Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Eye grub

Are carrots good for your eyes? Actually, yeah.

They are one of many foods that contribute to eye health, according to JamesMcDonnell, MS, pediatric ophthalmologist at Loyola.

He suggests "a colorful plate"--greens, blues and reds.

You need some astaxanthin--protects eyes from developing cataracts, macular degeneration, and blindness. Seaweed and wild salmon (not farmed) provide this.

You should emphasize Omega-3 against age-related macular degeneration. This is oily fish such as tuna, sardines, herring and salmon--once a week at least.

Have you had your anthrocyanins today? This stuff is good for corneas and blood vessels in the eye--you get it from blueberries, bilberries, and especially black currants.

Of course, our friend Vitamin D is good for eyes. This comes from fish oil, fatty fish, egg yolks, and (er) beef liver.

On the side, have some zeaxanthin--yum--found in dark, leafy veggies such as raw spinach, kale, and broccoli, collards, and romaine.

Also good--bioflavinoids--tea, red wine, citrus and cherries.

And of course, beta cartoene--carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, kale, and butternut squash.

And finally, get your lutein--eggs from organic hens(as opposed to robot hens?). You can also take a supplement made from marigolds for lutein.

Some of this sounds well...almost delicious.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Evils of polypharmacy for oldies

I hate the word "seniors"--makes me think of high school. But Ginah Nightingale, PharmD, assistant professor in the Dept of Pharmacy Practice at Thomas Jefferson University in Philly, likes the term and says every senior's medicine cabinet probably contains scores of pill bottles.

When a cancer diagnosis comes into the mix, the possibility of interactions becomes even more complex.

She admits, however, that there is a lot we don't know about inappropriate medication use for seniors with cancer.

Her findings were published in the J of Clin Oncology, Mar 23, 2015.

Sixty percent of cancers occur in people over age 65.

In this study, a multidisciplinary team  of oncologist, geriatrician, clinical pharmacist, social worker, and dietitian looked at the pharmacy of 234 seniors.

Forty-three percent were taking more than 10 medications, and 51% were taking inappropriate meds.

They pointed out that even an able-bodied and minded adult could not keep track of 10 meds.

This assessment is now a baseline, the researchers say, for trying to customize medications for older cancer patients.

I am back to my usual admonition--ask your doctor about each med--what does this do and do I really need this?

You would think THEY would stay on top of it, but they don't.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Exfoliation might not be for everyone

What is exfoliation? Basically it means rubbing off your top layer of skin. Supposedly these are the dead skin cells--leaving fresh new skin underneath, all glowy and fantastic. This also allows topical ointments to penetrate better.

The problem--according to Mary P. Lupo, MD, clinical professor of dermatology at Tulane--is that that this approach is not optimal for all skin types.

You may benefit if you have damage from excessive sun exposure or have or had non-inflammatory acne.

But you need to proceed with caution. Individuals with inflammatory acne (cysts and pustules) need to talk to a board-certified dermatologist before scraping away. The more aggressive chemical or mechanical treatments can make you skin worse.

Also, if you get dark spots after burns or bug bites, aggressive forms may not be for you.

Exfoliation can also aggravate herpes simplex or molluscum contagiosum and warts.

--If you have dry or sensitive skin, stick with milder chemical options, such as salicylic acid peels in a doctor's office. Those with thicker, oilier skin may be able to use strong things--such as 2% salicylic acid wash or a motorized brush.

--How often? Thicker oilier skin types may do it once a day. More sensitive--maybe once a week.

--Be careful buying your own products. No higher than 10% glycolic acid or 2% salcylic acid.

In other words, you can definitely overdo a good thing.

Remember that apricot pit sand people used to scrape their faces with? Do they still make that? I also remember Buff Puffs--barbed wire in a sponge.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Want or need to be in a medical study?

Apple has a new app called ResearchKit.

Studies can take a long time to put together--this can work against participants who might benefit from the medication being tested.

