Friday, March 29, 2013

Boomers great blood donors

All you hear these days is how great our parents were and how selfish the Boomer generation is. I never bought this (sorry, Tom Brokaw) because I read about too many Boomer scientists working their hearts out for mankind.

Now, Connie Cone Sexton, AZ Republic, Mar 29, 2013, says Boomers are keeping the blood banks going--but when they most need blood, there may be a shortage.

The push is on to get younger people into the donating mood.

By 2020, the percentage of donors between 18 and 65 may drop 16%--but the group needing transfusions may rise 26%.

The typical donor gives blood 1.7 times a year. Boomers donate 2.1 times a year.

The supply ebbs and flows by the season--regular donors are prized.

To donate, you need a govt-issued photo ID. You will be asked about travel abroad or your sexual history. You must be 16, more than 110 pounds. You cannot donate if you are pregnant. If you have a tattoo, there may be questions or a restriction.

Donating takes a little more than an hour. You will get a snack afterward. It does not hurt much.

To get more info, go to or

And yes--certain plasma centers still pay for blood. Seniors may need the money--ray of hope?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Even with help, new moms lose sleep

Ever wonder how the celebrity moms get away with saying they are exhausted? Don't these women have support staff the average woman can only dream about?

The University of Toronto Lawrence S Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing published a study in the British Medical Journal, Mar 20, 2013.

They looked at the sleep patterns of 246 new mothers in Ontario and their infants at 6 and 12 weeks.

They tried to implement all known ways Moms can get sleep with a baby in the house. They offered telephone support, tips, schedules.

The only tip I can remember is--take a nap when your baby falls asleep. I don't think I ever did.

These moms in the study had to wear a device on their wrists--the babies wore them on their ankles--these detected agitation and movement.

Might they also have been weird and kept people awake?

Also, it's my personal theory that there is something in the human organism attuned to hearing a baby, keeping it alive, tending to its needs. Some  instinct. Even if a trained nurse is going to pick the child up in the night, the mother will stir.

Or sleep will be shallow in the first place.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Survival instinct now killer?

Laura Landro, WSJ, Mar 26, 2013, reviews Marc Shoen's book Your Survival Instinct Is Killing You: Retrain Your Brain to Conquer Fear, Make Better Decisions, and Thrive in the 21st Century.

Through--or is there more subtitle? No? OK.

Anyhow, Shoen, an assistant clinical professor at UCLA, posits that we are now such creatures of comfort (spoiled?) that the slightest annoyance sends us into a tizz.

It's a paradox--life is so easy that we are attuned to even subtle adversity.

This leads to obesity, insomnia, relationship troubles, bad work performance, road rage, fear of flying, and panic attacks. Even sex addiction.

The microwave--ah, that is the culprit. We expect fast results with little effort.

All we need to do is reprogram ourselves to disconnect discomfort from danger.

This involves turning off devices sometimes, keeping a regular schedule, and breathing exercises. Also you need to forgive and practice gratitude.

And--I guess--lose the microwave.

Also--life is so easy? Got to think about that one.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Protect your baby from excessive sun

We are not suggesting your baby become a half-blind mole person, never seeing the light of day or manufacturing any Vitamin D, but Joshua Fox, with Advanced Dermatology in Roslyn NY, says it's important to protect babies' delicate epidermis.

The skin of babies, he says, is thinner than an adult's and soaks up UV rays more rapidly.

Over time, skin creates protective melanin, but this takes time and babies are new to the game.

According to most authorities, babies under 6 mos should be kept out of the sun if possible.

Use removable mesh window shields in the car, or UV window film.

Take stroller walks before 10 AM or after 4 PM and have a roof on the stroller.

Start the baby out with a wide-brim hat so the child gets used to it.

Sunscreen is safe for kids--use it--but also do the above. Make it minimum SPF 15 with UVA and UVB protection.

Just think of that precious, soft, thin skin--don't broil it or let is soak up insidious forces that will come back later to harm your child.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Oh, great, new killer bug called CRE is out to get us

Remember these initials--CRE. It stands for carbapenem-resistant Enteronacteriaceae--see why CRE is easier?

This is the new bad guy in health care settings--apparently MRSA is now boring.

CRE are bacteria found in your digestive tract. But if you are in the hospital or have had surgery or use catheters, etc., these can get in your bladder or blood.

Antibiotics don't work on this very well. It kills half the people who get it. In 2012--people in 42 states contracted this crap.

CRE can get around hospitals and long-term care places because people handle poop or wounds.

