Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Where do you stand on those middle-aged beards?

Dave Ramsey, Ben Bernanke, even Jeff Bridges--what is UP with men growing those skanky beards?

I hate them.

Apparently I stand alone--the Evolution and Ecology Research Centre at the University of New South Wales did a study. Women find men most attractive with 10 days of beard growth.

They got 351 women, 177 hetero men and 10 men to serve as models. The models were photographed clean-shaven, 5 days, 10 days, and full bearded.

Heavy stubble won. They tried to tie it to the women's cycles--maybe those ovulating found hairy men more attractive--would that be evolutionary--more testosterone to breed?

They also found the beardy ones more "aggressive" and probably better parents.

I still think the gray, grizzled thing is messy looking, but what do I know? Maybe in Jason Statham or Don Johnson. I am looking at a picture of a bearded "Jax" from SONS OF ANARCHY and I must say, not too horrible.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Yes, campers--time to bear-proof

I know this may not be at the top of your hit parade, but for campers, watching out for bears can be a concern.

I watch a perfectly horrifying show called I SURVIVED, and it recently featured two guys set upon by a grizzly in the wild. One got his face ripped off.

Soooo...even if you are going to black bear country, Gerald Bourquet, Cronkite News Service, has some words to the wise.

Since 1990, there have only been 10 bear attacks in Arizona. But bears do roam other states.

Be bear-aware, the rangers say.

Many campgrounds have bear-proof trash cans and storage areas.

Still--don't bring dirty diapers, used tampons, candy or anything yummy-smelling into your tent.

If a bear attacks, wave your arms and shout and look as big as you can while backing away.

On I SURVIVED, the guy climbed a tree--thinking grizzlies had claws did not retract and could not climb. The bear came right up. The other guy played dead--of course, he was half-dead by then.

Those guys also had bear mace--but had taped down the trigger--that proved unfortunate.

I saw a bear cross the road once in Wintergreen (Virginia). My family to this day says it was just a dog. I never get any respect.

Friday, April 26, 2013

If you want more than the glow of pregnancy

When you get pregnant, doctors and friends can be pretty strict. No more booze, coffee, or hair dye.

What? Hair dye! No way!

The Montefiore Medical Center in NY looked into the no-no's of pregnancy.

This may not be as horrible as you think. You will glow--and your nails will become stronger, you may not need fake ones.

Hair dyes are pretty safe--but try to find a "natural" one, meaning low on ammonia. Don't dye in the first trimester and after that, only in a well-ventilated space. Do not smear the dye all over the skin of your scalp.

Straightening products also have ammonia fumes--so be careful.

Standard manicures after the first trimester are OK. Be sure the instruments have been sterilized. Do not cut cuticles, due to risk of infection.

AVOID acrylic nails because of the chemicals.

If you get acne, wash twice a day with a gentle cleanser--avoid Retin A and tetracycline--they can cause birth defects.

To prevent stretch marks--or try to--use Vitamin E cream.

Remember--you are beautiful just because you are pregnant. Flaunt it!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Health-cation? Not sure on that one

But....I guess everyone could use some forethought about health before setting off to parts unknown.

Jennifer and Jolie are health coaches and celeb fitness trainers.

Vacay like the fabulous!

Fabulous people, I see from this, never abandon their eating regimen. So before you go, research healthy grocery stores and restaurants (maybe on your phone). Pick exits with a Subway, not a Wendy's (hey! my kid works there).

If you need gas station snacks, stick to pretzels, nuts and water.

Pack your suitcase with nonperishable provisions. Nuts, whole grain crackers, power bars.

Take the liquor out of the minibar and put in yogurt and other perishables such as carrot sticks.

Drink mocktails.

OK--a step too far. But you get the idea. I would say do sample local delicacies or specialties--but make lunch or breakfast a healthy one. Include some protein.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Safe for you and the horse

Dr Stuart Styles of Somers Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine Group in Carmel, NY (http://somersortho.com) has some tips on riding a half-ton animal.

You think motorcycles can be tricky!

