Thursday, June 30, 2011

We all scream for....

July is National Ice Cream Month. As you know, I don’t “do” months. Except when I do.

The Cowabunga Ice Cream People (not a nationality, a company) contacted me and reminded me that ice cream is darn tasty!

They make “designer” ice cream and frozen yogurt.

Ice cream is good for the economy—generating billions in sales from the yearly personal average of 23.2 quarts (almost twice that in the northern Central States—that would be the cold flyovers).

Ninety percent of households eat ice cream.

The most popular flavor is, of course, vanilla. Chocolate is next, then strawberry, chocolate chip (my fave, those waxy chips, love those), and then butter pecan.

The yummers first came to America in 1700. Dolley Madison served a strawberry ice cream thing at her husband’s second inaugural.

The cone came in the late 1800s-early 1900s.

Cowabunga has Cake Batter, Cookie Dough, Mint Chocolate Chip, and Coffee Espresso, to name a few.

And lookee here—they have Red Velvet yogurt. I just saw a commercial for Blue Bunny Red Velvet Ice Cream that looked good.

I am in a smackdown with my frozen food truck company—no ice cream is the result.

I might have to regroup.

For info—go to They send it. To the desert? Wouldn’t it be more like a milkshake?

And—no—I know what you are thinking—this is not low calorie. But it does have protein, right? Calcium? Something that’s OK?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Some good ideas for "seasoneds"

I prefer seasoned to senior—salty AND peppery! OK—pretty corny. I can be.

Anyhow, Peggy Buchanan, coordinator of vitality/wellness, for Front Porch, nonprofit retirement communities in Southern California, has some ideas for “seasoneds” who start feeling puny.

If you start feeling tired around 3 PM, drink water and eat a few high anti-oxidant foods, such as prunes.

Try a few word games.

Pole walk a little—like those ski poles only there is no snow and scary ice.

Dine with someone. If you are talking, you will eat less.

Introduce new foods, take a different route on your walk. The example was replace canned peaches with fresh—God grief, trip to the store, need a ride, where did they move those peaches, where is the knife, do they have tinkers anymore to sharpen these… Well, I guess that would count as a change of routine.

Wear supportive shoes. Or socks with padding.

Increase Omega-3. Fish, nuts, olive oil—you know the drill.

Decrease salt, increase salsa. You really need flavor. Peppers have it.

Dance a lot. I leave that one to you.

I say if you demand fresh peaches, douse them in salsa, and do the dirty boogie, they will haul out the strait jacket, but you know how I am!

I do recommend a nice cocktail maybe. Do they have Omega-3 cocktails?

I am kidding, Peggy! Don't hit me with a ski pole.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Try not to get back trouble

I have completely disloyal knees, but my back is OK…Still, I know a few people with bad backs—like almost everyone over 55.

Jane E. Brody, NYT, June 27, 2011, says it’s better not to hurt your back than to try to fix it later.

I also find that as I gimp around aging, I need to find work-arounds for almost everything—to prevent pain, to prevent injury.

Jane seems to be of that mind, too.

First, she says, posture! Stand up straight. Guilty—I am a slumpy little thing.

When sitting for long periods, put a rolled up towel or small pillow in the small of your back.

Learn to bend from hips and knees, not the waist. For me, this means the knees make a most unpleasant noise and feel like razor blades scraping inside--even stinging.

To tie shoes, sit on a chair and cross one foot at a time over the other knee.

Or get Velcro.

If you need to carry stuff—try to make it equal on each side. (Don’t do the blue-fingered Quasimodo, in other words).

Don’t over-reach—never reach more than you could with both hands reaching out together.

Protect your back when you cough or sneeze. Tighten abdominals, place one hand across your back.

To change the subject—have you heard of planking. Kids lie down in the street, in restaurants, etc. stiff like a plank.

Wait until they really are!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Owie--sunburn no joke

I got some horrible sunburns as a teen—big blisters like bunches of grapes. Now, we learn, these boneheaded plays can lead to melanoma and you are more or less doomed. I am hoping less, but who knows.

First, wear sunscreen—the newfangled ones protect against all UV rays. Get those.

Also—sun block is limited—you can only spend a certain amt of time in the sun despite wearing it. All day—bad idea (see above), even if you reapply.

Darla Porter, RN, of the Covenant Health Plan, offers some other sunburn tips.

Topical creams such as aloe vera, cocoa butter, and lidocaine offer the best relief. My dad (physician) said smearing lidocaine over a wide area was not a fab idea—so you decide.

Vinegar works to take the sting out.

Wash with Hibiclens or another antiseptic cleanser to prevent infection. I love Hibiclens—get some to have on hand for any infections, rashes, etc.

