Monday, September 30, 2013

Dopey diets can be dangerous

I read in Allure about some diet spa where you take handfuls of pills. Gosh, what could go wrong?

Alene Dawson, LA Times, Sept 20, 2013, writes about some other weight loss fads.

Even celebs fall prey to this, with their Minus-Zero figures (yes, that is a size now).

According to this story, New York docs cannot believe the desperation of LA women who land in their exam rooms--make me smaller, at any cost.

Diet fads, one physician said, recycle every 10-12 years--just enough time for people to forget they don't work.

First, the potato diet. Like the baby food diet, cabbage soup, air diet, this one does not make sense. A diet of just potatoes with some fat is bad for your blood sugar. Anyhow, 1,200 cals of potatoes is the same as 1,200 cals of a more balanced array.

Juicing and cleanses. High in sugar--boosts insulin levels. These are often short-term starvation diets.

Gluten-free is another biggie now. Yes, gluten-free cuts junk, but there is a lot of gluten-free junk, too.

HCG shots is another hot mess. The real weight-loser is the 500-cal diet that is required. The FDA has warned against this since the 1970s.

Plus--you don't know what is in those shots--could be something you are allergic to.

Come on, people, use the old noodle...Ooooo, a noodle diet.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The science of klutziness

Once you pass 50, you will suddenly be conscious of a lot of stories on how one in three "seniors" will fall this year. Falls are the number of one cause of injury and death for those over 65!

Shirley S. Wang, WSJ, Sept 24, 2013, says scientists are still looking into why people can't stay on their feet--and it's complex. A delicate "balance" of foot placement, arm movement, trunk angle, and head motion.

May I add to that--vision lining you up with reality on both sides, and flexibility to counter adverse events such as a sleeping cat.

All day, as you walk or stand, your body makes tiny adjustments. How the brain fits in is not wholly known--there may be motion-detector neurons there to make big adjustments when you stumble over that cat.

The vestibular system within the inner ear keeps track largely of how your head is moving.

These scientists actually rigged up old people with a safety harness and tripped them on the treadmill.

Hope that gig paid well.

My balance is shot from only having one eye to line me up and maybe wacky vestibulars. My mother had a fall and they made her stand on a squooshy pillow and go to PT 13 times. The guy at one PT place was stoned out of his melon on pot. But I digress.

I could not stand on a pillow for 10 seconds. Urp--makes me sick to think of it.

I also read a study last week that said people in nursing homes are scared of falling.

Another one for The Big Book of Duh.

I find hanging on walls quite handy and effective.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Breaking bag

Let's face it--in the hail of screeching nutritional and diet advice, potato and corn chips are getting pummeled.

I love potato chips--the "classic" kind--all gnarly and irregular.

Bad, bad, bad--you are doomed if you eat them, blah blah.

So now come seaweed chips, bean chips, brown rice chips, even parsnip chips.

Anne-Marie Chaker, WSJ, Sept 25, 2103, says this is the answer to "permissible indulgence."

Almost a third of Americans eat 3-4 snacks a day in addition to meals. (Wow-really? You piglets.)

So now 71% of snack foods are making health claims.

Seaweed snacks are salty--the sea aspect.

Bean chips are based on...beans, not corn. Supposedly more fiber and protein.

But, alas, if you are worried about sodium and fat...chips from the exotic and from the humble spud are comparable.

And the serving sizes (recommended, not what real people eat) are tiny for the "healthy" ones.

And they can be spendy--how about $8 for raw kale chips?

But still--Snip Chips (parsnip-based snack form) in Cheezy Herb Truffle--bet you can't eat just one bag.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

What will Obamacare cost ya?

Oh, who knows--time, sanity, gobs of money...Yes, you have to buy insurance, you don't just "get" it.

October 1 is supposedly the witching day--but I highly advise you not to be an early adopter. The fake-a-busters in Congress and posturing aside, something is going to change October 1 and you need to figure out what that means in your individual case. The bill was 2200 pages and the regs are in the tens of thousands. There is no geek anywhere who understands it all. It bristles with taxes, restrictions, cutbacks, tests they will nag you to get, services you don't need that you will pay for, who knows what all.

Supposedly big companies are excused from HAVING to provide insurance by that date--but some have announced that they are dropping their company insurance options and giving employees money to fend for themselves on the so-called exchanges. So read your mail and emails.

Some big insurance companies--the ones you have heard of, Aetna, United--are also deciding the exchanges in some states (CA, for example) might ruin them, so the companies on these lists may be lesser known--every heard of Molina? Centene? Magellan? What if they can't handle it? Then what do you do?

