Monday, March 31, 2014

People, people--no human growth hormone

I love my readers. I need my readers. Shirley S. Wang, WSJ, Mar 25, 2104, again raises the dangers of human growth hormone.

Some people think it grows them a nice young body, other people say it makes cancers grow and can cause earlier death.

Do you want to be buff and dead or normal and walking around? You may not look like Early Days Ah-nold, but you will be walking around.

A lot of people are throwing the dice--let's go for Ah-nold.

There is a study that lower levels of a substance related to HGH called insulin-like growth factor 1 might mean longer life and lower cancer risk.

Yes, some substances tend to diminish in the body as we age. But it might be because we no longer need these levels.

The supposed anti-aging aspects may also not be so great. The muscle you form may not be stronger.

It can also increase cartilage growth--hello, carpal tunnel.

So, you know what they say about fooling Mother Nature. She can be a ... well, she can be tricky.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Half of Americans believe in medical conspiracies of some sort

In a new study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine, half of all Americans believe in at least one medical conspiracy. A team of researchers at the Univ of Illinois studied this and it applies not only to diseases, but also to aliens and secret govt societies.

Gee, would this have something to do with how we can't believe ANYTHING anymore?

So we start just believing stuff?

They questioned 1,400 people--

Does the govt give vaccines that cause autism?

Did a spy agency infect black Americans with HIV?

Are regulators keeping effective natural cures away from people?

And those were just some.

The CIA did spray LSD into the subways back in the day to see what would happen.

The govt did let black men die of syphilis.

So maybe we can be forgiven for pausing...and wondering.

The things that I wonder about--though probably not rising to conspiracy level--is the rash standard of care things they trot out--like putting 47 million people on statins. I also know plenty of people who got a flu shot and immediately got the flu--supposedly impossible.

Are we pawns on the board?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Home ultrasound

Laura Johannes, WSJ, Mar 18, 2014, tackles the subject of small, handheld or strapped on ultrasound devices for pain.

The handhelds can only give about a 15-min treatment, which may be too brief.

The wearables can be used 4-6 hours.

There are several small studies that show some pain relief for rotator cuffs, upper back, pelvis and knees.

Ultrasound warms up the area, which can provide some relief. They provide higher energy pulses than those used for imaging.

Often these are not covered by insurance and can run about $1,000.

Oh--and these are not recommended to be used where there is a cancer tumor--they can increase growth.

Pain is a giant obstacle to many in this country. Even a self-described 20% drop in pain can be beneficial. You have to decide.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Louder music--more exertion?

According to a blurb in the WSJm Mar 18, 2014, fitness instructors routinely play music louder than 85 decibels--the point where it can damage hearing.

The study appeared in the April issue of Archives of Environmental and Occupational Health.

This is bad for the exercisers--but what about the teachers who may be exposed multiple times a day?

Maybe visual stimuli should be explored. The sound levels are defininitely creeping up from a decade a go.

Classes can go as loud as 98 decibels.

Wow!

What?

I said wow!

I will say this--it drowns out the groans.

But if you are jogging on city streets, lour headphone music can be a hazard--and even in the gym or studio, you need to keep it down to a dull roar. You are going to want that hearing for a long time to come.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Docs helping popularize health foods

Kathleen Squires, WSJ, Mar 15-16, 2014, says some Harvard physicians went to the Culinary Institute of America for a Healthy Kitchens/Healthy Lives conference. Actually, a raft of people went--dietitians, nutritionists, educators, sustainability people--and chefs. One guy was both a doc and a chef.

The idea is not to replace drugs with food but to move people to a healthier lifestyle.

They tended toward the Mediterranean Diet principles--fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes, good fats, and good quality meat and dairy.

Dishes full of mushrooms, which can reduce tumors, and sardines are popular. (Salmon is spendy.)

One motto is "Farm before pharm." Catchy.

Still the doctor-chef prescribes blood pressure medicine, statins, and other allopathic remedies.

This isn't extreme--just extremely delicious.

I like sardines. But I am no cook and have not had them in decades. I do remember mashing them with lemon juice and putting them on bread. I guess that is not really cooking. I also like anchovies, although everyone in my family makes gagging noises. Loud ones!