And--this is also great news--the CRE can pass its resistance on to other bacteria--like making a vampire by biting.

If you get sick and have been in the hospital--remind the doctor of your hospitalization.

Never stop taking a whole prescription of antibiotics just because you feel better. Never never.

Do not save antibiotics to use on the next thing you get. Smack! What a dope--would you do this?

Wash hands especially before helping a sick person and afterwards--and before making food.

When you are in a hospital or doctor's office and a worker does not wash hands--raise hell.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Walking good for lower back pain

A six-week program of moderate aerobic (accelerated breathing) walking is as effective for people with lower back pain as six weeks of muscle strengthening exercise.

This according to a study in Clinical Rehabilitation.

They took 52 overweight Israeli patients in their late 40s. Eight percent were women and about a third smoked. Half walked on a treadmill and half did strengthening (control group).

Both groups exercised twice a week for six weeks  in 40 minute sessions (not a lot).

Both groups improved. Speed and endurance increased for both. Pain and disability were reduced.

But--when asked to walk as far as they could in six minutes, the walking group covered 60% more ground.

This study struck me as sort of loose, but walking does help ya!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Why 5-7 yr-olds need to hold a hand at crosswalks

Ann Lukits, WSJ, Mar 19, 2013, says kids of 6 or 7 lack the skills to interpret safety clues, such as engine sound levels, and tire noises, when approaching a street.

Those skills start to cut in around age 10.

This results in more than 13,000 kids from 5 to 9 being hit by cars.

Researchers at the Univ of Idaho studied different age groups, asking participants to press a key when they heard a car coming from 5, 12, and 25 mph and thought it was up to where they stood.

Adults detected the car earlier than kids. Nine-year-olds heard it significantly sooner than 7-yr-olds.

Sooo...don't count on the kid having a heads-up...They did hear the car coming at 25 mph sooner, but of course, it was also going to get to them sooner.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Some disabled people cannot get routine care

If you are in a wheelchair or cannot climb onto the exam table, you may be denied a doctor's appointment for say, a pelvic exam.

In a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine, a researcher at the Mongan Institute for Health Policy at Mass General, herself wheelchair-assisted, said disabled people face obstacles to cancer screening and other treatments.

The researchers had medical students and residents make calls to many medical specialties describing a 219-pound, wheelchair-bound, stroke patient.

Many staff refused to make an appointment--often saying they could not get the person on the exam table. Others said the building was not wheelchair accessible.

Most doctors do not have exam tables that lower. These may be required more often under the new healthcare bill (which I refuse to call the Affordable Care Act, because it is not).

Also, not accommodating these people, and cheerfully saying nope, no can do, is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Look alive--eye nutrition

Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham are at it again--this time recommending some foods that might stave off advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

This is the leading cause of blindness in adults.

High fat diets are "associated" with AMD--but we cannot say they "cause" it.

What has a good rep for eyes? Carrots. But beta-carotene, alone, will not do much for eye health.

The key is to maintain vision when going from light to dark. For this, you need fruits and veggies, esp Vitamin C, which can help minimize cataracts.

Fatty acids in fleshy fish such as tuna and salmon protect against AMD.

Red meat and whole grains contain zinc--zinc deficiency can lead to cataracts.

Vegetable oil--Vitamin E, can slow progression of AMD.

So salmon for dinner, orange juice for breakfast, maybe tuna for lunch, a nice steak sometimes. See? Not so bad.

Monday, March 18, 2013

If you're smart and you know it...

Clap your hands. Jump around.

They are doing a study at the University of Kansas Medical Center that helps teachers incorporate physical activity into their academic programs. 

For eight years, they worked with several school districts in the state and more than 1000 students to add momtion to lesson plans.

After three years, it was noted that some children in the groups with activity outperformed their peers academically.

The researchers took the simple route--for example, a second-grade teacher can teach kids to count by twos--jumping up and down once for each answer. Count to 100--50 jumps.

No equipment needed.

Sometimes teachers think letting the kids caper or jump makes them rowdier--it's the opposite.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Interval thinking--cuteness edition

You know interval exercise--slow and easy alternating with fast and sweaty.

Maybe changing up what you are doing all day is good.

They did a study in Japan on the concentration and attention to detail of college students before and after looking at pictures of baby and adult animals.

Those who looked at the babies (no doubt saying, "aw" like you just did) improved their performance the most. But looking at grown animals also made people happier.

I have bad vision, so I try to look at things at different distances from my eyes--I make a conscious decision--leave computer, read at desk with magnifying glass. A change can be a rest.