Now, Apple has a way for iPhone and iPad users to swipe--and participate if appropriate.

Using this, people can search and sign up for studies on everything from asthma to Parkinson's.

In the latter case--Parkinson's--for example, applicants may be asked to tap the screen with alternating fingers for 20 seconds. Other studies may ask people to speak or send researchers physical data such as heart rate.

Still another use will be to follow up on breast cancer surgery patients--they will report in on fatigue, cognitive difficulties, sleep problems, and so on.

MyHeart--developed at Stanford, will ID people at risk for heart disease.

Users will be allowed to see their data before it's sent to research teams. This has led to the worry that people may skew their own data--if they consider themselves super fit, for example, and the data does not show it, they may decide not to be in the study.

The researchers think they can winnow these people out.

Fewer sufferers are entering tests...Maybe this will help. Worth a shot.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The kitchen towel--help or villain?

Researchers at Kansas State are on the trail of a household villain--the kitchen towel.

They published their findings in the J of Food Protection Trends.

The first thing they noticed is that participants handled the kitchen towels a lot, including paper towels.

Often they would grab the towel before washing their hands. (Duh--sometimes don't they use the towel to DRY their hands--we do.)

Salmonella can grow on cloth, even if rinsed out in the sink.

The big danger is cross-contamination--meat juices on a counter, that sort of thing.

Some tips:

--Wash hands--don't just splash and dash. Do it when you enter the kitchen.  Also after handling meat, eggs, or meat packaging.

--Wash cloth towels...Use them only for certain tasks, such as drying dishes. Use paper for drying hands.

--The docs say not to use sponges, but even their spouses do. Disinfect often in the dishwasher or 30 secs in the microwave.

--Use a food thermometer--ground beef should be cooked to 160, poultry to 165.

--Have separate cutting boards for veggies/fruit, raw meat, and poultry.

--Put a little bleach and the rest water in a spray bottle and use for counters and other surfaces.

To me, some of this is "nasty neat." I suppose I could change my mind if I got food poisoning.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

How to deal with vitiligo

Vitiligo is blotchy loss of skin color--I think Michael Jackson suffered from it. Anyone can get it, but it is more noticeable with darker skin tone.

It is not contagious or harmful but can affect appearance and sense of well-being.

It starts with small areas of light or white skin--often in areas exposed to the sun. Sometimes this does not spread and sometimes it does. Hair and eye changes can also occur.

This occurs when melanocytes--the cells that produce melanin pigment--die or stop producing melanin.

This is thought to be an autoimmune thing--the body turning on itself.

It can run in families and may be set off by a severe sunburn.

According to Alicia Cool, MD, Advanced Dermatology in Albertson NY, vitiligo is treated by several methods.

--Topical steroid creams--best when used early on.

--Topical immunosuppressant ointments--best for small areas of it.

--Ultraviolet A (UVA) in combination with a med call psoralen. This is used when depigmentation is over 20% of the body.

--Narrow-band ultraviolet B (UVB)--No psoralen.

--Eximer laser--for small areas.

--Depigmentation--Used when the disorder is very widespread or if other things fail. A med is applied to the skin over a long period--lightening all the skin.

There are other methods, too... Consult your dermatologist.

Bottom line--It may be unsightly or disturbing but does not threaten your health.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Babies and stuffy noses

Babies can't blow their noses, so they express their discomfort guess how--fussing and crying.

Yet, says Andrew Hotaling, MD, a pediatric otolaryngologist at Loyola, infants and toddlers get six to eight upper resp infections a year. That's a lot of crying.

Some tips:

Use a cool air humidifier in the child's room. Be sure to clean it properly so you are not blowing mold or mildrew into the little one's face. You may need to open the door.

You can suck mucus out with a bulb syringe--maybe even put in a few drops of saline solution first to loosen congestion.

Check to make sure the tot has not blocked the nasal passage with a bean or foreign object.

Be sure the child gets lots of fluids.

