Friday, January 31, 2014

Nuts are so great they are stolen

Scott Smith, AP, says the high value of CA's nut crops is spawning a host of nut rustlers who sneak into orchards and steal nuts by the ton!

This year, $400,000 worth of walnuts, $100,000 in almonds and another $100,000 in pistachios have been trucked away by people using false licenses and bogus paperwork.

"The Wild West is alive," one expert opined.

California is our top nut producer (insert joke here).

The rustling is quite dramatic--backing up semis and cutting through fences in the dead of night.

They are considering procedures such as calling the broker to confirm that the paperwork is legitimate.

Heck yes! Otherwise our cookies are going to lose some crunch, our hearts may falter, and candy bars...well, who can even stand to think about the candy bars.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Stress! Aieeee

Actually, a year and a half after my mother died (my sister and I cared for her for 18 yrs), I am at a stress low. But occasionally, I still feel tense or have to fight a feeling of dread--usually because of the awful state of our govt and country.

So, I decided to post some Stressbusters from Henry S. Miller, author of The Serious Pursuit of Happiness: Everything You Need to Flourish and Thrive. (What is WITH these subtitles?)

First, Miller says breathe more slowly and deeply. Three deep breaths--consciously release each slowly. The key word is consciously.

Speak more slowly. Deliberately slow down the pace of your speaking. I do this sometimes--especially on the phone.

Take a break outdoors. Just five minutes in the sun can restore you. I remember Norman Vincent Peale saying just THINK of the sun. It works.

Check your posture. Avoid slumping.  Walk around five mins of every hour.

Drink plenty of water and eat small snacks.

Do one thing today that has been bugging you. Vacuum, make a doctor's appt, something.

Reward yourself. A bath. A good book. A movie.

In short, give yourself an even break.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Govt finally questioning medical studies

We have talked before about the yes-no-maybe, no yes, maybe no, quality of health findings. Eat this, no, don't, OK, some, etc. Just today I saw a study that said "good" cholesterol can hurt your heart. What did it amount to? Don't know.

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health--in a story on Reuters by Sharon Begley, a reporter I respect--said it's a waste of time and money to try to build on faulty studies. (Nature Magazine, Feb).

Too many journals are looking for sensational stuff--the kind of thing that is most likely to be "phantoms"--meaning the results cannot be reproduced by another team.

Scientists at Amgen, according to this, could only confirm 6 of 53 landmark cancer studies in 2011.

Either the original claim was wrong or the scientists goofed.

So the NIH is creating a mandatory course in study design for in-house scientists.

For one thing, it's really not OK to report the one study with a finding you like and not mention all the others with a different result.

Yes--this whole area could use work. Someone should do a study.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Internet maybe not childsplay

The internet is a powerful tool, reaching into every dank cranny and dark heart of the world--and we hand it right over to kids when we give them a cellphone.

They can use it to learn and play. Or others can use it to scare, berate, crush, and horrify them. Or they can use it to hurt themselves, leaving awful, revealing material out there to reappear throughout their lives.

This ain't Legos.

To fulfill their duty as parents, Stuart Leeds, clinical psychologist with Morris Psychological Group in Parsipanny, NJ, parents should stay interested in their kids' online life as the kids grow older.

It is essential to have RULES OF BEHAVIOR.

--Never post identifying info such as phone numbers, address, school, or age.

--No revealing photos, videos or texts.

--Never open email from an unknown source or download content from an unknown source.

--Never agree to meet in person someone you "met" online.

--Don't respond to messages that are threatening or inappropriate.

--Never send rude or damaging messages to someone else.

--Tell an adult if someone makes you feel uncomfortable.

Parents should take advantage of controls and blocks offered by the internet provider.

Activate blocks on your child's phone.

Disable cookies in the browser.

Make the child check before incurring an expense. Monitor your cards.

Make sure you can access your child's account and check it.

Kids can be horrible, feral brats and torment another child relentlessly. Try to show kids that in life 10% or more of people they meet just will not like them and will never start liking them. Help them put it in perspective.

I know--hard to do.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Making beauty safer

Once I got a gift certificate for a facial--the aesthetician put so many creams and potions on me I lost count, then went over me with a crackling light wand of some sort.

On the way out, in the waiting room, my face suddenly blew up to the size of a watermelon and I lunged for the Ladies and washed and washed. Caught it in time!

David Pollock is a beauty chemist and founder of He campaigns for beauty safety.

