Friday, June 23, 2017

Reminder: Staying healthy on vacay

Ah, yes, infectious diseases--they are ever with us.

Brent W. Laarta, MD, author of How to Avoid Contagious Diseases (www.drlaartz.com) says 40% of travelers who bring back a major illness from their foreign travels.

He was one--on a horseback riding trip to Costa Rica (in his younger, more naive days).

Some tips he learned the hard way:

--Avoid local water in all forms. When you shower, no water in your mouth or eyes. Ask for a drink without ice. Bring iodine tablets and a water boiler to sanitize water for yourself,. Drink bottled. Be sure even bottled water is sealed.

--Protect your feet. Wear flipflops in the shower. Parasites can enter you through your feet. Never walk barefoot in any area of a foreign country--including in your hotel room.

--Beware of fruits, veggies, condiments. If you can't get an apple or banana that can be peeled, avoind fruit. Any fruit served fresh can be washed in local water or wiped by a kitchen rag (you don't want to know). You could even bring your own peeler. Forget coleslaw or anything with mayo.

--Bypass road stands and street food. It might smell great but not have been heated hot enough to kill things you want killed. In a restaurant the to-go Styrofoam box may be cleaner than the plate.

I had the parasite giardia once. You don't want this. Unfortunately I got it from a local takeout joint, not a nice trip to South America.

Even in America, see that sparkling stream tumbling along? Not fit to drink!

None of this is foolproof. Bring Imodium--in fact, carry it everywhere, even in the US. My advice.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Write your way healthier

Writing on the website metro.co.uk, Lucy Whitehouse says grab your pen or computer and write your way to better health.

The Journal of Research and Personality, had a study that seemed to show that writing on positive subjects might boost your immune system.

Writing also helps you sleep better, according to Applied Psychology. Spend 15 minutes before bed writing about things you are grateful for.

Writing or journaling has been shown to reduce symptoms of asthma and arthritis.

Writing perks you up and helps keep feelings of anger and hostility in check.

Writing makes you grateful. Good vibes.

When vibes are good, you may want to get out and exercise.

AND--writing helps keep your brain cells working and connecting...Thinking and expressing yourself on hard subjects may even keep dementia at bay.

I used to know a guy who would copy a paragraph from The New York Times just to get some words in his mind and then he took off from there for a day of writing.

As you readers know, I write about everything. It doesn't make me feel better all the time, but it can't hurt.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Removing breast implants--tricky

I know I sound like a dope for saying this, but the plastic surgery show on E! Channel, BOTCHED, is back--and I missed it. It is such an entertaining mix of trans-this, trans-that, weird bodily obsession, physician showboating, etc, I love it. I cannot lie.

In the episode I saw a female impersonator had a burst breast implant--basically, a wad of goo, that had to be cleaned out.

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 400,000 women in the US had breast implant surgery in 2016 (cosmetic augmentation and reconstruction from cancer surgery).

At year seven, half of all implants need to be removed. They do not last a lifetime, says Constance M. Chen, MD, a plastic surgeon in NYC.

They can cause trouble:

--They are foreign bodies or substances, so the body forms a capsule around them. This shell can become painful. It can also account for that stuck-on half-tennis ball look.

--They can get infected.

--They can push through the skin.

--Under investigation by the FDA--whether there is a link to a rare immune system cancer called anaplastic large-cell lymphoma.

What is involved in removing:

--A complete capsulectomy--time-consuming procedure involving removing not only the implant but the shell around it. This can involve peeling tissue off the lungs, in some cases.

--After removal, the patient may face a breast lift, fat transfer, implant replacement, or even natural tissue free flaps.

If you have large breasts and small implants, you may get a pleasing result with removal alone. The opposite goes for small breast with large implants--can end up looking like collapsed pillowcases.

You might want to hang onto your "naturals." Think?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Have you ever been Mommy-shamed?

I have been Mommy-shamed...Once in a grocery store, my kid, then about 8, was lobbying for some stupid sugar item and I was resisting and she got louder and louder--and an older lady decided to inform me that all my daughter wanted was a little thing and why was I so mean?

I also know I stay-at-home guy who was approached in a store and a woman said, "I hope you won't let your daughter get fat like you." So it's not limited to women.

In fact, if you have a child, you will soon learn that EVERYONE knows better how to raise that child. The most adamant? Those with no kids.

Even big movie stars don't skate. Reese Witherspoon was recently criticized for giving her toddler a cinnamon bun for breakfast. Coco Rocho (Iced T's wife) was slammed for using formula.

In a recent survey done at the University of Michigan, six out ot 10 mothers of kids under 5 had been shamed.

Reese Witherspoon aside, most shaming comes from within the family. And the worst of those--the mother's parents--37%.

Next up, the spouse's parents or the other parent--36%.

Others who shame: Child care providers, doctors.

Yoiks!

What do they focus on, all these supposedly well-intentioned butt-inners? Diet, nutrition, sleep, breast v bottle, and child care. Not to mention--begging in the store! (Thought I would mention it again.)

Another shame area is safety--"what we used to do" may not longer be applicable.

Mothers in the survey thought they got the blame, but not the credit.

YEAH! Take that!

And what do the shamed do? Avoid those who are too critical.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The importance of mouthfeel

The other day my daughter was making scrambled eggs and asked me did I want mine hard or soft. I reacted immediately, "No egg slime."

Sure, food is sweet, salty, bitter, or salty and the fifth--umami--but mouthfeel is often overlooked.

Ole Mouritsen is a food scientist and author of Mouthfeel: How Texture Makes Taste. He was interviewed by Russ Parsons.

What is mouthfeel? We also call it texture, Mouritsen said. Technically it is on the tongue, but taste is also in the nose, ears or eyes. (Think of something that should be crisp, but is soggy. You will notice.)

The Japanese have 400 ways to describe food texture--we have 80.

Say fish--not much taste by itself--so mouthfeel is important. (I have heard certain fish--swordfish is one-- described as meaty as a steak.) The Japanese "pickle" vegetables--they may seem rubbery, but when you bite down, they have a crunching feeling all over your skull.

Seaweed is another one. The Japanese eat a lot of it. Chewy, slimy, crunchy, soft, or hard--depending.

Food scientists do a test where they puree foods--only about half of the participants can identify cabbage or tomatoes by taste alone--when it's a puree.

If you have to chew, say a piece of tomato in ketchup, it may "taste" different.

Mayonnaise--another example--has small gobbets of fat so it tastes creamy--large globules will "taste" oily.

All this is called neurogastronomy...And you thought you were just getting a snack--your whole body is involved.


Friday, June 16, 2017

Preemies not at educational disadvantage once thought

My niece was born at 26 weeks, a little over 2 lbs. She is now a college grad in her 40s with a talented and gifted son of her own.

Yet, parents of premature babies often fret that their kids will be held back or do poorly in school.

They did a large-scale study at Northwestern that should reassure these parents.

--Two-thirds of babies born at 23 or 24 weeks were ready for kindergarten on time.

--While these extremely premature babies scored low on standardized tests, those born after 25 weeks were almost on par with full-term infants.

--After 28 weeks, the difference was negligible.

This study was unique in that it focused on educational prospects, not medical or physical development prospects.

Few studies focus on middle school performance of such a large group--1.3 million.

What about that standardized test performance gap? The study investigator said the glass was still more than half-full.

Did the children perform well in school on their own--or did they get extra help all along because of their prematurity? This was not determined--but by middle school, the kids were up to par on the tests.

Doctors can tell parents of premature babies, said the researchers, that they usually do "brilliantly."

