Friday, September 30, 2016

Way to route signals through your body instead of the air

University of Washington computer scientists and engineers have devised a way to send secure passwords from say a fingerprint sensor to the controlling computer without putting this sensitive info into the "air."

Usually fingerprint sensors are input devices, but now they can send out info confined to the body.

This is more secure.

Say you want to open a door using an electronic smart lock. You can touch the doorknob and touch the fingerprint sensor on your phone and transmit secret credentials through your body to open the door--without letting this info out where it could be intercepted.

The researchers have tested this on the iPhone and other fingerprint sensors as well as Lenovo laptop trackpads and the Adafruit capacitive touch pad, using 10 people with different  heights, weights, and body types.

The receivers can be on the leg, chest, hands, and still work.

Does this vibrate you or fry you or anything? Apparently not.

Look, this is WAY above my paygrade as the wits like to say. I merely offer it.

PS Sorry I missed posting yesterday--my daughter have a terrible gallbladder attack and we spent all day in the ER. Today is her surgery.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

How to build healthier cities

Hey--the bikes are on the walking side.
A new study from Washington University in St. Louis suggests eight ways to achieve healthier cities in the future.

The key is to reduce pollution, climate change, noise, and crime (yes, those killings).

Published in The Lancet (Sept 23), the study titled City Planning and Population Health: A Global Challenge," was part of three-part series released during the annual meeting of the UN General Assembly.

Between now and 2030, we will need to find $58 trillion to upgrade cities globally.

Better planned and designed cities will provide multiple benefits--to health, traffic management, the environment, and the economy.

OK--what do we need?

In this study, eight interventions are suggested to encourage walking, cycling, public transport, and discouraging use of private vehicles.

--destination accessibility
--distribution of employment cross the city
--reducing availability and increasing cost of parking
--designing pedestrian and cycle-friendly networks
--optimal levels of residential density
--reducing distance to public transport
--increasing diversity (no ghettos)

Sounds good.

I once lived in a planned community--Reston, Virginia. It was kind of like a  little toy train town, townhouses, golf courses, little scenic lakes...But I read recently that it was deteriorating.

Can you have a beat-down golf course community? I guess.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Rx for an apple

An apple a day ... well, you know the rest. But what if the doctor did not stay away, but instead wrote a prescription for that fruit?

US food banks are promoting "food as medicine."

One-third of food banks are feeding someone with diabetes and 58% of the user families include someone with high blood pressure (according to Feeding America, a national network of 200 food banks).

Carla K. Johnson, Associated Press, wrote about this. The Oak Forest Health Center in Illinois, among others, hosts "Fresh Truck" visits, providing more than 100,000 fresh fruits and veggies to more than 3,200 households.

Thirty food banks work with health care providers to identify low-income patients who sometimes run out of food.

---Doctors in Idaho add small food pantries to their offices.

--In Delaware, pediatricians write prescriptions for fresh produce--a family can get up to 25 lbs a month.

--Two hospitals in Alabama and Florida offered free lunches during the summer to kids with relatives in the hospital.

Although nutritious food also costs food banks more, people are trying to figure out solutions. Some don't accept soda and sweets.

They are also doing studies on whether food banks can help people improve their blood sugar levels--results expected in 2018.

Instead of "take two aspirin and call me in the morning," we may get "Eat a salad and never call me."

Monday, September 26, 2016

"The wall of silence" in hospitals

I once suffered a terrible reaction to a medication--I was coughing up pints of goop, week after week, I could not breathe, all known side effects of  this medication, but the doctors said oh, no, it was just late-onset asthma.

I ended up in the hospital for five days and was told they didn't know if I was coming out alive.

Through all this, the nurses and doctors kept saying asthma...One nurse even said, "They told you you had asthma, right?" Uh--yes.

So that was their story and they were sticking to it. When I finally recovered, the weirdest thing--no asthma. (The medication dumped out of one's system over a nine-month half-life, they called it.)

The University of Michigan has been testing something they call the CANDOR toolkit since the early 2000s. CANDOR stands for Communication and Optimal Resolution.

The feds have now more or less endorsed this as a way for hospitals to handle an situation in which a person gets harmed in the hospital (not my exact situation--I was inadvertently harmed before the hospital).

