Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Creepy little sensors

What do I really think? I think all this stuff with your phone spying on your health is disturbing.

Now, Robert Lee Hotz, WSJ, Apr 22, 2014, says there is a digital tattoo that transmits skin temperature--in AZ, make that HOT.

A pliable pacemaker will be wrapped around a beating heart.

An implant that controls pain.

This is called personal medicine.

OK, a special contact for glaucoma would be a good thing. If eye pressure rises, you would know without a trip to the doc and the drops and the stick in the eye thing.

Another set of implantable devices disappear when not needed--instead of staying in the body forever.

A bandage will tell you when the wound is healed.

Science really is pretty cool, despite the sniping of grouchy bloggers.

I draw the line at being chipped, though.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Toothbrush or healthy lollipop?

Fresh-Tips(R) is a disposable toothbrush and a "healthy lollipop."

It was invented by Dr Deborah Luis, a dentist and mother.

The "paste" is peppermint sweetened by natural xylitol. The bristles are bendy rubber.

There is even a flavor for kids--Bubblegum.

You put it in your mouth and swish it around--like a lollipop.

Go to A 50-pak is about $20--with smaller numbers also available. You can try five for $4.95--which is shipping and handling.

I have gotten stomach troubs with xylitol before--but this contains only a small amount.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Want to be food trendy?

The April 2014 issue of Food Technology, published by the Institute of Food Technologists, lists some functional trends for the coming year.

Specialty nutritionals. These are foods, not supplements. Eat food with more vitamins, minerals, herbs, and Omega 3s.

Get real. Look at labels and stick with foods containing things you've heard of. Half of consumers look for foods with no artificial ingredients. One-fourth buy organic.

Hispanic trends. These are the op users of energy drinks, sports bevs, and 100% juice. Hispanics are also twice as likely to want to look young.

Almost 60% of consumers emphasize protein.

Mothers also buy kid-specific products--with kid-appropriate calorie counts and flavors.

Eight in 10 buyers try to eat "pharma foods" to prevent heart disease and osteoporosis.

Eighty-percent of households eat meatless meals for dinner on occasion--with eggs and lentils subbing for meat.

Performance is also big. Nearly six in 10 adults used sports nutrition products. This applies to kids, too. (Just kidding on the picture--feed them, don't eat them.)

Weight loss is also changing--with deprivation diets losing in popularity. Protein is in.

Millennials think their eating is healthier, more expensive, more natural, less processed, and better tasting.

Better tasting. Hmmmm... Maybe there is something to this.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Hard to win on whether to take a drug

After my foray into pneumonia and some antibiotic that tore me to shreds inside, I feel like a 5-yr-old sealing my lips against the incoming spoon of poison. They want me to take a diuretic--but what if it was THAT that made me feel like urpsing for 2 weeks?

Now, I read that more kids are being given codeine-based meds in the ER, despite FDA warnings that this can hurt kids' breathing. My Mom, bless her, was also prescribed Darvon in the ER--I knew it had been discontinued--I complained but was told, "Doctor would not give anything harmful."

I have been told many times that all drugs have side effects and it's the GOOD ones we are trying to get, with the risk of getting the bad ones in there, too.

Having said all this, I was prescribed a one-pill "cure" for an ailment last week and gulped it right down. And was queasy and dizzy all the next day.

So I haven't wised up, have I?

Maybe we should a suspend disbelief and go back to the 50s and whack in anything the doctor says.

But I am still hesitant. All these chemicals can't be good--shouldn't we at least ask what it does and how?

Pneumonia is still bad for the age-compromised--you can't just hope it goes away.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Prestigious hospitals embracing alternative meds

Sumath Reddy, WSJ, Apr 22, 2014, says some "big" hospitals--such as The Cleveland Clinic--are giving herbs and alternatives a throw.

Apparently these herbs and herbal combinations have stood the test of thousands of years of use--in China and elsewhere.

One woman with digestive issues was given a concoction that translated into "free and easy wanderer." She was also told to give it some months to show a result.

The Center for Integrative Medicine at Northwestern also reports more referrals from physicians. At first, they said, they were pounding on doors to prove they weren't crazy. Now docs come to them.

The problem is FDA-type proof of effectiveness and randomized trials are largely lacking. In its place--the experience of millennia.

The Cleveland Clinic's herbalists sees people on Thursdays. Chinese checkups are prolonged, many questions, pulses are taken at various body points. A the Cleveland Clinic, the consultation is $100 and followups $60. The herbs are about $60. No insurance.

Often the herbs eliminate symptoms, although they don't "cure."

And sometimes patients see no difference--even after months.

