Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Think two years to recover from a bad hit

Elizabeth Bernstein, WSJ, July 30, 2013, points out that divorce, a death of someone close or loss of a job can take TWO YEARS to process.

Go easy on yourself.

There are  no shortcuts--and it can take longer if you were blindsided by the event.

Once you know it's a long process, you can relax into it somewhat.

Some people call this the "identity crisis process," because you are building a new identity after the event. You won't be the same person.

Don't move if you can help it, don't jump into a new relationship--of course, you do need to find a new job if you can.

"The whole sweep of your life has to be reassessed and rewoven," one doctor advised.

One person interviewed, a man who got divorced, wrote a  note that said TWO YEARS and put it on his fridge. He updated his progress on the note from time to time, at least subtracting days.

My mother died almost one year ago--we took care of her for 17 years. This was a lot of time to get used to her being here, or at least the "her" she became in later years. I guess I am not through yet.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Dogs with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Aren't the little canines trendy?

OCD afflicts 2 million people in the US--characterized by a disabling compulsion to check things or perform certain rituals to soothe anxiety.

A new study (April 2013, Progress in Neuro-Psychophmaracology  & Biological Psychiatry) shows that OCD-like traits in dogs are caused by similar brain changes to people with OCD.

OCD is complex and not fully understood--why would a person wash his or her hands 100 times a day? Well, it can run in families, so that is one clue.

Also certain areas of the brain in people--and dogs--seem to be involved.

Dogs--Dobermans are especially susceptible with 28% of the breed having OCD--chase their tails, suck their paws, flanks or a blanket, or gather up objects.

Every scrap of  knowledge helps. OCD is a crippling disorder than can rob people of quality of life.

Now--if I just knew why my 12-year-old mutt has decided going outside for his functions is optional. This just started. We call it the Doggy D--dog dementia. Call the researchers..

Monday, July 29, 2013

Getting sick abroad

Stranger in a strange land--and sick. Not good. I remember being pretty sick in a hotel room in Madrid and I kept calling the desk and saying I was sick and needed a doctor..."No, no, no dottor," the guy would say. Then CLICK.

Finally the chambermaid came in, saw I was pea green and talked to the desk. They sent an English-speaking doctor and he wrote me a prescription and relieved me of one of my emergency hundred dollar bills (accepted everywhere, I assure you). The prescription was $2. The bellhop brought it.

Matthew Perrone, AP, wrote about getting sick in another country. First, bring your prescriptions with you. If you are going to be gone a long time, try to get an extended amount. Keep it in the bottles it came in.

If you take a narcotic painkiller--check with the embassy before you leave. It could be considered illegal.

If you lose your pills, most pharmacies abroad will honor a fax or email from a US physician. Some countries don't even require prescriptions for antibiotics and other common pharmaceuticals.

If you need a doctor and your hotel does not have one on call--call 1-866-ASK-ABMS. This is a list of board-certified docs worldwide.

If you have a weird blood type or condition, bring a medical history.

You may want travelerrs health insurance. I have gotten it. Check out It is not too expensive--maybe a couple of hundred. But a flight to bring your sick self back to the US can top $50K.

Of course, getting this insurance also insures that you won't need it. That is worth the money!

If you must delay your return, be sure you have a doctor's note for the airline so they will waive the change fee. I had one in Spain, but they would not honor it--I duked it out with them later and got my $150 back.

Also--learn how to say SICK in the language of the country where you are headed. I can sure remember how to say it in Spanish now--infirma.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Deer can make roadkill out of you

I once did an article on the bazillions of bucks (sorry) deer strikes cost states--not to mention the human lives lost when these 100-lb chunks juke out of nowhere into the path of your car.

In the story I did, states and cities were experimenting with lion urine from the zoo--sprinkling it where deer crossed major roadways.

Since deer tend to ignore that stupid cement stuff and just use their own traditional paths anyway, they continued to cross roads--and BAM!

So states then made underpasses on the deer crossing areas--sometimes the deer got the idea, other times not.