Remember those poor uninsured people? At this point, only about a third understand this and intend to get on the exchanges and fill their cart.

As for affordable--don't even GET me started. You may only pay $350 a month (and not everyone has that lying around), but what if the doctors (including yours) have dropped out of those networks--that could really cost ya. Not to mention the deductibles and copays. Some families may be looking at $1500 a month in premiums alone.

To see what you might need to pay and what part the govt will pick up, go to: http://kff.org/interactive/subsidy-calculator/

Then, my advice is--wait and see what happens before jumping in. The policies pick up Jan 1, anyway. Also, I am not too sure about these "helpers," these so-called navigators. Do you want them to have your health and personal info? Maybe a real insurance broker would be a better bet.

Oh--and seniors on Medicare? Don't do anything except change your own policy if you want on October 1--the exchanges are not about you.

In my case, I am on my knees thanking the diety for that! But that does not mean I am not sick over this for the rest of you.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Living with chronic illness beats the alternative


I have bad knees and can hardly walk a block. That's different from the rest of my life when I walked hours a day all over Washington DC.

More than 130 million Americans are living with chronic conditions. Advances in medicine mean fewer people die of things, and at the same time, the population is getting older.

All patients with chronic conditions must deal with loss and change. No joke.

Toby G. Dauber, a licensed social worker with the Morris Psychological Group, has some tips:

Be an informed patient. Learn as much as you can about what you have. I suggest doing google alerts on what you have to get the latest.

If you don't feel confident of your care or cannot communicate with the doctor, fire him or her and get a new one.

Set priorities on what activities you will try to continue and which you will drop,

Accept help if you need it. Say yes. Nurture relationships--at least for someone to talk to.

Be alert for signs of depression--extreme anxiety, loss of appetite, trouble sleeping.

Psychological symptoms go hand in hand with physical. Boy do they! I sometimes marvel at how my brain can control my body--and not always for good.

But the important thing is to just keep on keeping on. Enjoy the things you can do--or find some things you can do that you enjoy.


Monday, September 23, 2013

The doctor will talk to you anytime

I have a relative who was sick with that coughing thing going around and she called her primary--no return call. She also went to Urgent Care and they seemed unconcerned. I guess it was a virus and all they could do was cough medicine, but she was completely miserable, had not slept in nights and was crying her eyes out. The cough medicine made her vomit.

She might have been better off with the 27/7 Medical Plan--a form of telemedicine with 24-hour access to board-certified physicians, 24-minute average callback times, and 90% problem resolution.

You register your vitals when you enroll and the doctors can call in short term prescriptions for common drugs if they think you need one.

The cost is $25 to sign up, then $29.95 a month. Like a really reasonable concierge deal.

 You can even call from overseas.

You will speak to a doctor licensed in your state. They even check these doctors out--which from what I can see, is more than you can say for insurance plans.

Of course, this is best used for common ailments such as flu symptoms, bronchitis, allergies, pink eye, poison ivy, urinary tract infections, or ear and sinus infections--they can't fix a brain tumor over the phone.

Check it out at www.247medplan.com.

Has anyone tried a service of this sort? Chime in!

Sometimes you just feel too lousy to even get to the doctor, even if someone else is driving. I have been there.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Ooops, you just thought you were admitted

Susan Jaffe, Kaiser Health News, Sept 4, 2013, has a warning for Medicare users. You may go to the ER, get tests, even go "upstairs" and stay a few days, but you may not really be admitted to the hospital--and therefore you may be liable for big bills.

It's called Hospital Observation Care.

More Medicare patients end up with this status each year--1.6 million in 2011.

This happens when you are not well enough to go home, but not sick enough to be admitted. So on a doctor's order, you stay for observation. This can last more than 24 hours.

This is considered an outpatient service--you may get copayments for each doctor fee and each hospital service. Yow!

Also, if you need Medicare coverage for a nursing home, you may not get it if you were in the hospital in this status.

Hospitals like this because if you return within 30 days, they don't get docked--you were never admitted in the first place.

How do you know--in the fog of sickness--where you are on this status--ASK!!! Medicare does not require hospitals to tell you. If you are on Observation Status, the doctor can request in-patient, but the hospital does not have to comply.

Trying to challenge it later is a nightmare. So heads-up.

There are bills in Congress to correct this...There are always bills on everything.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Special spoon counteracts hand tremors

Would you buy a $300 spoon? If you or a loved one has Parkinson's or any motor skill impairment--yes, you might.

