Friday, August 30, 2013

Eeek--The weeds are coming

Once my homeowner's insurance company sent some dude with a camera to take pix of my weeds in the backyard and try to cancel my policy. The guy was already coming to cut them--ha ha.

I live in the desert, and even 115-degree temps can't discourage weeds and invasive species. Now comes the fabulous news that across the country--a big weed takeover is coming.

Anne Marie Chaker writes about this in the WSJ, Aug 28, 2013. The cause is a wet growing season, following a mild winter, and last year's dry summer--somehow this means WEEDS!

Your summer plants are about to produce seeds. Quick! Do something!

What can you do to stave off icky  insurance dudes and fires from dried grass?

First, you could smother the weeds with black plastic or newspaper. Or blast them with Roundup--poison and doesn't work well anymore.

You can paint the herbicide on the leaves--yeah, getting right on that.

If you have a garden, till in late winter to get seeds to sprout so you can pull them up before planting.

Or you can use a pre-emergent. Apply in late fall AND early spring. Obviously do not plant grass with this--it will kill grass.

You can hoe, you can pull.

They will win. Ma Nature is a you know what.

By the way--Weed Eaters? They don't eat the weeds.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Are you taking an anti-osteoporosis drug? Read this!

We once took our mother to a new doctor and they chased us out of the office, saying, "Wait--here is her Fosamax prescription." She never had a bone density test that they saw, nothing--just take this.

These drugs are not Tic-Tacs!

I said heck no, and she lived on many years and never broke anything. The woman drank a quart of milk a day. She loved milk.

On, Martha Rosenberg writes about biphosphonates--Fosamax, Boniva, and others.

One doctor thought wholesale prescribing of this could bring back "phossy jaw," which people in white phosphorus factories got 150 years ago.

Biphosphonate never completely metabolizes and leaves the body.

Yes, some women--usually Caucasian, thin--can have fragile bones. But these drugs suppress bone remodeling and after a time, bone formation is suppressed.

Look--I am not a doctor, but this is a big drug--talk to your doctor, don't just gulp it down.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Rehydration booster tested by yours truly

You guys know by now that I think we take too much stuff--too many vitamins, nostrums, herbs, over-the-counter stuff, prescriptions, prescriptions to head off or cure what the other prescriptions did to us, etc.

So when they approached me about Oral I.V., I first thought the name was...contradictory.

I said--sigh--OK, I will try it and if it doesn't make me nauseated or dizzy (my favorites), I will mention it. See what I go through for you people?

Well, my sister and I both tried it. The little ampules contain clear liquid that has no taste. Like distilled water.

Supposedly this contains "crystalloid electrolytes" that make cells more permeable to water--this is not a water substitute but an enhancer. You drink 16 oz of water with it.

They gave it to the military and law enforcement first and apparently the SEALs and others, such as Crossfit trainers, did unspeakable acts of endurance without getting dehydrated.

Studies are underway.

What do I think--well, it takes a little suspension of disbelief. But if you are a serious athlete--see what you think at Four little tubes cost about $12. (Put url in your browser.)

Oh--and it did not make me at all sick.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Your primary may be your shrink--kinda

According to Melinda Beck, WSJ, Seept 25, 2013, the medical system may combine the requirement that mental health services be provided as much as physical health ones with the shortage of trained mental health professionals--and create systems where psychiatrists and psychologists sort of oversee a doctor's patients with mental issues--but the doctor does the direct counseling.

Whew--what a sentence!

One Seattle psychiatrist has 500 patients--and is a consulting psychiatrist. She meets weekly with 10 "care managers" who follow the patients closely and record their records electronically.

The doctor devises the treatment plans.

They are keying this to the idea that mental and physical problems are often linked. About a quarter of primary care patients have a mental issue. Combining is called "integrative care."

Will this be most appropriate for areas with very few mental health professionals--or gradually required for all areas because it's cheaper for these new insurance companies coming into being?

