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.


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.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Does you doctor let you set the agenda?

Don't just sit--type!
They did a pilot study at the adult medicine clinic at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle asking patients to use a waiting room computer to type into their own chart what they hoped their visit would accomplish (Annals of Family Medicine).

Both doctors and patients liked this and wanted it to continue, according to the third-year med student at UW Medicine, who honchoed the study.

A UW professor named Joann Elmore, MD, is research director of Open Notes, a national movement to share the notes professionals write with their patients.

Eighty percent of the doctors and patients in this study said setting the agenda helped set priorities.

Other doctors' offices use computers onsite so patients can data-enter their own clipboard.

I see some issues with this. For one, under today's insurance strictures, each encounter is about 15 mins, and often less. I set my own priorities about what to mention and what to ignore. I even had a doctor lean over and try to see my written list and how long it was.

Two, under many federal guidelines, docs are now supposed to bring up certain things such as do you have a gun in the house. Do you feel safe--is anyone abusing you? I even had a doctor--two weeks ago--ask me to spell the word "lunch" backwards--I guess to see if I was senile yet.

And they also push the ever-popular dieting, so-called preventive tests (really early warning tests in almost every instance), and in a flash, your time is up.

I even had a doctor tell me, "Sorry, we can only answer one question..can you make another appt to get the others answered?"


I did notice the last appointment I had, there were computers in the waiting room. A fellow patient said she loved those because she could check her email.

Friday, April 07, 2017

"Natural" eating attributed to the hippies of yore

The New York Times ran a story saying the hippies had won--that their vegan and whole foods ways had entered or even taken over the mainstream.

Granola is now a category in the supermarket. Kombucha is sold on street corners and in Walmart.

Yoga and meditation--everyday activities.

Miso, tahini, dates, seeds, turmeric, ginger--stables of other cultures are commonplace on the American table.

This is also blending with technology in the popular culture--iPhones and pal santo (S Am wood used to smudge areas with healing smoke), one source said.

The super masculine meat culture is giving way to acai and other delicacies.

Some of this is coming from our learning more about the microbiome--the inhabitants of your intestinal tract. This area benefits from biodiversity, but fading soils and big ag farming have limited the range. Now people are trying to repopulate their guts--especially with fermented items.

People tend to like umami--the fifth sort of yeasty taste that is now right up there with sweet, sour, bitter, and salty.

People also like more textures in their food than before.

Remember "nights"? Maybe you are too young. But many families ate the same dishes on each given night of the week--Monday was meatloaf, Tuesday was supermarket pizza, etc. Every meal had a protein, a "starch" (carb), a veggie, and a sweet dessert.

Those days are fading or gone.

A lot of the commenting letters on this story said why attribute this to hippies? It's just wholesome eating. But I do remember being introduced to most of this at a yoga ashram I went to nightly for a decade and to the Whole Earth Catalog, which I loved.

You youngsters missed a lot. But there is still some good eating ahead.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Crying babies by geographical area

According to research done at the University of Warwick (UK), babies cry more in Britain, Canada, Italy, and Netherlands than in other countries.

Babies in Denmark, Germany, and Japan cry the least.

Professor Dieter Wolke, from the dept of psychology, looked a studies involving 8,700 infants.

In addition to singling out countries with the most or least crying, this study allowed the researchers to determine a "normal" amount of crying for each age of the child.

--Babies cry, on average, two hours a day for the first two weeks.

--This peaks at 2 hours and 15 mins at six weeks.

--And reduces to 1 hour 10 mins by 12 weeks.

Some babies, though, cry as alittle as 30 mins a day--and others over 5 hours.

Colic, or painful gas, elicits crying of more than 3 hours a day for at least three days a week.

--In the UK, 28% had colic at 1-2 weeks.

--In Canada, 34.1% at 3-4 weeks.

--And Italy, 20.9% at 8-9 weeks.

Figuring out "normal" amounts of crying helps parents decide if they need extra support or should consult a doctor.

Bottom line? Even "good" babies cry--but sometimes and in apparently some locales, this can be excessive.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Little "pitchers" can get grownup problems

Americans love baseball...sometimes too much.

Michael T. Freehill, MD, associate professor of sports medicine and orthopaedic surgery at the University of Michigan, says he is seeing patients as young as 8 with injuries from overusing their arms in baseball.

Freehill himself plays professionally for eight years.

In a recent interview, Freehill defined "pitch count," as the number of pitches a player throws in one game. But this, of course, is not the extent of the throwing--players also warm up by throwing beforehand or throw between innings.

As the thrower gets tired, the muscle or soft tissue become less effective at protecting the arm. The ulnar collateral (Tommy John) ligament will see more stress from the fatigue.

Overuse injuries appear in many sports and at all ages. Often these come from player specializing in say, pitching, but there does not seem to be evidence that specializing makes a player more likely to be drafted when he or she gets older.

Evidence on high-level pitch counts is scanty. Still, some experts are issuing guidelines.

One guideline is that kids should play multiple sports. Allow them to develop as athletes.

Specialization should not occur before high school.

Check out

Remember where I mentioned the Tommy John ligament? Well, even little kids these days sometimes require the Tommy John surgery, as they call it. Surgery!

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

No rest for the over-50s--start a business!

There are more people over 50 who are self-employed than young adults.

This according to a report by Babson College, Universidad del Desarollo, Universti Tun Abdul Razak, and the Korea Enterprise Institute.

These groups studied 1,540,397 adults from 18 to 80 acorss five regions of the world. Check it  out at

The conclusion was that older people are a significant entrepreneurial force.

--18% of adults between 50 and 64, and 13% between 65 and 80, are self-employed.

--Just 11% of those between 18 and 29 are.

Yet, most programs for entrepreneurs are aimed at the younger crowd.

Senior entrepreneurship is highest in Sub-Saharan Africa. Here businesses require lower skills and less money to get going.

Senior business owners bring a host of economic, social, and environmental benefits, including less need for state financial support and job creation.

Moreover, older investors give more money than younger ones.

Elderly entrepreneurs also express more satisfaction  with their lives and their work. They are more willing to take risks (but may also have the lowest self-confidence).

Also--entrepreneurial intentions are lowest among senior women. Six senior women for every 10 senior men start businesses.

There are 1.6 billion people over 55--now is not the time to collapse in a heap. There is work to do.

