Monday, June 30, 2014

My basic nightmare--a walk with a doctor

There is a new program called Walk with a Doc. This is a nonprofit in 148 cities, offering doctor-led walks in parks and malls.

The goal is to get people up to 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity.

This was started by a cardiologist in Ohio. He gives a short talk on some health subject and then takes people's blood pressure and gives them a pedometer.

And they are off! (I guess the physician comes in handy if something "happens" to a walker.)


I once had to walk with a cardiologist--all around his office building to see if a med he had given me had made me short of breath.

It apparently had worn off.

Friday, June 27, 2014


Remember Seinfeld--his cupboard full of dry cereal? Like him, many people laugh at the notion of cereal for breakfast only.

Sarah Nassauer, WSJ, June 19, 2014, says the American standby is good anytime...or bad . This depends on your POV (screenwriting term for point of view).

My daughter is often seen with a bowl in her hand--she advises chocolate varieties for evening and snacks. Or mix choc and vanilla Chex for a great experience, she says.

According to this story, Kellogg has a starry nite background on one cereal--perfect for evening.

Or the munchies.

Sales of cereal have been flat since 2000--time to eat it round the clock. (Yogurt, protein, egg sandwiches and others are cutting into cereal.)

Also cereal takes too long to eat and you can't eat it in the car.

So now Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Lucky Charms are putting on a full court (bowl?) press to adults.

Also--they advise throwing Cheerios into smoothies for fiber.

Mom used to roast puffed wheat in butter and salt. Yum!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Come on--take your meds and we'll pay you

Lisa Ward, WSJ, June 9, 2014, says there is a Univ of Penn program to pay people to take their meds to prevent a second heart attack.

Weirdly, some people slack off in that situation. Yet not taking it makes you 80% more likely to die in the year following your attack.

They get pill bottles that report in if the bottle isn't opened.

Each day, also, patients can win $5 or $10 (one in five chance) if they take the pills.

The docs say this is mostly for fun--it's not fun to be chronically ill, they add. So a little incentive brightens the day.

No results are in yet on how many lives have been saved or extended.

Living isn't enough--but five bucks would do it?

People, people.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Breech babies can--maybe--be delivered without C-section

You know how medical thinking is always changing. Oh, do we know. Anyhow, according to Jessica Holzer, WSJ, June 10, 2104, some doctors in Germany are rethinking automatic C-section for babies coming feet or buttocks first.

Vaginal breech births can be more dangerous for the baby, but the Germans insist it can be safe under some circumstances--depending on the actual position of the baby.

A very experienced doctor must be in charge.

Some doctors try to turn the baby in the womb using a  number of techniques.

This is not successful in many instances.

Yes, this is a way to cut the C-section rate, but I see it as sort of an outlier with many doctors and pregnant women reluctant to chance it.

And probably with reason.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

5:30--time for din din

People have weird habits--ones they don't like to discuss. For me, it's eating dinner early--like at 2 PM. I never get hungry after dinner, so that ends my food day.

I may be almost trendy now. According to Alina Dizik, WSJ, June 12, 2014,  "early bird special" is no longer a joke about old people gumming Jell-O in the Florida sunshine.

Maybe not as early as 2:00--but often at 5:30--and in some of the toniest joints in the big cities.

People can get a reservation then, for one thing. Sometimes even the most temperamental chefs will accommodate their tastes.

Young couples and groups can eat out instead of drinking out.

Some restaurants even have summer supper menus at a bargain rate--and you can see the movie after, not eat after.

The early dinners almost always last less time--under two hours. There is plenty of time for the second seating at 8:00 or even 10:00.

Good grief--10 PM? I would be asleep in my soup.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Swan, anyone?

Roast swan with mushrooms and oysters--or poached in saffron and peaches.


Why? We chow down on ducks and geese. But swans have been taboo for hundreds of years--though they are now become a hissing nuisance in some states.

Still, it's not legal to hunt them.

The kings and queens of yore were not squeamish about roasting the large, beautiful fowl. They even stuffed them with smaller birds--a la the Turducken. The royals in England and fellows of St. Johns College in Cambridge can eat them, though no one else can. Whether they do is not known.

What would that be called--A Leda Whopper?

Here, Michigan is particular chockful of swans. Celebrity chef Mario Batali says he has sampled. Deep red, lean, succulent.

You lost me at "deep red."

So, what to do--mass murder of the iconic bird or legalization and some decent recipes?

Friday, June 20, 2014

Dr. Dog

Fat dog, fat person--we all know the mantra. But Dan Nguyen, a certified trainer with the National Academy of Sports Medicine, says your dog can be an actual workout buddy.