Now, in Government Technology Magazine, Elaine Pittman says Colorado is using perimeter security technology from prisons and airports to detect wildlife along the highways. A cable is buried nine inches underground and detects the presence of a large animal. This lights up a sign saying WILDLIFE DETECTED.

(I would have said: WATCH OUT--WILDLIFE NEARBY!)

They rolled it out on a stretch where wildlife strikes were 70% of accidents.

This is still a work in progress--but strikes are down 38%.

In some states, the person who hits the deer can keep the venison. To me, this sends a mixed message.

Anyway, the deer probably have an owl to read Govt Tech and get the scoop.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

How do you feel about chiropractic care?

Some people swear by their chiropractors. My sister has tried a few--good and not so.

With the so-called "Affordable" Care Act, chiros may rise in popularity. You may not be able to see an orthopedist without a long wait.

Lisa Nicita wrote about this in the AZ Republic. Car and workplace accidents account for a lot of back and neck pain.

Women often get back trouble from hormonal changes in menopause. Men in their fifties begin the pain game.

Chiros have four years of college, continuing ed and must meet state requirements. This is not even close to what a medical doctor has.

But they combine nutrition, exercise, manipulation and imaging to help patients.

More and more chiros also practice in conventional medical practices alongside physicians.

If you think this will work for you, ask friends for referrals. Check with the American Chiropractic Assn (

In AZ,you can also check a chiropractor's record with the state online.

I have never seen a chiro--have you?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

No prescription needed, but common sense is

OTC--means over the counter drugs. No doc visit, no 'script. But this is still medicine and can be powerful or dangerous in combination or even alone.

The other day a friend called me from the store--she said she had a cough--and her cart had nighttime cough medicine, daytime, decongestants, and some other nostrums. I said don't take all that stuff--go to urgent care. She did and needed antibiotics--if it had been a viral cold it was now bacterial bronchitis.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) causes 200 liver failures a year. Eight extra-strength pills a day and ruin your liver. Your prescription drugs may also contain it--upping your daily amount. Ask the pharmacist.

I take three in the AM and gut out the arthritis pain the rest of the day--and I worry about that.

Diet aids, laxatives,herbal diuretics, motion sickness meds--all of these are commonly misused.

Cold medications can also raise blood pressure.

You would not take any of these if they did nothing--and often what they do is negative. Just because the FDA lets you get them without consulting a doctor does not mean they are candy.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

School days, school days--how to prep the tots

Docs at the Children's Hospital at Montefiore have some ideas on making the transition from summer to school a healthy one.

Yes, for many hapless youngsters, school is starting. It already has out here in AZ.

First, the kids should have a regular checkup. This also goes for older kids--and athletes.

Second, try to get back to a regular sleep schedule ASAP. Each step of the sleep ritual should take the child closer to the bed. First bath, then teeth, then into the bedroom for PJs, then into bed for reading.

Limit chocolate, sugar and soda after lunch--these are uppers.

Limit electronics an hour before bed.

Have your child's eyes examined. The slightest problem can make them avoid reading.

Provide appetizing lunches that look good and have nutritional value. Involve the kids in picking foods and shopping.

If the child eats the school lunch, look over the menus.

If the child seems afraid or filled with anxiety--is it academic or fear of bullying or something else? Try to find out. Talk it out.

A lot of kids actually like school and despite some incidents, feel safe there. Let them find their own friends, activities and comfort zone. Don't hover.

See that kid in the picture learning cursive? They may not teach it anymore. I advise some intervention there.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Drive-through tips

No matter how many nannies lecture us, we occasionally go to the fast food places--which, by the way, are neither fast nor cheap these days.

We got reamed at KFC--half our order left out--on Sat. So check! We asked, "Is it all there?" They said sure. Twenty bucks we'll never see again.

Did you know that at Wendy's you get apples instead of fries? Forty cals, zero fat, compared with 200 cals and 16 grams of fat.

