Friday, November 30, 2012

This is my head from weird medical appts

First, I went to an ear specialist about my balance and he was all about selling me hearing aids—well, I heard THAT, bud. You're done--getting another doctor.

My sister went to get shots in her knee and they were out of the hyaluronic oil! Nice of you to call, people.

I tried to get some medicine for an eye infection and have already talked to FOUR, count ‘em, four, people in the office with no callback.

This is in one week!

Can anyone play this game? Well, a group called Care Planners can! They will help you get a second opinion, ask for appropriate tests, back you up and actually be your advocate—remember, advocates—like Dr Welby and Ben Casey—people with the patient’s well-being at heart?

Check out Yes, it costs—starting at $195—but sometimes, this could be worth it!

They will also help you manage a sick or elderly person’s care from a distance.

Help—we need it!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Are you "pro" biotics?

I get it—we are bags of glom populated by our weight in organisms chewing up and digesting and balancing etc.


But should we take “probiotics”—the “good" bacteria to counter all the toxins and upset in our lives?

I take an acidophilus pill sometimes—smooth-working innards are not a hallmark of my health.

But so far, there is little scientific proof for all this, according to a story by Sumath Reddy in the Nov 27, 2012, WSJ.

Still—these catchall probiotics may soon be narrowed down to specific uses and prescribed.

People take the “pro” when also taking the “anti” biotics.

Probiotics may lower cholesterol.

But all this is iffy. Still, these organisms are not regulated by the FDA—I guess if you take one and get worse diarrhea or something, you could stop.

You know I am not a fan of throwing in pills willy-nilly. It's up to you.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Are you a cautious patient?

What is your style—the doctor recommends, you do it? You research and discuss first? You argue? You find another doctor?

I have to say that over the years, I have become very skeptical about doctors and care. I have been dizzy and the ER and urgent care sent me to an Ear specialist. The first thing he did was shush me—“I don’t care about three years ago, what about now?”

Flag on the play.

Then came a hearing test and hard upsell to a hearing aid. Not why I was there!

Yes, they could schedule the inner ear tests—another copay. I left. I called my plan. They said you can try another ENT—I am going to! Two more copays—whatEVER!

I have learned about a group call the Cautious Patient Foundation founded by a physician named Carolyn Oliver, MD, JD. Go to

Doctors are human, they may not keep up, read the journals, their pay depends on procedures or sales (face cream, hearing aids). This group offers a lot of downloadable info on how to stay out of trouble in the hospital, how to get good care as an outpatient, how to deal with your doctor via cellphone, and other topics.

It’s a paradox—when you feel the lousiest, you need to do the most research.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Solution to the hell of college--sleep

Justin Pope, AP, says everyone knows college is a health hazard—anxiety, drinking, depression, failing grades.

The solution? Sleep, people!

Nine hours a night.

Everywhere on campus, you see people sacked out. One college even had a nap map of places to collapse.

The average student has a sleep disorder, one doc said. In one study, they reported sleeping 6.5 hrs a night—and students over-report, the researchers said.

Depression, anxiety—usually from not sleeping. They put sleep monitoring headbands on kids—nothing going on in their brains, they charmingly reported.

Some colleges are emphasizing sleep.

Still, when is the last time you pulled an “all nighter”? Yup—collitch.

Think about it—if you can still think.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Alzheimer's symptoms can be eased without drugs

People with Alzheimer’s and even some other memory issues can have disturbing behavior problems, according to anyone who has dealt with this and to researchers at Johns Hopkins.

Alzheimer’s patients can wander at night, ask or say things over and over, become violent or combative, see things that are not there, or undress.

Our beautiful mother never used swear words—but she started in later life. She also offered to take off her clothes in public.

The Johns Hopkins people say non-drug approaches need to be started early.The caregiver and doctor need to talk about what is starting.

What are the triggers for the symptoms? If the person keeps getting up at night, a simple night light might allay fears.

A long walk before bed can make older people tired enough to stay asleep.

Memory patients like to rummage—women will go through their purses over and over. Provide purses of objects or boxes o f clothes or colored hankies to examine.

Try to think up ways to distract or interest the person in other activities.

Easier said than done—but worth a shot.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Worst containers to open

Ann Lukits, WSJ, Nov 20, 2012, talks about the worst packaging for those with weak or sore hands.