Working out with Fido (again, is any dog named that?)--he says--can beat the gym.

The ABC's of fitness are Activity, Behavior, and Consistency. The dog will make you get up and move.

Taking the pooch out is a small goal--but a repetitive one. Those add up. Choose an early time of day to start. Be consistent, and have fun!

Going out also exposes you to a little sunlight--which creates Vitamin D.

Vitamin Dog?

Put up a picture of your dog even if the real thing is nearby. This stimulates thought.

Your dog is better than most human friends, Nyugen says.

Your dog loves to move...insists on regular meals...forgives no matter what...gets lots of sleep, and likes being petted, which is good for both of you.

Wah--this makes me miss my dog!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Our clothes will never leave us alone!

In this age of technology, everything nags us--the smartphone, the odometer, the heartbeat counter, the who even knows anymore.

So, of course, we now have a naggy bracelet that tells us enough sun, get inside.

It's the June by Netatmo--after you get in the sun, it orders you to apply block. Then it keeps up with your exposure with calls. "It's for you--the sun."

There are also less "cool" UV meters for about $25, but this one is FASHION for $99. It has sort of a cut jewel-like face.

One wearer--Joanna Stern at the WSJ, June 11, 2104--said the thing had some glitches. But she did appreciate its telling her to apply block when she went to lunch.

It makes you more aware, was her overall pronouncement.

Where do you stand on wearable tech? When someone says you're looking smart--don't they mean cute?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Your medical record may be all wrong

Or partly wrong. According to Lauira Landro, WSJ, June 10, 2104, 95% of records have bad info in them--outdated medicines, wrong doses, even diagnoses.

More than half of all physicians use electronic records now--so this stuff is enshrined someplace forever.

Some places are trying to give patients access to make corrections.

They had my late mother tagged as diabetic at one hospital--she wasn't. I tried to get it changed and they said I could enter a comment, but they would not change something a doctor said. The doctor didn't even say it--some woman was sitting in there tapping the computer--she didn't even ask!

They have found, though, that giving access leads to getting more info and changing what they did. In one instance, 90% of them requested changes in medication doses or removal of things they were not taking.

Sometimes a patient will get a brand-name drug, then switch to generic and both are listed--making it look like the person takes both.

I have had a doctor write SEVERE GALLBLADDER DISEASE and I have never had any instance of it. They saw stones on ultrasound for something else 15 yrs ago. Just within the last two months, I had to go to the ER with breathing issues--pneumonia. They said, though, I probably have congestive heart failure--so now I am tagged with that in some computer.

Sooo...medicine is an art, I guess, not a science. If you want accuracy--you need to go after it.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Team medicine--not for me

I prefer to consult a doctor when I have a problem--not traipse around constantly for images, blood tests, checkups, non-checkup "talks," etc.

I also do not want a ton of info transmitted to the feds. And I don't want the insurance company to be nagging me--you need this, you are overdue for that.

I guess some people welcome this--but I consider it being in Sick World and while I have issues--arthritis, eye problems--I want to decide if they need attention. Certainly my experiences thus far--a blind eye from repeated bad surgeries, for instance--do not encourage me to seek spare bionic parts and everything else that is trendy.

And I don't need this BMI stuff-no more diets! Ever!

But that's me. Certainly when you are younger, some preventive testing such as mammograms is warranted. My daughter, unfortunately, has adopted my bad attitude and says doctors are just looking for things wrong with you.

Well, certainly Kaiser Permanente is, with its teamwork approach, checklists of tests you must have, staff that chases you around urging tests--see WSJ, June 9, 2014, in an article by Laura Landro. They call this Complete Care.

They call it outreach. I call it nosy. I got a checklist yesterday from my insurance company--get this, get that, some of which I got already, some of which I will never get, etc. So based on what they paid out for me, they have no idea what I had--that is reassuring.

I know docs get paid more if they can make you get this stuff. Wasn't that inevitable?

I told my primary I would get blood tests. I will keep my word. But no BMI, no bone density, no colonoscopy (I had one that was botched), no statins (cholesterol OK), etc.

I may look back on this and think I was an idiot. Who knows?

A Kaiser, all this effort did not result in complete compliance.

They do the whole nagging route--and I notice while their numbers are up, still a sizable number of patients miss the mark

PS When you WANT one of your docs to talk to another one--they won't.

iss the mark on cholesterol

Monday, June 16, 2014

Getting sick kids to take their medicine

Jeanne Whalen, WSJ, June 9, 2013, says docs and hosps are looking for ways to get chronically ill kids to take their meds.