So you take your chances--like all medicine.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

We are blobs of microbes

According to the review of two books, The Amoeba in the Room by Nicholas P. Money, and Missing Microbes by Martin J. Blaser (WSJ, Sam Kean, Apr 19-20, 2014), bacteria found in the oceans alone weigh more than millions of times all the elephants on earth.

Ten thousand bacteria could be squeezed into this period--> .

We have 30 trillion cells each--but 100 trillions microbes. We need them--many--to perform functions, absorbing nutrients, and who knows what.

Well, doctors want to know what. They are wondering if killing microbes leads to autism, gluten allergies, peanut allergies.

The mystery within.

I just took a strong antibiotic, which permeated me, made me smell funny and killed who knows how many critters, good and bad. I no longer have pneumonia, but I still feel funny.

And not "funny" ha ha.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Dirty money

Luckily, I have no money. But recently, for those of you who do, New York Univ did a study on microbes clinging to currency. Robert Lee Hotz, WSJ, Apr 19-20, 2014, wrote about it.

Probably this is one of those things better to not think about.

Hundreds of types of bacteria ride along on money as it changes hands. Three thousand types!

Most of these were not even known to doctor-kind.

The most abundant one was the microbe that causes acne.  Others were linked to ulcers, pneumonia, food poisoning, and staph infections.

Microbes even grow and reproduce on money. It's because wallets are body temperature. Also human DNA is found on money and is a growing medium.

So, what to do? Hope for antibodies?

I remember reading that all paper money has some cocaine on it. That was more amusing.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Yes, I went to the ER

I try to do all this stuff so you readers don't have to. Aren't I nice?

I have had trouble breathing for about five weeks. Really gaspy. Finally, I called my doctor and asked for ...I didn't even know...a referral to a lung doctor? Ten days went by.

Finally I got up, was breathing like a fish on the dock, and my daughter and I got a cab to the ER. I thought about urgent care, but what if they sent me to the ER anyhow--I was pretty wrung out--even getting in the stupid Prius cab with my bad knees was daunting.

Basically, the ER means asking for other other opinions. First, I talked briefly to one ER medical doctor, who informed me that I was too wordy and incapable of giving a short answer. This--30 seconds into his so-called history-taking. (It was 8 AM--not busy. Guess he had somewhere else to be.)

Then I was put in a mid-level area--no gown, no bed--just tests. Blood tests and chest x-ray.

Then a Physician Assistant showed up--he informed me I had pneumonia and probably Congestive Heart Failure. What? Well--go see a lung and a cardiologist.

So now I am tagged with a "Big Diagnosis"--seeing my "real" doctor tomorrow. I have had eight cardiologists--and in the course of this, several treatments that almost killed me and one that did render my right eye sightless.

So now what?

Is the ER doc right, my doc wrong...I have to decide. The medications they gave me to "drain" my legs etc made me nauseated and sick for almost two weeks. Am I to be on this the rest of my life?

But hey--this morning I walked the length of my house and was not winded! Yay!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Gateway prescriptions

I don't know if drug dealers do this anymore--probably not--but they used to give you the first shot free to get you hooked.

According to Karen Kaplan (LA Times, Apr 16, 2014), now, docs hand out "free" samples--but according to the JAMA on Dermatology, this benefits the drug companies, not the patients.

In fact, Kaiser, the VA, the US Military and many private clinics forbid this.

Yet, in 2011, $6.3 billion in freebies were handed out.

Stanford took at a look at this when it came to acne medicine. A quarter of prescriptions came with a free sample.

Surprise--the free sample ones were the ones most often prescribed later.

Also, the free samples didn't save patients much.

The free samples, JAMA concluded, belong not in the doctors' closets, but their dust bins.

I would add to this that sometimes the older, cheaper drugs are as good or even better.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Even a burp can spread disease

We are burpers in our family. Big time. Gross, huh? My brother can burp all the way to the letter H.

Now I learn than not only do coughs and sneezes spread pathogens--so do belches.

All of these create clouds of "invisible gas"--charming, what? The smaller particles in the cloud actually travel further.

Who says? MIT!

What about this deal called coughing into your arm crook? Nah--you need to use a tissue then wash your hands.

And by wash, they mean WASH. Twenty-seconds and every inch.

At least try to do something. Especially if you eat chili--BA-RAWP!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Coconut fat revisited

Laura Johannes, WSJ, Apr 1, 2014, writes that saturated fat from coconuts may be healthy.

It might even protect against Alzheimer's. ((In mice anyhow.)

But a spokesperson at the Dept of Ag says maybe in moderation--it's too soon to give it a thumbs-up.

Coconut oil has 12 gr of saturated fat per tablespoon--butter has 7. These are medium chain fatty acids--supposedly "better" than long chain.

South Pacific Islanders live on the stuff and have less heart disease. But they are also more active than Americans and eat a different diet. Plus, I think of many of them as being quite hefty.