Time will tell. Keep your ears open and try to act normal.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Walt is no genius

I was going to write about how we are not prepared for a pandemic, and I thought, it's hot, August, why not something lighter--like becoming a horrible criminal?

The actor Samuel L. Jackson was on a dopey after-show they have for AMC's BREAKING BAD and said he came onboard the show from the beginning when Walter, who found out he had cancer, decided to put aside a nest egg for the family by cooking meth. Jackson said he admired Walter for taking things into his own hands. Yeah, like people's lives.

Walter is, of course, the "hero" or "antihero" (there seems to be little difference). Instead of leaving his family to bill collectors, he opts to bring psychotic assassins into their lives, destroy their relationships to him, devastate a young, aimless man looking for a "dad," blow things and people up, poison a child and let a young woman die before his eyes.

Good call, Walt.

Yes, this could be "unintended consequences," but the show's writers seem to delight in making us "root" for Walter and watch the show. I am no different--I watch.

But I know this is all a little perverse. If we think the country is turning into a road company of Lord of the Flies--BREAKING BAD may be bad for us.

It's almost over--or is it?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Type of music affects driving safety

When a car is "bumpin'," do you ever wonder if this will affect safety?

Ann Lukits writes about this in the WSJ--Aug 20, 2013.

An article in the Oct issue of Accident Analysis and Prevention said teens who played their own music had more traffic violations than those who listened to music selected by the researchers or to no music at all.

The study was done in Israel, 85 drivers around 18 years old, half male and half female, drove six challenging road trips of 40 mins in length. An instructor went along.

On two trips, they played their own selections--usually fast-paced vocals. On two more, they had easy-listening. And on the last two trips--silence.

In-car data recorders charted errors--and the participants were asked how they felt.

All 85 kids committed at least three errors in one or more of the trips. Seventeen of these required the instructor to brake or steer for them.

When the music was their own, 98% made errors. During the safe-driving music, 77%. But in the silence, 92% made errors.

More males made errors and more serious ones than the females. In playing their own music, they cranked up the volume.

Self-reported mood was better when it was their own music.

Conclusion? Yes, that blaring car might hit you or make a bad lane change.

But the researchers said with the unfamiliar cars, the instructors right there, this was probably the best driving the kids could do.


I doubt you will get kids to put in an elevator music tape when they get in the car. They still sell Lawrence Welk, right?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Slug glue--coming to an OR near you

When you get stitches or sutures to sew a wound shut--it is basically a fastener. Fasteners are changing.

I remember when I first got staples. And they pulled them with the same staple puller I had on my desk. Well, why not?

Now, in the 21st century, gels and glues are being used.

Among them--glue made from the stubborn slime of slugs--ever tried to get that off your flagstones?

This is the stuff that allows mollusks to stay on wave-battered rocks or resist hungry birds who would love to pry them off for dinner.

But--adhesives usually will fail when soaked with goo--but sutures and staples also fail. Some sutures are even made to dissolve.

Adhesives are best when cuts are clean and not too deep. They are flexible.

Such gels are a dilute, tangled network of polymers--neither a solid nor a fluid.

In these experiments--slugs are sort of "milked," then returned to the trails where they were found.

Slug wrangler--keep that in mind if you are looking for a job.

Also--Super Glue--I know people who love that for sealing those painful heel cracks.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

OK, sports Moms, time to suit up again

A recent study by i9 Sports showed that 68% of Moms say youth sports cause stress in their lives.

About a quarter said the sports routine caused strife with the spouse--over time, money, driving, or bad performance by the kids.

Three-quarters said they were happiest when the season ended.

Also affected--the mothers' jobs and productivity.

Some even lost out on promotions.

Some other findings: Three-quarters would like less emphasis on the win-at-all-costs culture. More than half said this also affected their children's happiness.

The goal, one spokesperson said, was to bring families together--not tear them apart.