In 2013, he says, Walmart phased 10 toxic chemicals from products sold in its stores. A start--but there are  many still allowed to be sold.

Target ranks products according to ingredient safety and environmental impact.

Johnson & Johnson removed from biggies--formaldehyde, parabens, triclosan, and phthatlates--from all baby products.

Procter & Gamble (Oil of Olay, Clairol, DDF, Max Factor, and Pantene) eliminated triclosan and DEP.

The FDA is also rethinking its stand on triclosan, an anti-bacterial.

Science is also developing high performance ingredients for personal care. Arbutin, a natural skin tightener, is an example--it out performs Hydroquinone, which i used in the US despite safety concerns, but is banned in Asia and the European Union.

Coming: More oil-free oils--yes, that's what I said. These mimic the skin's lipid layer. Squalene is one.

And some substances are crossing from prescription to Over-the-Counter. Hyaluronic Acid is one.

Also keep an eye out for electronically-charged bio-minerals.

I still use the Queen Helene Mint Julep Mask--have you ever tried it? Old school, baby.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

If, ands, and ... butts

Acting Surgeon General Boris D. Lushniak is pounding on smoking again. I always think of those middle-aged guys ranting about "reefer." But they are doing that, too.

Still, cigarette smoke contains unptyzillion bad chemicals that can't be too good for you. Now, in addition to blaming smoking for heart disease and lung cancer, they are adding liver and colorectal cancer.

Oh--also Type 2 diabetes, age-related macular degeneration, erectile dysfunction, and rheumatoid arthritis.

And--every other human organ problem.

Forty-two percent of adults smoked in 1942. Now 18% do.

Still, since 1964, more than 20 million Americans have died prematurely.

Yet--each day teens try their first cigarette. My daughter--unbeknownst to me--started at age 12. I weep.

I ask her to quit but she says she does not want to. She is 32 now.

If you are thinking of quitting this EXPENSIVE habit--base it on money not the health blab if you want-Walgreen's has a new program--and it's free. You don't take those weird drugs on TV that say your suicidal thoughts may increase.

Check out http:///

You can do it--but sadly, you need to want to do it.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Docs now expected to bone up more

Laura Landro, WSJ, Jan 21, 2014, says doctors now face new requirements to stay certified.

Does this include doctors in AZ? I have never met worse ones in any state.

Now, physicians get recertified every 10 years--but the American Board of Medical Specialties has been asking that doctors show they are current more often. The American Board of Internal Medicine, for instance, asks doctors to choose continuing ed activities at two years and five years--within the 10 yrs.

These activities include taking open-book tests, or projects showing how their practices help people with chronic conditions. They also must conduct patient surveys about their practice and bedside manner.

In short, they are asked to keep up with their field, listen to their patients, and improve.

Clinical skills--studies show--can deteriorate over time. Doctors also become complacent.

Some doctors have resisted the new dictates--or even sued. They contend that state licensing requires them to be current.

As a devil's advocate--what if you had to take courses in your field every 2-5 yrs? Still, I have ailments caused by poor doctoring, so I tend to think this is a good thing.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

How we eat

Odd but true...Some weird facts about Americans and what they eat, from the Jan issue of Food Technology, written by Elizabeth Sloan.

--In a single day, Americans typically eat and drink 14 kinds of foods and beverages. These include but are not limited to sandwiches, fruit, veggies, soft drinks, milk, coffee, potatoes, salty snacks, juices and cereal.

--Forty-five percent of Millennials and 24% of Boomers have a special diet, such as vegan or gluten-free.

--Millennials eat around the clock.

--One in five people eat one snack a day or more.

--Savory beats sweet.

--A majority of consumers say they like it "hot."

--More than half of adults buy specialty oils, chocolate and cheese.

--Half of all adults have bought prepared food at a convenience store.

--One-third of adults never skip breakfast.

What surprised me? Maybe that people buy those weird orphan hotdogs going round and round at 7-Eleven.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Recommendation: Movie about cancer--50/50

I am late to the party. My excuse--just got a cable (er, modem) system where I can afford movie channels.

Anyhow, I enjoyed the movie "50/50"--even though it's about having cancer. Or maybe because it's about having cancer and it wasn't awful.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Third Rock from the Sun) plays a 27-year-old diagnosed with tumors on the spine. Back pains, night sweats--bam!