Of course, this is statistically speaking. Individual experience is well...individual.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

OOGA OOGA--Alarm bells over health care bill

Obamacare was passed without a single Republican vote, and time to vote was even extended to get in all the stragglers. Some reluctant types got sweeteners.

But that legislation was the subject of many hearings and much publicity (yes, some of it dishonest--"You can keep your plan, keep your doctor").

But now, as I type this, the Senate Republicans are working in SECRET to to pass a massive change in the next three weeks.

Meanwhile, the baseball shootings and the endless wrangling over the president's Russian dealings (I guess alleged) are overshadowing how tens of millions are about to lose their health insurance--all "justified" by saying Obamacare is dying (when the admin is actually starving it).

Even the unpredictable president reportedly finally tuned into this bill and said it was "too mean." Will he intervene or just make remarks? Who knows.

Nice, huh?

The key thing here is to repeal the taxes, or some, in Obamacare so they can show the money to cut taxes for rich Americans in the proposed tax bill. No insurance? Well, tough. Sounds too dastardly to be true, huh? But it is.

What can you do?

Call your senators' offices--

https://www.senate.gov/reference/common/faq/How_to_correspond_senators.htm

Say you want the CBO report to be considered. You want hearings. You want a chance to say how this will affect you.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Chill baby chill

BYOS--Bring Your Own Shade
See, here's the deal. The sun is actually a big nuclear reactor in the sky. Its rays (radiation) beam down. Yes, those rays can cause your body to make Vitamin D--but really the rays are more dangerous than healing.

One blistering sunburn as a kid doubles your chance of a deadly melanoma.

Now imagine your thin-skinned infant or toddler basking in the nuclear rays.

Sheila Fallon Friedlander, MD, professor of pediatrics and dermatology at University of CA San Diego, has some suggestions for keeping the little ones safe:

--Keep the babies in the shade, at least for the first six months of life. No shade? Make some--an umbrella, hood of the stroller, something.

--Dress the baby in protective clothes, such as a lightweight long-sleeve shirt and pants.

--Always put a wide-brimmed hat on the baby. And sunglasses with UV protection.

--Don't slather sunscreen on children younger than 6 mos. If there is no shade, apply an SPF 30 very sparingly.

--Sunscreens  with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide are less likely to irritate a baby's skin. Reapply every two hours if swimming or sweating--there is no such thing as "waterproof" screen.

--Be careful on hot days. Give the baby plenty to drink. If the baby cries or looks red, take him or her inside immediately.

You can also check out the American Academy of Dermatology's video "Infant Sun Protection" at the AAD.org site or on YouTube.

Big powerful sun...small sensitive child. Even the odds.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Don't scream--this is about snakes

What's that WHIRRING sound?
Yes, it's summer--you are outside--snakes are out of their dens. In fact, you are in their habitat. Do the math.

My own daughter announced the other day that she and a friend had been in the hills of AZ the evening before and saw a rattlesnake. EEEK.

She hastened to say it was a "small one." Well, I  know from watching interminable hospital and vet shows, that small does not mean lacking in venom.

Snake venom can spread through the tissues quickly and blacken and kill them. If this gets extreme, it can kill you.

If you reach down into grass--or a boot in your tent--or someplace with bad visibility--and you feel a sharp pain...It could be a snakebite.

Do this:

--Grab your cellphone, your most important first aid tool. Call 9-1-1.

--Do not try to grab or capture the snake--it could bite again.

--Do not take the snake to the ER. Take a picture with your phone if you can do it safely.

--Stay calm. Fewer than 10 people die of snakebites in the US each year.

At the ER, you may want antivenin--but not get it right away. For one thing, it's crazy expensive. The docs will monitor you for a while.

The snake might have given a dry bite--no venom. Or it might not even be a venomous snake.

If you start to have trouble breathing or rapid heartbeat, the doctors may intervene.

The best way to deal with snakes? Don't deal with them. Be alert, watch where you step,

But be aware--snakes can make a home in the brush in your backyard.

That happened when I was a kid--we had a big brush pile and the landscape guy and his sons would routinely clear out the copperheads.

Enough--just be OK.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Cat yoga...for you, not the cat

According to a story in The New York Times, some cat shelters are offering yoga classes, with sinuous, calming cats wandering about or sitting on the participants.

One is the Good Mews shelter in Marietta, Georgia. They clear the cat "trees" out of the way and 15 people take yoga amidst the kitties. The cats head for the mats immediately.

The humans find it relaxing and a good chance to commune with animals. One woman even said she sometimes goes to the dog park to just to watch animals.

For me, veterinarian shows in TV really lift me from my usual thoughts.

Each class is different, a woman from Meow Parlor on the Lower East Side said. Cats will scratch in the little box or meow so loudly the instructor can't be heard.

They also are good stretchers--and sometimes will mimic the yogis--even doing a downward dog. Heh.

Mostly, they bring their energy. If you ask me, this can be positive or negative. My personal cat tends to wander about squalling like a fire alarm.

Friday, June 09, 2017

How to deal with motion sickness

Our family--except for Dad--was prone to car sickness. Mom always brought along a "spit bowl" (she could not stand to say the word vomit).

For his part, Dad's rather warped sense of humor led him to describe giant barbecue dinners while his family laid flopped on the seat, green as peas.

Summer--with car trips, boat trips, and amusement park rides--is motion sickness central.

Basically,, your body combines info from your eyes with info from the part of you on the ground and tries to mix that with input from the fluid-filled cavities in your inner ear's vestibular system.

When all this info does not agree--the body may say, hmmmm, might as well throw up.

Researchers at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center are trying to figure out why some people have this problem and others don't.

--Genetics may play a role.

--Age definitely does. The whirling ride that was fun when you were a teen may be sickening as an adult.

--The vestibular system degenerates as you age.

--Some people can suppress the feeling--others no.

Some tips:

--Roll down the windows in a car--fresh air.

--Focus on a point on the horizon, not things going by the window.

--Get a windo seat on flights.

--Never sit backwards on a train.

--Close your eyes.

--Stay well-hydrated.

--Get plenty of sleep before a motion sickness type activity.

--Breathe deeply.

--Relax each part of your body in turn.

And I would add--don't even think about reading or looking at a map! That is where I lose it.

There are also over the country drugs you can take--but they may make you drowsy. This would be bad in a driver--but usually drivers don't get sick. That was my dad's secret.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Friendship holds more power than family as people age

According to William Chopik, assistant professor of psychology at Michigan State, a pair of studies, involving 280,000 people, show that not only do friendships become increasingly important over time, but in older adults, they can be a strong predictor of health and happiness--sometimes stronger than family ties.

In the first study, Chopik surveyed info about relationships reported by 271,053 participants in nearly 100 countries.  The second study looked at data from another survey about relationship support/strain and chronic illness--in 7,481 older adult in the US alone.

In the first, both family and friends were linked to better health and happiness overall, but only friendships predicted health and happiness ad advanced ages.

Why?

--Chopik thinks it may be because we can choose our friends and keep the ones we like and lose the rest over time. Friends also support those without spouses or supportive family members.

--Families can be enjoyable, but also can develop serious, negative and monotonous overtones.

Speaking personally, I have always valued my friendships, some of which are more than 50 years in duration. But I have also "lost" friends, who changed over time (or I did) or seemed to not be the people I thought they were. Recently I friend of 25 years stabbed me in the back. Didn't see that coming.

I have half a dozen people I want in my life and am in contact with every week or more.

