Friday, March 30, 2012

Teasing the palates of chemo patients

At the Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center and Banner Gateway Medical Center in Gilbert, AZ, executive chef Heather Metell has instituted a unique program to help chemo patients receive proper nourishment—and enjoy their food.

Like cancer cells, taste buds are fast-growing cells and can be destroyed or changed by chemo.

Food may begin to taste odd, metallic, too salty, too sweet or just tasteless. This can change from day to day.

Metell goes to the patient’s room before deciding on a menu and brings samples of vanilla pudding, peanut butter and lemon yogurt—to see what the person can taste and what it tastes like.

If the patient can still detect sour, she may make them a lemon cream sauce for halibut. If the patient can taste sweetness—maybe a chocolate smoothie.

She calls this flavor profiling. To her knowledge, this is the only hospital trying this—but it sounds good and maybe others could give it a whirl.

I certainly have never been treated this considerately in a hospital—it’s a great idea.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

iConfused--is this good or bad?

Supposedly that iPad thing is bringing patient and doctor closer—by letting the doctor be farther away.

In the Henry Ford Hospital System, which is very highly regarded, surgeons “round” on post-surgical patients with the iPhone and may not be on the premises.

They communicate via live chat software called FaceTime.

This has a name now—telerounding.

Apparently patients who like this high tech approach start with those who like robotic surgery.

I have some concerns. I guess the patient or nurse points the phone at the incision so the doctor can see if it’s infected or anything. Does the patient press it in to see if it hurts?

Can the doctor see the patient’s color clearly—if those roses are coming back to the cheeks?

What about hospitalists—those in-hospital docs who have replaced your primary doc once you are hospitalized? Are they still in the picture?

I mean, the screen.

I don’t know—I often wonder if all this is going too far.

I once was hospitalized and my doctor never came. I finally called his office. Oh, I was told, we don’t come anymore—there will be a doctor there to take care of you.

I lived but I was not happy.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Faster, faster--the lights are dimming

Off the Grid Fitness in Scottsdale AZ opened this month. Instead of using electricity, the cardio machines generate it—and sometimes enough to return some to the grid.

This gym also uses TRX Suspension TrainerT, where all the energy comes from the exerciser.

This is described as eco-friendly fitness.

The joint also reuses and recycles everything—doors, frames, fans, mirrors, rubber flooring, and drop ceilings.

The lights are fluorescent, the water in the bathrooms low-flow.

Plastic bottles are frowned upon. And the laundry for towels is the greenest available.

Sounds pretty cutting edge. The least efficient thing in there would be me.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Some studies of popular drugs suppressed

What to believe anymore? Even I don’t know half the time! Sorry, but it’s true.

Brian Vastag, Washington Post, says some atypical anti-psychotic drugs, which brought the industry $16 billion in 2010, may have shown unpromising or negative results.

Think: Abilify, Zyprexa, Risperdal, and Seroquel. Also Geodon.

Twenty-four FDA studies were performed on these atypicals—and four were sort of…well…not published.

These are really for big problems like schizophrenia, but are prescribed off-label for insomnia and bipolar problems—or to keep older people calm.

Three of the unpublished studies showed that the drug being tested did not beat the sugar pill for effectiveness. The fourth showed that the drug helped, but that older drugs helped more.

A questionable one was Geodon—did not beat the placebo and in another unpublished study, Haldol worked better.

This, added up, does not mean these are bad drugs, but they can be expensive and you need to drill in and question your doctor closely.

You know that ad for Abilify where the Ratty Bathrobe of Depression follows a woman around and even sits in the chair next to her at the psychiatrist's? I hate that. But it must be honest--here is good old depression sitting there, not cured.

Friday, March 23, 2012

What, no mystery meat?

Sarah Burns Wu, Univ of Wisc class of 99, was written up in the alum mag by Denise Thornton for her efforts to examine school lunches.

Wu was horrified to see a soggy bagel dog on a lunch plate one day. As a speech pathologist for the Chicago schools, she had wandered into the lunch room—and BAM!