Monday, April 03, 2017

You may be taking too much Vitamin D

A few years ago, researchers and doctors changed the level of Vitamin D--the sunshine vitamin--you should have in your blood. Suddenly, everyone I know had a yearly blood test that came back "low" or also commonly, "dangerously low," in Vitamin D.

I resisted downing yet another pill--but it was true, due to my disabilities, I did not get out in the sun much. Finally, I decided to take a supplement because the vitamin was supposed to help bone health. a paper presented to the meeting of the Endocrine Society yesterday, the Recommended Daily Amount intake is 400 International Units (IUs) rather than the Institute of Medicine's recommended 800 IU. Whether this applies to those diagnosed as low or dangerously low is unclear.

But it's half as much.

I won't wade into the weeds about how they determined this--you could google it. It involves a newer liquid chromatography tandem-mass spectrometry technique--weeds! Weeds!

Apparently this 400 IU amount is enough to supplement the sun even in winter. I do remember the doctor being undecided--maybe I could take 5000 IUs for a couple of weeks, then less, or just take that much...I think I am taking 5000. I may cut that due to this...down to 400, though--not sure.

So if you are taking Vitamin D for bone health--this recommendation does not necessarily apply to other reasons, Ask your doctor. Or cut back your dose. Or both.

Your call.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Weekend warriors: Don't overdo

Spring is sprung--many places.  Whether you are starting a new workout routine or digging a veggie garden or playing with the kids or in your office sports league, injuries are a possibility.

Martin Mufich, MSN, RN, sports massage therapist and clinical asst profssor at Texas A&M College of Nursing, has some tips for you.

Ligament injuries

Suddenly your foot lands on a bump or uneven spot followed by a jolt of pain. Your ankle likely has been sprained or twisted.

A sprain involves the overstretching or tearing of ligaments, the fibrous tissues that connect bones to each other. They can happen in any joint--but ankles are a common target.

The symptoms of a sprain are pain, inflammation, tenderness, bruising or hampered movement.

A mild sprain takes 7 to 10 days to heal. A torn ligament, called a severe sprain, makes it difficult to walk and can take several weeks to heal--for those a health care provider needs to be involved.


A strain is the overstretching or tearing of a muscle or tendon.  These connect muscle to bone. Strains can be a one-event thing or accumulate from repetitive motions.

Symptoms are muscle spasms, weakness, cramping and immobility--plus pain, bruising and swelling.


Tears are the ripping of fibrous tissue--in the ligaments, muscles, or tendons. This is more serious and can take months to mend. Some tears may require surgery.

Treatment and prevention

When any injury like this occurs, the body first reaction is to send in a lot of fluid and white blood cells to the damaged area. This means swelling, which can compress nearby nerves and cause pain.

You need to follow the RICES:

R -- Rest. Avoind putting weight on the injury, perhaps by using crutches.

I --Ice.  Apply cold not heat for 10-20 minutes every hour or two throughout the first 24-72 hours. Or until swelling goes down.

C -- Compression. Wear an elastic wrap for the first 24-36 hours. Snug but not crazy tight.

E -- Elevation. Rest the injury above heart level for 2-3 hours a day--in other words, put your foot up.

S -- Stabilization. Stabilize the area until care becomes available--this applies mostly to being in the wild.

You may feel discomfort thought this process--but should not feel a sharp pain.

To prevent these unpleasant occurrences--or minimize the risk--know your limits, warm up, wear protective equipment if appropriate, and wear proper fitting shoes.

Also--ask about rehab or proper physical therapy.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

We do have new colors--or at least new names

I like to have one tank top in each color for summer. I cruise around eBay and feel limited--we need new colors, I think.

Well, researchers in Japan and Ohio State looked into this. Apparently Japan has more colors with no English equivalent. Example: Pale blue. They don't call it "pale blue"--a shade of another color--they call it "mizu," which translates to "water."

This is similar to say, our color magenta--we don't say purplish-red, we say magenta.

This study was published in the Journal of Vision.

The researchers asked 57 native Japanese speakers to name colors on cards put before them. They came up with 93 unique color terms (they were not allowed to say "light" or "dark").

Almost everyone nailed "mizu." "Kon"--dark blue--was also commonly cited.

For the US part, we say lavender, peach and magenta--no Japanese counterpart.

Mizu is as different from "blue" and Green is from "blue."

We may say "sky" but we don't say it often. We also may say "powder blue," but that includes the word "blue."

Actually I see quite a few weird color descriptions in paint colors and makeup and other venues. Here, in the US. But many are not known and not used outside of ordering from a catalog. Colors like soot, blush, even taupe...which I insist is not a color at all. Neither is beige.

What does this have to do with your everyday life,much less health? It's just interesting. I bet you think about it again today.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Paralyzed man moves with mind power (and scientists)

Bill Kochevar, who had not moved his right arm or hand for eight years, grabbed a mug of water and drank some through a straw.


He had a brain-computer setup--with recording electrodes under his skull and a functional electrical stimulation (FES) system activating his muscles--with direction from his brain.

This guy is the focal point of research led by Case Western Reserve. The work was published in Lancet this week.

This is a major step toward independence for the spinal cord injury community, according to a top researchers at Case.

Basically, they take the brain signals Kochevar, who was injured in a bike accident, emits when he attempts to, say, scratch his nose, and use them to control his arm or hand.

This research is part of a larger effort called BrainGate 2--a clinical trial being held by academic and VA institutions.

The 96-channel electrode array implanted in Kochevar's skull is about the size of a baby aspiring. He practiced emitting these signals on a virtual reality arm on a computer.

 He could do it within minutes.

Then the 36 electrical stimulation electrodes were placed in his arm.

After a while, he could just think "out" and the arm would reach out.

Kocehvar may get more surgery to make this even more precise.

Cool, huh?

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Best and worst states for docs--from their POV

When I say best state for a doctor, I mean the states where they can make the most money. How does that translate to best or worst
for the patient--you have to decide.

BEST STATES (from WalletHub)
S Dakota

Rhode Island
New Jersey
District of Columbia
New York

Fun facts:

Nebraska has the highest annual wage for surgeons (adjusted for cost of living)--$307,590.

This is 2.5 times the District of Columbia average for surgeons.

Idaho has the lowest number of doctors per 1,000 residents--DC has ten times as many.

Florida has the highest expected share of people 65 and older by 2030. That would be 27.1% of the population. Utah is lowest--13.2%.

Wyoming has the most disciplinary actions taken against physicians--with south Carolina coming in with the least.

North Dakota has the lowest amount of malpractice awards per capita..35 times lower than NY!