At least half those with prescriptions take them incorrectly (Pediatrics, Sept 2013).

This can increase costs and misery (at least $8K a year for moderate adherence and $14K for low adherence on the part of cystic fibrosis patients).

Hosps can send emails or put meds in bottles that monitor when they are opened, but home life can be more of a factor.

Cincinnati Children's studied low-income African-American teens with asthma.

They got counseling--take your meds and you can play sports better, argue with your parents less.

They also got cellphones with text reminders.

The treatment group experienced better control.

Another study at Children's Hosp in DC focused on parents with their own issues. They got counseling and monitors on their kids' inhalers to show them how many puffs the kids took.

Some self-reporting of when people took meds was ineffective--blood tests showed they were not truthful.

Meds after transplants are particularly vital--the children themselves must be cooperative and on top of it.

Around about age 10--they can be a big part of their own health.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Stop and eat the flowers

Back when I was in a couple, we used to eat dinner occasionally at a vegan couple's house--and my ex used to ask, "Will there be flowers?" He was not a fan of dining on blooms.

But chef Matt Lambert, owner of The Musket Room in NYC  (article by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, WSJ, June 5, 2014) grows all kinds of herbs and goodies for his dishes.

A kitchen garden, he says, may be limited in space--so grow "up," meaning beans and vines. It isn't the huge gardens of his mother and grandmother in New Zealand, but will enhance your cooking.

He grows several types of mint---black mint for ice cream, spearmint for petit fours, apple mint for cod with peas.

He loves German basil--a bush with tiny, intense leaves.

He also cooks with flowers--nasturtiums with a peppery taste. He sprinkles them on salmon.

Flowers work well in desserts, he says. Violas and marigolds go with sweets. Marigolds are citrusy. He puts them on scallops.

Snip herbs from the outside of the plant--the part that is going to die first.

Then they can be to die FOR.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Don't worry your pretty head over a MicroMort

The Norm Chronicles: Stories and Numbers About Danger and Death,  by Michael Blastland and David Spiegelhalter is about risk.  I read the review by Jordan Ellenberg in the WSJ--June 3, 2014--not the whole magillah.

They trace the risks of death through the human life cycle--what menaces children for real, then young adults, etc.

A MicroMort is one-millionth of a chance of death. (I know you were wondering.)

MicroLives are about 30 mins of existence.

Use in a sentence? General anesthesia is 5 MicroMorts, about the same as driving 1,200 miles in the US.

But we don't think of danger like this--we think of it in stories. Taking ecstasy and riding horses carries about the same risk--but because of stories, we think of the former as more dangerous. It is way riskier to drive than fly a plane--but we don't believe it.

I never know what this stuff boils down to--usually that I am wrong and stupid. But I am very sure it's dangerous information.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Have you tried "oil pulling"?

I try to stay away from the hippie-dippy stuff if I can, but recently I heard about the ancient Indian practice of oil pulling--swishing high quality oil in your mouth for 15-20 minutes to "pull" out toxins.

What kind of oil? Some say sesame or olive oil, maybe sunflower--but many recommend coconut oil. Other enthusiasts say change it up. You swish until it becomes white and full of bad things and then spit and rinse with warm water and brush.What does this do?

The claims are that it attracts microbes and gets them out of the body--like (pardon) fly paper or something. This improves mouth health, prevents cavities and bad breath and so on.

Bu then come wider claims--almost any bodily ill--arthritis, intestinal problems, eczema, kidney problems--a host of things improved.

So far the studies--small--show oral improvements. So it's your call.

Coconut oil, by the way, is as thick as Crisco--you liquidate it in your mouth first.

Isn't 20 mins a long time? When I heard of this, I thought they meant 20 seconds.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Running "naked"

Not naked naked--naked of trendy devices.

Jason Gay, WSJ, May 29, 2014, says he has taken to running off with no watch, fitness wristband, heart-rate monitor, virtual coach, headphones, music, or smartphone.

The nerve of this guy!

And he actually likes it. He says all the devices were making him into an anxious robot. He brings his key and a five-dollar bill. He leaves a note saying where he is headed--phoneless.

One big plus is that if your body starts to flag or hurt, you will notice--the music or trying to get your heart rate up won't distract you.

And you might even notice a beautiful sunrise or smell a rose.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Why we yell this

When something hurts, we say OUCH! Is that genetic? Is it a natural pain noise?

No--it comes, some think, from the Pennsylvania Dutch word for yow!

Or from some ancient language--no one seems to know.

Does this vary from culture to culture--not really. Ouch seems to be it.

Now--tell me why we say "Well..."

Do we mean, "Hole in the ground, no one knows...?"