She had a little family blog and started writing about lunches. She would get lunch, take a picture and upload the daily fare.

Then she got a book contract and wrote a book called called FED UP WITH LUNCH. This contains a resource guide for parents.

Do you remember your school lunches with horror or sort of nostalgic kindness? Hey, it was different from the food at home. Pizza day was OK. The two pieces of white bread on each plate might have been omitted.

Now, with do-goody first ladies barging into it, it is a big deal. No soda for you! No chips for you! No fries for you!

Arugula Day? Please.

To check out Wu’s site, go to:

By the way--where is my book contract? I like the title: NEVER DIE, GUARANTEED.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Xeni--Fashion for the wheelchair user

Hey, women who use wheelchairs are still women—they want to look cute and professional.

The owner of the Xeni Collection was diagnosed with MS in 1990, She was an architect in London.

MS began to cut into her work because of fatigue. Her hands began to fumble with fastening jewelry.

Buttons became a problem, putting clothes on while sitting.

You don’t have to have MS to encounter these obstacles. I know a woman who can’t hold a heavy book to read because of arthritis.

In 2010, Xeni came into being. She took a course called How to Start Your Own Fashion Label. She designed, supervised a “cutter,” held photo shoots.

She is also recruiting jewelers to fashion her easy-to-fasten designs.

She started from the seated person. How does the person look up close? From afar? Usually people see the person from above, too—the hair, upper arms. The latter means hats with brims are out.

Short skirts—never. You can see between the legs, especially from a distance.

Another area is where top and bottom meet—this covers up belts. Tunics are better. Or suitable length dresses. Trousers must be longer in back.

If you have plumbing issues—pants. If the person never stands in public—some garments do not continue under the body—making them easier to put on.

Often clothes fasten with magnets. Drawback: These cannot be worn by people with pacemakers.

She is always thinking. Come see.

Very cool.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Growl! How to stay safe in the woods

I once took an early morning walk in the woods in Virginia near the Wintergreen resort and saw a black bear cross the road. No one back in the cabin believed me and they still jeer at me.

But I digress.

Paul Auerbach, MD, a professor at Stanford and outdoor health type, wrote a 2300-page book on staying safe in the wild.

Bear (heh) in mind—his background is emergency medicine, which about confirms my love of the out-of-doors.

Coupla tips:

If you fall overboard, try to get most of your body out of the water—even it a cold breeze hits it.

Avoid the “bends” by coming up slowly—and also by not flying too soon after diving. Wait 12 hours before getting on a plane.

If you go to the tropics, acclimate—do some exercise, Avoid booze. Drink water. If you take a diuretic or beta blocker, ask the doc about this before you go.

If you are in bear country—don’t pick berries, if you see salmon in a stream, avoid that stream. If you see ravens—there may be a carcass—and the bear that caused it. If a bear suddenly appears, move slowly. Do not look the beast in the eye. Don’t try to run or climb a tree.

If you get caught in a fire—try to find a rocky place. Stay in your car if it’s nearby. Turn on the A/C and engine. Try to wait it out.

Of course, this is just a little—2200 pages to go! How about a movie instead?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Docs working on less rejection of donor kidneys

My sister and I both have potential kidney weirdness so I am paying more attention to these stories.

Lauren Neergard, AP, says work is progressing on allowing kidney transplant patients to toss the anti-rejection drugs.

At present, those who receive a kidney must take a ton of pills daily.

But researchers are looking at having the patient get not only a kidney, but some of the donor’s immune cells to keep the new organ from being “recognized” as an enemy and attacked by the recipient’s body.

Do not quit your anti-rejection drugs!

This is experimental at present.

In these procedures, doctors take immune system producing stem cells out of the donor’s bloodstream and put them in the kidney recipient, whose own bone marrow has been blasted with radiation and medication to weaken it to receive the newcomers.

Mass General, Standford, Northwestern, and the University of Louisville are the points on this.