With the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality taking this toolkit to the national level, transparency and learning, with the patient at the center, is now possible.

In the 15 years of using this, UMHS has seen dramatic drops in the number of new lawsuits and the number of malpractice cases that make it to court.

Personnel are more free to report situations that cause harm or are a near-miss.

But also out in the open? Appropriate care.  There is a difference between a bad outcome, an allergy, a bad reaction, and bad care.

But at least don't lie. The coverup can be worse than the event.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Could horrible old nicotine ward off brain diseases?

No animals got smoke breaks...
Before you get too excited--this is not a story about how smoking is good for you. It's a story about one component of tobacco products--nicotine.

According to research at Texas A&M, nicotine--when given independently of tobacco--could protect the brain as it ages, warding off Parkinson's or Alzheimer's. Could--repeat, could.

Published in the Open Access J of Toxicology, the research was done using animal models. They added nicotine to the animals' drinking water.  There were three levels of nicotine--low, medium and high--and a control group with no nicotine.

The low and medium groups didn't show any nicotine in their blood and no changes in food intake, body weight or number of nicotine receptors. The highest concentration animals gained less weight and had more receptors--showing the drug got to the brain. But--even at high doses--it didn't make the animals more anxious, which was a fear.

Some people say smoking cuts anxiety, some say it increases it, the researchers say. They hoped it would be neither.

For anti-aging effects, they looked at whether the animals gained weight. But they could not conclude that lowering body mass translated into less degeneration in the brain.

So--bottom line--there is promise here, but people should not start smoking based on this. The negatives from smoking far outweigh any advantages as shown here.

Far outweigh.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Malpractice insurance company tells why people sue

The Doctor's Company is a physician-owned malpractice insurer. In a recent study, it looked at 1,180 claims against internists (2007-2014).

The most common claims are diagnosis-related.

--39% of all claims alleged failed, delayed, or wrong diagnosis, with 56% of these alleging inadequate patient assessments (such as failure or delay in getting tests).

--58% of claims against internal medicine specialists were for high-severity injuries (with a third taking place in hospitals). Such claims added up to only 34% of claims against other specialties.

What contributed to patient injury?

--33% patient assessment (wrong tests or lack of)

--25% concompliance with the treatment plan

--21% communication breakdown between doctor and patient or family

The average primary care doctor diagnoses 400 different diseases a year, and occasionally may not have seen a condition before.

Continuing education is key.

Four hundred diseases a year seems high to me...

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Ever wake from a dream but can't move?

Or maybe you don't "awake," you just feel like you did--and the dream continues. You can't run, you can't sit up.

You may even "see" something vague in the corner of the room. What IS that?

This is called sleep paralysis.

Your body is telling you are are in the rapid eye movement (REM) phase of sleep, in which the limbs are temporarily paralyzed (to keep you from acting out dreams).

But you are awake for a few moments, with the paralysis still in effect.

This can be frightening, says Steven Bender, DDS, director of the Center for Facial Pain and sleep Medicine at Texas A&M.

Sleep paralysis is different from night terrors in that the brain is awake even if the body isn't.

You can have vivid hallucinations under sleep paralysis.

Seven to eight percent of the population experiences this. It is most common in African-Americans, young adults, and females. Napping during the day or being on the phone or laptop in bed may increase the likelihood.

Also raising the risk: Narcolepsy, depression and anxiety.

Sleep paralysis isn't dangerous or harmful. Just scary.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Remember health class?

When health class fails....
I remember squirming while the teacher, a beefy coach in real life, struggled to explain the ins and outs of men, women, and sex. A big topic was menstruation--we were all worried about that at the time.

Maybe they also said don't drink or take drugs. Drugs were less of an issue 50 years ago.

Now, the University of Michigan did a poll on what parents would like health class to cover in middle or high school.

Two-thirds of the parents said schools should cover emotional and mental health issues--depression, stress, and bullying.  Only a third said their schools covered these.

While most parents support traditional topics such as pregnancy prevention, drug abuse, and other risky behaviors such as unprotected sex, the parents also wanted the kids to learn CPR and basic first aid.