If you don't like diet soda, maybe try half and half--half diet, half "real." I just finish my coffee from breakfast--no soda.

Chicken may be worse for you than beef. The Tendergrill at Burger King has more salt than the double bacon cheeseburger at Five Guys.

Get one patty--it tastes the same as double or triples and is filling.

Wendy's and McDonald's both have apps. Google it.

I used to live in the same block with McDonald's--two places in DC, not one, two. One day there was a shake spilled on the sidewalk. The next day--in summer--it was still there, unmelted.

That was scary.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Absolute no-carbs rule is stupid

Michelle Talsma Everson, AZ Republic, July 3, 2013, writes about carbs.

Oooo--the dreaded carbs. Even that well-known nutritionist Bill O'Reilly is lecturing us on carbs--don't eat bread or spaghetti, he told us the other evening.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, carbs are simple and complex.

Simple ones are refined--made with white flour, sugar, fructose syrup and so on.

The complex ones are whole wheat, certain veggies and fruits, beans, some dairy products.

You've heard of the glycemic index--this tells you how a carb is digested and absorbed. The high fiber, lower sugar foods take longer to digest--they have a low glycemic value.

Low glycemic foods are stone-ground wheat or pumpernickel bread.
Converted rice, barley, bulgar
Sweet potatoes, corn, yams, butter beans, legumes, and lentils
Most fruits and non-starchy (potatoes are starchy) veggies

Medium glycemic foods are whole wheat, rye or pita bread
Quick oats
Brown, wild or basmati rice

High glycemic are white bread or bagel
Cornflakes, bran flakes, puffed rice, instant oatmeal
Short grain white rice, pasta, macaroni
Russet potatoes
Pretzels, rice cakes, popcorn, saltines
Melons and pineapple

We are should be eating veggies and not saltines or pineapple.

Actually, this is making me hungry.

By the way, there is no evidence that a strict low-glycemic diet is a cure-all.

I am more about variety--Twinkie abstinence--water instead of soda--common sense and some enjoyment. Eat with friends, laugh a lot.

Those dopey Real Housewives--they all pick at egg whites and say please no carbs and then bicker. This can't be good.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

What if your vacation makes you nuts?

Kate Goldhaber, PhD, a Loyola psychologist, says vacays can make you mentally and physically ill.

Think about it--stress of a tourism schedule, unfamiliar food and water, trying to make the most of everything, no comforting routine, drinking, overeating, lack of privacy, sleep deprivation, lack of "me" time, conflicts with family and others, and homesickness.

I don't know about homesickness--but yes, I do remember wanting to be in my own bed back in the days when I could afford vacations.

Isn't there anything good about vacations? Oh, of course, there is. People like novelty, it jumpstarts the brain, new music, languages--all good.

You can also strengthen relationships--get to know your kids, for instance.

So don't check email or texts all the time. Make it a real break.

We used to take those 3-week car vacations, no air conditioning, four kids in the car (one time my brother brought his garter snake Dr Pepper--that was fun).

But we went to every state except Alaska and Hawaii--and some of us (not moi) went to Hawaii later.

We also went to a lake in Wisconsin many years running. That is my happy place to this day. See picture.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Eat to stay cool

How about a nice cucumber, mint and radish sandwich?

Nutritionist/Chef Michelle Dudash, author of Cleaning Eating for Busy Families, has some tips on summer eating--to stay cool, not just bikini-skinny.

How about peach salsa on grilled fish?

Or a cantaloupe smoothie?

Spicy foods are also good--they make you sweat, which cools you. (Sort of--warm slime covering your body is more like it.)

Did you know that cold foods--like ice-cream--actually make you feel hotter?

Red wine (astringent), hot coffee, hot tea--make you feel cooler.

Avoid high fat and protein to stay cool--there goes barbeque.

Lycopene, flavonols and carotenoids--are eatable SPF! They protect from the sun. Think cooked tomatoes (spaghetti sauce), dark chocolate, green tea, egg salad, kale chips.