They are all trying different variations on this. Stay tuned.

Monday, March 19, 2012

African-American hair needs a lot of TLC

At the 70th Annual Meeting of the American Acad of Dermatology, Raechele Chochran Gathers, MD, a senior physician at the Multi-Cultural Dermatology Center at the Henry Ford Hosp in Detroit, said the unique structure of African-American hair makes it prone to damage.

Yet, many black women put all sorts of caustic and strong things on their hair.

Gathers recommends washing once a week or every other week even.

Conditioners should be used EVERY TIME. Pay special attention to the ends of the hair.

If you work out a lot, rinse hair with water to remove sweat and salt. You can add a conditioner then if you want.

Watch out for shampoos containing sulfites—they can dry. Stick with olive oil, shea butter, aloe vera juice, or glycerin.

Hot oil treatments should be used twice a month.

Also—use heat protectants before blowing.

As for relaxers—don’t go cheap, let a professional do these. Don’t apply a relaxer over a relaxed section—if you do touchup, ends only.

If you get cornrows and it hurts—this is bad, get them loosened. Pain equals damage.

Look at the products. Not surprisingly, African-Americans buy 30% of all hair products.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Statin warnings

Do you take a statin? Weirdly, although I am a walking disaster zone some days, my cholesterol seems to be OK.

But my thin sister is on these things. And I have interviewed cardiologists who want to marry statins—they seriously suggest these drugs be put in the water supplies like fluoride.

I hate taking pills, but have succumbed for my blood pressure (another family curse).

But I know so many people who have had the “leg pains” from statins—and the memory fog.

Re the latter—the FDA just decided on a warning label for memory loss and confusion from statins, such as Crestor and Lipitor—even Simcor and Vytorin.

Some statin-takers even get elevated blood sugar, usually at higher doses.

For people who have had a heart attack or stroke, doctors seem pretty sure taking a statin is good, benefits outweighing negatives.

But preventively? This is a judgment call now.

Whatever you decide (and of course, they say check with the doctor for an indepth discussion—yeah, so easy), probably if you are on a lower dose it’s OK—but is it preventing at a lower dose?


Thursday, March 15, 2012

You have to practice dieting

As we all know, I am fat and every time I dieted, I gained it back.

So—you will notice—I don’t write about dieting that much. Bitter memories.

Jessica Bartfield, MD, an internist specializing in weight management at Loyola, says 20% of those who lose weight keep it off.

I heard 5%.

Two-thirds of Americans, she says, say they are on a reducing diet, as these used to be called back in my day.

Yet, few get smaller. Dieting is a skill, she says—like a musical instrument. You have to practice and practice.

First, most people underestimate the calories they eat. She recommends calling a restaurant ahead of time—have you done this?

People also think they are burning more than they do. You need to eat 500 cals less than you use per day to lose a pound a week. This means 60 mins of heart-pounding effort a day (maybe unrealistic) or 30 mins most days. Try for 10,000 steps (this is hard, I once got to 3,000 and this was when I could walk).

Eat every three or four hours—a snack, breakfast…keep blood sugar level.

Sleep more than 6 hrs a night. Less sleep, more hunger hormone ghrelin.

Keep reading—you can find the opposite of a lot of this recommended. See why I don’t write on this much?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Oh, neat--now we have fake drugs

I barely can stand AP these days, but for what it’s worth, Matthew Perrone of the formerly respected wire service, writes that counterfeit drugs are popping up everyplace—maybe even your local pharmacy.

The most publicized is Avastin—the cancer drug, also used for eye ailments.

Bogus meds used to be in third-world countries, but of course, the real money is here.

Viagra, Lipitor, Alli—all are turning up in fake form.

Cancer patients getting Avastin might only get the fake stuff from the bad vial once—would that be horrible? The doctors are not sure.

Over 80% of pharmaceuticals are manufactured overseas. The supply chains to bring these drugs back can bring in fake ones, too.

A pill press is $20K—not a huge setup cost.