I heard that the color green is restful to the eyes and that diamond cutters keep an emerald next to their machine--and look at it to clear their eyes. If it's not true, it should be.

You also need to get up and stretch and totter around every so often.

My private theory is that different parts of the brain flash off with each change. We need to stay flashing.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

We're just big slugs

Sumathi Reddy, WSJ, Mar 12, 2013, says we don't "move" as much as we say we do.

Even young people! Even young people who say they are not sedentary.

The goal is half an hour a day of moderate or vigorous exercise. People have all sorts of pedometers and apps to see if they are getting it.

This said Americans take an average of 5,117 steps in a normal day. Here, with my arthritis, I am nowhere near that. That sounds high to me as an average, too.

The daily goal is 10,000 steps. A mile is 2,000 steps. Do you walk five miles a day?

Watching a lot of TV, another study said, means more risk of death--even if you do exercise.

Even exercise cannot counter sitting! Jeez.

One recommendation is to march in place during all commercials...This can up your steps by 3,000 a day.

Funny story--we were going to take some magazines over to the assisted care center. The guy offered us a tour. We said we are too rickety to take a tour of the old folks home.

This is not good, people. Don't do what I do.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Brace yourself--Obamacare signup a nightmare

I try to stay off political subjects on this site, but OMG.

Our dear leaders have done a draft of the form we will have to fill out to start our "health insurance."

It's 15 pages and 21 steps. There are worse versions.

Oct 1st starts enrollment, so listen up.

First, the govt must find out how much money you make to see if you qualify for help buying the mandatory policies. Does your IRA or savings count?

THEN--you must pick a policy. Huge project.

A description of the online material runs 60 pages.

The govt expects this to take you half an hour. Sure, buddy, no problem. More like half a day with secret passwords so you can come back.

Creepy aspects: When you sign up, they will be able to confirm your ID, income and citizenship status instantly. This is new. (What if they can't "find" you or confuse you with someone else?)

You are applying for 2014--the latest tax info will be 2012--if there has been a change, expect a lot more paperwork.

If anyone in your family could get insurance at work but did not take it--well, you are in for it paperwork-wise.

One official said, "This not like signing up for a dating site." Well, it is life-changing, so that part is the same.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Healthier to work at home?

Rick Hampson, USA TODAY, takes on the telecommuting brouhaha. Over time, flexible work policies have made the option of working some or all days at home almost a right, not a privilege.

Then, this Marissa Mayer came into Yahoo and sort of decided that the company's weaknesses might be attributable to people working at home instead of in the office.

Other Bigs like B of A and Best Buys are also casting a doubtful eye on the home work option.

About 5% of all employees (rough estimate) work at least one day a week at home. One in 10 work only a home.

Younger workers accept telework as a right, the boomers love it so much they think it must be wrong.

But some people are not really cut out to work at home--they need a watchful eye. They can get depressed without human interaction. They can get bored. They can clean out the fridge, gain weight, think of diversions. 

The idea behind dragging people back to the office is that they can brainstorm, talk, spark off each other.

I do remember a lot of standing around drinking coffee when I had an office job. They even hired a woman to make the coffee--that was her entire job. Did we spark? Don't recall.

I do know working at home cuts wardrobe costs, gas, stressful commutes, interruptions, fights, you catch fewer bugs--but on the flip side, you may miss out on gossip that can affect your status and future.

As for child care, you do have some flexibility to go to the kids' plays and so on. But I had to have all-day daycare anyhow.

So maybe if you are not the working at home type, you will have better mental health going back to the office. Worth thinking about it.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Compounding pharmacists

Have you noticed I am sort of iffy on a lot of medical treatments, drugs, and approaches?

Last night, on 60 Minutes, there was a terrible story on a Massachusetts "compounding pharmacy" that ignored mold in its "clean room" and sent out steroids for spinal injections that have killed almost 50 people so far from brain fungus infections--and has afflicted many more, turning them into cripples just from the so-called treatment. There is no cure, they are told.

Well, that's just ducky. These idiots were supposed to be "compounding" special medicines for people with unique conditions who had a prescription for it. Instead, they became a seat-of-the-pants manufacturing plant, turning out tons more stuff for fake users listed as Bart Simpson and John Doe.

Did the FDA care? Oh--see this is the great part--the FDA does not inspect or regulate compounding pharmacists.

Isn't that special?

Do you ever wonder what's in the pill you take every morning--or that IV hanging over your head?