Peeled cucumber slices are good for intense areas.

Drink plenty of water.

If you get fever, chills, dizziness, headaches, purple blotches, visual problems, or those blisters—get thee to a doctor! Maybe an urgent care center.

Stay out of the sun while you heal. Sun hurts on sunburn anyway.

This is a burn, people—from a big radioactive inferno, not a stove. Don’t be a dope.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Do you hate yourself? Why make allergies worse?

Summer—we’re outside, the noses run faster than the feet heading for first base.

What are you doing wrong? Could be you ARE making allergies worse.

If you are under stress, this aggravates the blood elements that trigger allergies.

Drinking alcohol in the evening can make your nose run.

Maybe you didn’t start your shots early enough.

Are you washing in water below 140 degrees? You are being too nice to those dust mites!

Those houseplants—they can cause allergies.

Do you have an indoor pool—chlorine is highly irritating.

Also, if you only shower in the morning, try to rinse off the pollen and crud at night, too.

Some docs also recommend Vitamin C—1000 mg twice a day—as an antihistamine.

Eat magnesium—meaning nuts, beans, green leafies, and bananas.

Wear sunglasses—sun makes watery eyes worse. We have an argument in our family- I hate wearing sunglasses, even though I should, of course.

Wait--you have a pool? So jealous!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Scars can be changed or hidden

Dr Jeffrey Siegel is a plastic surgeon and professor at Boston Univ. He has some tips on dealing with scars.

Many scars sink in—these are called depressed scars. The shadow makes them more visible. Doctors can raise the scar up.

Scars can be shrunken if they are lumpy keloid tissue.

If scars are a straight line they are more prominent. Our bodies have curved lines—scars that are straight pop out. A surgeon can break up the line into pieces, making it less visible.

Or the doctor can scratch or scrape over the scar, healing around it and incorporating it.

A bad scar that was not treated or sewed up properly can be redone.

If a scar is perpendicular to a wrinkle, this can be adjusted for a better blend.

Darker scars fade over time, but can be lightened with medication. Lighter scars can be tinted by tattoo.

New injuries should be treated so as to minimize the scarring. Stay out of the sun while healing!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Latest medical horror story

Arizona is a medical torture chamber. I miss DC—where they have research hospitals, trained doctors even politicians will go to, and so on. Here…pot luck. Little storefront offices, rude staff, error after error.

I got a detached retina five yrs ago due to a medication for another ailment (thanks ever so) that made my eye bleed all to hell. Four surgeries…blind on the right.

In the course of all this messing around, they cut the nerve to the surface of my eye—so I can get an infection that could melt through the cornea—and not feel it. Therefore they told me to check every quarter to be sure there was no infection.

I have kept up with it pretty well…the copay is expensive under my new insurance, but I went yesterday.

The technician tested vision, then pressure in my eyes. My blind eye was normal—16. But my good eye was 30!! Bad! Could be glaucoma or maybe I would need a med I could not afford—or how about those shots in the eyeball everyone was getting for macular degeneration? I freaked. Was almost in tears.

We waited the usual hour, then the doctor said oh, no, it was fine—the so-called tech was the boss’s 15-yr-old son there for the summer. He laughed it off—“I am a real doctor, you are fine.”

Well, let’s see what the medical board thinks, shall we?

I reported this bozo! Send Doogie to camp or something!

Come on—even for Arizona…

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ah, the pain---I mean joy

I remember parenthood as being surprisingly physically painful—the hard little heads smashing into yours, the lifting, the rubber soled shoes squooshing your flesh, something every day.

Now a pain management doc—Charles Friedman, MD, Pain Relief Centers in Pinellas Park, FL, says fathers may also get the brunt of kid pain.

First, back trouble. Those little tots can be upwards of 25 lbs before you know it. You need to wrestle them in and out of car seats and chairs, often torquing over sideways.

You need to exercise and keep those back muscles strong. Don’t grab the kid with outstretched arms—stay close in. Bend at the knees when reaching down for junior. Don’t carry the child on one hip.

Warm up before playing with kids.

De-stress yourself. Take time out for you.

Maybe a card game. Although my own dad used to get pretty het up during Hearts.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Why we still need to write by hand

Yes, yes, type, type, thumb type, talk…but handwriting is still important, although not the primo school subject it once was.

In a story on Health Key, Anna North says concentrating on handwriting makes kids smarter.

Practicing writing a letter creates better recognition skills than seeing a letter and saying it.

The brain records more adult reactions with the writing.

As docs like to say—motor pathways are integrated.

Kids can also write faster with a pen than with a keyboard. Also--do they learn typing in school? I don't think so.