And--just when I decided I loved Wendy's salads, I heard they were "worse" than the burger.


Monday, March 24, 2014

In stressful time, hard to know what to say

As I mentioned, my ex died a couple of weeks ago. This brought up a ton of memories--and also activated his family, which caused a lot of hassle and misery. At the same time, a good friend's mother died, my last remaining aunt on  my own mother's side was hospitalized. I got back in touch with people in DC and learned how changed that scene was (I can never go back). This resulted in nausea, stomachaches, chest pains and my daughter saying, "Mom! You are dying now!"

I don't know what I expected the few people I still know to say to help this, but a "positive attitude" is not something I respond to. I think I just wanted someone to listen until I bored myself --not try to "fix" things.

I heard, "Just remember the good times."

Or, "There must have been good times."

Or the ever popular, "Things could be worse--you could have cancer, too."

Or--"Those people's problems are not yours."

Well, they are if you can't stop thinking about them.

So maybe I strained the bonds of friendship. I probably did. So I am back to brooding--and actually feel things receding--becoming more muffled and distant.

But what if these ARE the good times? Oh. never mind.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Maybe a dog is not the ticket for an older person

There are so many cliches--"The outside of a dog is good for the inside of a person." That's my favorite.

They do studies on how people thrive and are healthier if they have pets.

Unless...Those pets savage them. We have a kid here in AZ clinging to life because a pitbull with prior offenses tried to eat his face off. There is a big debate--euthanize the animal or not. Are these people crazy? I don't want to hear, "Judge the deed, not the breed." The deed is bad!

A grandma out here was killed by her pit.

On the reality show "Flipping Out" with designer Jeff Lewis, Jeff's grandmother, a stubborn old gal, somehow came in possession of a large pitbull--the thing had bitten her and regularly dukes it out with Jeff. They called a trainer, who finally said the dog needed a "higher energy" household. The old lady doesn't want to give him up.

My sister's rescue greyhound was attacked by a pit with priors some yrs ago. He had huge drains coming out of him--the size of garden hoses.

My own daughter leaned over to pet someone's pitbull and it tried to rip her upper lip off. Nineteen stitches!

Dog lovers say it's not the dog, it's the training. Of course, there are "nice" pits--and rotties. But you don't see cocker spaniels being trained for the dog ring. Some dogs are feisty to a fault, competitive, large, muscular, and dangerous.

Don't leave infants, toddlers, older people alone with any dogs. That's my advice. But especially not some of these breeds I have discussed.

I recently rehomed my poodle mix--he was always under my unsteady feet--a danger of another sort.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Before you pop that pill-think

Every year, 3.8 billion prescriptions are filled in the US--an average of 13 per person. Each is approved by the FDA (which is no guarantee), but the combinations are not.

The combinations are on you--and your doctor. Taking a lot of different things is called polypharmacy.

Polypharmacy accounts for one-fourth of all hosp admissions each year. The oopsies.

You get into trouble by getting different things from different doctors with no one looking at the whole picture. You may continue a drug you don't need. Or you may take a double dose because two drugs have the same name, you forget, or one drug works on the side efx of another.

This especially applies to older people, who register more aches and pains and see more doctors, who in turn pump out the meds. A third of seniors take more than five prescription drugs. And then there are the over-the-counter things.

Someone dies of an unintended interaction every 19 seconds. This is more than die in car wrecks.

The next time you go to your doctor, ask if any pills can be eliminated. Over the years, I have refused a number of things. It may cost me, but I am cautious.

Just the other day, my primary said he no longer routinely tests everyone for Vit D deficiency--so many people were ending up on prescription D. Yes, sometimes this is trendy, this stuff.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Video game tech tested to deal with falls

Make fun all you want, youngsters, just wait. When you get older, as a friend of mine put it, you can lean over and keep leaning--she said it was like "the stopper" was broken.

I leaned over to carpet sweep a few feet in front of me and folded to the floor. Bing bing bing. And could not get up! That commercial is no laugh riot, either. I am missing sight in one eye, too--so that side is not constantly lining up with walls and other data points--my balance is wacky as a result. Or as I prefer to say--unreliable.