If the baby is coughing like a barking seal, it could be something more serious than sniffles. Check with your doctor.

Also watch for chronic snoring. It could be enlarged adenoids.

Avoid exposing the child to smoke. Even if you do not smoke in the same room, the irritants can get into fibers and upset the baby's system.

Once, when my daughter was clogged, we sat for hours in the bathroom steamed up with the shower. Also a thought.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Gardening can be physically difficult

Spring is in the air--the birds, the budding trees, even yardwork looks like fun.

But the American Chiropractic Assn says it's important to stretch your muscles before reaching for the shovel and rake.

The back, upper legs, shoulders, and wrists are major muscle groups affected by yard work.

--Prop your heel on a back door step, knee slightly bent. Bend forward until you feel a slight pull in the back of your leg--the hamstring. Hold 20 secs. Relax. Do it once more, then twice on the other leg.

--Stand up, get your balance, grab the front of your ankle from behind and pull your heel toward your buttock--hold 15 secs. Do again, repeat on other leg.

Stand, weave your fingers together above your head, palms up. Lean to one side for 10 secs, then the other. Do this three times.

When using outdoor equipment with a strap--use it as instructed.

Alternate the side on which you are doing work.

AND--this is from me--never mow barefoot or in flip flops,. That is a terrible way to get a pedi.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Water, water everywhere...what? It's not?

Water and I go way back. I used to sell water filters. I had a bottled water client. I remember one fact about water that stuck with me--all the water the earth will ever have is here now, in one form or another--if it evaporates and trillions of tons do each day, it falls back down as rain. If we muck it up with contaminants--it is ruined unless we can clean it.

It's not like water is coming down to earth from other planets. What we have is it.

A website called Able Skills -- http://ableskills.co.uk/water-facts/ -- has some other facts about water, which by the way, may become the most disputed commodity on earth, surpassing even oil.

-- We need 200 million liters of water a second to grow food.

--One cotton t-shirt took 25 baths of water to produce.

--A mug ig beer takes 91 liters of water to produce (but it's worth it!--aw kidding)

--Say all the water in the world was in a 4-liter jug--freshwater would be one tablespoon of it.

--One person in nine has no access to water.

--Half of the world's hospital beds are filled with people with water-borne illnesses.

--Every 20 seconds, a child dies of a water-borne illness.

The Elixir or Life! But more precious than gold.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Who needs soda?

I am not much of a soda drinker, but I know people who are.

Soda, of course, like many convenient, popular things, is "terribly" bad for you. A study in 2011 in Bangor and Bristol showed sugary soda can make you crave more sugary drinks and foods.

According to a study in the J of American Geriatrics, diet soda--diet--is linked to abdominal obesity in adults over 65. The increase in waist size was three times that of non-diet soda drinkers.

So, it's hot and what should you drink?

How about sparkling water--throw in some citrus fruit--or even veggies like cucumbers or maybe some strawberries.

Or--mix sparkling or Seltzer water with thicker, tasty juices like cranberry or pomegranate juice--Jeltzer!

Or put fruit in your ice cubes--it looks pretty, too.

I always dilute juices--even with plain water...Juices are spendy.

What about those already-flavored waters? Like Vitamin Water? They cost and you may not need what's in there besides water.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Taking walks good even if you're ancient

Exercise=good. We get it. As you age and get creakier or experience constant pain from arthritis or fear your balance is going to land you on the sidewalk, walking is more of a challenge.

Now, research in Neurology (online version) says exercise can maintain physical ability, even if mental agility diminishes. The latter may be due to "white matter hypersensitivities."

And -- the converse--exercise may slow brain damage.

Previous studies postulated that better brain activity from exercise came from improved blood flow.

One hundred sixty-seven participants with an average age of 80 wore movement monitors over a span of 11 days.

The 10% most active people racked up levels of 1.5 hours a day of walking.

For the most active, the white matter hypersensitivities did not appear to affect the movement tests.

But--for those with less movement, greater amounts of brain damage were associated with significantly lower scores in the movement tests.