One solution--sports one day a week.

i9 Sports has that (surprise!). No mandatory fundraising, one game a week, no long trips.

Also--i9 emphasizes sportsmanship and fair play.

Parents also sign a pledge to not be creeps on the sidelines.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

When employers go too far

We all know by now that the nosy parkers are going to be invading our health care. I had a new doctor's office ask me just yesterday for my Social Security number--why, are they going to pay me a salary? No! I said you don't need it.

But more insidious is this penalizing stuff--if you're fat, you get slapped with a higher premium. Smoker? Forget it!

A recent outrageous case was at Penn State, where, possibly to make up for all the money they spent on the Sandusky molestation case, they are heaping on the fines. One associate professor was docked $1200 because he would not fill out a health questionnaire.

Two thousand faculty members joined in the screaming!

Only 2% of employers use the "stick" rather than the "carrot" but this number will grow, I predict.

Also, recent studies show that forcing people into so-called healthy behaviors has no statistically detectable effect on health.

The faculty insists this whole gambit is to raise money for the university's Sandusky bills--though the school denies this.

What they don't deny is that employees must fill out a questionnaire from WebMD and undergo a preventive physical.

WebMD? Why do they get your medical records? This is getting wacky--tighten your seatbelt.

Monday, August 19, 2013

School bus safety--advice for parents

Today is the first day of school for some kids, others are already in school. Many kids take the bus  instead of being dropped off.

In fact, the big yellow bus passes in front of my house twice a day. My own child took the bus.

So one thing you have to think about is bullying--emphasized by the awful Florida incident of three larger kids whaling on a 13-yr-old--it was on the news.

But even worse are accidents--the Cincinnati Children's Hosp Medical Center says 19 kids die in crashes each year.

Some tips:

The child should arrive at the bus stop 5 mins before the bus, so no running in front of the vehicle. No horseplay--pushing in front of the bus (there is a huge blind spot). Also no going into the street to watch for the bus.

When boarding or leaving, kids should walk single file--no loose strings on sweatshirts or backpacks to catch in railings.

Sit facing forward, keeping the aisle empty.

Kids should not hassle or distract the driver.

When getting off--wait until the bus stops. If the child must cross in front of the bus, the child should wait until the driver signals it's OK. Kids should stay 5 giant steps in front of the bus to avoid the blind spot.

If the kid drops something, tell them to ask the driver to help.

Jeez, taking the bus is a minefield of danger!

Just kidding--I hope.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Could the real Popeye still kick Bluto's butt?

Yes, the "I yam what I yam" dude is 75.

Would he still be functional musclewise? It's quality of mass, not quantity. Thus sayeth some researchers at the Universite de Montreal.

They related muscle mass and quality to the likelihood older people could remain independent.

They looked at 1,219 women 75 and up, but this applies to men, too.

Better muscle quality is the ratio of strength to muscle mass.

Lower  muscle quality can mean difficulty getting up from a chair, walking and climbing stairs.

Many seniors, they found, are surprisingly strong. Yes, you tend to lose muscle mass as you age )this is called sarcopenia).

The jumping  out of a chair thing and other tests, I guess, pinpoint the need for more work at the gym. If you can get to the gym.

As for leaping from chairs, stairs, and walking--don't joint issues also impair these functions?

As...Popeye and Bluto...well, the B-man is also 75. They grow up so fast. What do you think? Bluto, to me, looks like all show, no go.

Maybe spinach would help?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Gonorrhea--Gross but a fact of life

The STD called "the clap" infects 800,000 people a year in the US. It can cause infertility, tubal pregnancy, and increase the risk of HIV.

Yet, it has become a bleak area of medical research--resistant to most antibiotics.

Betsy McKay wrote about this in the WSJ, July 16, 2013.

The bacteria have become resistant to all but one class of antibiotics and are gaining on that one. The medicine has to be injected and must be obtained, then the patient must return to the doctor.