Writing by hand is physical—easier to get a flow going.

Also—the internet is not right nearby to distract.

I remember my daughter asking me to teach her to write “cursive.” She was 4. I made some of that paper with the dotted line in between the lines—it used to be employed to help kids form Palmer Method letters.

When she got to kindergarten, her teacher lambasted her for this—that is not until third grade! She was told. Print until then!

After that—she hated school. She has beautiful writing, though.

I find that with all my typing, my handwriting has deteriorated into a scrawl. Pity.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Summer footwear is killer

Temple University’s Dr Kendrick Whitney says summer is murder on the tootsies.

Not just summer—my sister, Mom and I look at Harper’s Bazaar every Sat and those Red Carpet shoes with the single tiny strap across the top of the foot or those giant covered foot tops make us moan with pain at the sight. The cutting straps, the buckles, aieee.

Our Red Carpet walks being limited out here in the desert, we bang around in sandals and ballet flats and anything that won’t torture us. Well, I do, anyway—sis will wear “bad” shoes.

Whitney says there are pluses and minuses to summer faves. Toning sneakers, with rocker bottoms, came out of the nineties. They were meant to be unstable, make the leg muscles work harder.

Now, those buzzkills at the American Council of Exercise say that is sort of a croc, er, crock. You’ve have to walk miles a day for any conceivable return.

The shoes do make the wearer more motivated, he says. The big heavy ones are like ankle weights.

Those barefoot running shoes? Funky, five-toed. They can be OK—if you are experienced at barefoot running, but most Westerners hit heel first.

Have a doctor look at your feet to be sure they are OK for this type of shoe. A doctor? Seriously?

Rollup flats (to be stuffed in a purse) or flip-flops, Whitney says, are excuses for foot coverings. Hmpf…well, not good. They are like wearing slippers, he sniffs.

Actually, some flipflops have padding on the forefoot and arches and the heel cup is lower to the ground.

How about that sore place between your toes?

I read another story that said the proper way to pop blisters was essential to life.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Bye-bye, good stuff

Almost 50 years—I have subscribed to the Wall Street Journal or read it almost half a century. Now, the price doubled—I can’t pay it (food and mortgage, that stuff, you know).

I also blog the stories—need to find out how to get them online if I can drag together the fee there, which I believe is about a hundred (versus almost $500 a yr for the paper).

End of one of my little eras, that’s for sure.

Leaving DC 15 yrs ago was another. I sort of had to for family reasons. But it still hurts. I miss my friends so much. I know several have passed away—I never saw them again. Others moved out of the city and I probably would hardly see them if I were still there. I know the city is not frozen in amber—it has all changed.

Elizabeth Bernstein talks of people moving in the WSJ, June 15, 2011. The good-byes were killer, according to those who moved. People cried. The parties were grim. And, oddly, people picked fights and were angry!

Yes! That happened to me with my screenwriting partner—he was furious!

This story points out that it’s hard to be left behind. You have no control.

One group of five women who dispersed sent a journal around—each wrote in it for a few weeks, then sent it on.

Others stayed in touch by email. I try to do that…Some buds have fallen away. Some, surprisingly, don’t “do” email.

I have one friend left on a talking basis—we phone every day. Still, it hurts…and I have no WSJ now, either.

Oh, well, the country is crumbling, everything is flooding, burning, or blowing away. It could be worse.

Or so they tell me.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Gut bomb--in more ways than one

Yes, in Europe people are keeling from eating (apparently) sprouts from a health food farm.

I consider all this veggie consumption to be somewhat perverse—many veggies contain substances to gross out bugs. Those work on me, too.

But this doesn’t mean that danger does not lurk in items we deliberately and with great pleasure stuff down our own gullets.

Laura Landro, WSJ, June 14, 2011, says salmonella is still a home kitchen menace. The infamous e.coli is on the decline, but salmonella is galloping along.

Sigh, our good old govt is planning a multimedia blitz on safe food prep. Stand back!

Salmonella can get into everything—meat, veggies, eggs. It can get in an egg before the shell is formed in the hen.

It can get into peanut butter—who cooks that?

The number of people who wash their hands before cooking is going down.

You should use a thermometer for meat. I don’t, do you? Meat should be cooked to 145 degrees (thickest part). Ground meat—160.

Check out for more ideas.

I wipe stuff off the counter—but do I sterilize the sponge?

It's easy to avoid sprouts--but avoid everything?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Old taking care of older

Kelly Greene, WSJ, June 14, 2011, says more people are taking care of older people—and doing so is affecting their own health.