Skin greasy? Black bean chips, not corn chips. Berries instead of sugary candy.

If you have rosacea, stay away from the hot grill. Watch the spicy foods, use soy-based marinades.

Now back to that mint and radish combo? Any thoughts?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

It's all "used" water

I used to sell water filters. We were told that all the water on earth is all there is. It keeps recycling--into the air, down as rain, into people, out as reclaimed pure water, on and on.

They do chop up a glacier once in a while, I guess, but it's pretty much just going back and forth.

Wayne Hanson wrote about this in Govt Technology mag recently. He points out that the water  in your morning coffee might have been excreted by a Neanderthal or have been part of the iceberg that sunk the Titanic.

Since the Industrial Rev, we have added 6 billion people, all vying for potable water and adding things to it such as drugs and poison.

Birth control substances may be contributing to prostate cancer.

Traditional water treatment does not eliminate these pollutants. One authority recommends waterworks be changed to three pipes--drinking water, nonpotable water for irrigation, and sewerage.

Desalination is still pretty expensive, but they are working on it. Techniques for transforming sewerage into drinking water are pretty far long--and not just in space stations.

So...bottom's up!

Monday, July 15, 2013

What's new in plastic surgery

My sister looked into one of those Lifestyle Lifts hawked ad nauseam in TV. Surprise--lots of cutting, not like a nice lunchtime facial. And it's nine grand.

Debra Gelbart wrote about some other approaches in the AZ Republic. First, there is a difference between plastic and cosmetic. Any general surgeon can be a cosmetic surgeon--same for gynos, a family medicine doctor, or any other physician.

You want someone with plastic surgery creds--and admitting privileges at a hospital for that.

Big now is fat transfer. Take the fat from where you don't want it and put it where you do.

Laser skin treatments are also popular. There are degrees of this--a deep burn can mess up your face for a week or more.

Cool Sculpting that freezes fat and Liposonics that melt it--both so it can be extracted--these are big now.

The Ulthera System lifts the brow and tightens face skin--noninvasively.

All of these require a "walletectomy"--not cheap. And the doctor may say you're just not suited for it--an ethical doctor.

For more info, go to or

Friday, July 12, 2013

Dog bites human

In a story by Angela Chen (WSJ, July 9, 2013), we learned that 5 million dog bites occur each year.

One trainer describes them as "perfect storms of human failure." Well, pardon my daughter for petting that pit bull--19 stitches where he tried to tear off her upper lip.

Anyhow, this gal--Victoria Stilwell, host of Anny Planny's "It's Me or the Dog," offered some advice for us stupid humans.

Most dog attacks take place on private property by a dog you know. Maybe the animal came over with a friend. People are not wary enough.

Obvious signs of a possible attack include growling or barking. The ears may suddenly prick up. Some dogs drool if distressed. Drool? Slavering jaws!

Never mind--I am getting off message.

Other signs can be more subtle--a wagging tail does not mean a dog is happy in all cases. If a dog rolls on her belly, it may not mean belly-rub--it can mean back off.

Tensing up, staring, lifting one paw.

Lifting the lip to show teeth.

If a dog has hold of someone, put something on its head to block sight--usually they will let go.

That letting the dog smell the back of your hand--I have heard that is not a good idea, at least not for hand-lovers.

Even my little hot mess of a poodle rescue mutt can get in a mood--and growl or snap.

They're animals!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Many dry eyes in the house

Do your eyes feel gritty or sore? It may not be allergies. There is an epidemic of dry eye going around.

This according to a piece in the WSJ (July 9, 2013) by Sumath Reddy.

The membranes that produce a key component of tears dry as people age, for one thing. Also being in low humidity on planes or in air conditioning can be a factor. Antihistamines, antidepressants--these dry out eyes.

If you work at a computer, you need to blink! Blink 12-15 times a minute.

Each blink spreads three elements of tears. If these are clogged or not produced proportionately, the eye surface gets tiny pits.