But all is not lost. Apparently a regimen using existing drugs and a new drug altogether have been devised. These can have debilitating side effects, although the new drug--solithromycin--has fewer.

"An encouraging development in a discouraging field," one doc said.

Gonorrhea is tricky--mutating constantly, hoarding the new changed genes, rather than mutating back to a drug-susceptible type.

Obviously, the best thing is not to contract this disease--condoms, people!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Home caregivers take nursing courses

My sister and I supervised our mother's care for 17 years, although she physically lived a few miles away in a certified group home.

But for some children of aging parents taking them into the home is a financial or emotional necessity.

In the Arizona Republic (Aug 8, 2013), Sonja Haller writes about younger people becoming certified nursing assistants or other forms of recognized professional to care for loved ones.

In Arizona, a fourth of residents will be over 60 by the year 2020.

Assisted living, much less nursing home care, costs more than $3,000 a month.

Home health aides who come into the home can run $3,800 a month.

So now some colleges offer home caregiver certifications. Family members learn to take vital signs, recognize diabetic and memory issues.

One said she had trouble calming her grandmother's agitation--she learned to refocus the woman's attention.

Others credit the training with their being able to communicate better with doctors.

But before you invest--think. Are you cut out for this? My sister and I have many pets--our mother hated animals. The constant repetitive conversations could get to us when we took her to the weekly hairdresser appts and had lunch with her each week. She got cranky. Also she never could stand cussing, but toward the end of her life, she cussed at us.

Her paid caregiver was not distressed--it wasn't her mother, she had never known Mom before all this happened.

If you are going to try it at home--know what you are getting into. Training would help.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Pili nuts--a must for the next Whole Foods run?

Acai, the miracle humble blueberry, on and on--scientists rustling through the jungle looking for slammin' foods.

Laura Johannes, WSJ, Aug 6, 2013, says one of the newer entries, Pili nuts, a tasty Asian deal, are rich in nutrients such as magnesium, phosphorus and Vit E, but but are also packed with calories and saturated fat.

These live in the rain forests, or did originally, and have to be dried after being pulled out of a purple fruit.

A 5.3 ounce can will run ya $14.

So far they have not been shown to lower cardiovascular risk. Walnuts and almonds apparently do.

These sound like macadamia nuts to me--delish, but maybe a bit of a hype.I wonder how they taste in cookie form.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Tests OK, but some thyroid patients complain

Sumath Reddy, WSJ, Aug 6, 2013, writes about grassroots groups who swear current thyroid testing is not catching their low functioning.

Groups include Thyroid Change, Thyroid Patient Advocacy, and the National Academy of Hypothyroidism. (Please Google these sites--because the aforementioned Google does not want urls on these blogs or some dumb thing I don't get.)

The thyroid gland (in the neck) regulates almost all other organs. If it is screwed up, you gain weight, lose hair, feel like crap, sleep a lot, and can be constipated and achy. A tenth of a percent to 5% of people in Western nations have problems, mostly middle-aged women.

Most hypothyroidism (underperforming) comes from Hashimoto's Disease, an autoimmune thing where the body's immune system attacks the thyroid.

The test is of TSH--Thyroid Stimulating Hormone. A higher TSH means more underperformance. But TSH can vary within a person, so sometimes an ultrasound and family history help pinpoint trouble.

The guidelines generally call for prescription levothyroxine, a synthetic version of the T4 produced by the thyroid.

Now some patients want a combo of synthetic and animal extracts (these contain T3 and T4). This stuff is called Dessicated Thyroid Extract (DTE).

In some--repeat, some--patients DTE can clean up remaining symptoms not handled by the traditional therapy.  But--among other things--in one study, adding DTE did not add to quality of life.

So read, think, ask, and be careful.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Breakfast like a king

My mother was a devotee of the nutritionist Adele Davis. Davis used to say, "Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dine like a pauper."