Wisconsin has the lowestt malpractice insurance rate--New York's is six times higher.

I always check my doctors with the medical board to see if they have paid out for malpractice. Do you?

Monday, March 27, 2017

How about some wind sprints for the youngsters?

An international study conducted by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center indicates that 10 minutes a day of high-intensity physical activity would reduce the risk of some children's developing heart problems and diabetes,

Children who would benefit most had a large waist measurement and elevated insulin levels.

The study, in the journal of Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise, analyzed data from 11, 588 kids from 4 to 18 who were included in 11 studies in the US, Brazil, and European countries.

Each child studied had at least one marker for cardio-metabolic risk.

They matched the markers against vigorous activity (while controlling for other factors) and found 32 associations out of 360--all related to waist size or insulin levels.

In these cases, the researchers concluded that avoiding being sedentary and even engaging in low-intensity moving about did not produce the results that vigorous exercise did.

But--of course--more study is needed, meaning looping in diet and genetic information.

In the meantime, hup, hup, kids--get up and race around. Can't hurt.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Big Sneeze is coming

With a whiff of spring in the air, people are thinking outdoor activities, but what about allergies?

It's that time again.

Still, allergist Stephen Tilles, MD, president of the Am College of Allergy,  Asthma and Immunology (, says there are some simple ways to make allergies more bearable.

Spring cleaning. Sweep away the cobwebs, do some deep scrubbing (mold, pet hair). Vacuum pet beds and wash their bedding often.

Pollen. Two-thirds of those with asthma have an allergy...conversely, your "allergy" may be asthma. If  you can't get rid of a cough or are short of breath, get checked for asthma.

Clear the air. Do NOT get an ionic air filter. The ionization makes particles stick to the wall or any surface, where you will pick them up anyway. Also--the produce ozone, which can create problems. Instead, get a HEPA room air cleaner rated with Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR). Central air? Change your filters every three months and used filters with a MERV rating of 11 or 12.

Fresh air. Forget it--don't open windows and let the spring come in. Turn on the AC with the new filer you just put in.

Also forget Dr Google. Sneezing a lot--ask an allergist. There are medications, even shots, that can help ease your suffering.

The Old Wives did not know everything.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Even with insurance, medical bills hurt

Ipsos, a market research company, released a study showing that many Americans are unable to handle unexpected medical bills.

Three-quarters of Americans have seen their health costs rise and not go down--so for many, this means avoiding medical care.

---One in five Americans avoid going to the doctor because of the cost--this includes 56% of people without insurance and 27% of Millennials.

--Forty-nine percent say they don't have enough info on what things will cost to determine what they will have to pay. A broken arm? Almost half of those asked said it would cost them under $500--the real cost, almost $1200. (And that is probably with insurance.)

--In 2015, 41% of Millennials asked for a cost estimate--but only 21% of Boomers and 18% of seniors. HOWEVER--34% of the time, the final bill was higher than the estimate.

Shocker, huh.

Strapped Americans also are not saving for health care. Only 32% contribute to a Health Savings Account.

Bottom line: People who could not afford an unexpected bill over $100 without borrowing--37%. If the bill were more than $2,000 77% said they would have to borrow.

And now--we have a health proposal to make this worse. It's sickening.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Is dread of robots really delusional?

Baylor University researchers examined data from Wave 2 of the Chapman Survey of American Fears (1,541 people).

First, they found the fear of losing a job to a robot is real. This is a "substantial portion" of the American population--37%--identified as technophobes.

Technophobes, according to this study, are very afraid or just afraid of robots in the workforce, decision-making robots, and technology they don't understand, such as artificial intelligence.

--Women, non-whites, and women report being most phobic.

--Technophobes are three times as like to fear losing their jobs, and three times as likely to fear not having enough money in the future.

--Technophobes also are 95% less likely to be able to stop or control worrying.

All this is published in the Social Science Computer Review.

But isn't automation going to cause unemployment? Mark Cuban said it was. Bill Gates, also no dummy, said robots should be taxed and the money used to retrain people (presumably for jobs robots don't want--notice how intelligent I made them there?).

Fear of automation is not new, of course. People said cars would not catch on.

But it's coming on a scale we have not seen.

Visionaries may see blue skies ahead with more leisure time and fabulously fulfilling, non-routine jobs for people.

But--the fear remains--and maybe it is realism and not mental illness. Think?

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Which people with atrial fib should be on blood thinners?

Just another day for someone with afib.
First--this is not medical advice. Second--I don't want to get too far into the weeds here.

But over a decade ago, a doctor discovered I had irregular heartbeat--known as atrial fibrillation. One in five Americans have it--my brother does, also a maternal aunt. For once, this is not related to being fat!

Basically, this is when a clump of regulating cells near the heart go off  track somehow and cause the heart to beat funny. One doctor kept referring to mine as my "hippety-hoppety heart."

This funny beat, in turn, can cause blood in the upper chamber of the heart to get sort of churned up into a clot that can travel to other parts--and cause a stroke. People with afib, as they call it, have a greater chance of a stroke as those with "normal sinus rhythm."

Some people get a fluttery feeling and are "in" afib for a time, then revert to normal. Others--like me--are always in afib. My pulse is sort of  like BEAT BEAT...Slidy slurry BEAT...PAUSE...BEAT....

At first, they put me on a med called amiodarone to regulate the beat. This drug made me so sick I ended up ion the hospital and later they said they didn't know if I was coming out alive. I did!

Then they put me on blood thinners--a blood thinner--warfarin. Every month, I had to go to a lab and get a blood test...they would call and say eat a spinach salad--vitamin K in spinach affects your blood thinness. It was wacky...then my intestine bled, leading to a terrible hospitalization for a colonoscopy. Can't have that with thinners on board, so they tried to counteract the thinner with blood plasma. The colonoscopy could not be completed.

I stayed on thinners. They said to.  Eventually, I experienced another bleed--in my right eye, leading to terrible clots, a fully detached retina, four surgeries, and now a blind eye.

I quit warfarin. Now I am on an aspirin only and have been for 10 yrs.

There are two other approaches to afib--ablation (try to kill the rogue cells with radio waves or heat) or the "paddles"--shock you into proper rhythm. I refused both

Long story longer, research from the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Salt Lake City now says there is an effective way to tell if someone needs thinners. First, you do a questionnaire called the CHA2DS2-VASc (see what I mean by "weeds"?) and then a second scoring--the Intermountain Mortality Risk Score.