I like coconut shampoo. What do you think? Like anything else, I am sure this can be overdone and turn into a big oopsie.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Bullets are the least of it

University of Buffalo epidemiologist John Violanti, PhD, says police officers are exposed to many deadly forces. Their life expectancy is significantly lower than the general population's.

Job-related stress is a big one.

And then there are the toxins--meth labs, dead bodies, lead exposure from firearms, noise, radar, blood-borne pathogens, and even fingerprint powder, which can cause lung disease.

And how about biting dogs, obesity, PTSD, high blood pressure, and suicide? Not to mention plain old heart disease.

The hours are irrregular, sleep can be a stranger. Many officers drink, too.

You know those scenes in TV where the "perp" jumps out of a window and runs and the officer also runs...I once asked a cop if this was common--these foot races.

Very, he said.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Advice for sports dads

Gordon Marino is a professor of philosophy at St Olaf College and trains boxers. He had some advice for dads in the Apr 4-5, 2014, WSJ.

He says there is nothing intrinsically wrong with wanting to live through your kids. His athletic career ended with an injury, so he started with the sports with his sons when they were young.

Although neither lad made it to the show, he says his obsession had upsides. Still, when his son scored six touchdowns and he cried--he saw his son's realization that this meant an awful lot to dad.

You need to be realistic, he advises. Kids develop at different rates. One of his sons was great in Little League, but didn't shoot up in his growth spurt and then had to pitch 60 feet. He was so adamant with the boy that eventually the youngster quit baseball.

Be honest with yourself, he tells dads. This may mean more to you than to your kid. Develop some other hobbies.

My dad did this--put his skeet shooting hopes on my brother--who went all the way to the Oly tryouts but did not qualify. Dad was furious and my brother was crushed.

Sports are supposed to be fun!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Sharing earbuds not the worst--but think about it

The warm, moist interior of your ear sounds like a great growth medium for MRSA or other pathogens, but the ear is pretty closed off--and sharing earbuds probably won't send the bad guys raging through your body.

Good news.

The exception would be if you are immuno-compromised by chemo, diabetes, HIV, or a transplant.Still , the risk is low.

In the ew dept, nits from head lice are sticky and could attach to headphones.

So, if you are really freaky about this, clean your earbuds and phones with alcohol from time to time.

If you have a sore in your ear--don't use the earbuds until it heals.

Also--if the cat plays with your ear equipment, clean it often.

The cat?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Time for pizzen ivy

Leaves of three, let it be
Yes, spring is springing and plants are getting ready to attack you.

About 85% of people are allergic to the oil in this nice-looking, sedate plant, found everywhere. There is also poison oak and poison sumac.

Once you get the oil on you, you can spread it to another person or another part of your body.

If you are sure what you have is poison ivy and you are not short of breath or having swallowing problems, you can wash the area with lukewarm, soapy water--this can get some of the oil off.

Wash the clothes you had on.

Wash anything near the stuff--gardening tools, golf clubs, leashes, even your pet.

Leave the blisters alone. No scratching!

If you are miserable, take lukewarm baths with colloidal oatmeal (drug store) or a cup of baking soda.

Calamine or a hydrocortisone cream may also help. No topical antihistamines, though--they can worsen matters.

Then...tough it out 1-3 weeks. If you get infected, ask the doctor.

I remember kids who would rub poison ivy on themselves, bragging that they were not allergic. Well, maybe not the first time...but don't count on that for time number two and above.

Being an idiot, as so often is true, can have its down side.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Certain tree pollen can set off allergies to certain foods

Loyola says the Midwest's tree pollen count is mostly birch and oak--which can trigger allergies to carrots, celery, and almonds. Also linked to those trees' pollen are apples, peaches, and pears.

More than 45 million Americans suffer from seasonal allergies.

Those with grass allergies should avoid melon, tomatoes and oranges.

Ragweed allergies are linked to bananas, cantaloupe, cucumber, zucchini, and chamomile tea.

Allergies can run the gamut of reactions, but difficulty breathing and itchy rashes mean a trip to the doctor or maybe even the ER.

If you are allergic, wash your hair before sleeping to get rid of pollen.

Rinse your nostrils with saline daily to wash out irritants.

Keep windows closed.

Run the AC or air purifier.

Leave outdoor gear such as shoes and backpacks outside on the porch.

Wear a mask or hankie over your mouth when doing yard work.

Nature is not always your buddy.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Ayahuasca, anyone?

It's pronounced ai-ya-WA-ska and it's a psychedelic from the Amazon.

I learned about it in Marie Claire, and apparently the stars (not this one) are all over it.