The researchers believe this may mean that exercise makes neural networks more resilient.

Since even middle-aged people have significant white matter hypersensitivities--is it time to hit the hiking trail? Or hobble to it?

What the heck is a white matter hypersensitivity? I may need a walk.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Early signs you may be preggers

From Medical News Today come some tips on whether you might be pregnant--you can maybe detect some of this 8-14 days after ovulation.

The first sign can be a missed period--even though there may be some spotting from implantation of the fertilized egg--but this will usually come a few days before the period is due (I had this).

Nausea can begin as early as five weeks, with most women having some by eight weeks.

The breasts can change--the veins become more prominent, the tissue kind of rubbery.

You may start needing to urinate more.

A feeling of fatigue may come out of nowhere. In the second trimester--you will feel peppy.

You also may feel some cramping without bleeding as the fetus expands.

A stuffed nose can start to bug you.

You may experience food cravings. Try to get enough folate acid (greens).

Ah, the mood changes. You may feel more emotional. !!!

If you jump up quickly, you might feel lightheaded. This should dissipate if you lie down.

Of course, a lot of this could be other things. Get a pregnancy test ASAP if you start experiencing a constellation of these feelings.

Good news? Your call.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Docs in wealthy areas pass out more antibiotics

Are you the type who wants SOMETHING from the doctor if you take the trouble to go? Hey, doc, give me a miracle drug, just something, I feel terrible.

They did a study at Johns Hopkins and found that physicians and urgent cares and mini-clinics in wealthy areas drive doctors to hand out more antibiotic prescriptions--to keep patients "satisfied" with their care.

It's all about customer service now.

Where are you most likely to get an antibiotic? East Coast and Southeast.

Researchers have known for some time that social rather than medical factors contribute to overuse of antibiotics.

There is pressure on doctors to prescribe--or else the patient will find someone who will.

Antibiotics--for the hundredth time on this blog--do not work on viruses! And if people take them for a while, quit before the 10 days or whatever is up, any bacteria around in their bodies gets a taste and then builds up an immunity to the drug without dying.

When that bug then gets into your kid or aged relative, the needed antibiotic may not work! That person could get sick sick sick and even die!

Is there a relationship between antibiotic-resistant bacteria and the zip codes with the accommodating docs and clinics--they are checking.

I would not be surprised, though.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Maybe Valium before surgery not so much

Often, when you are having surgery, they hit you with a tranquilizer to calm you down before any anesthesia is even given.

Now, a randomized trial of patients undergoing elective surgery (done in France) showed that lorazepam before surgery did not improve self-reported patient experiences--and was associated with a longer time until removal of thebreathing tube and a lower rate of return to good thinking.

Check this out in the March issue of JAMA.

The French researchers looked at 1,082 adults younger than 70. They gave the lorazepam to a third two hours before the operating room, another third getting a placebo, and the last getting no medication.

While the lorazepam did cut anxiety before the patients were put under, there was no improvement in the experience from it.

Apparently, the researchers said, cutting pre-op anxiety did not influence patient satisfaction.

I would say---just get it done--give me the anesthesia and get it over with.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

"Cold cap" could save hair during chemo

There is not a female who has not experienced or feared losing her hair during cancer treatment. Chemo kills fast-growing cells such as hair, along with cancer cells--and hair can sometimes fall out.

Tara Parker-Pope, NYT, Mar 9, 2015, says freezing the scalp, a treatment used in Europe, is becoming more popular in the United States. A special frozen cap is placed on the head as the chemo drips in and in some places, for a period after to make the treatment more effective.

One such device is the Penguin Cold Cap--a series of tight-fitting caps similar to bathing caps that can be changed every half-hour--for a rental of $600 a month.

They have done research, not published yet, that shows that most women who used the cap did not lose their hair. It's uncomfortably cold at times--but women seem to tolerate it.

Another one--the Dignicap--may soon get FDA approval--meaning insurance may pay.