The first is not predictive of outcomes, but has been used for years anyway. It is oversinmplified, the researchers say--a woman over 65 would automatically get a thinner, even though this is not a comprehensive way to tell is she needs one.

The new Intermountain score adds more variables.

Well, fine and dandy...I am seeing my ninth cardiologist next week--to see if I can withstand hernia surgery.  Wonder if he will recommend this.

As I peer into the screen with my one remaining eye--I have no idea.

Monday, March 20, 2017

42% of parents say they would take their kid to Urgent Care

The C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National poll on children's health said 42% would also try to communicate with the doctor without a visit.

More parents were confident of getting same-day phone advice (60%) than a same-day appointment (53%).

In other words, the researchers said, many parents are frustrated about getting timely advice when they have a sick child.

While retail clinics (in stores) or urgent care clinics may seem convenient, they may not have the child's history and can be expensive. And don't even ASK about the ER--see below.

Most doctors' office have a limited number of "sick" visits a day. I remember my daughter's pediatrician gave out a booklet of when to call or make an appt. I about had it memorized.

Discuss this with the doctor before deciding on a provider--the researchers recommended.

Most often, for a number of reasons, the primary care doctor's office is your best bet.

I will admit I often consider other venues. I even got so desperate with stomach pains two weeks ago, I went to the ER, knowing I could get imaging, testing, and an opinion in one place...and not be shuffled one day to a lab, the next to an x-ray place.

But the bottom line for that six hours...$11,600!!! My part was way less, of course, but someone thought that was what the services were worth,

I think the entire health care system is hardly worthy of the name system these days.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Attitude toward health care depends on age

A Vitals Index study surveyed Millennials,  Gen X, and Boomers and found different attitudes on health care.


The youngest group surveyed, the Millennials are the healthiest.  In fact, they utilize health care less often than previous generations did at their age. Only 35% of these even have a primary care provider. One in four say they use an alternative facility--say an urgent care center--when sick.

The Millennials, however, tend to have a high degree of trust. Also, they tend to be over-sharers (social media) and favor a more open doctor-patient relationship. They are not afraid to engage authority--their parents have taught them their voice matters. Millennials also use digital media--such as doctor reviews. They also tend to trust institutions with their health data.

Generation X

These are in their late 30s and 40s. They don't trust doctors or the system. They tend to believe doctors are more about money than helping. They hate to open up with their doctors.  They are less likely to follow up on advice--and only 56% have a primary care doctor. In fact, one in four say they have lost trust in a doctor or institution in the last two yrs--more than any other generation.

Baby Boomers

This generation, being oldest, is the unhealthiest. They have a high rate of chronic disease, more disability, and lower self-rated health than any previous generation at the same age.

Therefore--83% of Boomers have a doctor. They prefer a team approach, though.  They value a doctor who will discuss treatment options in detail.  They also expect doctors to work at least a 50-hour week like they do and keep up on medical information. To find a doctor, Boomers rely more on recommendations from friends and family than the internet.

This seems to track with what I have observed. What do you think?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Good sleep--better than winning the lottery

University of Warwick (UK) researchers analyzed the link between sleep and mental and physical well-being and said working on achieving better sleep could be an effective, cheap health strategy.

The quality of sleep, the researchers pointed out, was more important than the length or number of hours.

They even quantified the benefits--equal to winning 200,000 pounds in the lottery.

Moreover, positive changes in quality of sleep, over time, using less sleep medication, improved scores on the General Health Questionnaire, used to determine mental well-being.

A person's physical health is also improved. And lack of sleep, and bad sleep quality lead to worsened states.

Bottom line: The benefits of sleep are accessible to everyone.

Some general principles:

--Cool room
--Dark room
--No devices or blue light
--Limit liquids at night to cut bathroom runs, don't eat after 8 PM
--Alcohol before bed can make you fall asleep but then rebound awake
--Comfortable mattress, bedding, and night clothes
--Maybe separate room from spouse who snores
--Pets in or out of bed depending on your preference

See? You didn't even need to buy a lottery ticket.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Patients like "telehealth" but does it cut costs?

Conferences with docs by phone or videoconference are becoming more popular--more than a million such consultations were reported in 2015.

The idea is that this is not only more convenient for minor ailments, but costs the system less, too.

A study of 300,000 people in a Blue Shield of CA HMO (Health Affairs) showed that patients probably would not have gone to the trouble of going to the doctor and so the tele-visit is an added cost.

A telehealth visit costs about $79, compared with $146 for an office visit.

The researchers found that only 12% of the telemedicine encounters replaced an in-person visit to a doctor or ER, while 88% represented new demand.

Mostly the virtual visits focused on respiratory ailments, sinusitis, bronchitis, pneumonia and tonsillitis.

Too, telehealth visits themselves may cost less than in-person, but they often result in followups, lab tests, and prescriptions, just like in-person ones do.

The costs of respiratory ailments in the group increased by $45 per user.

Of course, the honchos at telehealth companies disagree. The head of Teledoc said the numbers are outdated.

Still, to achieve real cost savings, the tele-visit must replace the in-person.

What do you think? Have you tried this? I have not, though I hate going to the doctor because my arthritis makes it so painful to gimp around.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Can you stand another post on my upcoming surgery?

After this, I will give it a rest for a while--for me, as much as for you.

The American Society of Anesthesiologists encourages you (me?) to take some steps before the "big day."

In my case, this means seeing a cardiologist (my ninth in AZ) because I have atrial fibrillation, a rhythm disorder suffered by 20% of people.

So they want to be on the safe side there, I guess, even though I don't want to tangle with another cardiologist--the two ways of treating my thing backfired on me big time and the other two ways don't last, from what I have heard. So I am not treating this, except for a mild blood thinner--aspirin,

They hate that.

Anyhow, that is one piece of advice--possible pre-op specialist visits.

Other recommendations:

--Find out who will be administering the anesthesia. They are physicians at the Society so they recommend you insist on a physician-anesthesiologist not a nurse-anesthetist. We could get into that, but not here. Physician-anesthesiologists have 12-14 years of medical ed and 12,000 to 16,00 hours of  clinical training. They work with your surgeon and other members of your care team to manage you while unconscious and your pain afterward.

--Talk with this person. You need to provide detailed info on your meds (including over-the-counter, vitamins, supps), chronic issues, diseases and ailments, allergies, recreational drugs, and so on. I have found--and it just happened with my daughter's gallbladder operation, that this conversation is sketchy and takes place right before the surgery and often after you get some "soothing" medication.