His best friend played by Seth Rogan is a jokey, outgoing sort, sorely tested by this event. But he hangs.

There were a couple of things I really liked.

First, the muttering doctors spewing medical word salad and avoiding the bottom line. One doctor even dictated notes expecting the young man to somehow extract his diagnosis and future from the blast of medical blah-blah. I had an eye doctor who did that. Really, really bad, doctors--quit doing it.

The second thing I liked is how the protag did not WANT everyone's help and sympathy--he felt funny about it.

He bonds with some older men in the chemo chairs better than with his cheating girlfriend or even at times, his best friend. That's because he had entered Sick World, as I call it.

Rent this movie if you want. You won't be sorry.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Chewing gum--sane or sin?

I remember back in the day, a friend of mine and I used to chew gum on Saturday. Only that day. Once, we went to the mall, shopped all day, then got back in the car--and our jaws locked at the same time. We could not open them even to laugh our guts out. Soooo...good times.

The WSJ tackled the weighty subject of gum chewing. Jan 14, 2014.

The minute you toss a piece of gum in your trap, the brain thinks digestion is starting. A bunch of fluids come out. When nothing gets digested, the fluids can make you feel yucky.

Also, when you chew gum, you swallow a lot of air--we know where that leads. A peppermint taste can also promote reflux--or the backing up of stomach acids into the esophagus. Heartburn!

And then there is sorbital-a sweetner in many sugarless products. It can work in many people to cause diarrhea and cramps.

Science also does not support the claim that chewing gum makes you feel full and cuts cravings. In fact, by starting digestion, it may MAKE you hungry.

And then we come to the jaw issues--the chewing can increase clicking and discomfort if you are prone.

But--and there is come good news--chewing gum during a task can increase brain power. Or so says one scientist--who always takes gum along when he plays golf.

If you must chaw and chap, chew sugarless after a meal. It will clean your teeth.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Do-overs not good when it comes to surgery

My sister and I have one fundamental tenet of medical care--once you cut something, it is never the same. Tissue is gooey, frangible--a second surgery in the same area adds to scar tissue, misplacement of structures, and so on.

Of course, "never the same" CAN mean less painful, more functional--but it doesn't always.
Take joint replacement. A doctor at the Hospital for Special Surgery in NY says he is seeing a sharp upturn in people coming in for revision surgery of knees or hips.

Implants can "loosen." Some artificial joints can break--from a fall, say. They can dislocate. In some awful cases, they can develop a long-term infection. Or the device can be recalled.

Joint revision surgery is much more complicated than the original.

Patients with a "bionic" part should avoid overusing the joint. This means maybe not run or play tennis.

Avoid "jumping" sports--trampoline, basketball.

Maintain a healthy weight.

And--always--find a doctor who does a lot of the procedure you want done.

If you get a bacterial infection elsewhere, ask your doctor about it getting into the joint.

Sudden pain the joint? Sudden trouble getting up or around? Call the doc!

I admit to being a baby--but 4 surgeries on my detached retina resulting in a blind right eye has not resulted in my wanting knee replacement. Sure, they say it's great. But people say a lot.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Website owner insists wellness programs do work

I honestly did not know which of my daily sites to put this on--health or coping with the economy ( So I am putting it on both.

When I wrote about how PepsiCo's "wellness" program was a little underwhelming on this blog, the VP of said his approach was working with health goals.

The "spire" part, he told me, came from aspiring to do something, conspiring with others to make it happen, and then inspiring others--which starts the cycle again.

I liked the wordplay.

This "community" was founded by soccer players in Chattanooga--and is designed to give you "team" backing in everything you do.

You post on the steps you take toward your goal and the others have 300 "points" a day they can kick over to you or others in response. These can be exchanged for discounts.

Companies can also make up their own teams--say for health goals.

They asked me to join up--I said I was too grouchy. But it might be fun. I am thinking about it.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Teens OK drivers--at first

With the lack of driver's ed, and the hodgepodge of state learning requirements, most teens start out driving cautiously.

Then they get cocky, and begin to multitask. Dialing cells, eating, gabbing with passengers, even texting (illegal many places).The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and National Institutes of Child Health and Development published on this in the New England J of Med, Jan 2.

Drivers from 15 to 20 represent 6.4% of all drivers on the road, but account for 11.4% of fatalities and 14% of crashes resulting in the police and injury.

Cell phone use gets the worst rap, but eating and looking at things out the window are just as bad.