One woman said the cap made her look like Snoopy as the Red Baron, but at least with hair, she did not look pathetic and sick.

Some people worried that by slowing the chemo that got to the scalp--cancer could affect the scalp more easily--but there is no science showing this. Also--this only works for chemo for hard tumors--not blood cancers.

Worth asking about?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Sense of purpose=healthier heart

Having a goal in life, a strong sense of purpose, is good for you, according to a study done by Mount Sinai St Luke's and Mount Sinai Roosevelt and presented to the American Heart Assn.

This is defined also as the feeling that life is worth living.  This is not just a general notion--the researchers found a high sense of purpose was linked to a 23% reduction in death from all causes and a 19% reduced rate of heart attack.

This was not original research--but the examination of 10 relevant studies--totalling 137,000 people.

Could this--possibly--be positive thinking? You know how I feel about the unicorn and rainbows stuff.

Actually, I think it's broader--a goal, a mission, no time to die.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Ancient medicine

Hippocrates had to start somewhere. The Feb 2012 issue of The New Scientist had story by Alain Touwaide, director of Preservation of Medical Traditions at the Smithsonian, says renowned doc of old, Hippocrates, would have treated a headache with iris, vinegar, and rose perfume. If the headache was chronic--squirting cucumber.

For a stomachache--dates, hen's broth, and cultivated lettuce. Hen's broth--could that be chicken soup?

Touwaide has scoured libraries around the world--and even the stores in shipwrecks--for nostrums.

Broccoli was huge--and used to treat gyno disorders. Cato thought Romans should grow broccoli as a sort of first aid kit.

Walnuts, and black and white horehound were also popular--as anti-inflammatories. They also kill bacteria, even drug-resistant staph.

An effective malaria treatment--used now--came from the artemisia plant, which was also picked up on by the Chinese.

Ancient medicine was based on 45 core plants, many of which were grown near patients in kind of medical orchards.

In ancient times, skin diseases were very prevalent. Then came digestive problems, urinary, and gyno.

Still, he says--emphatically--he does not try the ancient remedies on himself.

Not even horehound candy? I used to like that.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Never too late for med school?

You know how I am always joking about how we should just GO to medical school and be our own docs?

Well, some people actually do get sick of their "career" and want to pursue their dream of becoming a doctor.

Will your lack of science training be an unsurmountable obstacle?

A program at the Univ of Michigan--Ann Arbor is designed for graduates with no science training--allowing them to be a strong candidate for med school no matter what their age.

It's 14 months long, including:

--Rigorous coursework
--Dedicated faculty advisers
--Experimental learning opportunities
--A Foundations for Aspiring Physicians segment
--In-depth prep for the MCAT and help with the admissions process

This is the only program in the country with MCAT prep, they say. they work with MPrep--a company started by a Univ of Mich student.

After completing this, students are ready to apply to the Univ of Mich or any other top medical school.

You have to have a GPA above 3.5 and should be a US citizen or permanent resident.

Go to http://medicine/umich.edu/postbac.

The school also has programs for grads with science training who seek more training.

So there you go--will you be a doctor sometime in the future? C'mon, now.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Now, now, dear, take this pill

Julie Hollander, NYT, writes on the tendency to tamp women's feelings down with drugs.

I had the day from hell yesterday--trying to get someone to pick up 20 bags of yard waste for under $300! It took four days...I needed to be on a demerol drip or something by the time the nice young man finally toted off the bags. I could have disposed of a body easier!

But I digress.

Women, the article states, are hard-wired to be sensitive, empathetic. They are also better at language. Therefore, emotionality is a sign of health, not disease.

But women are under constant pressure to "control" their emotions, apologize for tears and avoid being called hysterical.

This woman, a psychiatrist, says this is insane! (OK, maybe this is a word she should not toss around.)

Yet, at least one in four women in the US takes a psychiatric med--in men, that's one in seven.