--Detail your previous experience with anesthesia. Will this person want to know that the guy who numbed my eye for one of my four detached retina surgeries did it wrong and I felt the first cut--yow--followed by bam! I was out for 10 mins of more numbing then back awake? Will I sound fearful, disrespectful? Probably won't get into this--since my operation this time is not under a local.

--Tell this person your fears. Yeah, OK. I have fears.

--Ask questions. Hmmm...I would ask my odds on waking up...but I had odds on my eye that were not too meaningful, so maybe not.

--Ask about afterward. This means pain control. I will be in the hospital, I am told--this is not in-and-out surgery for me.

So--typing this has freaked me out--but that is my role. I get this stuff so you don't have to.

Monday, March 13, 2017

How about a virtual dry run of your operation?

Your humble correspondent here is facing hernia surgery and due to weight, age, atrial fibrillation (heart arrythmia), I am considered a sketchy candidate. So you better appreciate me while you can. (My long-time readers know I tend to overstate--at least I hope I am.)

Anyhow, some docs got together at US San Diego and did a virtual operation on a guy to practice for his real operation.

This caught my interest for sure.

It was colon surgery (part had to be removed) and they made a lifesize model of his guts. Then the surgeon would do a run-through before "breaking ground," as it were.

The patient, a colleague, was into what he calls "the quantified self." This means knowing and understanding every aspect of your insides down to the microbes living in there.

At present, doctors are limited to imaging, patient history, physical findings, lab tests and the surgeon's experience.

When it was time for the operation in this case, though, the doctor said she looked back and forth between the computerized dry run and the patient's actual insides and it was incredibly helpful.

She admitted using this tool would take surgeons some adjustment. You see different views, she said, the actual patient, the run-through, cameras inside during the actual operation--it takes some work to put it all together.

She added that this technique brought more technology into the room to reduce risks.

I guess my surgeon will have to ready for surprises--but I bet future generations will benefit from this.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Smiling as therapy

See--you're smiling. You're welcome.
Even though I am still in the throes of ailment and insurance HELL (see below), I am trying to grab a smile here and there--and anyone who follows this site or knows me, positive thinking is not my strong suit.

The Consumer Guide to Dentistry lists eight components of a smile..from the frame (lips) to the buccal corridor (between the corners of the mouth and upper teeth).

It takes 11-17 muscles to prop up the corners of your lips.

Jamie Reynolds, an orthodontist and author of World Class Smiles Made in Detroit, says smiles work on the smilee and smiler.

--Your longevity could be affected. This sounds a little flimsy, but in 2010, Wayne State University measured the smiles of Major League players' 1952 baseball cards. Those with no smile lived an average of 72.9 years. The smilers lived to 79.9 years of age.

--Smiles can be therapeutic. Smiles reduce stress hormone levels and increase those yummy endorphins.

--Smiles translate universally. Almost every place, a smile is received positively.

I try to smile first thing in the AM...even if Morning Joe is not that funny--and it usually isn't these days.

Try it!

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Health ideas for Gen X

Andy Cohen--pre-renewed workouts
Keith Kantor, nutritionist and CEO of Nutritional Addiction Mitigation Eating & Drinking (NAMED), has some ideas for Generation X.

--Hint: Gen X is between the Boomers the the Millennials, meaning middle-age-y.

First, Kantor recommends a diverse exercise program--strength, cardio, core, and flexibility. But Gen X is "stressed," he says--so maybe an intense day followed by a more restorative day (yoga or Pilates).

Gen Xers should also strive for quality sleep. Wind down in the evenings, go for a walk, take a bath. Keep the room cool--no devices.

Try to take nutirtional supps instead of prescription drugs. The soil is overcropped and deficient, Kantor says--you may need supplements.

Kantor is also big on alkaline water--he says drink half your weight in ounces of it a day. (I have read several studies, though, that say this alkaline water is a fad.)

Try not to eat out--the food is heavy in fat and sodium, dyes, fructose corn syrup and other baddies.

Avoid artificially sweetened beverages, too. Aspartame, saccharin, sucralose--all have been linked to cancer. Also keep alcohol consumption down. Middle-aged people have no business "getting drunk" or experiencing hangovers.

Eat "super foods." Nuts, seeds, 9 to 11 fruits and veggies a day--with a ratio of 3 to 1 veggies over fruit.

Try massage and acupuncture.

Reduce your screen time.

Declutter, organize, purge old clothes, shred old documents. Clutter equals stress.

Try one or two for a few months. At the Gen X stage of life--too much is too much.

No, I am not calling you old, but you maybe are sort of not young.

I am listening to the Bravo Channel's Andy Cohen's diary book--titled SUPERFICIAL--and he is such a gadabout, such a fan boy and name dropper, and he is out a lot--but I notice, he always notes what time he gets to sleep--and he gets lots of massages and works out with a trainer several times a week, despite obsessing over his pudge and unwhitened teeth.

Gen X all the way.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Med diet may cut chronic pain for overweight people

The Mediterranean Diet--more fish, olive oil, and plant-based proteins such as nuts and beans--is pretty delicious and not a hardship.

But, now, researchers at Ohio State says fat can cause inflammation in nearby tissues, so cutting inflammation can reduce or prevent that pain.

It's not just quantity of food--in other words--it's the makeup of it and the quality.

Remember, overweight people are more likely to experience pain. the study, included 98 men and women from 20 to 78 (the journal Pain).

They measured fatness by BMI, waist size, and body fat percentage.

They concluded that for fat people, it's "like a cloud hanging over them---because they experience high levels of pain and inflammation."

This work is preliminary, for example biomarkers for inflammation in the blood were not examined.

But take it from THIS bountifully endowed person, pain is an everyday reality.

Some nice hummus, garlic bread, fresh fish or salad dressed with olive oil...might help ease the discomfort.

I say it's worth a try. (This diet also cuts the risk of heart disease and even some cancers.)

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Seriously--are these people SERIOUS?

I had excruciating stomach pains Saturday and finally went to the ER--enough was enough...I had a huge lump on my stomach, which I immediately feared was cancer, of course. And pain! Double-over pain...

After seven fun-filled hours and a CT scan, whew--hernia...But still, a hernia requires surgery. The ER referred me to a surgeon and said good luck, call Monday.

Then some more fun began. First thing Monday I called my Medicare HMO and asked about the surgeon they recommended--sorry, not on the plan. So I asked for more names--but please someone close because we have no car and must pay cabs. I got a list. I started was a plastic surgeon...hmmmm. not her. The others were up to 20 miles away. Finally I got an appt with one.