Anything that takes the driver's eyes off the road (or the hands off the wheel) is a risk.

The researchers compared a 100-car study of drivers between 18 and 72 with 20 years' experience with an 18-month study of 42 teens who had licenses less than 3 weeks. They outfitted the latter cars with cameras and video.

For the first six months, the novices engaged in secondary tasks less than the more experienced drivers. But by month 7-15, they matched them, and then passed them in months 16-18.

Well, cut it out! I could be in the other car. The life you save could be your own--or your little brother's or your best friend's.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Limits of meditation

Many people swear by meditation to center their lives, calm anxieties, keep them on a diet, improve their relationships, you name it.

I keep thinking I should try it myself--I used to do it back in the day when I did yoga daily. Was I healthier, funnier, more focused? Of course--I was younger.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins, JAMA Internal Medicine (Jan), looked at 47 previous studies of meditation. All were randomized clinical trials--involving a total of 3,515 people.

Participants did either mindful meditation (present-focused awareness) or mantra meditation (concentrating on a word).

Apparently only mindfulness meditation produced results, improving mild depression as much as an anti-depressant.

To be honest, the researchers could not find that many mantra studies--perhaps accounting for the lopsided results.

Overall, the effects of meditation on stress seem to not be confirmed.

People who come to meditation class, one researcher said, are suffering in some way and meditation does not seem to relieve that.

I would question that point--they might want to slow down, but is this really suffering?

The doctor said it helped them "relate to their stress." I am not sure what that means.

No evidence of harm from either practice was found. So, what can it hurt?

Friday, January 10, 2014

We say we do more exercise than we do--well, duh

In Ann Lukits research roundup, WSJ, Jan 7, 2014, we learn that people lie about how much they exercise.

Since lying is the new way of every day speech, to me this is almost a given.

Some scientists published a study in the Jan issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise involving 1,751 men and women from 18 to 84 (Norwegians). Close to half--47%--were fat.

Each person got a questionnaire and an activity meter to be worn on the wrist.

They measured movement and sedentary times.

The total time spent on activity between men and women was about the same, but men reported 56 additional minutes of walking and moderate exercise. Women over-reported by 52 minutes.

As for vigorous activity, men and women reported 20 minutes and 12 minutes, respectively--but the wrist meter said 2.9 minutes and 2.4 minutes. Ooops.

Both men and women under reported the sedentary periods, with women being a little more honest.

I am surprised men and women were so close. I think of macho guy types as wildly overhyping their manly workouts. I guess I was wrong.

I do have to say--when you are exercising, time just SEEMS to slow down.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

When to toss makeup

Ever put on lipstick and it tastes rancid? Pew.

When foundation "separates" or mascara dries up--time to toss it. Those moist products can grow disgusting organisms.

In the WSJ, Jan 7, 2014, a dermatologist named Gervaise Gerstner, MD, who also consults for L'Oreal, was quoted on the subject.

Germs in makeup, she says, come from how it is stored and how it is applied. Most makeup is in the bathroom--humid, moist, a germ paradise.

When applying makeup, crud from your fingers or lips can get back into the container. They are having a party in there!

Mascara and liquid eyeliner are the worst. All kinds of things can jump into eyes--and out of them.

Lipstick can touch cold sores. You can clean lipstick with a tissue dipped in alcohol.

Makeup brushes should be washed at least once a month.Dip them in baby shampoo, rinse, and dry on a clean towel.

Makeup sponges--bad. Don't use them. Or throw them out once a week.

Never use abrasive, exfoliating sponges...mais non!

Avoid makeup in jars, too--go for pumps or tubes you can squeeze.

Also--keep makeup away from the toothbrush area. Toothbrushes can carry more germs than the toilet.

Oh, that's good to hear.

Blush or flush.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

PepsiCo's workplace wellness plan did not impress

In the most comprehensive study of employer wellness plans ever published (J of Health Affairs, Jan), Rand Corp researchers concluded that the seven-year PepsiCo wellness plan had not saved the company more than it cost.

Such plans are a $6 billion a year industry. They promise to cut absenteeism and reduce medical costs by preventing expensive illnesses. They help people quit smoking, lose weight, and screen for cholesterol, BP, cancer and other conditions.

Half of employers with more than 50 employees had these in 2012. They are also a mainstay of Obamacare.

Sometimes the programs push people in by penalties, other times by cash incentives.

