Women with disabilities may not be urged to get mammograms or Paps.

Perhaps providers feel their lifespan is limited anyway.

This is pretty darn crappy when you stop to think of it!

I once saw a show where a paralyzed woman was pregnant—I wondered how she could push. They actually went to great lengths to help her—and I don’t think they just gave her a C-section.

Maybe because it was on TV?

We have to look out for this kind of thing.