Friday, June 06, 2014

New trend in dog chow

Ellen Byron, WSJ, May 28, 2014, says dog food manufacturers are taking a page from cake mix makers--remember how mixes did better when users had to add an egg or two and thus were "cooking"?

Well, now dog owners are feeling more invested by mixing wet and kibble and "preparing" meals for the creatures.

Fifty-six million people own dogs--and I am not one of them anymore, darn it!

Anyhow, some owners go beyond the ceremonial mixing and try for the "happy dance"--meaning actually cooking the dog's dinner, eliciting that exciting running around and pawing.

They mix the specially formulated pet foods and even microwave it.

Purina has a Just Right program--they ask questions about your dog and recommend a custom diet.

Whole Foods is also doing a pet aisle.

There is even a line called French Country Kitchen--no, not just for poodles.

My sister used to cook chicken for her rescue greyhound Jack. One time my brother was visiting and the two humans ate it all before Jack could stop them.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Do you like "alpha sizing"?

Alpha sizes in clothes--are S, M, L or variations XS etc. This is instead of number sizes--double O to...pluses.

Elizabeth Holmes, WSJ, May 29, 2104, delves into this murky world.

Usually an alpha size is two number sizes--example, a size 4 and 6 combine to be a Women's Small, or S.

Of course, different stores and lines do it differently. Oh, great. Chico's, I think, has 1, 2 and 3.

"Leisure" clothes, especially, are getting roomier and stretchier--so alpha sizing is fine.

Alpha sizing also eliminates on-line shoppers from ordering two sizes and returning one. Also it's cheaper to make a smaller range of sizes.

Men also are less picky about fit--and can pick up clothes more easily.

Even bras are alpha-sized sometimes now. One brand went from 26 sizes to six.

Manufacturers also know if something is too big--the customer will try the smaller--but not always the other way around.

I read the other day about a Japanese size and saw the label in a picture--FAT.

Yeah, well, sputter sputter--I hate sushi! So there.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

What "your poison" does to you

Sam Kean (WSJ, May 24-25, 2014) reviews Adam Rogers's book Proof: The Science of Booze. I read the review--reading the whole book would cut into my drinking time.

First, he distinguishes between the effects of alcohol on the physical body and then on the metaphysical one--the depression, sadness and fear for the future of contemplating a night out.

He says that happening on fermentation and booze was the biggest single event in human history. So we know where he is coming from.

Not the acquisition of language? Fire? No!

Even now making booze is a combo of science and hunch. Some distillers blast music at their barrels as they age.

The look of the bottle, the ambiance of the bar or location, even nearby colors of the product govern enjoyment of booze.

He even goes into hangovers--the current popular notion is that hangovers are caused by dehydration. Nope--now they think they are inflammation, like an infection.

Even the experts aren't sure and grope for aspirin.

I'll drink to that.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Can you spare some dirt?

Scientists are on the hunt for new microbes that might cure diseases. Where do these hang out sometimes--in dirt.

Researchers at Sean Brady's Laboratory of Genetically Encoded Small Molecules at Rockefeller Univ are using genomic sequencing to investigate organisms that live in soil.

But they need dirt from all over--more than they could gather themselves.

They have already looked at 100 soil samples from two regions of the United States.  They hope to incorporate many more samples.

Bacteria have already produced or inspired many antibiotics and cancer-fighting and immune-suppressing therapies.

But there are a lot more bacteria out there.

For some reason, arid soils seems to contain more promising microbes.

Want to help? Go to and sign up. You will get instructions on how to send in dirt from your location. It's pretty simple--basically a sandwich bag with a couple of spoonfuls in it.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Requiem for fallen foods

David Sax, author of The Tastemakers: Why We're Crazy for Cupcakes and Fed Up with Fondue," had a piece in the WSJ, May 24-25, 2104, about foods that have slid from popularity.

Remember Baby Spinach? This was the rage from 1992-2007. But it was delicate and hard to ship and finally succumbed.

Chocolate Lava Cake (1987-2005), well, maybe it was not destined to thrive.

Fondue (1956-1978). Did I ever even make it? Dip apples? Dip bread? Memory fails.

Frozen Yogurt (first time)--1981-1998. It was sweet, maybe even sweet with candy or jam, cold, so like ice cream but OK for you...then came mean old Gelato.

The Atkins Diet--now sort of the Paleo Diet--but it died with the founder. (2002-2005)

Clear soda--Crystal Pepsi. It only made it a year, from 1992-3. Gone and forgotten.

I tend to bring things back--like Jello. With canned spray whipped cream. Yum! Water and air never tasted so good. It never gets old.