Family members? Fewer.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Come on, guys, get with the program

The majority of American men do not consult health professionals at the same rate women do.

In a 2014 CDC survey, 61.5 % of the men consulted said they had been in contact with a doctor or other professional in the last six months--if only via a phone call.

For women, this was 74%.

In the past two yrs, 13.7% of men and 5.7% of women had tagged up.

Adult children can convince dad to:

--Get his blood pressure checked once every two years.

--Get cholesterol checked every five yrs. (sooner if he has heart disease in the family).

--Get screened for diabetes if he takes meds for high blood pressure.

Men often think if I am not sick, why go to the doctor? This can become seductive--sometimes I think like this myself.

But a checkup every few yrs won't kill you--and it might prevent something else from killing you.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Some ER docs pass out opioids like Tic-Tacs

I have been in the Emergency Room several times lately, and through the curtains of the treatment booths have heard the doctors discussing the painkiller prescription the patient would be getting. The patients, as far as I could hear, were not crying or squirming in pain, but "big drugs" like hydrocodone and oxycontin were being dispensed.

Time was, ER docs were very suspicious of patients with frequent visits for vague pains, suspecting they were trying to get painkillers. Has this really changed?

There is no doubt that opioids are being overprescribed, resulting in an abuse epidemic.

Hospitals and doctors differ widely in prescribing these drugs for, say, a sprained ankle.

Researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at Penn says US ERs prescribe 15 to 40 pills.

Those who received 30 pills were twice as likely to fill another opioid scrip in 3-6 months.

The authors of the study say there is an urgent need for guidelines for prescribing these drugs for minor injuries.

These meds are extremely addictive, and prescribing them for minor injuries results in thousands of pills getting loose in the community.

Prescribing varies by state. In Delaware only 1.6% of patients got an opioid. In comparison, 16% in Mississippi did.

Just writing such prescriptions for 20 pills, would result in 37,721 fewer pills rattling around the community.

When I had my surgery six weeks ago, I stuck with Tylenol--they offered me the hugely addictive Fentanyl as well as a home supply of Percocets. I said don't need 'em.

Also--this stuff makes you crazy constipated, nauseated, and probably wobbly and not fit to drive. I know old people who are given these drugs for arthritis. They are not really for long-term use...soooo...this is not a good idea.

Also--over the counter painkillers like Advil or Aleve cut inflammation. Tylenol does not.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Be mindful of water quality when kids swim

Lakes, rivers, streams, and the ocean are not the wholesome playgrounds of yesteryear.

To pretend all is perfect can endanger your kids.

Even the backyard wading pool, says a professor of infectious diseases at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in NC, can be contaminated. After all, it is non-moving, warm, shallow water and kids in diapers may have been in it.

Some tips:

--If your child has had any gastrointestinal disease--diarrhea, for instance--keep him or her away from swimming pools and all water.

--Don't swallow water at water parks.

--Freshwater lakes and streams can harbor leptospirosis, a bacterium from the urine of mammals that come to drink from the water. So don't awallow lake water either. Maybe nose plugs?

--Even if a stream looks crystal clear, don't drink from it.  Remember, wild animals have done the same and may have stayed to do their business.

--You super want to avoid Naegleria, a rare, deadly, brain-eating amoeba that is almost impossible to treat.  NEVER jump feetfirst into warm, stagnant water--the water will go up your nose, and if the amoeba is present, it will get forced into your brain. Fun over for sure.

--Salt water can be less of a problem, but you should not go in the ocean with a wound.

And stay away from jelly fish--even the dead ones on the beach. Ouch!


Friday, June 02, 2017

Freaky Brazilian treatment for burns

I debated whether to even post this. It is not approved in the US.

But some Brazilian doctors are using the skin of tilapia fish to cover burns and help them heal.

Frozen pig skin and human tissue has been used for years, keeping the wound moist and transferring collagen, a protein that promotes healing. But sometimes this involves a gauze bandage, which can be agonizing when it's ripped off.

Brazil, apparently, does not have a big supply of pig skin, so scientists at the Federal University of Cesara found that the skin of the mild-tasting tilapia fish had many of the properties of human skin.

Collagen protein types 1 and 3, which are very important for scarring, are found in large numbers in the fish skin.

The tilapia treatment--which is a little disturbing-looking, at least to me--speeds healing by days and reduces the need for so much pain medication.

Will US doctors eventually turn some burn victims into mermaid-like creatures--at least for a short time? Research continues. Burns are terribly painful--I would rather look fishy if it would cut down the time and pain of healing, wouldn't you?

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Good news on antibiotic resistance!

Researchers at The Scripps Research Institute have given new "super powers" to a powerful antibiotic called vancomycin.

According to the scientists, this breakthrough could eliminate the threat of antibiotic resistant infections for years to come.

Wow.

Vancomycin has been around 60 years, and bacteria are only now developing a resistance. This seems to indicate that bacteria have already had a hard time overcoming its "mechanism of action," which is to disrupt how bacteria form cell walls protecting them from the body's immune system.

Now--the docs have added two modifications to make it even more powerful and deadly. This means you need less of the drug for it to be effective.

A third modification is also under study. All told, the changes amp up vancomycin by a thousand times.

Work now centers on manufacture--to bring down the number of steps it takes to make the new super drug. The researchers described this as "the easy part."

This drug would not be for every bacterial infection--just the big horrible ones.

And remember--don't beg for antibiotics if the doctor thinks you have a virus--antibiotics kill bacteria, not viruses.

And if you take an antibiotic, finish all the pills as directed--or you may just weaken the infection you have and make it able to resist the antibiotic you took--and then get loose in the world able to resist antibiotics others might take for it.

But--way to go, Scripps!


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Encouraging signs of openness to improving care

As regular readers know, six weeks ago I had emergency surgery to repair an umbilical hernia that had become life-threatening.

Overall, the surgery was a success--I went home alive and now am mostly recovered, although I guess I could still experience complications for up to a year.

But I am a fixer--and some aspects of this experience were not ideal.

--Before I could be operated, I needed a cardiology clearance--this took almost two months to get and I still had not gotten both tests when the thing turned bad.

After the surgery, which meant a big honking incision, I spent two days in the hospital.

--I felt they were short-staffed--it was Easter weekend, but I had to wait 20 mins when in an extreme situation in the bathroom.

--There was a hospital-based doctor called a hospitalist supposedly in charge of me, but he popped his head in once and then when I was cleared to be discharged, he was nowhere to be found to do the paperwork. The surgeons visited me everyday--which was excellent.

--There turned out to be a weird food service system--you had to order food, they didn't bring trays--it was like hotel room service. This had many strikes against it. For one thing, the nurses and aides never even asked me had I eaten. You need to eat to heal! With this system, it was more trouble than it was worth to get food. I am not talking about indicating what you want for a regular three-meals delivery of trays--this is ordering and if you don't, you don't get food.

--The gowns were coarse and scratchy and only seemed to come in two sizes--I am large but their large was GIGANTIC--I was bundled into that thing like I was velcroed in the bed.

--Yes, the blood people still come in the middle of the night, wake you, and stab you.

On the good side, I had several super nice nurses and aides, and praised them to the hospital higher ups.

Yes, I went beyond the robocall survey I got and wrote to the head of the hospital and also to my surgery group--which was later involved in an unfortunate situation when I had a complication.

This is the encouraging part. Both responded with long calls and emails to me, thanking me for the feedback and promising to look into every comment.

So--it pays to speak up. Maybe you can make it better for the next sick, weak person who comes along...