Researchers at the University of Tel Aviv have thrown a log on that fire.

They got 93 overweight and obese women to participate in a 3-mo, 1400-cal a day program. The women were in their mid-40s and had metabolic syndrome, associated with the development of diabetes.

Half the women consumed half their daily cals at breakfast. Then they ate 36% at lunch and 14% at dinner.

The dinner group at 14% at breakfast, 36% at lunch, and 50% at dinner--the opposite.

The breakfast group lost 19.1 pounds over 12 week. The dinner group only lost 7.9 pounds.

Other indicators--triglycerides, glucose, insulin, etc. decreased in both groups, but more so in the breakfast feasters.

Overall, the docs concluded the study was too short to recommend high energy intake at breakfast, but you can look at the results and decide.

I tend to eat a small breakfast, a larger lunch and then a snacky dinner. Not that I am anyone to emulate.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Talk about telemedicine

Distance doctorin' to the max! Two hospitals in the US and China are partnering up so Chinese patients can be operated on by US doctors in Texas.

The Shenzhen Peoples Hospital in China and the Methodist Hospital in Houston are going to cooperate on robotic surgery.

The Methodist Hosp already has four working robots and the Chinese hospital did its first robotic surgery in 2004.

Presumably this will be on one-off or difficult cases where the Texas doctor has more experience.

The surgery involves tiny, precise instruments that can wiggle into places human hands sometimes cannot--and the surgeon operates the arm on a computer instead of standing over the patient.

Robotic surgery is gaining popularity--although studies do not show conclusively that it is superior in every case. It certainly would be if the doctor had to walk down the hall instead of traveling thousands of miles to an unfamiliar team and facility.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Mosquitoes--You people love them!

I rarely look at my blog stats--a year ago, Google did something that ensured that they got my eyeballs but I did not get my share of the ad money.

The other day, though, I noticed you people are interested in mosquitoes, so I am going with a winner.

Heidi Mitchell, WSJ, July 16, 2013, said some people have dubbed the little whiners "mozzies." I like it!

As I said before, the mozzies like the CO2 your bod gives off--pregnant women and larger people often get the worst of their attentions.

They also like the smell of the flora and fauna  on our skin. There is no science that says having diabetes or high cholesterol will keep mozzies at bay. Taking stuff to smell different--garlic pills, Vit B--also does not work.

Researchers can get used to being bitten--it doesn't bother them. People who are allergic get the big itches.

The itch comes from the bug's saliva (ew), which contains blood thinners (the better to suck) and an anesthetic (the better to suck without being smashed). The body recognizes this stuff as foreign and sends tons of antihistamines. Scratching just spreads all this.

So try not to claw at bites!

Dawn and dusk are mosquito time. If you are dining outside, set up a fan--they dislike moving air. Wash with antibacterial soap to smell less yummy.

Who am I kidding--the mozzies will win!

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

We need better pain meds

My sister and I are creaking around with arthritis pain or (my case) swollen legs or (her case) back trouble. Not a day passes that we don't say, "Please, just  one day without hurting."

She went the opiate route for a while--helped but not good. She is off that. I take 3 Tylenols each morning to get through the pet emptying and feeding period on stiff robot legs with burning knees.

The rest of the day, I oo and ahh. Chronic pain affects one in five people.

Jeanne Whalen, WSJ, July 30, 2013, said they are looking into people who feel no pain for possible routes to helping others.

Feeling no pain is also not good--you can get burned or walk on a broken ankle and injure yourself. In poorer countries, such anomalies work in the streets sometimes, stabbing themselves for tips, etc.

This is due to mutations in a gene numbered SCN9A.

Pfizer and some smaller cos are working om methods tied to this gene. Instead of reducing inflammation as ibuprofen and Celebrex do, or switching on the body's pain killers as opiates do, this new idea seeks to block the signals going to nerve cells. The key seems to be something called sodium channels.