People make pilgrimages to to the Amazon and to fancy houses to slug this down and find...what...enlightenment?

Carlos Casteneda, call your service. Apparently Paul Simon loves it. And now it's in the fashion studios, lawyer's offices, you name it.

Who knew these people needed to be enlightened.

Like peyote (my past seems so mundane), this stuff makes you vomit sometimes. Small price to pay, right? Oh--and also diarrhea.

Someone said they saw how small their ego was. OK--good to know.

Supposedly you see yourself with unflinching clarity.

The shaman (yes, it has those) blows cigar smoke into a shot glass, following by the murky liquid--then you drink.

People take it many times if they are into it. I wonder what their livers have to say about it while they are seeing everything so clearly.

Someone likened it to spiritual Drano. Well, why didn't you SAY so?

Monday, April 07, 2014

Are you allergic to penicillin?..

They did a study--people tended to eat an unhealthy snack that was placed closer to their hand--rather than a healthy one farther away.

They needed a study for that? Sometimes I wonder why I even do this.

So I am switching to a study on penicillin allergy. Everyone knows someone who is or thinks they are allergic to penicillin.

So this study rounded up stats on almost 52,000 with self-reported penicillin allergies. This was about 11% of hospital admissions.

Yet only 2-5% of the gen pop is actually allergic to penicillin.

In the study the penicillin allergy people were matched with two non-allergic people and after 20 mos, the allergic ones spent 9.9% more time in the hospital.  Women spent more than 12% more time.

The dangers to the penicillin-allergic were C. diff, VRE and MRSA. They did not get penicillin, nor were they tested for an allergy.

The implication is that actual testing might provide docs with more treatment alternatives, including penicillin.

Can we ask for this if we are hospitalized? Don't know.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Rehab for chronic heart failure

I never want to write about this because I am afraid I have it. Six and a half million people do in this country.

CHF is the number one diagnosis in hospital patients over 65.

This occurs when the heart can't pump enough blood to deliver oxygen to the body.

Half the people diagnosed with this die within five years.

All this according to the WSJ, Apr 1, 2014.

They used to tell people with CHF to take it easy--now they send them to rehab to exercise. Three weekly exercise sessions over 12 weeks seem to cut death and hospitalization by 11%. Medicare was impressed and will pay for this form of rehab now.

CHF patients tend to have a lack of confidence in what they can do physically. Yeah--it's that shortness of breath thing.

Still, the docs insist you are not going to die--but work on living.

I don't know if I have it--I do have atrial fib. When I went to my seventh cardiologist, she insisted on a chemical stress test as part of treating me. Simulating heart attack symptoms did not sound great to me.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Aw, let the robot

Gina Siddiqui, Nextgov magazine, Apr 2, 2014, says as a physician she sees herself being replaced by a robot.

Under that health care thing, fewer docs will be staying in the profession. Physician assistants and advanced practice nurses will be elevated, and eventually robots can handle a lot of what we call medical care now.

(I hate the automatic blood pressure cuff squeezing the life out of me...)

First, she says, we have the DaVinci surgical system, operated by a doctor sitting at a computer.

Then computers to remind docs of correct dosages of meds and possible interactions. Well, that's good, thanks.

Now come the virtual avatars called "relational agents" to talk to pesky patients and remind them not to eat and to take their meds. These little devils can even "watch" the pills go down.

She says her generation cannot even examine patients anymore.

She says pretty soon docs will talk about life and death with you, comfort through cancer treatments, and lay healing hands. The bots will be doing the rest.

I know my sister is scheduled for something called "a talking physical." What the heck is that? Who talks--the patient or the robot?

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Ach-choo! Stress! Watch that stress

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, our friend stress can make allergy flareups worse and more likely.

In turn, these flareups can cause a negative frame of mind--more stress. You get where I am going.

Usually the flares come after a day of increased stress--not on the day itself.

The docs recommend allergy sufferers meditate, reduce stress without alcohol and caffeine, ask others for help, make time for relaxation, and eat right.

Washing pollen off things and seeing your allergist for shots is also a good idea.

But don't stress out over it.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Music is lodged in your heart

Scientists from Carolina State University analyzed 50 years of hit songs to identify themes marketers can use to target you.

People tune out commercials but music can grab.

Looking at the popular songs, they found some themes that seem to resonate with people. They are: loss, desire, aspiration, breakup, pain, inspiration, nostalgia, rebellion, jaded, desperation, escapism and confusion.

Not all were popular at the same time--Rebellion was big in the 60s and 70s, and was not even in the Top 10 in the 80s.

Desperation and inspirational leapt onto the list in the 00s. From Sept 11?

The other day a commercial played a snatch of Zorba's Dance from the movie Zorba the Greek, a big favorite of mine. I almost jumped off the couch.