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Kids who eat pasta regularly have better diet

Pasta is easy, cheap, and delish--despite the current spurning of carbs on the part of some movie stars and others.

In fact, children love pasta. New research shows that children and adolescents who eat pasta have a better overall diet than those who don't.

True, the study was conducted by the National Pasta Association through a company called Nutritional Strategies.

Basically, they looked a nutritional shortfalls--in other words, where kids did not get enough dietary fiber, folate, iron, magnesium, and vitamin E.

The youngsters who are pasta on a regular basis took in more of those elements--and had a better diet quality as measured by the USDA's Healthy Eating Index, 2010.

They also ate less total fat and saturated fat.

AND--no significant association was found between eating pasta and body weight, waist size, and BMI, In other words, the pasta did not make them fat.

The spokesperson for the National Pasta Association said we should think as pasta as a canvas to which we can add nutrient-dense, fiber-rich foods such as fresh veggies, fruits, cheese, lean meats, and legumes.

Offhand, I wonder if kids who eat pasta a lot are eating home-cooked meals more--which may also contribute to a better diet.

And do kids start out with Kraft Dinner and Spaghetti-Os and move on to pasta primavera? Maybe those boxed pasta dishes are gateway pasta.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Vacations are good for you

Does that sound like one for The Big Book of Duh? Well, it vacations are so therapeutic and necessary, why do 40% of Americans leave vacay days on the table?

In a report called Travel Effect on BlackHealthMatters.com, we hesitate to get away because the pile of work will be horrendous when we return.

--Or we think we will look like slackers.

--Or we feel guilt when not working.

--Or we think we are indispensable.

Yet, rested employees are more productive and happy.

AND--Fewer vacations have also been linked to more heart attacks.

We should not be a no-vacation nation.

Even workers who take 3-day weekends are healthier.

If you can't afford a two-week vacation with the whole family, walk on your lunch hour. Leave your phone behind.

And remember--planning the vacation is also stress relieving--the benefits begin eight weeks before you leave.

Saying all this, I can never go anywhere because of my mobility and financial issues. Audiobooks are my getaway.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

"Gray Death" newest drug menace

It just sounds bad, doesn't it--Gray Death?

According to the website Route Fifty, the drug gets its name because it looks like powdered concrete.

In just 72 hrs, 11 people died of it in Erie County, NY (Buffalo area).

Gray Death is a charming mixture of heroin, fentanyl, and a new synthetic opioid called U-47700.

The latter was legal but has not been added as a Schedule I drug--the most dangerous.

A member of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation says Gray Death is one of the scariest combos he had seen in 20 yrs of forensic chemistry analysis.

"Fast track to the morgue," said another expert.

Oh--and one more huge thing. You don't have to ingest it--if it gets on your skin--as happened with an Ohio police officer--it can also kill. The officer was revived only after several does of Narcan.

Because of this, many depts are no longer field testing drugs--they send them to the lab for special handling.

Sooo...I am thinking...stay away. Far far away.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Weight loss surgery still problematic

Every year, 200,000 Americans undergo some sort of weight loss, or bariatric, surgery. This has been going on for 20 years.

University of Michigan researchers, however, took a look at outcomes and have published several papers on the high level of variability of outcomes from facility to facility and the incidence of complications. (Annals of Surgery)

--Nearly one in five Medicare patients with adjustable gastric band surgery (done laproscopically through small incisions) end up needing at least one more operation, either to remove or replace the band or switch to another approach.

--Nearly half of the money Medicare spends on bariatric surgery--47%--is to repair or replace the bands.

--This form of surgery has declined in popularity and constitutes only 5% of operations, but hundreds of thousands of people still have the bands installed.

--In addition--there is tremendous variation between surgery centers in terms of the rates of re-operation.

--Even accredited "centers of excellence" can vary widely as to complications. The worst to the best, even in such centers, varies 17 fold. That's a huge swing.

--Hospitals with the lowest complications rate before the operations cheaper, too.

The conclusion? Efforts to improve the quality of this surgery would affect not only patients, but also costs.

Anecdotally, I also know people who have "eaten" though this surgery and have not achieved close to the expected weight loss or it has not been lasting if it has been achieved.

Do your research!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The first visit to the gynecologist

I remember--waaay back in the Wayback--my first visit. The doctor said, "You will do this a million times in your life, so here is how to do it." Zip, zip, kind of embarrassing and gross--but fast.

Julie Jacobstein, a board-certified adolescent gyno with LifeBrige Health, has some tips you can pass on to your daughter:

--Explain why this visit is important, even though your daughter is not sick and has no complaint. This is a safe place to ask questions (without your mother being present). Often, the first time is just to establish a relationship--the "exam" part may not even take place.

--Tell your daughter this involves her medical history--including questions about whether she is sexually active. Also--bring your vaccination history.

--Explain the two parts of the exam. The breast exam and the pelvic exam. Emphasize that all this is over with quickly, which it is, although it can be a little uncomfortable--be honest.

--If your daughter wants to, discuss concerns beforehand--what if your child wants birth control--will she tell you or involve you in the types?

--After, ask her how it went. Your daughter may share a lot or gloss over it. Is she seems disturbed by the practitioner in any way--find a different doctor.

--Tell her this will be a regular part of her health care--get her used to it.

Those stirrups--every woman encounters them at some point.

Monday, May 22, 2017

ESAs versus service dogs

ESAs are Emotional Support Animals. These can be various species and have little or no specific training. They provide companionship, relieve loneliness and can help with anxiety or depression.

In contrast, Service Animals help owners do specific tasks, such as guiding the blind,  and have years of training in helping the disabled.

Certifying ESAs proves to be a problem.

Researchers at the University of Missouri are looking into this.

ESAs can be pets, but legally are not really pets--they can go places pets cannot go.

The laws---Federal and state--concerning ESAs are ever-changing and confusing.

---A landlord can bar a pet, but not an ESA (and often must waive pet deposits for them, too).

---ESAs can go in the main cabin of a plane or even a restaurant.

So mental health professionals must certify these animals somehow.

The researchers agreed that ESAs are appropriate for some patients. Also:

--Requests for ESAs should be met with the same thoroughness of any disability evaluation.

--Professional guidelines are needed.

--Local, state, and national policymakers should meet with mental health professionals to evaluate future legislation involving ESAs.

They also recommended the evaluators not be the owner's doctor or practitioner--this can lead to biased assessments.

So where does that leave us? Pretty much dependent on future actions, I would say. For now, a beloved "pet" could still get special privileges. But, at the same time, those special privileges could benefit the owner greatly and even save his or her life.

Google "emotional support animal"--there are many websites claiming to certify these animals. You will also find out more about the law as it stands now.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Patients of older doctors may be at slightly more risk

When I consider a physician, I wonder: Will just out of medical school with fresh information be better? Or will long experience substitute for recent training if the doctor keeps up?

My father was a doctor--he got medical journals every month--but hardly ever looked at them that I could see. I am not saying my dad was a bad physician, just observing.

Doctors are required to undertake Continuing Medical Education--is this enough?

Harvard recently examined more than 700,000 Medicare patients of 19,000 doctors from 2011 to 2014 (Ars Technica).

They found that mortality rates rose with the age of the doctor.

--Doctors under 40--the mortality rates for elderly patients within the first 30 days (of what?) was 10.8%.

--Doctors 40-49, 11.1%

--50-59, 11.3%

--Above age 60, 12.1%

In real terms, this means one more death per 77 patients for a 60-year-old doctor, compared with a 40-yr-old one.