A woman's brain and body chemistry are meant to be in flux. She says think of serotonin as the "it's all good" brain chemical. Too much--you don't care...too little, everything is a problem that needs to be fixed.

Of course, the days prior to menstruation are hormone-complicated. Women may feel more dissatisfied.

The most common antidepressants are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). They keep things "all good."  This may lengthen your fuse, but it can also make you numb.

Some people on SSRIs have less empathy, irritation, erotic dream, creativity, anger and worry.

Sometimes eliminating all of these may sound good but isn't. Proceed with caution,

Maybe more sleep, sunshine, nutrients, movement, and eye contact can also eliminate moods and stress that are becoming problems.

And people who do not try to rip you off would also be helpful!

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Time to clean the medicine cabinet

Why clean the medicine cabinet? One reason is to get drugs out of the hands of teens and younger. Adderall and vicodin were the most popular drugs among 12th graders. Of course, pot was in the mix, too. But that is not usually stored in the bathroom.

Some states are really chasing doc shoppers around and coming down on people filling multiple prescriptions. So look out there!

But there are also big stores of drugs right in many houses.

March 20th is Clean Up Your Medicine Cabinet Day.

--Dispose of drugs no longer needed by dropping them off at designated places in your community--not the toilet.

--Also see if your dropoff place will take over-the-counter meds such as tablets, capsules, liquids, inhalers, creams, ointments, nasal sprays, and pet drugs. Same for needles, intravenous solutions, and other paraphrenalia.

If you stow something on a shelf thinking maybe you can use it later--mistake. Later will be a different ailment, a different person in the family, maybe even a different doctor with different advice. Or the stuff may be too old.

Some meds get stronger--not weaker--the longer they sit. Not good!

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

The cranberry juice cure for UTIs

The New Scientist tackled the issue of drinking cranberry juice to stop or prevent urinary tract infections.

The theory is that the red stuff contains proanthrocyanides, which have an anti-adhesive effect on bacteria in the bladder.

Apparently bacteria can stick to the bladder wall and bury themselves in goo, so antibiotics cannot kill them. They then can come out after a round of antibiotics and start the infection again.

This works for some people, not for others.

One reason it seems to work might be that if people know about cranberry juice they may already be eating a more healthy diet. Or the placebo effect may be in action here.

But all this is far from settled. Some people say a couple dozen glasses a day would be needed--obviously not practical. Those cranberry capsules contain the amount in a few cranberries.

So this varies from person to person. There is basically no science.

But cranberry and vodka--hey, you can forget the pain of the infection, anyway.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Do you consider yourself healthy?

Health and nutrition maven Jane Brody, NYT, Mar 2, 2105, says she always answers questionnaires saying she is healthy--despite a double knee replacement 10 yrs ago, breast cancer 16 yrs ago, a bad back, tinnitus, and high cholesterol.

She says this is OK because she can still walk three miles a day and swim three-quarters of a mile. She shovels, sweeps, cooks, and chases her dog around. She still writes a weekly column at age 74.

The World Health Organization describes health as a stage of complete physical, mental, and social well-being--not just the absence of disease or infirmity."

But what about all that well-being WITH infirmity? Is that health?

Most people--she points out--live longer and age with chronic ailments.

Some scientists says being functional is more important than disease-free.

Yet--we constantly try to find medical problems or head them off--all this preventive stuff. You could spend your life going from test to test--or you could live your life.

The idea that ALL risks can be lowered leads to more risks.

Many scientists also believe it's better to fix a problem than to manage it.

And yet another assumption--that early detection before symptoms is lifesaving--is challenged by some.

Sometimes this turns people into patients years or decades sooner than they would be otherwise.

And--get this! Now researchers think income, education, a safe physical environment, social support, and genetics--among other factors have more effect on "health" than chasing down every risk factor and trying to "fix" it.

Me, I would say my health is fair. I still typed this, didn't I?

As for Brody's breast cancer--if it had not been detected, would she be writing? See? Not simple. You have to decide for yourself.