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.