My father's half sister had Parkinson's.  Once, when she was visiting, her fork tapped on the plate during the meal and my little brother started tapping on his high chair tray with his fork. We laughed, but it was awkward.

Tremors can also result in spills and embarrassment.

Now we have the handSteady cup and the Liftware spoon.

These feature small movements of the hand, much as your smartphone stabilizes to take a picture.

The Liftware spoon reduces the effect of tremors by 75%.

Check out http://www.liftlabsdesign.com.

Sounds like a good idea if you are living with motor skills problems.

I am all about the work-arounds.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Ode to the all-American dessert

 “Good apple pies are a considerable part of our domestic happiness.” Jane Austen
“[The (apple) pie should be eaten] while it is yet florescent, white or creamy yellow, with the merest drip of candied juice along the edges (as if the flavor were so good to itself that its own lips watered!), of a mild and modest warmth, the sugar suggesting jelly, yet not jellied, the morsels of apple neither dissolved nor yet in original substance, but hanging as it were in a trance between the spirit and the flesh of applehood... then, O blessed man, favored by all the divinities! eat, give thanks, and go forth, ‘in apple-pie order!’” Henry Ward Beecher

“The natural term of an apple-pie is but twelve hours. It reaches its highest state about one hour after it comes from the oven, and just before its natural heat has quite departed. But every hour afterward is a declension. And after it is one day old, it is thence-forward but the ghastly corpse of apple-pie.” Henry Ward Beecher

This Henry guy sure likes his pie!

Let's face it, sometimes something "sinful" is just the ticket! Think of it as a fruit and bread portion.

Food should be fun--not a constant source of guilt, dread, and avoidance.

I got these quotes from a great guy, Gary Allen. To get on his fun foodie mailing list, check in with him at Gary at onthetable.us.

You won't be sorry!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Do your workouts leave you exhausted?

I have a pal who started working out a few days a week and says sometimes the sessions wear her out.

Hey--isn't exercise supposed to trigger endorphins and make you feel great--runner's high etc.?

Jennifer Alsever, WSJ, Aug 27, 2013, says the midday blahs are common.

Midday is actually the best time to exercise. It can give you an energy boost lasting three to four hours.

Of course--they did a study, 171 employees in a large Swedish dental health group. They were told to exercise during work hours and scored fewer sick days.

Working out at night too close to bedtime can interfere with sleep. In the morning, it can make you get up too early--interfering with sleep.

To avoid midday fatigue, experts recommend less vigorous workouts--70-80% of target heart rate.

If you work in a high stress environment, than a lower stress workout such as yoga might be good.

Mix it up through the week--cardio, core, flexibility.

Small snacks--fruit, yogurt--not stuff from the Dollar Menu--will help keep up energy. Also--sip water all day.

I guess we know all this--and most people cannot get all sweaty at lunch hour. So just do your best.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Flu shot time again--new and better?

Sumath Reddy, WSJ, Sept 10, 2103, writes about flu shots. Oh, joy. They didn't work too well last year and I read that older people (such as moi) only got a 10% less chance of getting it.

This year, apparently, the ballyhooed shots and nasal sprays offer protection against a greater number of strains. (They try to guess which strains will arrive.)

A new vaccine is available for those allergic to eggs.

There is also a microneedle for the shot-averse.

Now is a good time to get shot up--it takes two weeks to get up to speed.

The CDC recommends the vaccine for anyone six mos or older. In 2011-2012, less than half got it. But this may be enough to achieve "herd immunity"--enough people won't get it to protect most of the rest of the "herd."

I won't get into the bivalent, quadrivalent, Type A, Type B, killed v weakened, stuff.

You can ask your pharmacist (where, by the way, in some states you can get the shot). You will pretty much get what the powers that be decide.

You don't want to give it to your kids or get it from them, meaning you can't take care of them.

Now--what about it's not working well on older people--who will land in the hospital--or worse?

Always somethin', as Roseanne Roseannadanna used to say.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Seriously--how much do you exercise?

For some reason, the watch people Timex did an exercise survey.

Seventy-three percent of respondents worked out at least once a week.

--29% spent between half an hour and an hour. Eighteen percent said they spent between an hour and two hours.

--61% did not go to the gym.

--27% worked out during the lunch hour.

--Only half worked out in the morning--6 am being popular.

Running was the most popular form of exercise--followed by lifting weights--then, biking, hiking and outdoor activities.

Time for a shower! 43% spent 10-15 mins in the shower, but a quarter spent half an hour and 10% spent more than half an hour. Prunes!