Don't we deserve better? Now, they can blame it on that sequester nonsense--before it was just the way things were.

Oh--the mold? It probably came from the recycling plant feet from the door of the so-called clean room, which was sucking in spores.

Watch it and weep.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Help in making hard medical decisions

When to turn off extreme life support...or even whether or not to get chemo or surgery at a certain age...these are decisions more and more patients or their designated surrogates are making for themselves--rather than trotting along doing whatever the doctor says.

The San Francisco Medical Center and UCSF have developed software that might help you think things through.

It's called PREPARE. Go to

This techniques helps decide what the quality of life is.

Advance directives are just one piece of the puzzle.

The material, including videos, is written at the fifth grade level (I write at the 6th grade).

If you are trying to help a loved one toward the end of life, maybe this can put you are one remove so you can think more clearly.

I have been in this position. Usually you will make more than one big decision--it's a process.

You have to hold it together way better than the woman in the picture.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Newer tattoo inks can cause trouble

What is a  nice Midwestern gal like me doing with tattoos? Enjoying them!

The Pew Research Center says more than a third of adults 18-25 report getting one.

But apparently the newer inks are no improvement. Ink used to be made of metal salts, lead, cobalt, and carbon.

Now--they contain organic azo dyes used in printing, textiles and car paint.

Allergic reactions are quite common, starting with itching or rashes months or years after the original application.

The inks can also cause psoriasis or eczema to flare. Sarcoidosis, an autoimmune disorder, can pop up years after.

A tattoo should never be placed over a mole--skin cancer can occur or you can get a bump that ruins the tatt.

Always go to a professional tattoo parlor. Insist on sterile packaging and autoclaving. Also--single use needles.

Oh, what a buzzkill. Darn.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Dangers of sledding

I thought winter was over, then I read today that snow is coming again....So watch that sledding.

Yes, even that childhood delight is fraught with horrors, according to a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Loyola.

Older kids hurt their arms and legs, the little ones usually get head and neck injuries.

Adult supervision, the doc says, is essential. Forty-one percent of those injured had no adults around.

Check out the location. The area should be obstacle-free and groomed. Make sure there are no rocks or parked cars.

What is at the bottom? A busy street? Well, think about it.

Have the kids bundle in layers and wear a helmet.

Always sled feet first! We never did this.

We lived next to the best sledding bill--it ran alongside our corner house. After dark, the adults were out there with a big fire, sledding. No kids--and I bet some adult beverages.

This gave me my first inkling that my parents might have hidden aspects.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Jared the Subway dieter

Where are they now? Well, according to Bruce Horovitz, USA TODAY, Jared Fogle, the bland fellow who lost a ton eating Subway subs, really made out with his initial 425 pounds.

Supposedly he lost 245 pounds in a year, which to any dieter would seem well...fanciful, maybe?

And he kept it off! Sort of...

He and the sandwich chain continue to be locked in tandem. Neither can make it without the other, it seems.

Jared is now worth more than $15 million and Subway is booming.

A few years ago, Jared put on 20 pounds. Subway showed up immediately. One-third to half of their growth in the last 15 years is due to the nerdy sub swallower.

Not that Jared is that likable--in fact, he has a pretty low rating for likability.

But subway pays his gym fees, bought him a trainer.

Still, he only eats at the joint a couple of times a week now. And rides in limos and flies first class.

I would say both got their money's worth. Only in America...

PS Could we lose "the big pants" one of these days? I am so over that cliche.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Beating a dead horse with a broken record

Don't just go along with medical tests! The doctor says, well, let's get an MRI--ask what it will show that will affect your treatment that was not shown by the x-ray!

I have been blasting away recommending the site. Now 17 specialities have come up width a list of 135 tests and procedures--some around for decades--that should be seriously questioned.

More is not better! You don't necessarily benefit from a "battery" of tests.

Swimmers ear does not require antibiotics. Type 2 diabetics do not need drugs--there is no evidence that tight glycemic control benefits.

Feeding tubes for advanced dementia hurt--better to feed small bites.

A lot of pre-op tests are not needed.

The bone density DEXA is not needed more than every two years.

Abnormal cervical cells? Wait and see if this persists for two years. Treatment can damage the cervix.

No EEGs for headaches--and MRIs for arthritis are not needed.

Ask--discuss. Insist on it.

My daughter got the throwup stomach bug I had--she needed a doctor's note to not be fired from Wendy's. Urgent Care said they would do a test to see if she was still contagious. Does that exist--who knows? It's very expensive, of course.