I HATE ALL PACKAGES and I don’t even have arthritis in my hands—at least not too badly.

But—me aside—an article in The Journal of Hand Therapy said those new-fangled peel-off tops are the worst because they take so much strength.

They are darn tight! I use the “Psycho” method—jab with a knife while going “eee eee” like in the movie of the same name.

Anyhow, thus study enlisted 100 Swiss people around 61 years old—they had all sorts of hand issues—including carpal tunnel. There were also 400-some controls in their 50s with no hand issues.

Sure enough, the hand issue people could exert only 53% of the force to peel back tops. Aluminum tabs were slightly easier.

I hate those cardboard covered with foil ones on mayo. Time for Psycho.

Jam jars with screw lids were also hated. For those, I smack it flat down on the counter—lid down. It seems to loosen it immediately.

Now…about those stupid milk cardboard things with the little plastic tab. Someone needs to go to the Hot Place for inventing those.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

New one for you--teleconcussion

Mayo Clinic here in Phoenix is using telemedicine to evaluate mostly rural patients for concussion.

In one case study, docs at Mayo conducted a live audio-video exam of a 15-year-old soccer player who received a concussion during a game.

More than one-third of AZ lacks access to neurological consults—to this was a plus.

Incorrect evaluation of a head blow (and concussions can result from body blows that cause the spongy brain to shift inside the skull, too) can lead to people going back to a sport too soon, causing permanent damage.

Teleconcussion consults are an offshoot of a telemedicine initiative at Mayo aimed at people with strokes—who also don’t get solid neurological backup in some parts of AZ.

One ER doc said he told patients to followup with a specialist—and there were none.

I have a booklet available on concussion if you are interested—go to

Happy Thanksgiving, all! No rough horseplay now!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The more we take, the sicker we get

Kim Painter, USA TODAY, says antibiotic use is dropping, but the states that use them the most (Southeast) are in danger of no longer responding to them.

Case in point: urinary tract infections—they are becoming more resistant and also most prevalent in states where antibiotics are most prescribed.

We are talking to you, KY, WV, TN, MS, and LA.

Maybe these states get more antibiotics because there is more incidence of upper respiratory illness due to smoking, scientists speculate.

Yet, other studies do not show a reason.

Amazing but there is little evidence that more use of antibiotics help overall – or that less use hurts.

Certainly, in individual cases, they can save lives—but overall, this is not so clear.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Rules a pain for hurting patients

It's called the pharmacy crawl. Not crawl like a cowboy across burning sands—but go from pharmacy to pharmacy to get painkillers legally.

Here’s a hot one—not every person taking painkillers is a junkie—many have horrible pain.

Timothy W. Martin, WSJ, Sept 27, 2012, tells of a woman maimed in a car wreck who has to make 30 visits a month to 6 pharmacies to get her prescriptions. No one of these can give her enough for an overdose.

She says everyone thinks she is a drug addict.

In some states doctors are now criminally liable if someone overdoses.

Pharmacies also cannot get an adequate supply for the drugs, which have caused more ODs than cocaine and heroin combined (2011).

In Florida, prescriptions for oxy are routinely handed back at the pharmacy counter. No can do.

Experts say the states may have over-reacted? Think?

I wonder if these ‘crats realize how hard it is to drive around when you are in agony.

It might be easier to get the stuff down on the corner—is that what these people want?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Your health plan is your coach

What do you think of health plans paying people to work out or giving a discount for buying fruit and veggies?

Kinda bossy? Maybe it's just me.

They also exercise the stick--charging more for larger people or women.

But now, the trend seems to be to get involved in each individual's life. Humana, for one, will pay you to go to the gym.

This according to Ken Alltucker, AZ Republic, Nov 16, 2012, who says Humana will pay $20 a month for 12 gym visits.

At the gym, every time you swipe you card—your employer is informed…


Half of United’s business customers opted for this feature.

Many already went to the gym and this was a bonus. But others did sign up.

One study at Harvard showed that wellness programs reduced health claims by almost $1500 a person.

United also offers a wellness coach.

Customers get cholesterol kits for self-monitoring.

Humana also gives a 5% discount for veggies at Walmart.

This also increases morale.