I go get the mail. Proud of me? Well, I do have bad knees that sting and hurt all the time.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

My trip to the cardiologist

I am the patient no doc wants to see coming. I know enough to be dangerous. I am skeptical. I want studies. I question. But then, sometimes, I do pull the trigger and get a test or procedure and in every case so far, have regretted it.

So I am doctor-averse. Some people fear dentists, I fear docs.

For one thing, I have been fat all my life, except for 2.5 times I lost the weight, which then reappeared in weeks or months.

So I decided 25 yrs ago not to get weighed and get back into that loop. This includes the doctor's office. Usually they pass if I decline the scale, but sometimes it becomes mano a mano--a tug of wills.

I have atrial fibrillation--weird heartbeat--and went to many cardiologists after being diagnosed 15 yrs ago. I almost died from one med--and the other, the blood thinner, blew out my right retina--four surgeries, blind in that eye,

But my primary (he's OK) said you really should go to the cardio--it's been 10 yrs. So I looked up some people, dithered, picked one.

Their office was shabby--such a big rug stain it almost looked like a body outline from CSI.

The cardiologist was 30ish, unsmiling, scrubs, and furious that I would not get weighed. She asked almost nothing about my history--when I tried to explain about the med that almost killed me, she hushed me--"You won't get that again." Clipped! And so it went.

She seemed to have three tests most people were to get. I did not want the nuclear stress test--inject radioactive chemicals to stress the heart, make it get symptoms, take pictures, and if anything goes south, a "trained" person has an antidote.

No.

She left basically saying, OK, it's your decision, hope you live.

Hope I do, too.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Rx: Videogame

Older people may benefit from a special videogame, according to Evelyn M. Rusli, WSJ, Sept 5, 2013.

The Univ of California San Francisco did some research and found that older adults improved their multitasking and cognitive (thinking and memory) skills with a special videogame.

Apparently the study showed that older brains are more "plastic"--meaning adaptable--than often thought.

So this would be a positive outcome of videogaming.

One game in development is NeuroRacer--you navigate a car along a twisty track while hitting a key each time a symbol comes on the screen. Two tasks--multi--get it?

Older adults practiced and then outperformed untrained 20-yr-olds and the results lasted six months.

One user said it was hard at first then after a couple of hours, she felt a sort of "snap" and she got it. She was also more focused in her life as a real estate agent, she added.

The game will require FDA approval, which could be years.

Why not try other games, though--they use them for Parkinson's patients.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

75% of Americans don't take their pills

I hate needing medication--I am suspicious of everything, as anyone who reads this site regularly knows all too well.

I also think people are snowed with a bunch of stuff from different doctors--no one ever looks at all of it. You need a pill to fix what another pill did!

And meds are spendy! Even with so-called insurance. Sometimes people take things every other day to save money.

Half the people on statins don't take them--supposedly raising their risk of a heart attack or certain cancers. But I won't take those, even if anyone suggested I should, so I would be in that group. You have to decide for yourself. I have talked to cardiologists who personally love them.

Only 30% of teens stick with their asthma medications.

Fewer than 2% of diabetics regularly monitor, take their meds, and follow their diet.

I do take BP meds--three kinds--hypertension is our family curse--even the skinny ones have it.

If you are noncompliant on meds, and I even stopped Vit D because it made me sick--then look at cutting the cost. First, see if you can get a generic. Check the website pharmahelper.com to find good online drugstores. Or get the pills by mail through your insurance. You will save on all these. Other sites are needymeds.org and pparz.org.

Ask the doctor if this is the most affordable drug--sometimes older ones even work better!

If you feel crummy, ask about side effects. Maybe you can switch to another drug.

I am torn--and I was shocked that only 2% deal with their diabetes. That seemed pretty low. Maybe I should stop being such a smart ass and front for more drugs.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Instant blood test coming

You know the routine--wait at the lab, then scrunch into the chair, watch the tech fiddle around endlessly, then the tourniquet, the swab, the fiction about the "little pinch," the rocking needle, the tubes, the swooniness.

Elizabeth Holmes, 29, a chemical engineer, dropped out of Stanford and founded a life sciences company called Theranos in 2003.

One of her inventions could change blood testing forever. She and her staff have miniaturized 1,000 lab tests from routine blood work to genetic testing, according to Joseph Rago, WSJ, Sept 7-8, 2013.

They warm your hand in a glove like warmer to bring the blood to the surface, then do a quick fingerstick to get all the blood they need.  About the amount in a raindrop. It runs through an analyzer in minutes.