A little over one-fourth of US doctors are over 60 years of age. Nine percent are over 70.

The researchers said this did not mean as doctors get older, their quality of care slips--it probably means there is a difference in training from before and now.

Medical technologies are evolving all the time. It might be harder for older doctors to keep up, the investigators said.

Also a cautionary note--the study involved only older patients. Would this apply to a cross section?

Still--let's keep up the Continuing Medical Ed. And not just that provided by drug companies, either.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Treating the whole suffering person, not just the pain

I have chronic knee pain, ooo, ouch, I count every step, I talk myself through outings involving long limps, I mean, walks. But I don't want knee replacements. I have just had too bad luck with surgeries, it's as simple as that.

So I take Tylenol--carefully rationed. No more than four a day and only on bad pain days. Did you know pain can vary from day to day? It can.

I have a close relative who got into the pain med cycle--opiate dependence, if you will. It has not been good.

The American Pain Society has said for decades that you must treat the whole person, not just the pain.

Holistic medicine expert David Katz, MD, at Yale (a guy I have interviewed) urges multi-pronged approaches to pain.

Katz recommends medical, social, psychological and lifestyle factors be considered for each patient.

For instance, the doctor can look at your sleep habits. Pain can cause sleep problems. People who sleep less also have less energy, move around less, and gain weight--which can lead to more pain.

Just the exercise from sleeping more and better can improve pain.

What you are looking for is more vitality, a greater sense of well being. Sleep can be a start.

I have slept badly all my life. A few hours at a time. Now, with age making me need more pit stops in the night, this is emphasized. Even that is usually OK--but if I worry and can't sleep, mind racing, I will have terrible knee pain the next day.

So there is a link.

However, I think all this improvement of lifestyle is limited when it comes to pain. The nerves are wired to warn you when you do something the body does not "like"--each and every time you do it.

Those nerves will fire no matter how chirpy you feel.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The search for a new primary

I came to Arizona 21 yrs ago to help take care of my mother. In that time, my mother, who died a couple of years ago, and I had too many physicians to count--and many I have repressed. We don't have a car, so are limited to doctors relatively close by.

At this point, I think I have had a doctor in almost every physician group within 10 miles and for one reason (probably more than one), no longer see that doctor.

I have had eight cardiologists--and recently got a ninth.

Am I a nutcase who can't get along with anyone? Not really, but I do seek a doctor who will respect me, keep up with the literature, discuss new findings with me, and not go ballistic when I won't go on my thousandth diet or take big drugs I know will make me nauseated or dizzy. I also like a well-run office, response to calls, prescriptions renewed in a timely way, and consideration for the physical demands of my arthritis when it comes to trotting over to the office for this and that when it's not strictly necessary.

This week, I learned that my primary of about five years has moved too far away to get to.

Drat!

I spent four hours looking up doctors on my "plan" and googling and reading reviews. (I also check each with the Medical Board for lawsuits and to see where they went to school.)

We have some real characters in the medical profession out here. The most common complaints patients seem to have are: (1) Won't touch me, (2) Doesn't renew prescriptions promptly, (3) Makes me come every three months and there is nothing wrong with me, (4) Has a rude or indifferent office staff,  (5) Turfs me to the nurse or physician assistant, (6) Won't answer all my questions, (7) Won't look at me--just the computer, (8) Is mean.

I saw so many comments along the lines of: Beware. Or Do yourself a favor--don't come here. Or--The worst doctor I ever talked to.

All these commenters cannot be nutcases. They took the time to go to a site and comment. Sure, complainers comment more than praisers, but this is pretty overwhelming.

I finally picked a guy...Who knows...I might be writing this same post in a few months.

By the way, I saw a couple of prospective doctors give a little talk on YouTube--that was interesting...Something I had not encountered before.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The landfill can't digest all these nutrients

In a world where people scrounge for grains of rice on the ground, the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future just calculated all the protein, fiber, and other nutrients than end up thrown out in the US in a single year.

Nutrient-dense foods like fruits, veggies, seafood, and dairy are discarded a disproportionately high rates.

Previous research indicated that 40% f food is wasted nationally.  But this study shows how nutritional much of that is (J of Academy of Nutrition).

They looked at the nutritional value of the retail and consumer-level food waste in 213 categories, using US Dept of Ag data.

In all, they looked at 27 nutrients:

--1217 Calories per person PER DAY
--33 grams of protein
--5.9 grams of dietary fiber
--1.7 mcgs of Vitamin D
--286 milligrams of calcium
--880 milligrams potatssium

Why so much food waste?

--Food looks "bad"
--Large portion sizes
--Bad management of perishables

We are dumping a lot of high quality, nutritious food people could be enjoying, one researcher said.

Enjoying and benefiting from.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Really? You would let kids swim without supervision?

Little kids swim like rocks without training.

Yet, a national poll done by the University of Michigan shows that a more than one out of three parents surveyed--37%--would let their children swim in a home, hotel, or community pool unsupervised.

In a lake? 16%/ In the ocean, 13%.

Familiar places--like your own backyard pool--provide a false sense of security.


Even if the child is a good swimmer, kids should not be in the water without a watchful adult present.

DROWNING IS THE SECOND-LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH FOR KIDS FROM 1 to 15.

Nearly ONE THOUSAND kids a year drown. Five times that many end up in the ER with non-fatal water-related injuries.

All parents polled thought kids should have basic swimming skills--but one in seven parents of kids who could not swim independently thought it was OK to leave the child in the water unsupervised.

Also--

--Half of white parents said their kid had taken swimming lessons

--39% of Hispanic kids

--37% of black kids

Black children drown at 5.5 times the rate of white children.

Communities must work to find ways to make swimming lessons more affordable, the researchers said.

That's all well and good--but use your noggins parents. All it takes is taking that one long phone call or looking away from your child in a packed, splashy pool , or depending on some 16-yr-old lifeguard to watch your kid along with 50 others.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Another medical adventure

I hate this bed! I hate this sight!
Are we having fun yet? As regular readers know, I had emergency surgery to correct a hernia a month ago. Trauma surgeon--the whole nine yards. You can scroll down for details.

After three weeks, the surgical glue began to loosen on the 7-inch incision and part of it--about 1.5 inches worth--gapped. I was afraid my entrails would tumble out or something else unappealing.

It was a Friday. The surgeon's office said to text a picture of my wound, which looked infected--white and green goop.

By the time, I got the picture to them, it was Saturday...and the receptionist (or whoever's phone number it was) said go to the ER.

When I hauled my sore, arthritic self over there, they kept saying why are you here? No tests, no IV--just why. I said because my doctor said to come.

The nurse assigned to me told me my guts were not going to spill out. Pretty much all I wanted to know.

We kept asking was a doctor from our group there to talk to me? No one seemed to know.

After three hours on their rock hard cot, my right knee was dislocated and screaming in pain.

Finally a young man showed up, introduced himself by first name only, and under questioning, indicated he was from our doctor's group--but was a Physician Asst, not a doctor.

He glanced at my gaping incision and said make an appt in the office for Monday.

What? We already had an appt for the following Friday.

All this cost me a $75 copay for the ER, plus money for Ubers there and back...$100. For nothing.

I will take it up with the surgeon today at the scheduled appt.

This young man also made it clear that he had much better things to do than look at some old gal coming apart at the seams...He could not wait to get away from me.

Medicine today?

Thursday, May 11, 2017

New weight loss drugs

As we slog into the 21st century, fat shamed, doctor shamed, spouse shamed, self shamed, what about a magic pill?