Between 700K and a million people fall IN THE HOSPITAL each year. I know a woman with a broken hip who fell out of bed and broke the other hip. This stuff really really sucks, by the way.

At the Univ of Missouri, a prof in the nursing dept is working on this. Falls happen in hosps, she says, because people are weak and injured.

So they have tried Doppler radar, sound sensors and video cameras to monitor patients. The video cameras can show what happened before the patient fell--which can be valuable.

Video is replaced now with motion-caputre technology, which protects the patient's privacy.  This is a technique used in video games.

If a person is on the floor, it uses algorithms to decide if they are tying their shoe or if they fell.

They set this up in six hospital rooms--and no one fell--but they did have people simulate falling and the technology identified the falls.

With Mom--and to some degree with me--someone holding my arm is also a big help.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Diabetics--watch out for those tootsies

Barbara Sadick, WSJ, says one big cost of the already costly incidence of diabetes is foot care.

Almost 8% of Americans have the disease. It can cause nerve damage in the feet, which can lead to sores that don't close.

Daily inspection and cleansing of feet can prevent foot ulcers--or help prevent them.

Blisters, calluses, bunions, stepping on sharp objects can go unnoticed.

Diabetics should look over their feet every day for dings, then wash them in mild to tepid water, dry them thoroughly and apply lotion.

Never go barefoot.

Never wear shoes without socks.

Get shoes with a toe box that does not squeeze toes.

Get regular trips to the doctor to cut nails.

I know someone with "problem feet." No picnic.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Health by the digits


Digits used to be fingers--now it means bits and bytes. I saw a TV spot where a forward-leaning doc took out his own cellphone and pressed it to a guy's chest.

Whoa whoa--wait a hot one! I am not sure I am ready for this. But Justine Brown, in the March GovTech Magazine, says our health is being reduced to ones and zeros.

First, the emphasis is on prevention of conditions and management of chronic conditions. Instead of doctor visits, patients can use portable devices to monitor their vital signs and take tests at home. You can continuously monitor heartbeats, BP, temp, oxygen, brain waves and other metrics.

Docs can also tell if you are taking the prescribed meds. This involves electronic pill bottles. Some systems even offer a chance for cash rewards for compliance.

After a stroke, an ankle monitor call tell the doctor how much you are moving around.

At the San Mateo Medical Center in CA, Molly the avatar helps patients in physical therapy--asking them about their pain levels.

The Univ of Utah rigged up a house for older people which tells if the person has fallen to the floor. (I wrote about one at Georgia Tech with many sensors.)

A Smarthaler tells whether asthmatics are using their meds correctly.

At Northern AZ University (in conjunction with Mayo), there is a concussion robot to assess athletes who take hits (a doctor assesses, but the bot is on the field).

I don't know where all this is headed--but I know humans will be the last resort eventually.

Actually, I hate suiting up and trying to get a ride to the doctor. If they stay off my lawn, they can do it remotely.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Live like people will notice

My ex, and father of my child, died unexpectedly this week.

He and I lived together almost 10 years. I left when my daughter was 4 and he did not keep in touch with her worth a flip. His loss.

Now, some woman back east where he lived wanted my daughter to sign off on things as next of kin. My daughter, now 32, stepped up and did what was required--but we decided paying for that was not our responsibility.

His two sisters also tagged up and tried to tell me negative things about him. There were faked hangups when I said let's not go there.

Maybe my daughter will get in touch with her half-sister now. This could be a positive.

I don't want to sound preachy--but who will be devastated if you die? Have you left a positive legacy? Helped others? Been truthful? Been admirable? Been a friend? Been a worthy parent?

Just thought I would mention it. When it's too late it's really too late.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Overtesting in the ER

Barbara Sadick, WSJ, Feb 24, 2014, says use of scans--CT and MRI--increased 12% between 2000 and 2010.

CT scans, for one, have more than 100 times the radiation of a regular x-ray.

With too many tests, you get more false positives--and injection of dyes and other substances can cause problems for patients, too.

Doctors worry they will miss things, and patients often demand tests.

Still, there is a movement toward fewer CT scans for head injuries at low risk for skull fracture and bleeding.