This may even come to pharmacies soon--there is a partnership with Walgreen's in the works. The goal--Theranos within five miles of almost everyone.

Tests account for 2.5% of spending, but drive almost all diagnoses. Often you need followup tests to pinpoint things.

Often, now, labs collect 45 times as much blood as they need.

Her technology also lowers the chance of human error.

And it's cheaper than most insurance companies will pay.

Cut costs, improve quality--what are the odds? Keep your eyes open for this one.

And good-bye to that pinch. What a misnomer.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Summer colds ARE worse

 As the hot weeks dwindle down, you can still get a so-called summer cold. Angela Chen writes about this in the WSJ, Aug 27, 2013.

Winter colds depart in a few days, but summer ones linger, then may seem to go away, then come back.

Summer colds--surprise--are caused by different viruses than winter colds. Summer is a rhinovirus, winter an enterovirus.

And, in summer, people don't rest, they run around and exercise--and then go in and out of air-conditioned buildings.

Summer colds are rarer than winter colds--about 25% as common. But they are more flu-like. You can get a fever, even diarrhea or a rash.

Many people think they are allergies--but they aren't.

So, if you get one, don't attempt to exercise more to sweat it out. This can make it worse.

Zinc works better on winter colds than summer colds, and the research is patchy on zinc in general.

So, if you get a summer cold, be prepared to dog it for a while, and drink a lot of fluids. They always say that. How else can you make more mucus?

I hate that word.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Pack kids a lunch they will eat

Apparently some of the "national" advice on school lunches (more veggies, smaller portions, lose the burgers) is landing a lot of food in the trash. Many states are easing away from the guidelines.

Stacey Antine, MS, RD, author of Appetite for Life, says "Yuck" should not be a word any kid should utter.

She recommends getting away from the PB&J and creating tasty wraps and other intriguing comestibles.

She has 5 tips for packing a lunch.

First, you need a MAIN COURSE. This may be a "sandy," but it doesn't have to be. It could be a crustless quiche.

Then you need something from the GARDEN. Freeze grapes or berries-by lunch they will be cold and maybe have some crunch. Or make a white bean dip for carrot sticks.

You also need some CRUNCH. Baked potato chips, air-popped corn.

A DRINK is good. Instead of sending them to the soda machine (if it's still there), try 100% juice, a fruit smoothie, or drinkable yogurt.

And, if course--a TREAT. Maybe yogurt-covered raisins, whole-grain animal crackers, or home-made raspberry crumble.

Get the kid involved in the shopping and even the packing of the lunch.

Hello Kitty is also a big help--kids love her lunch box. Or let the kids pick out a bento box or some other cool carrier and add an ice pack sometimes.

People support what they helped to create.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Older women may need to exercise only once a week

As we "mature" gals creak around (hey, who you callin' mature), we often are not headed for the gym--Silver Sneakers or not.

Now--maybe--some good news from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Women over 60 may need to work out only one day a week to make a significant improvement in strength and endurance.

This study appeared in the J of Strength and Conditioning Research. They monitored 63 women doing aerobic and strength training for 16 weeks. They were divided into three groups--once a week, twice a week, three times a week.

Significant increases in muscular strength and cardio fitness, as well as function (getting up from a chair, etc), were found--but the increases did not relate to how often the women worked out.

Older females have a problem with adherence (no duh). So this is good news for them.

People tend to believe more is better. Greater frequency and intensity has been shown to benefit younger people--but not older.

In one aspect, the participants did a three-mile-per-hour walk test. The average heart rate was 110. After 16 weeks of both aerobic and strength, the heart rates averaged 92--meaning it took less effort.

Does this shortcircuit all your excuses--probably not. Just think about it.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

How to be a working cancer survivor


The experts at the University of Alabama at Birmingham say you are a cancer survivor from the minute you are diagnosed. You aren't dead are you?

Before you go to work, the doctor will stage the disease, recommend a treatment and say what kind of work is appropriate.

Cancer is considered a disability and is governed by many laws. Employers, though, may need to provide time for appointments that exceed the Family Medical Leave Act. They also need to make reasonable accommodations.

One breast cancer survivor who worked throughout recommends:

Take it one bit at a time--one day, one surgery, one treatment.

Stay positive.

Cancer may take your hair and your energy, temporarily, but it will give you back new things.

You will manage stress better.

You will discover your coworker support system.

You may even learn to joke about it.

I would add that work is a great distraction--getting out among people, talking, laughing.

Be honest with your supervisor, discuss upcoming events, see if you can work at home if necessary.

Had a bad day? The sun will come up again and you will be there to see it. New start!