I was clapped onto amphetamines when I was 12--lost enormous amounts of weight three times, but it always found me again.

Now, according to an article in ELLE by Joseph Hooper, the FDA has approved four new drugs to combat obesity: Qsymia and Belviq (2012), Contrave and Saxenda (2014).

In 2010--Meridia was yanked off the market--it increased heart attack and stroke.

In the 1990s, patients downed fen-phen, which did cause weight loss, but also, if you took it long enough, injured your heart valves.

Now--do the researchers have it right? One said--maybe "righter."

They think they know more about the physiology of weight loss--weight-specific pathways in the body, as mysterious as that sounds.

Qsymia and Contrave are drugs prescribed for other ailments besides obesity--they have a history of being used. Still, Qsymia should not be taken by anyone with heart disease--it contains the "phen" part of fen-phen--phentermine. this substance can make you feel "speedy."

Each of the four drugs had to cause test subjects to lose 5% of their body weight, which may not sound like much, but as most dieters know, is not all that easy.

These drugs dial hunger down or satiety up, basically.

But even if you are not "hungry," you may eat for a taste reward or other reason.

Contrave, for example, contains an anti-depressant (Wellbutrin) and the anti-opiate drug naltrexone, which blunt cravings.

Belviq is an all-new drug, which affects the brain's response to the happy chemical serotonin (but not the receptors in the heart valves like fen-phen did).

All the drugs list side efx, of course. For Saxenda nausea applies to all that take it until the body "adapts." Charming.

Also, these drugs are expensive. Try a thousand bucks a month for Saxenda. And usually not covered by insurance.

So this is no miracle "cure." It's not for those last ten pounds. It's medicine. You need to thrash this out with your doctor.

The FDA, it should be noted, would not even test these on people with a BMI under 30, or 27 if the subject had an accompanying problem related to weight.

Half of American adults could meet that standard.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Giving older people psychiatric meds tied to falls, sorta

Researchers at the University of Michigan's School of Nursing have found that a moderate increase in depressive symptoms among people over 65 was associated with a 30% increase in the likelihood of falling over the next two years from first date of measurement.

Why? They say it's may reflect a greater use of psychiatric medications.

Still, they backed continued use of such medication while improving the monitoring of fall risk.

The depressive symptoms and presumably the medication came before the falls, though.

I found their ultimate conclusions pretty wishy-washy.

--Older adults should stay active and reduce risks of falls.

--If you are depressed, talk to a family member or your doctor about it.

--Doctors should dispense big drugs carefully at proper doses. Duh. I would add--they should also discuss side efx with the patient and family or caregivers.

A third of Americans over 65 fall at least once a year.

Big, woozy-making drugs cannot be helping.


Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Do you know the BEFAST stroke symptoms?

A friend of a friend recently went to the ER with vague strokey-maybe symptoms, which made me think of the acronym BEFAST.



B--Balance loss
E--Eyesight changes
F--Face drooping
A--Arm weakness
S--Speech garble or difficulty
T--Time to call 911

The cues used to spell FAST..the latter four--but now the B and E have been added to pick up back of brain strokes. Now 10% more strokes are being identified.

A stroke there may make you off balance or have trouble walking. There also can be vision loss in one of both eyes.

If you can't talk or be understood--the stroke may be in the process of happening.

This applies to younger people, too--strokes in those 65 and older ate down 65%. Strokes in people 25 to 44 are up 44%.

Time saved is brain saved. Don't screw around--get help.

To get the big anti-stroke drug TPA, you need to react within 3 hours. Eighty-six percent of stroke victims don't make the cutoff.


Monday, May 08, 2017

Rich and poor--we all eat fast food sometimes

The popular conception is that only down-and-out, ignorant people grab a fast food burger a few times a week--or month.

A new nationwide study, however, shows that middle-income Americans are most likely to eat fast food.

Even the richest people were only slightly less likely to report that they, too, went to our popular fast fooderies.

The study, done at Ohio State's Center for Human Resource Research, used data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, which has questioned the same group of Americans since 1979.

The data came from 8,000 people who were asked about their fast food habits in 2008, 2010, and 2012.

The participants--in their 40s and 50s when surveyed--were asked how many times in the last week they had eaten food from McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell or the like.

Overall, 79% had eaten fast food at least once and 23% more than three meals in the week.

About 80% of the lowest 10% in income ate fast food at least once a week--but for those near the middle in income, this was 85%.

If their incomes changed over the study period, their fast food consumption did not.

The researchers also found people who ate all their meals at fast food joints--a la Morgan Spurlock, who made the film Supersize Me.

Of course, the participants were not asked what they got at the fast food places. Maybe salads or just a cup of coffee.

Sure. I am positive that's what they got.

Friday, May 05, 2017

TICK-tock

We once had an influx of dog ticks--outside in the yard, inside on the (then) dog, riding on the backs of the cats like jockeys...ticks crawling the walls...dreadful.

I loathe ticks.

But prepare for a bad tick season, says a Cornell University tick expert. A relatively mild winter means more deer and mice--and more ticks.

Even in the city--like NY--there are large mammals, meaning ticks can thrive.

The best-known "bad" tick is the blacklegged tick or "deer tick"--which carries Lyme Disease, babesiosis, and anaplasmosis.

If you now anyone who finally got a Lyme diagnosis, you know this is a long-lasting or chronic disabling ailment and is often not diagnosed for years.

The lone star tick is spreading out in the Northeast and Midwest, thriving in hotter, dryer places and transmitting ehrlichlosis and tularemia.

You need to learn to identify ticks and how to protect yourself.

--Use permethrin-based tick repellent on clothing when in wooded outside areas, even Central Park.

--Inspect yourself and kids for ticks after outings or even everyday.

--Remove a tick carefully, pulling on the head, not the body, with a tweezers.

--Try to keep the head intact in case you get sick and it has to be identified. Put it in an empty pill bottle.

Yick to ticks. Still, we have to be aware.



Thursday, May 04, 2017

The problem--no recess, kids don't play outside?

Not that this is only about money, but if we could increase the number of grade school children who participate in 25 mins of physical activity three times a week from 32% to 50%, we could avoid $21.9 billion in medical costs and lost wages over the lifetimes of these kids.

In a study done by researchers at the Bloomberg Global Obesity Prevention Center, published in Health Affairs, just a small increase in the frequency of exercise among children 8-11 could save 340,000 kids from being fat,

Running around makes kids feel better and develop healthy habits.

The scientists looked at various levels of activity. If we stay at the current level of 32% of kids exercising 25 mins 3 days a week, 8.1 million youths will be fat.

I guess we could start boosting these numbers one kid at a time...Send the tots out to play!

Put down that joystick and learn the joy of running around like a wild animal.

Do kids run around like feral beasts--we did as kids--sadly, I doubt it.

We were horrible brats and loved it.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Good eating--it's childsplay

If good health were as simple as eating more fruit and veggies and exercising 30 minutes a day, says Audra Rankin, a pediatric nurse practitioner at Johns Hopkins, everyone would be fit.

Not sure about that claim, but I do think kids could be enlisted into their own "health" changes.

Rankin has co-authored a book called Gordon Galloway's Mealtime Makeover--a tale of a young cow who loves junk food and doesn't get enough physical activity.

Gordon breaks down his changes into bite-size pieces (sorry)--such as eliminating one soda a week or taking a walk after dinner each day.

Beyond the book, Rankin has created a four-week program called "Lit and Fit." It's being rolled out in Kentucky. Kids and parents not only get the Gordon book but training in making healthy meals.