Healthy eating was also a desired topic.

Almost 40% of parents, mostly low-income in this case, wanted instruction on how to use the health care system.

Did you teach your child CPR? Me, either. How about first aid? Nope, me either. And apparently I jumped in too late on the sex talk, too. My daughter had already had practical experience, much to my amazement and regret.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Laughter--the best workout?

Maybe older people trying to exercise is a little funny--but that's good, say researchers at Georgia State.

I know if I got on the ground to do a pushup or anything, I would have to live down there the rest of my life.

The researchers went to four assisted living facilities that used a moderate intensity group exercise program called LaughActive.

In addition to the stretches and mild exercises, the participants simulate laughter. Watching this, most start actually laughing.

Both simulated and real laughter have health benefits.

For six weeks, the study participants attended two 45-min physical activity sessions a week that included 10 laughter sessions of 30 to 60 seconds each.

The participants showed significant increases in mental health, aerobic endurance and perceived benefits--meaning satisfaction with the program, which was epxressed by 96%.

The laughter part also got high marks.

Adults should participate in 30 mins of physical activity are least five days a week to reap health benefits such as lower mortality, reduced risk of chronic conditions,  and age-related declines in endurance.

The laughter, apparently, makes it more palatable.

Even people with cognitive problems can do this--there is no joke to "get."  The point is the fake laughter.

Uh, OK--that's pretty funny.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Injuries to kids from soccer rising in the US

The journal Pediatrics reports that from 1990 to 2014, the number of soccer-related injuries ending up in the ER increased 78%.

Among kids 7-17, this was an increase of 111%.

Soccer is rising in popularity here, with 3 million registered players under age 19.

Too, the sport of soccer has changed in the last 25 years. Athletes often play year-round now and travel to events. the intensity if play is also heightened.

Injuries fall into:

--Sprains (35%)

--Fractures (23%)

--Sof t tissue injuries (22%)

--Closed head injuries (including concussion) were 7%

Most injuries occur with a player is struck by another player or the call (39%). Or when they fell (29%).

Some tips for protecting your youngster:

--Pre-season conditioning, strengthening the core and neck muscles--and hip and thigh strength

--Warm up before play

--Wearing recommended gear--skin guards, mouth guards

--Follow and enforce the rules. Many injuries occur during illegal play.

--Learn about concussions--symptoms. Encourage players to report hits to the head even in practice.

--Limit "heading" for younger players (allow it only afer age 11 and introduce it slowly.

That's a growing brain in there--and growing limbs.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Those "open floor plans" may make you eat more

To easy to see if there's food left?
Do you watch the house hunting and house renovating shows? I admit to being addicted.

In every one,  it seems, the client wants an open floor other words, the kitchen should not be blocked off or in a separate room.

Kim Rollings, assistant prof at Notre Dame's School of Architecture, found dining environments can affect eating behaviors (Environment and Behavior).

She and an environmental psychologist from Cornell named Nancy Wells used folding screens to manipulate the arrangement of kitchen and finding areas during buffet-style meals for 57 college students.

Their findings suggested that with the kitchen in plain view, people were more likely to head toward the food and help themselves to seconds and as a result, eat more.

The upshot was 170 calories more in the open floor plans, compared with the closed.

Time was, kitchens were for cooking not entertaining.

Oh, yeah--forgot.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Don't use a spoon or that little cup to dose young kids

Shonna Yin, MD, associate professor at NYU Medical School, says using those little cups that come with baby cold medicine leads to dosing errors.

An oral syringe provides the most accurate measure.

Also--she points out--doses are not standard--they can be expressed on the package in milliliters, teaspoon, tablespoon, you name it.

This is an even bigger hurdle for parents with low health literacy or who speak a different language.

At very least, they say, the package should recommend using an oral syringe.

The study was part of a larger NIH inquiry and was conducted in pediatric out-patient clinics in Atlanta, New York and Stanford, CA.

The majority of the participants were mothers. Seventy-seven percent had low or marginal health literacy (tested for).

Each one measured nine doses of medicine using various tools and dose recommendations.

Eighty-four percent made some error. More errors were seen with cups than syringes.