Thirty million people ride horses each year in the US. About 200,000 are injured, with as many as 70,000 seen in ERs.

A horse weighs up to 1,300 pounds and can travel at 30 mph. Every sort of injury can occur, with the most common being to spine, neck, and head.

The first step is to ride an appropriate horse. If the horse is too large or feisty, back off.

Always wear a helmet that meets safety standards. This means it is an equestrian helmet--not a motorcycle or bike helmet. (When I went to find a pix--almost none pictured had a helmet--cowboy hats don't count.)

Have an instructor make sure your boots (one-inch heel) are matched to the stirrups. If you are inexperienced, consider safety stirrups that break away so you are not dragged.

Inspect all equipment for wear or breakage.

Never ride alone--also take lessons.

Horses can be erratic, spooked by loud noises, dogs, insects, camera flashes.

Always approach a horse from the front or rear. They can kick!

We had  a horse when I was a kid--it would bite--it's huge yellow teeth audibly snapping around trying to get our legs.

Good times, good times.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Kids and lawn mowers--no no no no

A toddler on the grass and here comes Dad with the roaring mower, sticks and stones flying, blades churning.


Injuries from law mowers are the most traumatic seen at the Monroe Carell Jr Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt Univ. A mower can shoot a rock or debris 2,100 feet at 200 mph!

Two kids have already been hurt this spring at that one hospital. Six were seriously hurt last year.

Lacerations to the legs, amputated fingers.

Some injuries are to older kids actually operating the mower and suffer cuts or amputations or a person of any age who falls off a riding mower and gets run over.

Please read the manual of the darn thing before using it.

Never let kids ride as passengers.

Clear twigs and rocks before mowing.

Wear closed-toe shoes.

Also--if your mower is loud, wear ear plugs.,

Get a  mower with a dead man's switch--it stops if the operator lets go of the handle.

Send the tots inside.

No kids under 16 on riding mowers, period.

Keep fuel away from kids--and refuel outside, never in a closed space. This is not a job for kids, either.

Let's keep the little ones alive, people! And all ten fingers and toes.

Also--I am adding this--with weedeaters, wear safety goggles. I am down one eye and I miss it!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Patient satisfaction does not mean care was good

I hear so many people gloss over offhand or bad medical care by saying, "The doctor was nice, though." Or: That hospital was great--the food was delicious."

Or--and I love this one--"It must have been OK because I lived."

More and more these days, patient satisfaction is being measured (Medicare reimbursement to docs and hospitals depends on it now). This is not bad in itself. I certainly welcome a chance to comment at every turn.

But Johns Hopkins recently looked into this and found the quality of what happened in the operating room did not correlate with what patients thought of their care.

On one Medicare survey--the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems Survey (catchier: HCAHPS)--patients commented on nursing care, cleanliness, pain management, explanation of new meds, and discharge followup.

Surgical care quality was measured separately on such standards as infection prevention, blood clot prevention, and timely removal of tubes.

No link between patient satisfaction and surgical are quality!

There was a link between how happy the staff was and how happy the patients were. That is human nature, I think. If you feel your place is good, your customer will share that.

But science? Back to the drawing boards.

Related to this is another thing I have noticed--sometimes big, sort of old and grungy hospitals may have the best trauma units--people may not want to go there, but should not resist.

Friday, April 19, 2013

You cannot tell what is in someone's mind

The events of this week--the Boston atrocity and almost unbelievable identification and manhunt--won't leave my brain.

What stuck with me was the first video of the suspects put out Thursday evening--they were strolling along on their way to blow the legs off strangers. Just walking along.

My late father was a psychiatrist and he always said you cannot tell what is in another person's mind. All the profilers, experts, wary mates, and so on in the world cannot really read minds.

Of course, now the spin begins--the father says they were angels and the (at least as of this writing) surviving son needs to come back to Russia.

That isn't happening...who would think that? Can he really think that?

This is all so pointless and horrible.