What can you do? Little. If your regular medicine looks different—shape, color—this may be OK, but ask.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Colonoscopie$ avoided even by insured

They cost!

Everyplace I go medical-wise, I see empty waiting rooms—doctors, labs. Even with insurance, people can’t afford copays, time off, waiting, going from doc to doc.

Researchers at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill say even continuously insured people are getting fewer colonoscopies.

From Dec 2007 to June 2009, half a million fewer Americans underwent this test.

The study—Americans 50 to 64—showed a direct correlation between out-of-pocket costs and likelihood of getting the procedure.

Costs more—less likely.


Low out-of-pocket is $50. High out-of-pocket is $300.

They give away birth control—which by definition is needed in high-earning years—but this, oh no.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Allure Mag: When starting a new exercise class

Jillian MacKenzie interviewed Julie Rich, cofounder of SoulCycle in NY and LA, about how to conquer a new fitness class.

First, she says, dress appropriately, Pick outfits that make you feel your best.

Be early.

Ask for help if you need it. Let the teacher know it’s your first time there.

Go slow at first—don’t show off. And get winded or pooped.

Have fun—don’t be afraid to let it hang out.

Also—I would add—wipe off surfaces and be hygienic.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Golf ball massage--improvements to

Golf is good exercise or at least fresh air—but golf ball massage is bliss.

There is a whole school of massage therapy devoted to pressing golf balls into lubed-skin and bunched muscles, with very relaxing results.

The problem can be that the slippery orbs get away from you, so now is offering little holders to be used by the masseuse. This is a cuplike device that cradles the ball as it runs over and pressed into the muscles.

This also protects the hands of therapists who press this way all day, clutching a slippery ball.

Another offering—the KaddyBACK allows you to position the golf ball to massage your own back.

Go to the website to see some videos on this—it does look relaxing.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

What men worry about

I think men can be pretty weird, but I am like them in one respect—I hate going to the doctor. I know women who view doctor visits as a social event—they are fine with the rudeness, waiting, dictatorial attitudes, the scales, etc.

Not I.

Some Canadian researchers surveyed 2,325 men from 55 to 97 about what actually worried them healthwise.

Above all, men worried about independence and quality of life. Sixty-four percent worried about losing mobility, another 64% worried about memory loss. Sixty-three percent worried about medication side effects. THIS COULD BE ME! Vision loss, 61%, hearing loss 52%. Falls were a concern for half.

The scientists also found physicians were not really addressing these things. They were not offered screening for mobility impairment ailments or memory loss problems.

Osteoporosis, end-of-life, Alzheimer’s, anxiety, and incontinence were discuissed rarely.

Stroke, heart, disease, diabetes, pneumonia, and prostate disease were discussed a lot!

Still, women worried more—as evidenced by a parallel study.

And crank out copays for every little jot and tickle.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Women--a drug test for you

1. Women are 60% more at risk for side effects than men when mixing medications.
a) True
b) Nah, they love to take pills.

2. The reason(s) women run into more trouble at the medicine cabinet is:

a) They read health articles and go to doctors more.
b) Families are such a headache that they need a satchel of drugs to cope.
c) They are in the grocery store so much going to the pharmacy just takes a sec.
d) They have touchier metabolisms and are swarming with hormones that can change or amp up the effects of drugs and supplements.
e) They are smaller and may be being prescribed too large doses of drugs.

3. Which of these are true?

a) Adverse drug reactions (ADR for short) are a leading cause of illness and account for 7,000 deaths a year (both genders).
b) Older people are more used to taking prescriptions and can tolerate drugs better than young or middle-aged people.
c) They are called health food supplements for a reason—they are healthy for
you no matter what you are taking or what is wrong with you.
d) Women’s kidneys can process anything—look how often they have to “go.”

4. If you are taking a birth control pill, it’s OK to take antibiotics if you need to, such as rifampin, tetracylcine and penicillin.
a) True.
b) Oops, get ready to welcome little Madison or Trent.