Since familiar meds such as Tylenol or Motrin sound harmless, they can cause serious overdoses--remember, a baby or toddler body is small.

What is an oral syringe? It's like an eyedropper basically with doses written on it. Every drugstore has them.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

You mean the 5-second rule is bogus?

Can be bad in LESS than 5 secs. Less!
A yummy piece of food falls on the floor--and you pick it up and eat it well within the well-known five seconds it takes to accumulate deadly germs.


Well, not so fast--even five seconds fast.

Researchers at Rutgers (Applied and Environmental Microbiology) said you could become one of the 1 in 6 people who get sick each year due to food-borne illness.

Forty-eight million people get such an illness in the US each year and 3,000 die.

How many of those depended on the 5-second rule?

True, bacteria need time to transfer from floor to food. But maybe they can do that in less than 5 seconds.

The research team used four surfaces, stainless steel, ceramic, wood, and carpet. They tested four foods, watermelon, bread, bread with butter, and gummy candy.

 They also used four different times--1 sec, 5 secs, 30 secs, and 300 secs.

The bacteria tested as similar to salmonella. They cultivated it, dried it, and spread it on the surfaces.

Then they did 2,560 measurements.

Watermelon was contaminated the most, gummy candy the least.

Bacteria move with moisture, so this wasn't surprising. They don't crawl over.

Compared with tile and stainless, carpet had a lower transfer rate.

Conclusion? Longer times result in more transfer, but other factors such as the type of food and nature of the surface are of equal or greater importance--and thus negate the time alone.

Isn't science a blast?

Monday, September 12, 2016

Idea to help intubated patients communicate

At any one time, there are 800,000 patients with tubes down their throats who cannot communicate with their families or caregivers, even though they are alert and awake.

Sometimes they are provided a little notebook and a pencil.

But now some nurses, led by Rebecca Koszalinski, RN, PhD, at Florida Atlantic University, has produced a tablet-based electronic method called Speak For Myself. (tm)

They did a pilot study at three hospitals in South Florida, which was published in Computers, Informatics, Nursing. The participants were ages 45 to 91 and were in intensive care units for cardiovascular, neurological and surgical issues.

Not being able to verbalize needs and feelings can lead to poorer care.

Speak for Myself allows patients to communicate their level of pain. It helps them convey fear and loneliness, as well as physical needs such as the desire to be repositioned or use the toilet.

They can also indicate on a graphic where it hurts.

In one example, a patient was finally able to communicate that he had been having pain in the back of his throat--a tube was misplaced and was FINALLY fixed.

Another patient was able to get across that she no longer wished to be on the ventilator, come what may. This was an end-of-life wish and clearly stated.

Friday, September 09, 2016

Benefits of coffee without damage to your teeth

Coffee is back in, folks! Lots of research now suggests that three to five cups a day may protect the liver, and reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Plus coffee boosts your metabolism and keeps you sharp.

But coffee is still bad for your teeth, right? No! Early evidence suggests is may prevent bone loss in the jaw and green coffee may help protect your gums from disease.

But what about stains on your teeth? Well, these can be an issue. The Academy of General Dentistry has some tips for minimizing this problem:

--Sip through a straw. Even with hot coffee, this keeps down the amount that touches the teeth.

--Rinse with water after your java.

--Wait to brush after drinking coffee. Acidic drinks (coffee) soften tooth enamel and brushing right away can damage it. Don't worry, though--the enamel hardens back up within half an hour.

--Try bleaching. A dentist can safely bleach your teeth--this doesn't prevent staining, just removes it.

Remember--five cups a day tops. And not before bedtime.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Remember stem cells--they may fix joints

Orthopaedic surgeon Kevin D. Plancher, MD, founder of Plancher Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine, is using stem cells to restore pain-free movement in people with knee or shoulder problems.

This is called regenerative medicine--where you coax the body to heal itself. Stem cell therapy uses immature, self-renewing cells, called mesenchymal stem cells, found in the bone marrow to rejuvenate a wide range of tissues.

Long used by professional athletes, this therapy is edging into the mainstream.

These cells multiply easily and evolve as muscle, bone, fat, tendons, ligaments, or cartilage.