Yes, even though I had a CT scan, blood work, an EKG, etc at the ER, I would need to visit the surgeon's office for a "consultation." This, of course, would require a referral from my "family doctor."

I called my family doctor--could they send the referral? No--you have to come here first because you have not been here for three months. I said--I have a medical record on this hernia--from the ER. No... Now, 36 hrs later, my family doctor has not even read the message saying (as he well knows) that my arthritis is so bad it is an ordeal to come over.

Later, that afternoon, I thought, wait a hot one...Maybe the guy the ER recommended--the close one who also operates at a close hospital--is on my plan. Why believe the insurance company? So I went on the--gulp--insurance company website, usually a place hope goes to die.

The ER-recommended doctor was on there! He is on the plan! So I called the family doctor back...I want the referral to this guy.

This morning--that had not been written down, but within the last two hrs, the note was read by the family doctor...the referral is being made without my coming over...step COMPLETE.

As I sat here in PAIN, almost crying, all day yesterday...everyone I talked to ended the call with "Have a nice day!" Chirp, chirp.

This is a health care system? Some of us are not having a nice day.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Skin products may mislead

Here's the skinny for today--don't believe anything you read on skin and beauty product packages.

Some language is strictly guff--for marketing, selling the dream as it were (silky, anti-aging). Other words may mean different things on different products. This according to Rajani Katta, MD, clinical asst professor at Baylor College of Medicine.

Example: "For sensitive skin" and "hypoallergenic" are terms not regulated by the FDA. There is no guarantee these products won't irritate your skin.

Also--be wary of "all natural." Remember--Katta says--poison ivy is "all natural."  These products can also have harmful preservatives.

Other products may say "frangrance free," but there is fragrance--it's to make it more moist, rather than to add a scent, but it's there.

To protect your own skin--try a test site--say, a small amount on your forearm before slathering it all over you.

If you already have skin inflammation--nix the new products--your skin's protective barrier is already compromised.

And--bear in mind that allergic reactions can take a couple of days to show up. By then, you may not even know what caused the rash.

Above all--price is no guarantee of purity, gentleness, or effectiveness...this is from me. Some of that department store stuff can cost a fortune and still make you break out or turn red.

Friday, March 03, 2017

Attention all you winter surfers

Winter can be dangerous--even for surfers. In Southern California, the winter surf is usually bigger--and doctors tend to see more injuries, says J. Lee Pace, MD at the Children's Orthopaedic Center.

Plus--with the warmed winters in some areas, kids continue to play fall and summer sports in the offseason--leading to overuse injuries.  Serious overuse injuries in children are on the rise.

Think about safety...

--Depending on the sport or activity, wear a helmet--in addition to preventing skull fractures and brain bleeds, helmets keep the head warm.

--Wear wrist guards. People tend to put their arms out to catch themselves (snowboarders?) and can hurt their wrists.

--Watch those ski bindings--automatic releases need to be adjusted to the child's height and weight.

--Don't forget UV protection, even on cloudy days.

--Cross-train in the offseason. This not only helps performance, but develops different skill sets.

I am sure you can think of more precautions. Heads up! I mean, surf's up.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

You may be using the treadmill wrong

Especially at this time of year, many people exercise indoors--even runners.

But orthopaedic surgeon Kevin D. Plancher, founder of  Plancher Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, says you may be injuring your knees if you don't run at a slight incline.

A zero-percent incline, he explains, is not like running on flat ground, it's like running slightly downhill, which stresses the knee and patellar tendon (front of thigh, helping the thigh straighten the leg).

Higher inclines also may be fun and challenging but can lead to sharp knee pain.

Treadmills come with inclines programmed in for a reason, Plancher says. Running at a slight incline works the big muscle groups and also helps you avoid shin splints.

The slight incline of 3% is optimal.

If something starts hurting, the doctor says, stop doing it. Try biking, swimming, or the elliptical and give your knees a break.

Well, not a know what I mean.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Recycling unused prescriptions

Elizabeth Landsverk, MD, with ElderConsult Geriatric Medicine, says that in 2012, 28%, more than a quarter, of adults with chronic conditions skipped doses of a drug or did not fill the presciption in the first place because of high cost.

At the same time, hospitals, pharmacies, manufacturers and nursing homes toss out unused meds worth billions. Often this ends up in our water or is dumped or burned.

In 1997, state legislatures began taking action on letting people donate and reuse such meds. These programs create repositories allowing such drugs to be donated and then re-dispensed to needy patients.

As of mid-2016, 38 states had such programs, although not all were fully functioning. Too, such programs do not allow people to donate drugs, just institutions.

In 2015, California opened the Better Health Pharmacy in San Jose.  There is no copay for insured patients and no need to have insurance. All patients need is a valid prescription. No proof of residency, citizenship or income is needed.

The drugs most commonly distributed are for asthma, high blood pressure, diabetes and depression.

Controlled substances are not donated or distributed.

Does your state have some sort of program? You could check.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Cool garden idea

This slammin' thing is called a Growroom, or rather a collection of Growrooms. It was designed by Space 10 as part of the Ikea Lab development program.

Growrooms are 2.8 x 2.5 meters in size. Light and water reach theplants and there is shade anad shelter for visitors.

The design is open-source--available from Space 10 (

The goal is to create space-conserving sustainability in inner cities, perhaps, and developing countries. The whole thing is made of plywood.

This sustainability thing is the Netherlands, a big supermarket has a growing herb garden--customers pick what they need.

There is also a whole "farm" in a shipping container.

Keeping thinking, people!

Monday, February 27, 2017

What first aid should mountaineers carry?

This is not a problem for me--I won't climb mountains or even hike. But plenty of people do.

Researchers at the Texas Health Sciences Center in San Antonio analyzed 11 previous studies of illness and injuries among climbers and came up with a list of medical supplies these people might want to bring along.

They admit it's hard to think of a one-size-fits-all and that experienced climbers learn over time what to bring.

First, the researchers studied what the most common problems are. Fifty-eight to 76% of injuried needing medical care came from falls.

Strains and sprains made up 25% to 29% of injuries.

Stomach upset and flu-like sickness were the most common illnesses.

The most commonly carried item was Band-Aids and other bandages. Some mountaineers also carried Vaseline and antibiotic reams.