5. How about St John’s Wort while on BC pills?
a) The FDA says no.
b) You may be even more depressed if you get pregnant.

6. Feeling depressed and on an selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor and are
still feeling funky? Which of the following might be a good chaser for a
a) Another antidepressant.
b) Ecstasy (just sounds undepressed, doesn’t it?).
c) Pain meds
d) Cocaine

LIFE-SAVING ANSWERS: 1) True, women run into more trouble with the little amber bottles than men. 2) d and e are true, the others kinda insulting. 3) a is the only true statement. Older people have more, not less, trouble processing their fistfuls of meds. Herbs may grow in the ground and thus be considered “natural,” but they also react chemically in the body—otherwise why take them? Many can cause blood not to clot and can change how other medications affect you. And--women’s kidneys are delicate, we’re not talking copper pipes here. 4) BC pills and antibiotics can result in a 9-month surprise. 5) Both a and b are true. The FDA is not thrilled with your taking St John’s Wort while on the Pill because it can undercut the Pill’s contraceptive powers and you know what than can mean. 6) All of these are no-nos with SSRIs. Consult your doctor.

Be honest, you knew cocaine was not going to make the cut, didn’t you?

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Video games can be good rehab

In the NEW SCIENTIST, June 17, 2009, Jim Giles wrote a story on how console games are helping amputees and people with Parkinson’s.

One Parkinson’s patient, under the care of a physical therapist, used a Wii with a handheld wand to “play” tennis. He played 3 hrs a week for a month and said he was a changed man. He said he moved better, walked better.

Video games can be played at home, in privacy. They are relatively cheap. They are also addictive.

Games used include not only tennis, but bowling and baseball.

Other games develop muscles that can run some of the new prosthetics.

Guitar Hero, for example, has been modified to by drive by signals from electrodes in the arms of amputees (instead of pressing buttons).

Keep an eye out for developments. I will, too.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Why athletes get tired

I ran across an old issue of the Georgia Tech Sports Medicine and Performance Newsletter—concerning being tired.

While athletes can be tired after an intense workout, if they are tired after waking up or a few days after working out, this could be a problem.

For one thing, it could mean you are overtraining. This means a badly designed program with inadequate recovery time.

A poor diet could account for it.

How about travel or other stress factors?

Symptoms can include muscle soreness, decreased performance, or an increased sense of effort.

A low-carb diet can also rob muscles of zip. Same for inadequate protein.

Another factor could be chronic lack of sleep.

And if you are getting over a virus, there is such a thing as post-viral fatigue.

My favorite is from a comedian I heard. He said, “I get tired from sleeping.”

Friday, March 02, 2012

Lagree Fitness--no, not Simon Legree

This is Sebastian Lagree—he invented a machine-based cardio-strength system that cuts workout time in half. This used to be called SPX Fitness, in case you were wondering.

He started with Pilates, then added another class after for cardio and strength.

Then he worked on a machine—this one works 600 muscles.

Maybe SOME people have 600 muscles…

You do 40 to 50 minutes of strings, pulleys, and so on. This puts no stress on joints! Huge factor.

And you don’t stop and adjust the machine like with Pilates.

I guess you would google this in your town.

Whew--typing that wore me out.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Is retirement death's waiting room?

In the Oct 2009 issue of J of Occupational Health and Psychology was a story on how working in some capacity in your former field keeps people functioning better than stopping altogether.

Well, DUH.

Working, structure, getting dressed, feeling useful and needed – all contribute to physical and mental health.

This particular study looked at more than 12,000 people between 51 and 61 and interviewed them every two yrs for six yrs.

Yup—those who continued some kind of work had fewer diagnosed diseases such as heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, lung disease, and so on.

The same more or less went for mental health. Those working outside their former field benefited less—maybe because of the stress of changing environments. Or because they HAD to work to live—stressful, also.

Sooo…those of us staying in harness or going to part-time may benefit somewhat. Let’s hope.