The cells (from donors, not your own body) are kept frozen at minus 80 degrees and warmed briefly, then injected into the knee, shoulder, wrist or elbow.

This is being used to treat knee pain from arthritis, meniscus-tears, ACL ligament injuries, rotator cuff tears, labral tears, and other injuries.

The injected stem cells bathe the injured tissue in a healing slurry.

This amounts to the body healing itself.

I wonder if it's crazy expensive--would insurance cover it?

We could ask.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Bad knews--OTC head lice meds losing effectiveness

It's school time--and inevitably the dreaded head lice scares will begin anew any minute.

Boy do I remember back to these--my daughter even did a science fair project on the loathsome insects--and the principal was not amused.

Most of the drugstore products contain lindane, a pyrethroid, based on what sounds like safe marigolds or something.

Problem is, the disgusting bugs are becoming immune to lindane. According to Terri Meinking, MD, co-author of a recent study in Pediatric Dermatology, these over the counter preparations are no longer likely to work.


Home remedies such as petroleum jelly, mayonnaise, and essential oils also have not been shown to be effective and they can cause reactions.

So that leaves the prescription products--malathion, benzyl alcohol, spinosad, and topical ivermectin.

But--the authors say--these need to be used judiciously so they do not suffer the fate of the pyrethroids.

So what should you do when you get the note from the school? I would ask my pediatrician what "judiciously" means.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

How I age-remodeled my bathroom

Pretty 90s? Plus-ouch!
As much as I write about aging in place, it never occurred to me that I would have to remodel my house to accommodate my arthritis and chronic pain--that was for other people.

But I had a shower (above) that had a high curb--7 inches--it was agonizing to step out and try to get one foot down on the bathroom floor while bending the other knee to weird angles. I began to dread showers. Dread life. Dread everything.

And I needed grab bars--yes, grab bars--the trademark of oldies.

While I was chucking over the money, I decided on a complete makeover. Beautiful vanity, marble-topped, sleek floor level walk-in shower, a sophisticated color scheme of black, gray and brushed nickel.
I don't miss the beach theme.

Note grab bar across the back.

There is another grab bar opposite the toilet. Bliss!

Friday, September 02, 2016

Worry over new "superbug"

A few years ago, my daughter had MRSA--an antibiotic resistant staph--and I saw her blood tests--it listed on them the antibiotics that would not cure it. Luckily we found one that did.

Now, a recent study in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy found a second US patient resistant to colistin, considered the drug of last resort.

Audrey Schuetz, MS, a clinical microbiologist at Mayo, was asked about this gene mcr-1, which is carried by certain bacteria, and in a rare number of cases, leads to colistin resistance.

Even patients affected can get well, but it depends on many factors, she says. These include the site of the infection (skin or in bloodstream), and the ability of the patient's immune system and the type of bacterium involved.

At Mayo and other places they test for resistance to colistin, They grow a sample and see if colistin kills it. They can also test for mcr-1, but it takes a long time.

Can this gene spread between bacteria? Apparently yes.

Meanwhile, the doctors are assessing combos of older antibiotics and other approaches if colistin doesn't work.

What can people do? Use antimicrobials such as sanitizers sparingly. And don't expect the doctor to hand over a prescription for antibiotics everytime you go.

People ask for them for VIRUSES. Antibiotics don't kill viruses.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Maybe a "noodgy" computer can improve kids' lunches

According to the Dept of Agriculture, more than five billion school lunches are served in the US everyday.

Although 99.9% of kids eat some fruits and veggies each day, fewer than 1% eat the amounts recommended by the government.

University of Florida researchers did a small study of 71 kids at a Florida public school. (J of Economic Psychology)

Two groups of fifth and sixth graders ordered their lunches via computer. One group received hints that they had not selected all five components of a healthy lunch (meat or alternative, grain, fruit, veggie, low-fat milk). The other group ordering online received no hints.

The third group just went through the line as usual.

The group receiving the "noodges" chose 51% more fruit, 29% more veggies, and 37% more low-fat milk. The computer-orderers without hints also ordered more of the good stuff than the kids that went through the line as usual.

So will this system spread?

Who knows--interesting idea, though.