The researchers suggested:

--Wound care supplies (medican glove, bandages, and tape)

--Splinting materials

--Syringes, tweezers, skin glue, Vaseline, blister ointments

--Anti-diarrheals, fever reducers, opioid painkillers, and anti-vomiting drugs.

Don't underestimate the mountain environment was the parting advice. This means also bringing proper clothing, water, navigation, and communication equipment.

I would add ropes to that... but what do I know?

Friday, February 24, 2017

I admit it--I had a fat cat

My cat Chubby Butters was almost 20 lbs when I rescued him. The shelter said he had to be  on a diet and no carbs. I went to Petsmart and carbs were not listed on the food. I added up all the other nutrients, subtracted from 100 and got that most of the cat food was 30% carbs.

I then limited his amounts, even though he was aggrieved. At the next vet visit, he had gained 8 lbs.


So he was fat all his 11 yrs he lived until near the end--when he lost some. But, believe me, this was not deliberate.

Now, we are told, 59% of cats and 54% of dogs are overweight (Assn for Pet Obesity Prevention).

Yet, pet owners and veterinarians disagree on what to do. What about corn and grains--bad or good. Raw diets? Organic?

Obesity kills millions of pets prematurely, the pet obesity people say. It costs in sadness and money.

Yet, when asked about their own pets' weight, owners and vets report they are normal (81% of owners, 87% of vets).

The survey also showed that many vets do bring up the pets's weight (half of owners said it was never raised). Of course, the vets said they did.

So what about that food?

--61% of owners and 25% of vets said low-grain or no-grain was best.

--Raw diet? 35% of owners thought this was best, but only 15% of vets.

--Corn? 73% of owners thought it was bad for pets, while 48% of vets agreed.

So what to do...

We may be back to limiting quantity--you saw where that got me. My other cats in the same household at the same time were normal weight. I did notice, Chubby begged for food the most--and I think some of this might have been out of boredom.

If it was hunger, it sure made him grumpy--he bit me so badly one time I had to get a tetanus shot.

I have one cat left--she is tiny and skinny as a skeleton, although very spry at almost 20. Every time I stand, she runs to her dish to be fed. So go know.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Would you like to peer into the future?

We all know people who consult fortune tellers to try to find out their future. There seems to be an assumption that people would like to know their personal prospects.

But do they? Do you?

Personally, I don't want to know about any future ailment or disability if there is nothing I can do about it.

Now, the American Psychological Assn has studied this and found that most people would not want to know about future events that will affect them--even IF these events would make them happy.

In other words, most people would say no thanks to the powers that made the Greek woman Cassandra, daughter of the king of Troy, such a great fortune teller.  In fact, her contemporaries thought she was cursed having this "gift."

Two studies--of more than 2,000 adults in Germany and Spain, Spain, found that 85% to 90% of people would not want to know about upcoming negative events, and 40% to 70% would not even want to know about happy ones.

The prefer-not-to-knows are more likely to buy life insurance. The closer one is to the event, say death of a spouse, the less that person wants to know the details.

The only thing people did want to know was the gender of a child coming in the future.

So how does this track with all the cancer and genetic screening we are told to want and get?

Deliberate ignorance is widespread, the researchers noted, more or less dodging the question.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Parents doubtful they are getting kids to eat healthy diets

My child eats sugary cereal. She bakes cookies every week, My child is 35.

Did I provide a good example? Yes, and no. We always ate a varied diet--all the food groups. I have had lifelong intestinal issues and am not crazy about raw foods such as salads due to pain. She eats some salad.

She used to work at Wendy's--we ate more fast food then. Now almost never.

Still, we are both large women. Our lab numbers are OK so far.

Researchers at the University of Michigan did a survey of (guilty) parents. Only one in six said their children's diet was nutritious. A fourth said their diet was somewhat healthy or not healthy at all.

Most parents, the researchers said, know healthy food is better for their kids--but work schedules, play schedules, and food preferences make meal prep frustrating.

You can spend time and money on a health meal and the kids won't eat one bite.

It's all too easy to slip into a fast food mentality.

The parents polled also said it was difficult to tell which foods were actually good. Phrases such as all-natural, low-fat, organic, and sugar-free abound--and there may be a big difference between the term and the nutritional value.

For lots of parents, too, healthy foods are not available--this is the so-called "food deserts."

Is awareness of this a start?

Can kids be co-opted into helping shop well--maybe as a challenge?

Can kids pack their own lunches or help make their own dinners?

How about kid cooking classes to get them interested?

Remember, the average kid cannot buy Twinkies and HoHos--you would have to. So don't have that stuff around. It's a start.

I remember when my daughter was about 10, she begged to get "fruit leather," which for some reason, I found to be an expensive and stupid food--basically pounded jam. I refused many times and endured many meltdowns. Now I wonder--was fruit leather really that horrible?

Maybe an occasional compromise would make all this go better.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Hey, there might be a good use for fat cells

Yes, you can buy a stuffed
fat cell...what is science
coming to?
Ah, those magnificent fat cells--they never seem to die, just multiply or the ones you have get fatter.

They cause inflammation in nearby tissues. They make you look wobbly-blobbly.

But now--get this--researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at Penn say fat cells may be better than, say, skin cells, for anti-aging treatments.

Seems they chronologically age better. Wait--don't hang up. Chronological aging is the natural life cycle of cells--in the body, not manipulated in a lab. The Penn folks developed a system to collect and store cells without forcing them to replicate in a lab.

This is when the researchers found that human fat cells make more proteins than originally thought.  This gives them the ability replicate naturally and stay stable.

The cells are very robust, one researcher said. They can potentially be used in the future.

Stem cells are currently used in anti-aging treatments. They take them from various parts of the body, but now the fat cells may be the most promising.

At present, these cells are not approved for direct use by the FDA. But stay tuned.

Maybe those fat cells will turn out to benefit us after all--in situations other than preventing starvation.

I wonder about the FDA approval statement, though--don't doctors lipo out fat cells and inject them into other areas of the body as a way to make women look younger? I guess that doesn't count.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Blue Monday--does your job suck?

Robert Camarote, Government Executive magazine, Jan 18, 2017, says a lot of people are unhappy at work--no or paltry raises, no new skills, and a bad boss.

Even people with a good salary and a nice manager may be disgruntled. Our relationships and community ties seem to be lacking compared with past generations. We chase fame and image--which come with anxiety and depression. And our expectations are too high--all that "you can be anything you want" stuff.

We lack clear purpose and don't see how our work is helping.