Most people try the over-the-counter liquids and gels first.

Then a doctor may try an antibiotic or steroid.

There is also a new procedure out there called Lipi-Flow--involving a 12-min procedure to heat and unpack oil glands This costs $850 per eye and lasts a year or a little more than a year.

Everyone who has not been in a coma knows I had four failed eye surgeries. I use plain old non-prescription Blink, which I get from eBay--a big, one-ounce bottle is about $12. I had stiff tear duct tubes that felt like a thorn in the eye corner. They fell out. Then I got plastic ones. They fell out. So now I used Blink.

But see what your doc says.

Oh, and put a sign on the computer--BLINK! It also helps me to do something at a different distance than the computer for a few hours at a time.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The ER is fine, thanks

Researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania seem to confirm what I think--that low-income people are pretty good at looking out for Number One and many think they get a better shake at the Emergency Dept than the primary physician's office.

The study appears in the July Health Affairs.

The laughably named Affordable Care Act tries to improve ERs, but also make them be used less for routine matters. The opposite will happen.

For one thing, the system of making primaries provide referrals to specialists slows care down, is frustrating and stupid (I once had a primary say to come GET the referral, that their office "did not believe" in faxes).

Such systems drive canny types, such as those used to living by their wits in lieu of money, to say, hey, I can get a specialist at the ER if I need one. (That is sometimes doubtful, but it is the theory.)

Poorer patients use less preventive care--because of work-hour appts, copays, etc--so they are often sicker when they get sick.

The researchers interviewed 40 low-income patients in Philly.

They said often primaries don't provide the best care--they get impatient, stumped.

Also, if you factor in specialists, their share of costs, if they had a share, was less at the ER.

I often go to Urgent Care--I can go when I want, in, out. No weeks of waiting for an appointment. Not even that much waiting in the waiting room.

It is also very possible to go to a primary, then get SENT to the ER. So some people skip the middle step.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Quick fixes housewise

The best and worst thing in my house is my dog. He is funny and cute (best), but he has also decided that being housebroken is a bore and no matter where I step, he is there first to trip me (worst).

As we get older, changes have to be made around us. For one thing, I could not live in a house with stairs anymore and neither can anyone I know in my age bracket.

Getting out of the shower takes a handhold—and I don’t mean a cheapie eBay shower curtain.

Laura Neergaard, AP, writes about this. A woman in her story with Parkinson’s can’t keep the food on the fork because she is so shaky with her tremors.

They are doing a study at Johns Hopkins about how to retrofit homes so people can stay in them.

They came into this gal’s home and made $1,100 worth of repairs. They replaced the shaky banister (stairs!) and added grab bars in the shower. They also raised  the toilet.

A “tall boy” toilet is most excellent—and don’t fall for that tall SEAT—get a new toilet.

They also found her some utensils that were weighted to hold steadier.

This group will also come over and check your meds, something I don’t want—at least so far.

One woman, though, was taking all 26 meds at once and could hardly stay conscious. Well, I guess not—besides that is too many!

They researchers also raised the kitchen counters so the woman could make lunch sitting—this is good for wheelchair-bound people, too.

In dark places or halls—how about battery-power lighting?

Back to the tall toilet—get one today even if you are young! You’ll thank me.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Sunglasses--glam or health?

I don't wear sunglasses--I should, but I hate them. I have one eye left that works and when I wear them and walk indoors I think I am blind!

I also remember being SHOCKED that sunglasses can cost hundreds of dollars. I never got that.

But, of course, our friends the researchers have determined that UV rays are damaging to delicate eye tissue. You can even get skin cancer of the eyelids.

According to George Cioffi, MD, chief of ophthalmology at New York-Presbyterian Hosp/Columbia Univ Med Center, everyone should wear them.

Most at risk--people with retinal disorders (me), people with light-colored eyes, cataract surgery patients, and those taking meds that increase sensitivity to light.

First, check the UV protection level. Look for  more than 95% UV protection--100% is better. This means it will say UV400 on them.