Boy, do I know. My sister and I are in our sixties, Mom is 93. We have taken care of her needs, found her places to be cared for with no animals (we love them, she doesn’t) and have seen to her hair, nails, clothes, companionship 2-3 times a week for 16 years.

Oh, and when she takes a tumble, we sit all day and night in the ER. And when the phone rings, we say, “Please, not about Mom, not about Mom.”

We have several health issues each—she is mostly a memory case. Spry! Zippy! We limp around taking care of her.

Studies show that older caregivers (and you are still the caregiver, even if the person is in a nursing home or assisted care) are more likely to report depression and chronic disease.

The percentage of children taking care of parents has tripled, with 10 million people over 50 in this position.

This costs the younger person $308,000 in lost wages, pensions, and Social. This is even more for women (surprise—the ones most often doing this.)

Older caregivers are more likely to drink—like we can afford that! Sounds pretty good, though.

“You start taking years off your life,” one woman said, “when you start taking care of someone with dementia.”

And of course, your situation could get worse or you could develop dementia yourself. That thought is never far away. And of course, people are quick to adjust your attitude—well, your parents took care of you!

This just is what it is.

Be nice to your kids, is all I can say. Oh—I have one of those still around here, too—with a full set of issues, believe me.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Checking young athletes' hearts

Seems that several times a year, in almost every locale, there is a story about a young person keeling over on the playing field.

Drs Oz and Roizen talked about that recently.

Sudden cardiac arrest—heart stopping—can occur in kids with an enlarged heart—not just the enlargement that comes from working out a lot, but a condition called hypertrophic myopathy.

Dehydration, esp in summer, can be a trigger. Be sure your child drinks plenty of water.

Buying the school a defibrillator ($1500) might also be good—or help raise money. Fifteen states require or encourage schools to get these.

Heart screening is expensive but could prevent 90% of these incidents. If they are offered in your area, take your kid.

Fainting, heart racing, chest pain—all these are red flags. Go to the doctor!

If a kid does collapse, act fast! Call 911. Start CPR. If there is a defibrillator--get it pronto (even though that is no cure-all). Act—don’t freeze.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Time for nappies

I don’t know about you, but after a few hours of stupid politics and trolling for jobs, I feel like a nap.

I almost never do it—but according to a story in the June Costco Connection by Rita Colorito—I should.

Naps are not just for when you slept badly the night before. They clear the short-term memory storage—“Where am I?” Well, maybe not “Where am I?” but clearer.

According to a Berkeley study, 60 to 90 minutes including REM sleep makes you most open to positive emotions.

Sleep, one doc said, is not passive—like recharging batteries. It is kind of like defragging your hard drive.

OK, OK—the comparisons are out of control! Try for 50 minute naps, this seems to be the ideal.

These researchers say lie down, grab a blanket, wear a mask or close the blinds, and don’t nap within three hours of bedtime.

I wonder how many employers would go for this. I know the govt recently said to air traffic controllers—No naps for you!

Incidentally--speaking of the June Costco Connection--I have a story on page 65.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Pregnant in summer--whoa babies

University of Alabama doctor Kim Hoover, MD, says that pregnant women should take extra care in summer.

I was PG in WINTER and never wore a coat even on the East Coast—pregnancy makes you hot—and not in a good way.

Dehydration can happen quicker to pregnant women. The fluids taken in go to the fetus. You need to push the water.

Blood volume and flow increase—carrying heated blood around your body.

You also need to watch the salt.

Hoover says it’s OK to go to the beach, but go early in summer before it heats up. Also go early in the day—before 10 AM.

Drink 8 oz of water every hour you are in the sun.

Use at least SPF 30—to prevent worsening those brown masks and marks.

Wear loose, cotton or linen clothes.

You can even make your own fruit juice popsicles for fun and fluid.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Can you schedule an emergency?

Existential, isn’t it?

Lois K Solomon, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, May 23, 2011, says for $9.99 nine South Florida hospitals will guarantee immediate entry into the ER.

Non-life-threatening emergencies can go to and get an appointment.

Money-back if you are not treated in 15 minutes.

The idea is that people rest at home instead of in chaotic and germ-filled waiting rooms.

Average wait time in American ERs—4 hours. Out here, as many as 10 hrs. I have done it. Once, 13 hrs.

When the patient comes online, they are asked about their symptoms. According to a doctor quoted, this requires real knowledge of symptoms—don’t want heart attacks staying home.

They have to pay $10—and of course, someone will pay much more—insurance company, patient, someone.

This sounds sort of bogus to me, although I have waited interminably for myself, my sister and my mother. Why not get a same-day doc appt? Or go to Walgreens or some small clinic? Or Urgent Care?