Many employees think they are too pushy--requiring self-exam of testicles every month or asking whether a worker plans to get pregnant. Even requiring young people to get cholesterol screening seems like a waste of money and time.

PepsiCo did not comment.

It was also pointed out that company disease management programs--such as having a nurse call diabetics every month--yielded a payoff of $136 per person by avoiding as many hospitalizations.

I heard recently about a guy who was gigged an extra $100 a mo for insurance from his employer because he had not seen his doctor twice in the past year.

We used to have Big Brother. Now we have Big Doctor.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Gwyneth, Gwyneth--people may listen to you

A sassy UK blogger took on actress Gywneth Paltrow's "diet." Let's see, what was the word she used? Oh--I know--insane.

Sure, Paltrow is stick-thin, or maybe to some, a little scrawny. According to this blogger, Kate Moss once said, "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels."

Kate Moss was well paid to be a coat hanger and with the help of coke, sort of was one.

But some foods do--let's face it--taste better than skinny feels.

Paltrow's new "winter" diet is 300 cals a day, according to this. She calls it a "detox." I guess your body throws off substances as it fights to maintain a pulse. Paltrow won't eat: gluten, shellfish, anything processed incl soy, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, condiments, sugar, alcohol, caffeine and soda.

Hmmm. So what does she eat?

Herbal tea, one carrot blended into soup, a handful of seeds, hot lemon water, maybe lentil soup.

Calm down, Gwyneth, the blogger gasped. You don't want to overdo it.

If you were thinking of going on a "juice fast" or an all-foods fast, think again. Your body will slow down and when you get bored with it, will go into a frenzy packing weight back on.

If you must, add a couple of fruit and veggies a day. And not every meal calls for dessert.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Take it slow if you're a slug

You may have already done this. You get up around the first of Jan and lace up the new running shoes and race off.

Or you walk up to the weights and jerk one off the stand.


There are half a million workout-related injuries a year. You don't want to be one of them.

Joshua Harris, MD, an orthopod with Houston Methodist Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, says start slowly.

We have all heard this and we have all not done it.

Wrist sprains for improper lifting. Ever had that? Keep your wrists straight--don't let them fall back. Start with lighter weight and more reps. And maybe stick with that everyday.

Work with a trainer a few times--get the muscle memory of doing it right.

Mix up your workouts--not all one exercise.

This sounds so familiar. Oh, that's right--I write it a lot. Well, listen. It will hurt less.

And--you may stick with it.

Friday, January 03, 2014

ERs not emptying soon

According to a story in the NYT, the new health law may increase ER visits. Sabrina Tavernise writes about this Jan 2, 2014.

The idea is that people with insurance will now just go to their doctor instead of piling into the ERs.

In Oregon, they looked at this. The had two groups--those who got Medicaid in a lottery and those who entered and didn't get it.

The insured people went to the ER far more often.

They claim to not know why this is. I can tell you.

--They think the insurance will cover most of it.

--The ER is handy. You can have two jobs and go to the doc late at night.

--You can get all tests at the ER--and not hare around town finding an approved imaging place and an approved lab.

--If you are pretty sick, the hospital is right there.

--And my favorite--primary doctors often SEND you to the ER. This happens when they don't have or run out of same-day appts or if your problem sounds bad.

ERs only account for 4% of spending anyhow. But, yes, the charges there are crazy--two stitches for $3500. That kind of thing.

One expert said people would quit going so much when their "new plans" cut in and they had to pay the deductibles. Oh, joy.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Bracing your elbow or knee

Laura Johannes, WSJ, Sept 17, 2013, points out that with any repetitive motion, such as a golf swing, tendons can get inflamed.  This can get so bad the hand can hardly move.

Some people think braces (straps) below the elbow can prevent golfer's elbow (pain on the inside) and tennis elbow (the outside).

These are called "counterforce" braces.

Elbow tendinitis can take eight months or more to heal. Usually, docs recommend a lot of approaches--icing, anti-inflammatory drugs, and physical therapy.

And some find counterforce braces effective--strapped three inches below the elbow. Or a full elbow sleeve.

These may "confuse the nerves" and reduce tension on the tendons.

They seem to help about half of those who try them.

A doctor at Johns Hopkins says they are not expensive--why not try them?

Also be sure you are doing the activity correctly. This kind of pain can be prevented.

Yes--prevent pain! I have it and you are going to want to dodge it if you can. Confusing nerves sounds like a great way to go.