About all we have going for us is our preternatural "hair on the neck" thing--a feeling--and that is not reliable, either.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The doctor staff runaround

Honestly, I don't know if it's Arizona or everywhere, but out here the 20-30-somethings that "run" doctors' offices are excruciating. Yes, there are (a few) exceptions, but so many settle their officious selves into their self-made fiefdoms and just torture people half to death with their nonsense!

They use the wrong size BP cuff and pitch a hiss if you mention it. If you ask to get your pressure taken manually and not with that automatic squeeze-ya-till-you-cry machine, they audibly sniff and then slooowly cast about to find the old-fashioned BP cuff that works far better.

They chat with each other as you stand there waiting for paperwork.

I was trying to make a mammogram appointment this week and you'd think I was arranging for medical tourism to get lamb cells in Switzerland. I called three times a day for three days running--got put directly into hold (no human) each time. I waited five mins each time--then abandoned.

Finally I wrote a letter to the place--no email on their website. Could someone call me to make an appt? No one did.

Then we went in person, in the car, and the woman finally got to me and then asked me to wait for someone to make my appt--wait on hold IN PERSON!

So I began looking for a new imaging place--typos on the websites (very confidence inspiring--can't find a typo, can you find breast cancer?). I read reviews on YELP--one place, a patient commented, would be good if you were recovering from a coma because nothing happened there--no one went in or came out.

Come on--can anybody play this game?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Birth at the baby's convenience

Laura Landro, WSJ, Apr 9, 2013, said 4.8% of pre-term births were not medically justified--and were done for the mother's convenience.

This can be as early as the 37th week--cutting three weeks of "baking" time.

The 4.8% was actually a CUT from 27.8% in the cooperating hospitals.

That's a lot!

Some hospitals more than discourage this kind of thing--they ban it.

Problem is, doctors want to decide and don't want to run it by another doctor.

After 40 weeks, sometimes responsible doctors do induce--because the placenta may be degrading.

But that is not what we are talking about. Come on, people, babies have a whole system worked out--they don't plan to stay in forever. Don't worry about that.

And induced labor can be tough. So be patient.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Do you have MUPS?

MUPS stands for Medically Unexplained Physical Symptoms.

In other words--you can't find out what's wrong with you.

Colleen Schmidt wrote about a new program to get to the bottom on MUPS. She is with Calgary TV.

The research is being done in Calgary.

Schmidt herself went undiagnosed for 15 yrs before learning she had muscular dystrophy.

She had weakness, then paralysis, then went downhill to being a quadriplegic, then was on life support.

What the heck was it?

If you would like to know more about this research or participate--write to catkins@ucalgary.ca.

You know, I have found that doctors today--at least out here in Cowpoke Country--are not great diagnosticians--they are great at referring, referring to this specialist, then that one, then another one.

Tests are "inconclusive" and time-consuming and if you do find out what you have, there may or may not be an approach to it.

I am just a ray of Arizona sunshine today, aren't I?

Friday, April 12, 2013

How to have beautiful nails

I don't know from paste-on or acrylic--I am allergic to polish, for one thing. So I have sort of stubbies--and everyone makes ME open tight things and risk my nails.

But I know plenty of people who are all about the nails. The American Academy of Dermatology is one such place, as well. Board-certified dermatologist Phoebe Rich, MD, of the Oregon Health Science University, has some tips for nice nails.

Make sure your nail tech has experience and a license (if required).

See if the stations look clean.

Does the tech wash hands before starting on you?

When it comes to peddies--shave your legs AFTER. This cuts risk of serious infection.

If you go to the tech alot, maybe you would want to purchase your own tools.

Be sure footbaths are cleaned a lot (and forget those nibbling fish).

If you use red or orange polish--apply two layers of base coat to cut discoloration.

Strengthening polish can actually make nails break more.

If you have an infection, artificial nails can make it worse.

Whew--have anything I can pry open for you? I won't charge much.

Thursday, April 11, 2013


Yay for the Henry Ford Health System--they finally invented a rational patient gown--no more peepshow in the back, stupid little paper towels to cover you, flimsy freezing skimpies.