I can see that—I am sitting here kinda sick and my morale is not the best. But Big Brother? BB makes me sick.

Oh, ignore me--this is Funky Friday.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Breath test of a different sort

Melinda Beck, WSJ, Oct 9, 2012, says some docs are taking a page from ancient times—and smelling people’s breath to get clues to what’s wrong with them.

Liver and kidney problems, in particular, have a signature smell.

Breath tests are painless and take less time than blood tests.

One test can also distinguish between benign and malignant lung nodules.

Actually these tests are done with devices—not the doctor cozying up for a sniff.

Of course, a ton of things are mixed in with breath—besides the proteins, antibodies and other things from your body, there are paint smells, pollution, fibers and other things from around the area.

Some breath tests require taking a substance to see how it breaks down in the body. Others use gas spectronomy like on CSI.

Probably the future lies in creating sensor arrays that “mean” this disease or that one.

Well- they are working on this, anyway.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Soon--take your temp with your smartphone

Fraden Corporation ( has invented a module for smartphones that takes your temperature without touching you.

It’s a non-contact sensor that will be built into phones.

It also will work for seeing if the kitchen is heating up or the fridge is not cold enough.

Kids can also use it in the science lab and it can be employed on the factory floor.

It’s not in phones yet—but soon will be when companies license it.

Progress! Hot stuff!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Stay with sick child--lose job?

A third of parents in a survey said staying home with a sick child could cost them their jobs.

This from a University of Maryland survey also showed parents had trouble finding sick child care when a child could not attend day care.

A third of those afraid for their jobs said they did not have paid leave to cover sick kids.

Eight percent said they went to the ER—easier than going to the child’s primary doctor.

Many child care places send a kid with a runny nose home—but the American Academy of Pediatrics says if the child is energetic, he or she may not need to be sent home. The cold could already have been spread before symptoms appear.

Forty million people lack sick leave benefits anyway—much less for children. This is a substantial problem, the researchers said.

Well, yeah! What is the answer…any ideas? Some hospital-based sick kid day care centers around here have closed.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Barre classes becoming popular

USA TODAY WEEKEND, in a story by McKenna Grant, says many women—and some men—are returning to their ballet roots with barre classes—a combo of ballet, yoga, and pilates.

Using, of course…a ballet barre.

Barre classes are not dance—they are postures, small, controlled movements. The barre itself keeps you aligned.

No bouncing, no jumping, no classical music.

The moves—designed to strengthen the core—seem deceptively easy, but you may be sore in the morning.

Google to find a local studio. Ask how much training the instructors have had.

Plus—the tights are pretty cute.

Friday, November 09, 2012

New level of care in the ER

I had to go to the Emergency Room a couple of weeks ago—so dizzy I could not stand. I was not put in a gown and bed and denied food and water as in past trips.

Instead, I was put in a recliner chair in a small room with two other patients and a nurse coming and going. I got tests from there—fully clothed. Blood, CT, etc. We ate trail mix and no one scolded us.

I took this to mean that ERs were getting used to being people’s doctor. They had simplified it. But it might mean they are going for the new “observation” approach.

Laura Landro wrote about this in the WSJ, Nov 6, 2012. Instead of admitting people to the hospital, they are sort of put in a limbo area and watched.

This can cost patients more on Medicare—hosp admittance may be largely covered, but the copay for this may be higher.

A little more than a third of ERs have these units now.

Usually the stay is under 15 hours, but 7.5% of Medicare patients are kept 48 hours or more. Also—Medicare only pays for a nursing home if the patient is in the hospital for three days—without being admitted, how does this work?

Medicare will rule on this on 2014—they recommend you ask whether you are admitted.

I got OK attention from a doctor, a nurse, and a Physician Assistant in my little recliner chair. I know I will owe at least $400 for my part of the treatment and the ambulance.

What was wrong with me? Don’t know. I am somewhat better and take sea sickness pills now if I feel icky.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Colds can make you stupid--or not

I guess this is stating the obvious. The common cold could affect attention, ability to think, and behavior— But does it?

British researchers looked at 189 men and women and tested them while they were healthy. They measured reaction time, verbal reasoning skills, memory, and mood.

Then they rated cold symptoms (for those who got one) on a 5-pt scale—such things as sneezing, and sore throat. Sleep duration was also tested.