What do you think?

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Computerized nurse gives post-hospital instructions

Laura Landro, WSJ, June 7, 2011, says some hospitals are trying to send you home with tools to keep you away from a repeat performance.

Part of this is Medicare—it won’t pay for preventable complications.

I have come home many a time with a pack of blurry photocopies from various places describing steps I should take—and maybe some prescriptions. Do I take the latter from now on—or in addition to that I already took? Who can go to the drugstore?

Now, some hospitals are giving instructions in a video on your laptop—and send the actual meds home.

One approach is called RED from Boston Univ. The online, animated nurse who gives instructions is named Louise.

One doctor said he got more info on how to take care a goldfish than he got when he left the hospital.

The “Home with Meds” program prevents people not filling prescriptions.

The hospitals using RED (Re-engineered Discharge) say it saves money and nurse time.

Don’t forget confusion, pain and death. Those are patient deals.

When you get out of the hospital, you may be sleep-deprived and scared, or even have a fever. People also come home now with open wounds, drains, and complicated schedules. It’s hard to keep things straight. You are used to someone helping you.

Even if she’s on the computer.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Speaking of drug interactions

Right after (below) saying to check for drug interactions, bam, an article on how the drugstore “checker” does not always work.

Anne Ryman, AZ Republic, May 31, 2011, says the University of AZ looked at the software pharmacies use to flag bad interactions and found that only 28% of pharmacies caught all the interactions of 13 major drugs. The results are in the J of American Pharmacists Assn (May-June).

We need to be vigilant still, the docs said.

There are many programs out there. They are not standardized.

You should ask—are there other drugs I should not take?

Get all your pills from one store. Have the pharmacist go over the list.

There are also websites you can go to. These can be wrong, too, though.

One is CVS has a checker on its site.

You are the one swallowing these--check!

Friday, June 03, 2011

If you are old or care for an elder, watch those meds

I am an elder, I guess. But a woman wrote to Dr Michael Levin, a medical toxicologist at Banner Good Samaritan Poison and Drug Information Center here in AZ, saying she had recently taken over her 74-year-old mother’s care and was worried about managing the meds.

This can be a huge problem because many older people have more than one wheel coming off (myself included).

First, Levine says, keep an up-to-date list of her (or your) meds, including over-the-counter ones like the daily aspirin, allergy meds, and vitamins and supplements.

Go over the list with the doctor. Take the pill bottles in a bag if you want. Keep copies of the list at home and in your wallet or purse.

You should also know in your own mind what each medication is for. The pharmacist can help you there if the doctor is too busy.

Write down special instructions—time of day, grapefruit juice OK or not, with food or not.

Write down side effects to watch for (you could even read that material the drugstore gives you).

If the meds expire, dispose of them properly, maybe at a disposal center if you know of one. We don’t need to be drinking all this in the water supply.

When taking meds, turn on the lights and wear glasses, Levine says. Sounds simple---but I have not done it and lived to call myself an idiot.

When leaving the ER, or after a hospital stay, be very sure you are clear on the meds. Sometimes they discharge you with prescriptions—should you or your relative take these in addition to the old ones, instead of, what?

Very important: If the patient seems to feel crappy or different, it could be the meds, not the disease.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Remember in band--pouring out the spit?

I saw a study recently that said learning in instrument (as mothers urge) was good for kids physically—breath control, discipline, and so on.

Now—yipes—seems wind instruments are chambers of mold and disease.

Study in the Intl J of Envir Health Research.

Germs get in there—but how long do they survive in there? These researchers looked at 11 clarinets, two trumpets, two saxophones, and five flutes, looking for all kinds of bacteria, staph, mold and other baddies.

All had some level of viable stuff in there, the highest amount if played within 72 hours. But some bacteria lasted 24 hours or even 48 on reeds exposed to air. A strain of TB lingered 13 days.

OK, this sounds scary, but this is hardly a huge sample…and though I am sure, true, isn’t this what immune systems are for? Plus—prudence—don’t swap instruments every practice, maybe?

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

How are we doing blood pressure-wise?

Ron Winslow, WSJ, May 31, 2011, says the war on hypertension may be working somewhat.

At Kaiser, 80% are controlled.

They attribute this to programs for diet, exercise, and BP. Oh—and Kaiser also strarted patients on a pill that has two meds in it (ACE inhibitor and diuretic). They also called people to come in and be checked.

A reading of 120/80 is still the norm.

The other day at the doctor, I was 144/99. I am on three meds! Then—oh, it was 144/80…Do they even know how to take it? I am usually 135/75.

Who knows… This is one thing I do sort of believe in handling, though. If you can. At least take the pills.