Darker is not necessarily better. The tint should block 80% of transmissible light, but no more than 90-92% of light. Neutral, amber, brown and green are good colors.

Make sure they wrap around the temples so light can't sneak in the sides.

Even if your contacts provide UV protection--wear sunglasses in addition to block drying wind.

Kids should also wear them--although little babies should not be in direct sun no matter how they are glammed out.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Doctors and studies

I should not write about this because I cover studies, but I believe my skepticism is pretty well known by now.

A Maine chiropractor and acupuncturist named Dr Michael Noonan recently observed that most studies were skewed or just plain wrong. Look at the drugs or devices that get a big rush, then have to be pulled back or removed from the market.

Now, some docs are studying research itself. How can it be so unreliable?

Dr. John Ioannidis, author of "Why Most Published Research Findings Are False" (NIH website) shows some ways research can be misleading.

Usually the worst offender is a false positive--the results seem much clearer and better than they are.

First, research is more likely to be published if it has a clearcut, dramatic conclusion. But most studies do not show dramatic results--sugar pills may win or supplements do little.

A positive result is also more likely if a drug manufacturer is paying. 

Drug companies also push studies they cherry pick to favor them.

Sometimes, too, results are distorted, such as the favorable buzz on Vioxx when Merck knew it had problems. Distorted=lying.

Ioannidis says ignore most research. Or at least sprinkle on many grains of salt.

Ooops--wasn't there a study about salt?

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Bee careful

When I was a tot, we ran around barefoot in the grass and clover and often got bee stings. So often, in fact, that our mother kept a saucer of baking soda mixed with water on the kitchen table for us to slap on our stings.

Now, with Africanized bees and I guess a meaner bee atmosphere, bees out here in AZ, at least, can kill people.

My daughter evicted a coven of them from under a little boardwalk we have in front just last week. She is at war with bees--she was screeching and slamming the door to keep them out. These are not honey makers, so we are not charmed.

Our fire department says to leave bees alone. But it also points out that bees hate loud noises such as barking dogs or power machinery (say weedeaters).

They will gang up and attack pets and people.

If they stay in a place, say an overturned flower pot (or boardwalk), for more than 24 hrs, you should call the exterminator. Sure--if you have a handy dollar tree out back.

They can also nest in your attic. Not good.

If they start in on you, cover your face.

Run to a vehicle or building--get inside.

Do not swat at them!

Do not jump in a pool.

Call 9-1-1 if someone is being attacked. I guess they then attack the cops.

I am writing a screenplay about a bee. He is a cop. So this is all very confusing.

As for yellow jackets--they are  just criminals! Proceed accordingly.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Secrets to a night's sleep are well known

I think I have said before on this site that I am a restless sleeper--have been since I was a kid. My daughter zones out for the count--but she is a night person and can only sleep well in the day time.

We spend a third of our lives unconscious and if we can't get that way, it can make us nuts.

Forty million Americans suffer from sleep disorders.

John Wilson, MD, neurologist at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital at Loyola, says it's not as simple as telling people to count sheep. Wherre did that come from, I wonder.

Working weird hours, the economy, and of course, being fat, affect sleep. (Being fat causes everything, apparently.)

Some tips:

Relax one hour before bedtime, no exercising. Read People or some light magazine (they said that, seriously).

Turn off all electronic handheld devices--some people check email or twitter in the night. Don't. Put devices in another room.

Darken the room as much as possible.

Wear comfy sleepwear and have a good mattress.

Jot down worries and concerns then try to forget them.

Limit animals on the bed--they can screw up your sleep.

Go to the john and don't drink a lot two hours before bed.

I read a story where parents give kids the hormone melatonin. This is probably not a good idea for kids. Adults can try it once in a while. Certainly the big boys--such as Xanax and Ambien--should be discussed with the doctor.

Ambien can have some very unamusing or dangerous side effects.

As for Lunesta, would you want a big green bug flying around while you are trying to sleep?