Then they tested 24 and 96 hours after the cold set in. The 141 who remained healthy were tested in 12 weeks.

There were significant differences between sick and healthy on mood, alertness, and well-being, and reaction time.

But overall, they decided cold symptoms did not really affect performance that much.

Sort of a nothingburger study, don’t you think?

Ah-choo! Aw, nuts.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

If you look old, it's curtains

Supposedy there is some evidence backing this up, but some Danish scientists say that if you look old—specifically, if you have receding hair, a bald head, creases near your earlobes or bumpy deposits on your eyelids--you have a greater chance of developing heart disease.

Gray hair did not doom you.

Well…isn’t that nifty. I guess you can’t get plugs and saw off those bumps with plastic surgery.

One doctor said why worry about tests—and miss the obvious signs.

To me, this is the perfect example of “research” that creates worry but not changed behavior. What can you do about eye bumps?

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Avatars could help us rethink ourselves

Your electronic doppelganger or alter ego, say University of Missouri researchers, can help you improve your health or appearance.

Harnessing the virtual world can even help eliminate prejudice.

The avatar you choose in virtual reality games can let you try on a new personality or body type.

For instance, you could choose a skinnier avatar and morph into it gradually. Or that is the theory. A diet could still be involved—and not a virtual one.

How deeply you identify with your avatar is called self-presence. This is considered good—or at least they haven’t found anything bad about it.

How about if taken too far—it could make you nuts?

The researchers also suggested taking an avatar of a different race or ethnicity—to see how that worked.

I am not sure what all this means—constant playing of video games? I notice on many commenting boards people have avatars that are babies or dogs.

Beats me.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Getting deaf people the word in a disaster

Mayor Bloomberg's sign language interpreter became a star for her colorful signing--she even had a spoof on SNL. (She is not the woman pictured.)

But having an interpreter present at every disaster press conference and announcement takes some doing.

Writing in Emergency Management, Sept 24, 2012, Justine Brown says since 9/11 preparedness has been a watchword, but help for the disabled is still lagging.

Case in point: Deaf people. According to an interpreter, they think the govt does not care about them. And deaf people are just a segment of the 54 million disabled in this country.

Interpreters, in this case, need to be contracted beforehand and get to know emergency personnel and be in on planning.

Officials are also looking at Twitter to contact nonhearing citizens. But Twitter can contain a bunch of hooey—so this is a problem.

Like all first responders, interpreters would have to leave their own families and pets to help others. This takes education—and money.

Everything takes money.

Friday, November 02, 2012

You thought allergy time was over? Silly puppy

The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology ( says sure, spring can be bad with flowers and trees blooming, but don’t underestimate winter to really get noses running.

Forty million Americans have allergies—and the stress of the holidays just adds to the misery.

The docs suggest three things. First, opt for natural aromas—those pine and gingerbread candles and sprays can kick up allergies.

Beware of the Thanksgiving effect—you may be used to your dog or cat, but it you spend time at other houses, your allergies could kick in again.

Feast cautiously, they say. This is not the tiresome “avoid a Santa belly” diet advice, but pertains to allergies. There could be soy in things, peanuts, shellfish in stuffing, that sort of thing. Avoid self-basting turkeys—they can contain all sorts of allergens.

Be careful in gift-giving. Cheap jewelry has nickel—which can give people a rash. Perfume can be bad.

Decorations can get ya—say they are full of dust mites from being in the garage. Consider an artificial tree—the sap from real ones can get some people.

Ask your allergist—maybe there is a shot to help you. For more info…go to

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Ladies, ladies--ease up on the drugs

In the Nov Marie Claire, Joshua Lyon reports on the huge increase in supposedly intelligent female executives banging in the performance enhancing drugs—such as Ritalin, Adderall, Ambien, Xanax, Klonopin, and others.

In this story, this included air traffic ontrollers. Shudder.

This not for a condition such ADHD, but for a competitive edge at work.

Great—the Sixties are over, people!

For one thing, these can show up on drug tests. Is this worth losing everything? You can also develop a tolerance and end up scoring on the street or internet.

Docs—this says—prescribe this stuff more for women because they consider women to be inferior to men at making it the workplace.

Pretty picture? No so much. Try dialing back some obligations--gym, travel, work, partying--something! Sleep more.