This is like a wrap-around robe, but it still accommodates IVs etc without those crazy-complicated snap shoulders.

It was invented by the Henry Ford Innovation Institute in collaboration with the College of Creative Studies (I do a creativity site-- http://thwim.blogspot.com).

This gown is closed in the back (I would wear two of the old style, one in front, one in back).

It's thicker, warmer.

It closes with snaps, not those dopey ties.

It also fits larger people.

It's even--dare I say it--a little stylish?

The catch? They are testing it and then will try to find someone to make it. So it will be a while. The cost, though, is about the same as the old one, so maybe we will see these at some point.

Come on, suppliers--help us out here.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

To PSA or not to PSA

I don't have a definitive answer for you. But the American College of Physicians published a statement in the Annals of Internal Medicine recommending against screening men younger than 50 with the prostate-specific antigen test. Also screening men older than 69 with less than 10 to 15 years to live was discouraged.

But the patient and doctor must decide this, really.  Doctors must explain it to patients.

The problem with PSA is that it catches some cancers that would never have affected a man's life, yet the treatments definitely can cause incontinence or impotence.

Tough call.

The US Preventive Services Task Force has come out against testing of average-risk men.

The American Urological Association says case by case basis.

Better screening is needed. Most agree on that.

So what to do--at least ask the doctor about it. I see so many older people sitting in doctor's offices, looking at the floor, passive, calm--you know they will do what "doctor" says.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Eating fatty fish may benefit older people

It's almost gospel now, or as gospel as this stuff gets, that eating Omega-3 fatty acids--as found in certain fish--is good for preventing heart disease.

But now we have new info based on blood tests of what is in the blood (rather than reported consumption) that higher blood levels of Omega-3 may reduce heart disease and death for people over 65.

The Harvard researchers looked at 2,692 randomly selected people with the average age of 74 for 14 years. All were healthy and none took fish oil supplements.

Over the 14 yrs, 1,625 of them died. But those with the highest blood levels of Omega-3 had the lowest mortality and lived 2.2 yrs longer.

Of course, a lot of variables had to be teased out, but the relationship seemed to hold true.

There were also fewer deaths from stroke with the highest levels of Omega-3, but this was not statistically significant.

The researchers suggested eating 3.5 oz of farmed salmon a week or 5 ounces of anchovies or herring, or 15 to 18 oz of cod or catfish.

It doesn't taste too bad, either. Do fishsticks count?

What about supplements--this never proves as good, but as the researchers said, couldn't hurt.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Facing fear of needles

Shots hurt. Oh, the nurse or doctor can call it a pinch or a sting, but sharp metal is being thrust into your tender flesh.

Rhona Melsky writes about this in the AZ Republic, Apr 3, 2013. For some--she says--the prospect of an injection causes a rise in BP, dizziness, faintness, the whole niner.

It's trypanophobia--fear of needles.

Did you know this is sort of genetic? You probably have a first degree relative with it (mother, father, sibling).

Reactions can be "vasovagal"--faint, sweaty, nauseous--from the vagus nerve in the center of the body.

A third are from a bad past association--repeated stabbings that went wrong.

And there is a third reason, called resistive--the sufferer may have been restrained before.

Therapists try to decondition the phobic person--show them pictures of needles, then actual needles.

Patients are told to take deep breaths, listen to music, have someone hold their hand, or even suck on chocolate.

Some doctors also use a device that shows the veins in a strong light, helping them hit the target without a traumatizing mess.

Good one and the chocolate might help, too. My eye doctor, where they actually stick needles in your eye (not a joke), has candy for grownups.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Sweatin' to the oldies--and newies

Sumathi Ruddy, WSJ, Apr 2, 2013, says "Beat It" and "Gangnam Style" are perfect for workouts.

Research! The right tempo music can reduce the sense of exertion and boost motivation.  According to scientists at England's Brunel University, the best workout music is 125 to 140 beats per minute. This is when each movement is not on the beat.

When synchronizing to the beat--bodies can handle more. It's like a drug.

But it also benefits low intensity exercisers more than athletes.