Some hospitals, such as Brigham and Women's in Boston, have special decisionmaking software to determine which tests are warranted. This has resulted in a one-third decrease in CT scans.

Another doctor--from Johns Hopkins--says maybe doctors need more courses on examining physically.

...Instead of peering inside.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Quackery then--but what about now?

The WSJ has a review of a book by Erika Janik called The Marketplace of the Marvelous (Feb 22-23, 2104).

It is about alternative medicine--as it proliferated in the 19th Century. Wild herbs, cold baths, head bumps, hypnotism and more.

Of course these practitioners were branded quacks--but they banded together to fight back. They founded schools, started journals.

And some of the stuff that was going on was worse--bloodletting, blistering, purgatives. The new approaches blended with American forms such as osteopathy (later moving closer to mainstream medicine) and chiropracty (stayed in the spine area).

One "school" of thought focused on the herb lobelia--a purgative.

Still, today, we have cleanses, use water for rehabbing injuries, and many variations on the old ways linger. Chemo, for instance, is a broad brush, killing good and bad cells.

I am not saying chemo is quackery, but I am saying many approaches blend over time.

The author of the review notes that most people get better no matter what is done. Luckily.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Snakes! I knew there was a reason they are creepy

Snakes give me the jeebs. Snakes give a lot of people the jeebs. Turns out, we are not just craven idiots.

The human brain is wired to be fearful of snakes--even people who don't think they are.

This according to a study in Biological Psychology (Feb).

Snakes were among the first dangers to humans and posed a daily threat. So the EW FACTOR was lodged in there early. Heightened awareness--scientists don't generally say "ew." (This does not apply to fear of spiders, since spiders were not early predators.)

Basically they took some Norwegian women, asked them about their fears, then showed them pix of snakes, spiders, and small birds.

The bells really went off on the snakes.

Of course, this was a small study and only involved women. But we all know it's probably on to something, right?

Monday, March 10, 2014

Increasing mobility

Kristine Burnett, AZ Republic, Mar 5, 2014, writes that assistive devices actually make people more mobile, sometimes more than before their injury or disability.

My knees are bad--and my balance--so I sort of creep around. This is pretty feeble, honestly.

Wheelchairs, scooters, walkers, canes, and crutches are becoming more functional everyday.

Do you know what a rollator is? It's a lightweight walker with larger wheels and a brake.

Power chairs are getting more portable.

Forearm crutches are more popular.

And for people with lower leg, ankle or foot problems, there are knee walkers--like a platform for your injured limb.

Physical therapists know all the ins and outs of these. A young person with a temporary disability will have different needs than an older person with permanent impairments.

Sometimes insurance covers only the basics--but you often can rent or get loan of a device. Check out Community Information and Referral Services--cir.org.

Some municipalities also offer "adaptive" services--such as special swimming and golfing. You can even go white water rafting.

Well, maybe YOU can.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Emergency Room, Emergency Dept--how to make it work for you


The term preferred by medical professionals is Emergency Dept (or ED), but most people say Emergency Room (ER), and I am most people.

First, this is  not just a handy place to go where you can get tests done in the same place and then get advanced treatment if you need it. Often, people who go to the ER are disdained as drunks or freeloading illegals--yet doctors SEND their patients there. Urgent care centers send patients there. Some ERs have urgent care centers.Yes, they have to treat you regardless of ability to pay--but this is somewhat limited if you have no insurance..

If it's a weekend (which we call the Black Hole) or at night or if pain is horrible, we go to the ER. Most people there have insurance--ERs count on those with insurance to pay much of the freight.

ERs are infamous for their wait times. We have waited up to 13 hours with our elderly mother--during that time, they won't let you have water or food sometimes, it's problematical. Now, hospitals have put in check-in technology--sort of like an appt. You can even get phone apps for this. This way, even though it's an emergency, you can wait at home until closer to your appt. This is a problem, though, because chest pain really needs to be evaluated fast.

When you go, bring a list of your meds. Write it down now and put it in your wallet. You could even create a "go" folder--meds, doctor, people to contact, allergies, past medical history. Some people put a note on the fridge for paramedics to find the folder. I have never seen a paramedic check.