They are testing on people with an opposite condition--one which produces scalding pain from even minor warming.  They put a warm blanket on their legs and when the pain rachets up, give the drug.

No conclusions yet. But they are pretty sure addiction won't be a problem with this approach.

Bring it!

Hurry up. No weekends off. Chop chop.

Monday, August 05, 2013

School opening can mean more asthma

Eighty thousand kids a day miss school because of asthma--the worst time being at opening, when conditions are worse for this disease.

One kid reports that she always gets sick when school starts--so she is already falling behind.

According to Kirstin Carel, MD, a pediatric allergist at National Jewish Health in Denver, the kids come in stuffed in viruses, the Fall pollen hits, and also kids may have slacked off on their meds over the summer.

Triple whammy.

Kids should restart asthma meds two weeks before school, if they quit over the summer. You want to keep the inflammation down as much as possible.

Just as with school supplies, make asthma planning an annual ritual.

Make sure the meds are not expired.

Make an appt with the school nurse to be sure the medications are there and can be given.

Teach the kids good hygiene--handwashing and so on--to keep away infectious agents.

But above all--put in extra effort in Fall.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Hey. mosquitoes--some new sheriffs in town

Word is, West Nile, carried by mosquitoes, has been found near where the president is vacationing on Martha's Vineyard.

The nerve!

Anyhow, this reminded me of some new anti-skeeter stuff out there. First, there is a patch, called KITE, that keeps the little screamers off for 48 hours. It was developed for people in developing countries where malaria, Dengue Fever, and West Nile are rife.

The KITE sticks on your clothes and blocks mosquitoes from zeroing in on the CO2 being emitted by your body. KITE is still awaiting EPA approval, but it does not place poisonous chemicals such as DEET on your body or in the air around you. Check out

Available now are various clip-ons and bracelets emitting natural or chemical elements.

In a small study, the best performing were clip-ons with small, battery-operated fans. The Off Clip-On is about $9 and reduced the number of night-biting mosquitoes landing or biting by 97%. Terminix's All Clear SideKick diffuses botanicals such as geranium, lemon grass, and peppermint and cinnamon oils. This cut landing and biting by 94%.

The fan is better than the bracelet, which is better if you only want to protect your hands. A $5 BugBand stopped landing and biting on both hands by 57% in an urban area, and 52% in a rural area.

The fan dealies are better if  you are sitting--it allows a plume of protection to build up.

These observations came from a story in the WSJ by Laura Johannes, July 23, 2013.

A plume of protection--is that like the Cone of Silence? Yes--from the infuriating eeee eeee eeee.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Swimmer's ear--what to do, what to do

How about a big dollop of dirty, chemical laced water right in your tender inner ear? It's called swimming on our planet.

Richard  Rosenfeld, prof and chairman of otolaryngology at State Univ of NY's Downstate Medical Center, says 2.4 million Americans get this summer earache each year.

The symptoms are echoing, itching, or a clogged feeling in the ear. This is an inflammation of the skin in the ear canal due to water being trapped in there.

Twenty-percent of sufferers are in such pain, they need narcotics.

You usually get it from swimming, but can get it from showering or even sweating a lot. People with a lot of ear wax or eczema and those who wear hearing aids can be more prone.

If there is no pain--just annoying water caught in the inch-long canal--put about five drops of rubbing alcohol in the ear, using an eye dropper. (Don't do it if you have a hole in your eardrum or ear tubes.)

Or: Cup your ear with the palm of your hand and pump inward, while jumping on one leg with the offending ear toward the ground. This can create a pressure change and force the water out.

This doctor recommends doing something and not waiting it out. This can escalate. You can use prescription drops with an antibiotic or acetic acid and maybe a steroid. Or make your own drops of half isopropyl alcohol and vinegar.

Do not take a big whack of antibiotic pills! Most oral antibiotics don't kill the crud that causes swimmer's ear anyhow.