Like classical? Try Beethoven's "Eroica" or Mozart's Symphony No 40 in E-Flat Major.

One trainer puts the most rousing music at the beginning of the workout.

More suggestions:

Black-Eyed Peas, Boom Boom Pow
Calvin Harris, Drinking from the Bottle
D'Banj, Oliver Twist
Kesha, Die Young
Flo Rida, Let's Roll
Lady Gaga, Edge of Glory

Music also blocks feelings of fatigue. I would need that.

Thursday, April 04, 2013


Charles Barkley, former 11-time NBA All Star turned sports commentator,  tends to use up his voice power. In one broadcast, he can be reduced to a whisper.

The University of Alabama Birmingham had one of its otolaryngologists view a film of Barkley performing.

The man, apparently, suffers from phonotrauma--vocal cord hemorrhage from shouting over noise.

To talk, the lungs push air through V-shaped folds to produce a vibration, pushing the folds aside. After a time, the swallowing muscles in the  throat try to close the folds, which tightens them. Vibrating swallowing muscles sound raspy.

Dehydration can strain a voice--alcohol or caffeine can worsen that. Acid reflux is also bad. And fatigue.

If you are prone to this, stay hydrated--twice as much water as other beverages. Avoid yelling, rest. And keep to a normal tone.

Avoid menthol drops--they dry. Use fruit-based or glycerin-based lozenges.

Warm tea with honey is helpful.

And maybe in Barkley's case, a few moments of silence.


Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Spring--find the farmer's market

We have one here in Chandler--but it's in the late afternoon on a weekday. We used to have a better one in DC--in Adams Morgan on Saturday. The cheese--yuh-um! Also, Washington had the Eastern Market on the Hill--fabulous.

Reader Nancy Paull recommends the Yellow Green Farmers Market in H'wood, FL. (http://ygmarket.com)

No matter where you live (almost), there are some farmers or growers within a short drive. This has given rise to the whole "locavore" idea of eating food from nearby (local).

Also on the scene are CSAs--Community Supported Agriculture (google it). Farmers offer weekly boxes of food directly to consumers. The eaters buy "shares" in the farm.

While "organic" food is pricey, farmer's market food can be quite reasonable.

And it's fresh and preservative free.

Speaking of preservatives, I heard that we eat so many, our um...bodies...decompose slower than 20 years ago.


So think instead of spring, shiny fruits, cascading leafy veggies, that pungent smell of new life, bursting with nutrients.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Not so "green" for pets

Sue Manning, Associated Press, says so-called "healthy" or "green" cleaning products designed to help humans may not be so great for animals.

Most cleaners are OK if you follow instructions--but if you make your own, there are no instructions and this can lead to trouble.

Cats, for example, can get sick from "essential oils" such as orange, lemon, and peppermint.

If a product says keep away from children, also keep it away from pets.

Take "pet friendly antifreeze." It's still not good for pets, though it's not as deadly as ethylene-glycol.

Every species has a different sensitivity--actually, every animal does. And each product is also different concentrations.

Also--labels lie. Green may not be green.

For one thing, do not use softener sheets on pet bedding. Water...wash stuff with water. Maybe baking soda.

Monday, April 01, 2013

What's up with this gluten thing?

From Fox pundit Bill O'Reilly to my niece, people are swearing off gluten. But experts at the University of Alabama Birmingham says this is not a normal weight-loss strategy.

There is no experimental evidence to show a gluten-free diet is beneficial for the general population, they say.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye that damages the intestines of those with Celiac Disease (CD), according to the Celiac Disease Foundation. There is also such a thing as non-Celiac gluten intolerance.

But a gluten-free diet can lack fiber, iron, calcium, riboflavin, thiamine, niacin and folate.

Some people drop all gluten foods just because they read about it, then find it confining and get a blood test to see if they have CD.

To lose weight--sorry, folks--eliminating grains (we used to say carbs) is only a start toward taking in fewer calories.

As for gobbling up more cereal or bread because it says "gluten free," well, you know where that can lead.