The latter could be effective---kids will eat what they prepare and will buy into something in which they have an active role. Adults, too.

About that title "Lit and Fit." I assume it means "lit" for literature--meaning the book--and not lit as in stoned. As we know, the latter will not lead to the healthiest food or lifestyle choices.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Thinking about face filler?

Rare--but do your research
Looking at Trump's baggy face every living second and also getting my own self videotaped last weekend, facial filler surfaced in my mind...not that I could ever afford it or even need it really.

Also--I have seen some examples of unfortunate uses of these techniques.

Now, in an article in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the official mag of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, some researchers from the Dallas Plastic surgery Institute wrote about some facial "danger zones" docs should take into consideration in shooting in fillers.

Soft tissue dermal fillers can reduce lines and wrinkles and present a younger, fuller appearance. Recovery time is short. Fillers are now second only to botox in popularity. In 2016, 2.8 million filler procedures were performed.

But--whoever does this (and it's not just plastic surgeons anymore), that doctor needs to avoid injecting into or damaging blood vessels. Partly for this reason, the doctors who wrote the article often prefer hyaluronic acid where possible--these can be reversed with a rescue injection.

The researcher say there are six danger zones on the face, from forehead to chin.

In the article is a link to a video showing how to handle each danger zone.

Might be worth discussing with your doctor before you pump up the facial features.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Have you gone from phone obsession to addiction?

Larry Rosen, PhD, professor emeritus at Cal State Dominguez Hills,, is a technology addiction expert. For 30 yrs, he has studied the impact of technology on 50,000 children, teens, and adults worldwide.

He says--get this--the average person checks his or her phone 60 times a day--for a total of four hours!

Addiction becomes a serious problem when you need more, more, ever more--games, apps, social sites, vibrations, texts..

When you are not on the phone, are you thinking about being on?

Video gaming is already poised to become a formal addiction under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

What is the difference between obsession and addiction? Obsession is an anxiety-based issue--your brain and other organs are releasing chemicals such as adrenaline and cortisol that make you feel anxious--the brain says do the activity, checking the phone, that gets rid of those chemicals.

Addiction is the need to do an activity to release pleasure chemicals, such as dopamine and serotonin.

Some people feel pocket vibrations even when the phone is not in their pocket.

Such motivations can lead to loss of relationships, jobs, and grades.

Parents, he notes, are terrible role models on this subject--and often hand their children a phone in a restaurant or before bed.

There must be a better app for those occasions...LOL.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Up your nose

Loyola University pharmacists published a paper (Annals of Emergency Medicine) that said more ERs and ambulance crews are administering drugs by shooting a mist up patients' noses.

I have not personally experienced this.

Fast, easy, noninvasive--they say.

In short, an atomizer is attached to the syringe of medication and the medication mist covers the inside of the nose on the fast track to the brain.

No needles, no IV, no infections.

In the article they looked at five meds administered this way: tranquilizers, pain killers, drug overdose neutralizer, anesthesia, and child sedation.

But--of course-- there is also a downside. This is more expensive and the dose may not be large enough for adults. It also cannot be used if cocaine use has restricted blood vessels or the patient has other nose issues.

At least they had a sense of humor: The paper was titled, "When to Pick the Nose."


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

People pick produce based on smell and appearance

Is this news? I do remember Mel Brooks observing that he would eat a rotten nectarine over the best peach in the world because of the name "nectarine," but I don't think that is relevant to this.

University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers says growers and grocers need to know people pick their fruits and veggies based on aroma and appearance--not, say, cost and trendiness or even vitamin content.

But--appearance does not always correlate to flavor or aroma.

Consumers like fruit to be sweet and juicy, but in a survey of 1,220 people, they thought the flavor was a matter of luck.

Au contraire!

Scientists work to find the genes that give fruits and veggies their finest taste and smell traits. Genes can also be manipulated to make the plants for insect resistant and to stay fresh longer.

--Of the six commodities in the survey, consumers bought strawberries the most, followed by tomatoes.

--30.9% thought appearance was most important--price was the Number One factor for 28%.

--Some consumers said they would pay up to 25 cents a pound more for better-tasting fruit. (Grocers say they won't.)

--Consumers do not like fruit with bruises.

Remember those garden tomatoes your grandmother used to serve? Can't find those babies in the store much anymore. We used to stand in the garden with a salt shaker and eat them like an apple. Even those hideous tomato worms with the horns on them did not deter us.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Forget the kids, seniors are phoning in the car

You hear a lot about young people with their quick reflexes tweeting and texting and otherwise being idiots in the car.

But a team of researchers at the Training, Research, and Education for Driving Safety program at University of California San Diego looked at the driving habits of California seniors.

Involved in the study were 397 anonymous adults 65 and older.

The older folks drive distracted less than the youngsters, but are still involved in dangerous behavior.

In the sample, the older people with cellphones 60% spoke on them while driving.

Usually involved was a "skewed sense of their multitasking ability," the researchers said.

Here are some fun facts--please read these while parked.

--Older drivers already suffer from medical conditions that impair safe driving--bad vision, frailty, bad thinking, slow reactions.

--Using the phone increases the risk of crashing by four times.

--Using the phone is like driving with a legal blood limit for intoxication.

--75% of seniors think they can use a hands-free device.

--27% drove kids under 11 last month and of those, 42% talked while on the road.

--3% of  the seniors had gotten a ticket for cellphone use, thought they did say the ticket changed their behavior.

How about changing it so you don't get a ticket--or something worse happens?

Monday, April 24, 2017

The signs of autism

Lisa Nalven, MD, director of developmental pediatrics at the Kireker Center for Child Development at Valley Hospital, says 1 in 68 kids are identified with a disorder somewhere on the autism spectrm.

Parents, she says, need to recognize the warning signs.

But--remember, interventions are available and recognizing the signs is constructive.

The most fundamental red flags are:

--No big smiles or warm, joyful expressions by 6 mos or thereafter

--No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, and facial expressions by 9 mos

--No back-and-forth gestures, such as pointing, showing, reaching or waving by a year

--No words by 16 months

--No two-word phrases (without repeating from the parent) by 2 yrs

--Any loss of speech or babbling at any age

Your pediatrician will watch for signs--but if you are concerned, face it, and ask.


Friday, April 21, 2017

Ah--unicorn food

Mermaid Toast
I never heard of this before...but now I have. According to Liam Stack (NYT, Apr 19, 2017), unicorn food is playful, colorful food popularized by Instagram and other social sites.

Starbucks now sells unicorn Frappacinos on Wednesday (for 5 weeks). Like all unicorn food, this java is amped up by cuteness.

Some foods feature fruit in animal shapes, pastel marshmallows, or even a real horn and ears made of sugar.

Toast can be uicorned with vari-colored icings, sprinkles, etc.

Who kicked this off? A wellmess blogger in Miam named Adeline Waugh.

She started it by using beetroot natural dye to pop her food pix.

Of course, her creations were healthy, but the trend has now gone down other paths. Now, sugary sprinkles and weird frostings are involved.

Doesn't sound like a healthfest to me, but hey, sometimes we need some fun, too.

Right?


Thursday, April 20, 2017

More kids can read by first grade

A new study shows that kids entering first grade in 2013 had far better reading skills than similar students a dozen years ago.

Even low-schieving students saw gains in basic reading skills.  But that did not translate into better overall reading for the less-skilled students. The gap between them and the higher-skilled students actually widened--meaning, I guess, that the higher-skilled kids sprinted ahead.