Most of what we do may be internal reporting, performance measuring--how does that help anybody?

There is, in short, no obvious benefit.

Both employers and employees rarely ask--is this job important? Is it needed?

People with a direct connection to the customer can say--look, you might need this, I made it for you, I can explain it to you, if it breaks I can fix it for you.

This gives clear purpose.

So how can everyone's job edge closer to this ideal? That is up to managers and even to you, the employee...

How about it?

We can't spend our lives frustrated and moping around.

Friday, February 17, 2017

New advice: Keep baby in parents' room, but not bed

I remember watching my daughter sleep...breathing in and out. It is so hard to leave them, so tiny and helpless, in a big crib alone.

Of course, parents worry about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), which claims 3,500 infant lives a year in the US.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a recommendation that infants sleep in the parents' room, close to their bed, but on a separate surface designed for them.

This arrangement should last six months to a year.

Doing this could cut the risk of SIDS in half.

Of course, some pediatricians say no, this would interfere with the parents' sleep and ability to perform the next day.

Still, the recommendation has been reinforced since it was made in 2011.

The rate of SIDS has actually decreased but the risk of accidental suffocation and strangulation in an adult bed have increased.

Parents need to decide for themselves. Some tips:

--Put babies on their backs to sleep.

--Have a firm surface.

--Keep soft objects--toys, pillows, wads of sheets, out of the crib.

--Breastfeed for as long as you can--it reduces the risk of SIDS.

--Keep your baby away from smokers or places where people smoke.

--Don't overbundle the baby and let him or her get too hot.

--Offer a pacifier so the baby does not thrash around.

--Do not use home cardiorespiratory monitors or other products claiming to reduce the risk of SIDS.

I think the theory is that the parents will subconsciously listen for the baby's breathing if the child is nearby. You know--an instinct.

By the way, my daughter did not like covers. So I got her blanket sleepers--pajamas that were warm, fuzzy blanket material--no covers needed.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Australian system connects with discharged patients

Personify Care from Down Under helps hospital staff and patients stay connected after a hospital release.

This is one of 25 companies selected for the Texas Medical Center Innovation Institutes' accelerator program.

When patients are discharged now, they may get a fistful of paperwork, which they may or may not feel well enough to read and heed.

Personify Care sends the forms to the patients and allows them to ask followup questions.

Discharged patients receive regular texts from their nurse over a 6-8 week period with information about what they should be feeling and questions allowing the nurse to see if complications are developing.

In the test site, in Australia, each patient was contacted 17 times across seven weeks.

These texts got a 95.8 response rate. In one case in five, it identified risks the patient was facing.

Now--on to the US market.

Sounds useful to me. I remember being discharged from the hospital and feeling...what...scared..sort of abandoned--and thinking, what now?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Nutty goodness

Jane E. Brody, New York Times, riffed off the other day on nuts.

When you stop to think of it, a nut is a seed for a big tree and a plant--it contains the nutrients that tree or plant will need to grow. Some of this giant nutrient package is also good for humans.

Since the 1990s, studies have revealed nuts as a powerhouse. The newest study (NEJM) followed 119,000 men and women for decades. They compared nut-eaters to non-nut eaters, basically.

The more nuts that were consumed, the less likely the participants were to die of cancer, heart disease, and respiratory diseases. Their death rates, in fact, were lower of all causes during the years that followed.

Those who ate nuts seven or more times a week were 20% less likely to die between 1980 and 2010...once a week, 11% less likely.

The more often people ate nuts, the leaner they were likely to be, too.

Nuts have calories, of course, quite a few. But if you eat nuts, you are less like to eat chips and other empty calorie foods. A small amount of nuts is filling.

All this applied to peanuts, as well--not just tree nuts.

Nuts are packed with unsaturated fat, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, Vitamin E, and fiber, to name a few things.

You can add nuts to hot and cold cereals, eat peanut butter on toast for breakfast, put them in stir fries, toss them over ice cream and into other desserts.

Nuts rule!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Start before birth to get kids to like veggies

Getting children to like vegetables starts in the womb, says Richard Rosenkranz, assoc professor of food, nutrition, dietetics and health at Kansas State.

At least in rodents (no offense), the eating habits of the mother can shape the tastes of the babies.

Once born, infants learn through exposure and variety.

--Rosenkranz says rely on whether the child will try the item, not the face they make once it's in their mouth.

--If they swallow, offer the item over time.

--As early as six months, kids notice whether the parent is eating the food...they take cues from the parents. Parents need to eat items similar to what they are offering the baby.

--Start with sweeter items--corn or carrots.

--When kids develop hand-eye coordination, they will pick up tiny pieces and be distracted by that and not mind the taste. Rosenkranz also recommends cutting items into fun shapes and putting on faces and eyes made of other food items.

--Involve the children in the food prep as early as kindergarten. If  kids wash the veggies or better yet, help shop for them or get them from the garden, they will eat them.

--As kids grow older, respect their input. Let them decide which veggies and fruits they prefer.

Remember, as kids grow into teens, their veggie consumption drops. Put dip and veggies on the counter, make it easy.

My daughter would eat artichokes with orange Hollandaise at age one, scrape the leaves with her new white teeth. I would not say she eats a ton of veggies now, but she doesn't hate them and still buys artichokes for pizza and salad.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Cooking as a med school course

I think most people with obesity or digestive problems get shunted to nutritionists. Doctors are not famous for their nutritional knowledge.

Often, in fact, doctors don't even mention food or they say eat less, see ya. (OK, a little exaggerated but not by much.)

Several universities, though, are including cooking classes in their med school curricula--notably Tulane.

Teaching doctors to cook healthy, delicious meals, it is hoped, will increase their interest in passing this along to their patients.

Stats show nearly half of all deaths in the US are due to heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes (CDC).

The links between food and health are well known at this point. Policy recommendations abound.

But studies show providing info does not change eating habits. Coaching is needed.

Doctors could be such coaches, but fewer than a fourth of doctors feel they could fulfill this role.

The National Academy of Science recommends 25 hours of nutrition instruction for med students.

Tulane requires 53 hours of culinary classes, 53 hours of clinical teaching, and 53 hours of learning nutritional counseling techniques.

At present, 28 other medical school, two residency programs, and two nursing schools have adapted the Tulane program. Harvard even partnered with the Culinary Institute of America to offer week-long workshops in making healthier food choices and managing caloric intake.

Even without a trip to the doctor, taking a culinary course can improve your eating pattern.

Why not?