Try to get someone to go with you. This is especially important if you are old. Sorry to say, older people get shunted aside in ERs--I have seen it happen a dozen times.

Three other hints--leave the curtains or door open--this keeps you in the mind of the staff. And, two, if you have a choice, go at shift change--7 AM is good.

Three, if you are on Medicare and are kept in the ER for "observation," be sure you are admitted and not in some limbo status. If you are not admitted--the bills will tumble in like mad.

Bills come in anyway--some docs in the ER may not be on your plan. The hospital may not even be on your plan. It's a crapshoot.

So make sure the ER is your last resort, not your first.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

College athletes can pay big time in later life

An Indiana Univ study, done in the School of Public Health-Bloomington, shows that compared with non-athletes, those who participate in sports in college experience more severe injuries--but also have more long-term effects interfering with later life.

Former elite athletes also scored worse on depression, fatigue, and sleep scales.

The researchers concluded that Div I athletes may sacrifice their future health-related quality of life for a short career in college.

This is based on questionnaires completed by 232 male and female former Div I athletes and 225 male and female non-collegiate athletes. These were also compared to a similar chunk of the general population, which also seemed to do better in later life.

---Former Div I athletes were twice as likely as non-athletes to report activity limitations in daily activities and exercise.

---67% of the athletes reported a major injury and 50% had chronic injuries--this was 28% and 26% for non-athletes.

--A third of non-athletes had performed with an injury--this was 70% for college athletes.

Since Div I sports are not really found throughout life, the researchers advised, it's important for athletes ti find appropriate activities to stay active.

Does typing count?

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Allergies to wet wipes on the rise

Talk about the cure being worse than the disease. As more Moms handle baby wipes--and more people use them for hygiene and makeup removal--itchy allergic rashes and even blisters are on the uptick.

This according to Matthew Zirwas, director of the contact dermatitis center at Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center.

Apparently these contain a chemical preservative that irritates a lot of people. The stuff was even named Allergen of the Year in 2013.

And just when you think--if it's mild enough for a baby, it must be OK.

Well, it could be the baby, too, has wipe rash, not diaper rash.

The docs say if you think you are allergic, stop using the wipe for a  month. A week or two is not enough time to tell.

The Zirwas guy is an allergen detective of sorts--he even found something on escalator hand rails that was bothering people. People travel from all over to ask him what's up.

Allergen of the Year, huh. Wouldn't want these chems to get a swelled head.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

How about a nano-garden?

This cool-looking thing is a nano-garden. It is about the size of a fridge. It grows your veggies in mineral nutrients, without pesticides or fertilizers.

You can also control how fast everything grows with adjustable lighting, nutrient supply, and amount of water.

It also tells you when to add something.

Since veggies lose half their goodness a week after being picked, growing them in the kitchen is healthier.

Now for the bad news--this is just a prototype--you can't buy it yet. But it might get you thinking about a community garden.

And, of course, thanks to our "buds" in the MJ biz, there are hydroponic growing systems out there--maybe not as smoking cool, but out there.

Monday, March 03, 2014

You may not be sick--maybe you're just a good noticer

Writing this blog every weekday for more than seven years, I am half-sick all the time. Or...am I just suggestible? Sure, I have some "real" things like atrial fib but I am usually more caught up with a stray stomach pang or wobbliness.

Andrea Peterson, WSJ, Feb 24, 2014, says most symptoms are never traced to a cause. Fatigue, headaches--whatever!

So now docs are trying to get such patients to think differently about their "symptoms."

Good health is not symptom-free, one doc points out. Remember that.

When patients pursue every twinge, docs get frustrated and patients get paranoid, thinking the doctor considers them a head case.

One study in Germany, 2011, of 620 primary care patients found that unexplained symptoms accounted for two-thirds of all reported complaints.

Some docs have you keep a symptom diary--what brings on the symptom?

Some patients "health-seek" once a month, coming to the physician. This is actually a disorder.

So...give it a rest. Wait a hot second before rushing off to the doctor. Even distract yourself with fun things to do. Or meditate.

Some patients are very good noticers of every ache and pain--especially abdominal. "The GI tract is very active," notes one doctor. There is a lot to notice.