Overall, though, good news, the researchers are Ohio State said. (Educational Researcher)

One take from the researchers was that lower-skilled kids needed more time just reading text and less time being drilled on basic skills.

The study involved 2,358 schools in 44 states, a total of 364,738 kids.

What is the takeaway if you have kids? In my view, it's that preschool is a good thing and that reading should be encouraged at home, too.

To me, though, the really important thing is a love of reading--to somehow instill that.  Reading for pleasure has made my trip through this vale of tears bearable.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Even little kids feel fat

A study done at Leeds Beckett University showed that children as young as age 6 worry about body image, Children as young as three are stigmatized because of their weight, too.

I remember being furious with my ex- because he looked at our toddler daughter and said, "Is she getting fat?"

As if I had not gone that whole route my whole life-starting with amphetamines, threats, insults, etc., when I was not yet in junior high.

The study investigator points out that weight stigma and discrimination greatly influence the change of suffering from mental health issues--such as stress and anxiety.

He says non-stigmatizing supportive health care is paramount, because stigma reduces the potential of all interventions of any kind.

Eating behavior has been associated with depression and mood--and your mood in turn impacts food choice and consumption.

Doctors, he noted, need to "prescribe" exercise to treat both mental and physical concerns.

I don't even know if that's the whole answer.

Everyone needs to be more conscious of this....all this.

Just today, a friend told me about an obese 25-yr-old who had a gallbladder attack. The friend said she was "not being mean, the girl is fat." Yes, obesity can increase the risk of this, but I also know "skinny" people with gallbladder stones. Why is "fat" always the first go-to?

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Hospital food--a new approach

I was hospitalized for 2.5 days last week. I noticed one big change. The food. Long the butt of jokes, hospital food used to be a tray of "dishes," ranging from mystery meatloaf , to a white roll with butter (nutritionless), to Jell-O cubes (ditto).

People loved to diss it.

This time, I noticed a large, laminated menu on the bedside table. It had pictures of luscious-looking food and categories such as Liquid Diet, Soft Diet, Regular Diet.

Apparently food at this hospital is not delivered a set times. You order--like room service. They arrive with snappy little bellboy hats on--but despite the incredibly heavy lids and plates, it's is cold anyway.

I know from blogging about this that this is an attempt to improve "customer service." But may I point out several things:

--The menu was on a table too far for me to reach--so I had to call a nurse to get me a menu. Then I needed to fish out the phone.

--I did not have my glasses the first day and could not read it. I ordered by the pictures. The nurse dialed the number.

--It was up to an hour to arrive.

--Your guests could eat--but they had to pay a pretty hefty fee.

I ordered once one day, twice the next...too much trouble. I did not have much of an appetite anyway, but wanted to eat something to heal, to gain strength.

And I wondered what if you were on say, a liquid diet and ordered a hamburger anyway--would they forbid it? Would you get in a big fight?

I missed the Jell-O cubes, I guess. the food--when it arrived--was regular old hospital food anyhow, The pictures lied.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Report from your hospital insider

I missed posting for two days because I was in the hospital. One service I provide is getting all the diseases and problems so my readers don't have to.

I posted Wednesday, but was in agony from 6 am that day. I have made a reference (scroll down) to having a hernia. In the crazy mess our health care system is these days, and the difficulty I have with mobility with arthritis and no car, I had finally gone to the ER with the huge lump, knowing I could get tests and a diagnosis in one place. No trip for imaging, no trip for labs, no appts only on my kid's day off, etc.

They allayed my fears that is was cancer and said to consult a surgeon. Getting that appt took three weeks. We finally cabbed to him. He said since I have atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat), I would need a cardiologist to clear me. I had fired eight of them, but made an appt three weeks hence with a ninth. In turn, THAT guy wanted me to get two tests, which then had to be approved by my Medicare HMO and then scheduled. We had gotten one done.

Last Wednesday, the pain was horrible. I toughed it out all day and night and then the next AM, Thursday, we cabbed back to the ER. They said come back if it got worse--so I figured that was my doctor. I didn't even know. After another CT scan, they said the hernia was strangulated--meaning to a life and death point that could kill intestinal tissue.

The surgeon I had seen was not available and another doctor from his group took over and operated within an hour of seeing me. The intestinal tissue had not died (relief) and I woke up with five incisions, glued together with lavender skin glue (cool?).

The next day and a half in the hospital was a nightmare--so many tubes, could not turn over with no stomach muscles or knees to flip me, could not get up...ugh. I finally got out Sat afternoon after waiting 2 hours and 45 mins for the in-hospital doc to spring me (where the heck was he?).

I feel tired now, but the incision pain is greatly better this AM.

They said the hernia has probably been growing since I had a hysterectomy 33 yrs ago.

I will talk about hospital food--maybe tomorrow. I love all of you and am glad to be blatting away again.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Kids don't need sports drinks

Many youngsters in after school sports drink sports drinks. After all, they see pro athletes drinking these.

But the average recreational athlete does not play at the intensity of a pro and thus may not need the extra sugar and salt in a sports drink.

You need a solid 45 minutes of exercise to need that, says Matthew Silvis, MD, director of primary care sports medicine at Penn State.

Energy drinks are also at issue.  Pro athletes sometimes drink these for the added boost from caffeine.

Katie Gloyer, MD, a primary care sports medicine doc at Penn State, does not recommend energy drinks--even for pro athletes.

It's better to hone your skills and practice more rather than rely on these drinks, she says.

For children and teens, energy drinks can even be dangerous--the contents are not well regulated and can contain several doses of harmful products, which an elevate blood pressure and cause heart arrhythmias.

The focus needs to be on WATER.  After playing 30- or 45-minute halves, young people should have a water break--with maybe fresh orange slices or maybe a granola bar.

What is best for post-work out recovery? Chocolate milk! This has the perfect combo of fat, proteins, and carbs to help your system recover.

But overall--think water. Otherwise, you may take in more calories than you burn exercising.


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Poly want a pharmacy?

You know what "polypharmacy" is? When someone is taking too darn many prescription medicines.

An increasing number of Americans--centering on the elderly--are taking too many drugs and supplements they do not need. Those medicines, in turn, interact with other medicines in the person's system and cause even more problems than the original conditions.

Many prescription drugs, these days, actually interact with the body in powerful ways and taking a lot at once can be dangerous.

Austin Frakt wrote about this in the New York Times, Apr 10, 2017.

About one-third of "adverse event" hospitalizations include drug-related harm, leading to longer hospital stays, greater expense, and worse health for the patient.

 That amounts to 400,000 preventable events each year ((Institute of Medicine).

Not every adverse drug event means a patient has been given an unnecessary or harmful drug. However, 2/3s of Medicare patients have two or more chronic conditions and almost half take five or more prescribed medications.

At least one in five older patients are on an inappropriate medications--one they can do without or one that can be changed to a safer drug.

A study of over 200,000 older veterans with diabetes found that over half were candidates for dropping a blood pressure or sugar medication.

Researchers have also found a correlation between number of meds a person takes and the risk of an adverse event, such as a fall.

Too, there are many studies on the effects of prescription drugs, but few on the effects of not taking them,

Still, many doctors believe the benefits outweigh the risks and go on loading up patients with drugs. Or patients get prescriptions from various specialists and no one surveys the whole picture.

Researcher say patients need to ask their doctors: "Are there any medications I am on that I don't need anymore--or that I could try doing without?"

But do ask the doctor--don't do it on my say-so.

I only take three--all for high blood pressure--and those make me so nauseated, I have developed a routine of taking them half a pill at a time.